CRA Service Consultations: Canadians Really Want Three Things

The CRA launched their “Serving Canadians Better” consultation on April 23, 2019, closing it to commentary on June 18, 2019, in the height of tax season. It wasn’t the best time to hear from tax filing pros, but the feedback proved interesting, nonetheless. Turns out Canadians really want three big improvements from their tax department.

Suggestions for improvement fell into these areas:

1. Improvements to communication including transparency, providing helpful suggestions and personally-relevant information, and integration across departments.

2. Education of Canadians on changes, benefits and credits, scams, and the tax system. Including utilizing media to provide information and overall awareness regarding CRA scams and the Canadian tax system. Suggestions also included educational programs for young people and newcomers.

3. More convenient service options such as more user-friendly online service options, extended call-centre hours, and more personalized services such as caseworkers and a tracking feature or notification that provides status updates.

Where have Canadians noticed improvements to CRA services? Across the board, the in-person consultations heralded Auto-fill my Return, NETFILE, My Account, access to forms online, and the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program as areas that have made filing taxes and interacting with the CRA an easier process.

It’s interesting to note that although just about every in-person consultation highlighted long wait times on the phone as problematic, Winnipeg actually indicated that their call centre wait times had improved, and technological aspects were advancing.

Despite the long wait times for speaking to CRA representatives, people found improvements in attitude and in the quality of information received; two main concerns outlined in the 2018 Taxpayers’ Ombudsman Report and an Auditor General Report from the same year.

This consultation is part of CRA’s initiative to address these and other important issues identified by these reports by 2020. The preliminary report released by the CRA on June 19 is focused on the feedback received from 142 people through seven in-person consultation sessions that took place in Halifax, Mississauga, Vancouver, Moncton, Montreal, and Winnipeg. The CRA has promised to release further feedback this fall, based on 3,300 online submissions received.

The in-person reports released by the CRA show that people in all cities were often in agreement about the positives, challenges, and suggestions.They identified the following nine challenges:

1. A lack of personalized service

2. Long wait times on the phone and with file processing

3. No confirmation of receipt of documentation submitted

4. Lack of follow-ups

5. Communicating with the CRA

6. Accessing services and after-tax services

7. A lack of education and training for newcomers, seniors, and young people

8. Accessibility and support for seniors and newcomers

9. Hard to access information on the CRA website and from the CRA

In Halifax, CRA learned about challenges with requesting documentation by mail rather than electronically, and in Montreal it was identified that the CRA is behind on adapting to new technologies and could use more logistical support for volunteers.

However, it is important to note that in total, less than 4,000 Canadians will have participated in these consultations. When compared to 28.5 million Canadians filing tax returns, it’s evident that many Canadians missed taking advantage of this important opportunity to weigh in on service levels received from their tax department.

Certainly the consultation came at a bad time for tax pros, who are responsible for filing most of the tax returns in Canada. Rather than launching this consultation at the height of tax filing season and closing it to commentary the day after the proprietorship filing deadline on June 18th the CRA may wish to consider another opportunity for these important intermediaries if it truly wants to work proactively to improve service standards to this constituency.

Will the online submissions back up the responses from the in-person consultations? We’ll be following up once the final report is released.

Additional Educational Resources: Canada’s tax system can be complicated. Earn your DFA- Tax Services Specialist designation to ensure you know the ins and outs of filing tax returns for a variety of profiles.