Taxpayers’ Ombudsperson releases report on the fairness of the Canada Revenue Agency’s audit process for charities

News release

OTTAWA, March 27, 2023 – Today, the Taxpayers’ Ombudsperson, Mr. François Boileau, released Charity Begins with Fairness: More to Explore. This report is in response to the request made by the Honourable Diane Lebouthillier, Minister of National Revenue, in August 2021, after the Government of Canada’s National Summit on Islamophobia. The Minister asked the Ombudsperson to examine concerns raised by certain Muslim-led charities, engage other registered charities led by racialized communities about their experiences with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), and clarify the CRA’s role in national security.

In particular, based on the Minister’s request, the examination focused on the following issues:

  1. selection of files for audit by the Review and Analysis Division (RAD) of the CRA’s Charities Directorate
  2. quality of services offered to charities under audit by the RAD
  3. the CRA’s efforts to make its employees aware of their potential unconscious biases that could lead to discriminatory behaviour toward charities run by racialized communities

With our Office’s principle of independence in mind, we took the time to listen to all sides, deepen our knowledge, look at the facts, and identify any potential opportunities for the CRA to improve its service to Canadians. To make sure our examination was comprehensive, we met with a variety of stakeholders, including charities and non‑profits; different experts, including one on bias; Department of Justice Canada lawyers; CRA employees and executives; and academics.

Despite our best efforts, we encountered legislative and administrative obstacles that prevented us from having the information we needed to conduct a comprehensive examination and validate the information gathered from all sides. However, regardless of these obstacles, we believe that this report identifies opportunities for the CRA to improve the service it provides to charities.

Although we were unable to carry out the full examination, we were able to identify one important area for improvement. Understanding the impact bias can have, the Taxpayers’ Ombudsperson recommends that the CRA:

  • create an unconscious bias training course for CRA employees of the Charities Directorate;
  • target the course at those involved in the audit process; and
  • make the course mandatory for all employees involved in the audit process, including decision makers.

Background information

The Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsperson works independently from the CRA. Canadians can submit complaints to the Office if they feel they are not receiving the appropriate service from the CRA. Our main objective is to improve the service the CRA provides to taxpayers and benefit recipients by reviewing individual service complaints and service issues that affect more than one person or a segment of the population.

The Taxpayers’ Ombudsperson assists, advises and informs the Minister of National Revenue about matters relating to services provided by the CRA. The Ombudsperson ensures, in particular, that the CRA respects eight of the service rights outlined in the Taxpayer Bill of Rights.

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“I understand that many Canadians had high expectations for our report, but due to the legislative and administrative obstacles we faced, we could not fully answer the Minister’s questions. However I am confident that this report represents an important first step towards raising awareness of opportunities to improve the CRA’s services to both Muslim-led charities and charities in general“

Mr. François Boileau, Taxpayers’ Ombudsperson

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