Frequently asked questions
1. What is an ombudsperson?
An ombudsperson is a person appointed to examine complaints about government administration or an organization. An ombudsperson is an independent and objective party who strives for fairness and objectivity in the treatment of people and the consideration of issues.
2. What does the Taxpayers’ Ombudsperson do?
The Taxpayers’ Ombudsperson examines and resolves complaints about services provided by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). Read about the Taxpayers’ Ombudsperson’s mandate. The Taxpayers’ Ombudsperson also identifies and examines systemic service issues – issues that affect a large number of persons or a segment of the population – and makes recommendations to the CRA and the Minister of National Revenue to address the issues and improve the CRA’s services.
3. Is the Taxpayers’ Ombudsperson part of the Canada Revenue Agency?
No, the Taxpayers' Ombudsperson operates independently and at arm's length from the Canada Revenue Agency and reports directly to the Minister of National Revenue.
4. Who can make a complaint to the Taxpayers’ Ombudsperson?
Anyone who interacts with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) can make a complaint to the Taxpayers’ Ombudsperson, including individuals, businesses, corporations, charities, trusts, estates, persons who pay taxes or persons who are exempt from paying taxes, persons eligible to receive an amount as a benefit, anyone who receives a service from the CRA, and their representatives.
5. Will the Taxpayers’ Ombudsperson handle my complaint personally?
When you make a complaint with our Office, it will be dealt with by the staff of the Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsperson, and not the Taxpayers’ Ombudsperson directly. The Taxpayers’ Ombudsperson has authority to delegate to staff to review and examine complaints. This includes determining whether to examine a complaint and to make findings and recommendations as a result of examining the complaint.
6. Does the Taxpayers’ Ombudsperson advocate for complainants?
The role of an ombudsperson, and that of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsperson, is to be neutral and objective, and not to advocate for the complainant or the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). We review the facts, information and perspectives of all sides of an issue, without prejudice or bias, and identifies solutions and makes recommendations that are fair. One important role of the Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsperson is to reduce the power imbalance between the CRA and complainants. The OTO's examination officers use their judgment based on an objective evaluation of facts, taking into account the particular circumstances of a case.
7. What types of complaints can the Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsperson examine?
We review complaints about the quality of service you received from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). We also look at service issues that can affect more than one person, or a segment of the population. Examples of issues we review include:
- undue delays
- see service standards for the CRA’s processing times
- information that is incomplete, inaccurate, or unclear
- availability and access to services and information
- an action or inaction that impacted the service you received
- fairness in procedures
- employee behaviour
- lost, misplaced, or damaged documents, or documents not taken into consideration
- all relevant documents not taken into consideration
- issues authorizing your representative
8. What complaints can the Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsperson not examine?
We cannot review complaints:
- that are not about the services of the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)
- about a decision of, proceeding in, or matter before a court
- about a matter that arose before May 24, 2006*
- about an administrative interpretation by the CRA about a provision set out in legislation about its programs
- that other statutory bodies would deal with, such as official languages, access to information, or privacy
- about legal advice to the Government of Canada
- about confidences of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada
* the date has been changed in accordance with the new Order in Council P.C. 2020-0703.Prior to this, the Office was using February 21, 2007. If your complaint is about the CRA but not service-related, see the CRA’s webpage regarding your options. If you are unsure if your complaint is service-related, contact us.
9. Can the Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsperson refuse to look into my complaint?
Yes, we can decide not to examine a complaint based on factors such as if the issue is not within the Taxpayers’ Ombudsperson’s mandate, whether the issue is still current, if the complainant is personally affected, alternate recourse mechanism exists that should (first) be taken, or the complaint is frivolous or vexatious.
10. When should I submit a complaint with the Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsperson?
You can submit a complaint to us if you are not satisfied with the quality of service the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) provided. However, we will not examine a complaint until CRA Service Feedback has finished its review. We are able to bypass CRA Service Feedback if the complaint is compelling. We generally consider situations compelling if waiting for CRA Service Feedback to finish its review will: limit you from having the basic necessities of life; limit your business from operating; or significantly impact your mental health and/or reputation.
11. Is there a cost to making a complaint to the Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsperson?
No, there are no costs associated with filing a complaint or for any service provided by us.
