A Decade of Fairness

10 Years of Resolving Complaints

Stats and trends from the OTO over the last 10 years.
*Trends listed reflect the point at which the Office of the Taxpayers' Ombudsman (OTO) began tracking.

Resolving Complaints

  • 2008-2009
    Files Opened: 1038

  • 2009-2010
    Files Opened: 1190

  • 2010-2011
    Files Opened: 1080

  • 2011-2012
    Files Opened: 835

  • 2012-2013
    Files Opened: 990
  • 2013-2014
    Files Opened: 2631

Trends

  • 2014-2015
    Files Opened: 1330
    1. Unfair or unprofessional treatment by the CRA during the tax collections process
    2. Lack of clarity about which documents were needed to prove marital status or eligibility for the Canada child tax benefits
    3. Inability to access the CRA’s general enquiry (1 800 959 8281) telephone line (could not get through)

  • 2015-2016
    Files Opened: 1408
    1. Unfair treatment, and collection officer behaviour in the collections process
    2.Inability to access the CRA’s general enquiry (1 800 959 8281) telephone line (could not get through)
    3. Difficulty validating eligibility, and delays with respect to the Canada Child Tax Benefit

  • 2016-2017
    Files Opened: 1490
    1. Inconsistent/incorrect information from the CRA, including unclear and confusing CRA decisions, general enquiries agents providing contradictory information, the CRA requesting the same documentation multiple times, and lack of clarity in the CRA’s correspondence
    2. Issues with debt collection programs, including collection officer behaviour, lack of legal warnings, and garnishments
    3. Delays in processing income tax and benefit returns

  • 2017-2018
    Files Opened: 1922
    1. Processing individual income tax and benefit returns outside the CRA’s published service standards
    2. Lack of clarity in the information received from the CRA concerning individual income tax and benefit returns
    3. Processing individual income tax and benefit return adjustment requests outside the CRA’s published service standards

10 Years of Outreach

Over the past decade, the Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman (OTO) has dedicated itself to assisting, advising and informing the Minister of National Revenue (Minister) and the public on matters related to services provided by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). With the principles of independence, objectivity, fairness, and confidentiality as our guide, the OTO has evolved and adapted to the needs of those who use its services.

The OTO has reached out through town halls, conferences, presentations, community meetings and tradeshows. In these interactions, the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman worked with local residents, tax practitioners, various levels of government, and community support organizations to address service related issues affecting individuals, businesses, organizations, and community groups.

At the international level, the Ombudsman has attended conferences and met with counterparts to gain insights and learn best practices on advancements in the world of conflict resolution and taxpayer rights.

The OTO is committed to creating opportunities to meet with people across Canada to inform them of their service rights and resources available to them when facing issues of poor service or unfair treatment from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).

It is through this commitment to outreach efforts that the OTO will gain a deeper understanding of the issues faced when interacting with the CRA; and that Canadians will become more aware of the OTO’s mandate, role and services. This two-way communication maximizes all that the OTO has to offer.  

A map of Canada with markers representing every city that the OTO has visited.
The OTO is committed to reaching out to taxpayers and benefit recipients all across Canada.
  • Barrie 
  • Burlington 
  • Calgary
  • Concord
  • Edmonton 
  • Fredericton
  • Halifax 
  • Hamilton
  • Kingston 
  • Kitchener-Waterloo 
  • London
  • Moncton
  • Montreal
  • Ottawa
  • Peterborough 
  • Saint John
  • St. Catharines 
  • St. John's
  • Sudbury
  • Toronto
  • Vancouver 
  • Victoria
  • Windsor
  • Winnipeg
  • Richmond
  • Abbotsford
  • Kelowna
  • Fort McMurray
  • Prince Albert 
  • Saskatoon 
  • Regina
  • Belleville
  • Timmins
  • Quebec City
  • Laval
  • Shawinigan
  • Charlottetown
  • Summerside
  • Sydney
  • Gander
  • Whitehorse
  • Yellowknife
  • Iqaluit

10 Years of Systemic Examinations

Research from our Systemic Examinations team on issues affecting a particular segment of the population or a large number of persons has resulted in 11 reports and 48 recommendations to the Minister of National Revenue. These reports analyze issues affecting many taxpayers and benefit recipients and provide recommendations for corrective action to address those issues. Of the 48 recommendations, 47 were accepted and actioned by the CRA to improve their service, enhance accountability, and deliver solutions.

An infographic showing the timeline of the history of the OTO's systemic examinations.

