The Taxpayers’ Ombudsman calls for more consistent and timely processing of taxpayer relief requests by the CRA

News Release


November 17, 2017 - Ottawa, Ontario - Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman


The Taxpayers’ Ombudsman, Sherra Profit, released a report today that examines delays by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) in responding to and processing taxpayer requests to cancel or waive penalties or interest. The Ombudsman’s examination was launched further to complaints received from taxpayers who were dissatisfied with the time it took for the CRA to acknowledge receipt and respond to their relief requests.

The taxpayer relief provisions provide the Minister of National Revenue with the discretion to cancel or waive penalties or interest for taxpayers who are unable to meet their tax obligations due to circumstances beyond their control. This could include, for example, a taxpayer who filed an income tax return late due to a flood or serious injury. The CRA administers the taxpayer relief provisions on behalf of the Minister.

The report, entitled “Without Delay”, focuses on the service experienced by taxpayers who are waiting for a decision, and identifies areas for improvements such as: communication with taxpayers, consistency between regions, and planning and funding of the Taxpayer Relief Program.   

Following this examination, the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman made four recommendations to the Minister of National Revenue which seek action by the CRA with a view to improve the service provided to taxpayers. The CRA has accepted two of the recommendations and accepted a third in principle. The CRA has taken steps towards implementation of these recommendations. On the last recommendation, the CRA recognized the importance of the program and will review the program to determine the resource requirements and appropriate allocations.

The Ombudsman may initiate a systemic examination when complaints or questions are raised about a service issue that may impact a large number of taxpayers or a segment of the population. Recommendations arising from these examinations aim to improve the service provided to taxpayers by the CRA.

Quotes

"The Canada Revenue Agency must manage the Taxpayer Relief Program in a manner that ensures consistent and timely communications, and decisions, to taxpayers. Unreasonable delays matter. While taxpayers wait for a decision, interest continues to accumulate on the outstanding balance and if the relief request is rejected, taxpayers could end up with a considerable debt."

 "Not allocating adequate permanent funding to the Taxpayer Relief Program makes it difficult for the Canada Revenue Agency to adequately plan and carry out its operations effectively for taxpayers."
- Sherra Profit, Taxpayers’ Ombudsman

Quick Facts

  • The Taxpayers’ Ombudsman is responsible for advising the Minister of National Revenue on matters relating to service provided to taxpayers by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).

  • The Taxpayers’ Ombudsman may initiate a systemic examination when a service issue may impact a large number of taxpayers or a segment of the population

  • In 2015 2016, the CRA’s Taxpayer Relief Program received approximately 40,000 relief requests related to penalties and interest, and completed more than 55,000 requests.

  • In 2015 2016, the average wait time for the CRA to issue a decision to a taxpayer was 6.5 months for routine requests and 18 months for complex requests.

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Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman
613-946-2722

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