12. How can I file a complaint with the Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsperson?
You can submit a complaint through our online complaint form, by mail or fax, or when necessary, by phone or in person. We cannot accept complaints through our Facebook or Twitter accounts due to a lack of confidentiality.
13. Will the Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsperson tell the Canada Revenue Agency that I filed a complaint?
In the process of reviewing your complaint, we may need to share information about your complaint with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and/or obtain information from the CRA. This will only be done with your consent. However, without your consent, we may be limited in our ability to examine and resolve your complaint.
14. Will the Canada Revenue Agency stop its collection procedures while the Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsperson examines my complaint?
No, filing a complaint with us does not stop or postpone any legal action the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) undertakes. See the CRA’s information on its collections policies for more information.
15. Will the Canada Revenue Agency postpone its audit until the Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsperson examines my complaint?
No, filing a complaint with us does not stop or postpone an audit by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). See the CRA’s information on its audits.
16. How do I get updates on the status of my complaint?
We will contact you within five business days of receiving your complaint. If we refer your complaint to CRA Service Feedback , we will inform you that it will review your complaint. If we are examining your complaint, we will contact you every 15 business days to keep you informed on the status of the examination.
If you speak with an officer, they will give you their telephone number should you want to contact them for an update. If you receive a letter from us, it will contain the officer’s contact information. If you cannot reach the officer assigned to your case, you can contact our general enquiries line.
17. Can the Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsperson make the Canada Revenue Agency change something?
We cannot overturn a decision of the Canada Revenue Agency. We can make recommendations but, as an ombudsperson, the Taxpayers’ Ombudsperson cannot enforce their recommendations.
18. Will the Office of the Taxpayers' Ombudsperson provide me with the results of an examination?
At the end of our examination, we will contact you to discuss our findings and any resolution. We will also send you a letter outlining your complaints, our findings, any recommendations we made, and any resulting actions the Canada Revenue Agency will take.
19. What type of outcome can I expect from the Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsperson?
We may find that the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) did nothing wrong and no further action on its part is required. We may find that the CRA did not respect one or more of your service rights and may make recommendation(s) to the CRA to address this. These recommendations may include:
- give further reasons for a decision
- correct a misunderstanding, omission or oversight
- review a decision based on information not previously considered
- offer an apology
- change a policy or procedure
- make changes to systems or applications
- review its service standards
- contact or arrange a meeting with a complainant
- provide a dedicated contact person
- consider further staff training
We publish anonymized examples of complaint resolutions in our Annual Reports.
20. When does the Taxpayers’ Ombudsperson open a systemic examination?
The Taxpayers’ Ombudsperson can open a systemic examination on their own initiative, upon receipt of one or multiple complaints, or at the request of the Minister of National Revenue. A systemic issue with the Canada Revenue Agency’s (CRA) services is an issue that may negatively impact a segment of the population or a large number of persons. We identify systemic issues in a number of ways, including assessing enquiries we receive, complaints filed, feedback we receive through outreach, and issues raised in the public environment, such as in the media, on social media and in Parliament. See our open systemic examinations and how we influence positive change in the CRA.
21. How does the Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsperson make sure the Canada Revenue Agency follows the recommendations and that problems do not recur?
When we make a recommendation as a result of the examination of a complaint, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) provides a response on the actions it will take. We follow up with the CRA to confirm these actions are taken.
When the Taxpayers’ Ombudsperson makes recommendations to the CRA through a Request for Service Improvement, the CRA provides a response indicating what actions it will take. We follow up with the CRA to confirm these actions are taken.
When the Taxpayers’ Ombudsperson makes recommendations to the Minister of National Revenue, through a systemic examination report, the CRA provides an action plan in response to the recommendations. We monitor and follow up to ensure the actions are taken and the issues addressed. We publish updates on these reports.
22. Where can I send my complaint if I am not happy with the service provided by the Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsperson?
If you have a complaint about the service we provided you, you are welcome to submit it to us in writing, and a member of our management team will respond. Please contact us by email, mail or fax.Provide Feedback:
Submit your comments here
Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsperson
Suite 1000-171 Slater Street
418-566-0321 (outside Canada and the United States)
You can also request a second review if you are not satisfied with our examination or you can also contact the Minister of National Revenue.
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