History of Systemic Examinations

2010
     The Right To Know
- sufficiency of information in Appeals decision letters
 Proving Your Status 
- eligibility for the Canada Child Tax Benefit

2011
 Knowing The Rules
confusion about rules governing Tax-Free Savings Accounts (TFSA)

2012
 Earning Credits
- tuition tax credits for expenses incurred attending educational institutions outside Canada
 Getting it Right
- service issues in CRA's Access to Information and Privacy processes
 Acting on ATIP
 - misallocation of payments by the CRA
 
2013
 Donor Beware - sufficiency of the CRA's warnings about questionable tax shelter schemes

2014
 Alive and Well
- erroneous coding of taxpayers as deceased by CRA

2017
 Rights and Rulings: Understanding the Decision
- sufficiency of information in CPP/EI ruling letters
 Without Delay
 - delays in the Taxpayer Relief Program
 Benefits Unsheltered - CRA’s communication and outreach efforts to shelters about benefits and credits

o In 2017, for the first time, the Commissioner of the CRA agreed to provide the OTO with updates on actions taken in response to recommendations.
11 Systemic Examination Reports
48 Recommendations Made
47 Recommendations Accepted
10 YEARS OF EXCELLENCE

History & Evolution of the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TBR)

An infographic showing the timeline of the history and the evolution of the Taxpayer Bill of Rights.

History & Evolution of the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TBR)

(1985) The Declaration of Taxpayer Rights (DTR)
Introduced by Revenue Canada Taxation (RCT) (now known as Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)), it is the first taxpayers’ rights document. This one-    page declaration outlined taxpayers’ rights to fair treatment in dealings with the RCT by outlining seven administrative and service rights.

(2007) Taxpayers’ Ombudsman:
Created to assist taxpayers who are dissatisfied with services provided by the CRA. Responsible for upholding the service rights set out in the TBR     (Articles 5, 6, 9-11, 13-15). The Taxpayers’ Ombudsman provides an impartial and independent review of taxpayers’ complaints usually after they have     been through the CRA service complaint process and remain unresolved.

(2007) Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TBR)
Introduced by the CRA to replace the DTR. The TBR defines 15 administrative and service rights describes the treatment you are entitled to when     dealing with the CRA. It also sets out the CRA’s Commitment to Small Business.

(2008) OTO opens its doors and begins work on upholding taxpayer rights.

(2013) Fear of Reprisal
TBR amended to include a 16th right to "lodge a service complaint and request a formal review without fear of reprisal", as a result of the Ombudsman     bringing forward the issue of a fear of reprisal.

(2018) 2nd Public Opinion Research:
Second public opinion research conducted showed 41% of respondents were aware of the Taxpayer Bill of Rights.

Public Opinion Research

The Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman conducted public opinion research to determine attitudes and awareness, recent uses of the office, and to compare levels of awareness with other governmental ombudsmen through 2,000 telephone surveys.
 

An infographic showing the major statistics of the 2018 public opinion research.

2018 Public Opinion Research Statistics

Objectives: to determine attitudes, awareness, and recent uses of the Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman

Attitudes
 52% of respondents believed that complaining to the Government of Canada about a tax issue or problem is more trouble that it is worth.
 48% pf respondents agreed it is difficult to complain to the Government of Canada about tax issues or problems.
 73% of respondents trusted that the outcome would be fair if they were to complain to the Government of Canada about a tax issue.

o Awareness
 21% of respondents were aware of the OTO.
 38% of those who were aware of the OTO were familiar with OTO examining and reviewing systemic or emerging issues which have a negative impact.
    46% of those who were aware of the OTO were familiar with the OTO making recommendations to the CRA and the Minister to influence change.
 41% of respondents indicated they were aware of the Taxpayers Bill of Rights.

Challenges & Opportunities
 Only 7% of all taxpayers used the services of any ombudsman to resolve an issue at some point in the past.
 56% of respondents had not seen anything about the OTO in the previous year.
 Once informed, 72% of respondents agreed the OTO's services provide value for taxpayers.
 83% of those aware of the OTO would contact our office in the future for unresolved complaints with the CRA.

What’s Next?

Our mission is to increase awareness of taxpayer rights and our office, influence positive change in the CRA's service, improve its accountability, and ensure taxpayers can trust that an independent resolution of complaints about the CRA's service will be fair.

An infographic with the title "What's Next?", and information bubbles answering that question around it.

What's next?

The OTO will continue working to break down barriers to the CRA's service through diversified outreach, examining individual and systemic issues, and recommending change.

  • The OTO will continue answering enquiries and resolving complaints about individual service issues. Complaints rose 29% last year and continue to increase.
  • The OTO plans to meet and reach more taxpayers and benefit recipients through new and innovative channels.
  • A systemic examination into the Canada Revenue Agency's (CRA) commitment to integrating the rights outlined in the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TBR) in its daily activities, as well as its accountability to report publicly against this commitment.
  • Publication of updates on actions taken by the CRA in response to the OTO's recommendations.
  • Release of the Report entitled "Fair Warning: An examination into service issues related to legal warnings issued by the Canada Revenue Agency during debt collection procedures".
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