CRA complaints rise: Taxpayer Ombudsman

Ottawa –

The number of complaints filed with the taxpayer watchdog about the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) more than doubled in the last fiscal year compared to pre-pandemic figures, according to Taxpayers Ombudsman Francois Boileau.

Boileau, He delivered his annual report to parliament on Tuesday, Most complaints, he said, relate to delays in accessing COVID-19-related benefits — 40 percent of complaints to his office — and the quality of service provided by CRA contact centers.

“Our office received a total of 3,847 complaints, an increase of more than 70 percent and double the number of complaints before the pandemic,” he told reporters Tuesday.

Boileau said many people have experienced delays in verifying eligibility for COVID-19 benefits, an issue affecting “our most vulnerable populations,” who subsequently struggle to pay for groceries, medications and other bills.

“This is a huge concern for us,” he said. “We’ve addressed this with the CRA, but we haven’t gotten the answers we want.”

“So we have an entire chapter in our annual report devoted to this issue and the fact that the CRA should communicate better with Canadians,” he added, “so they understand from the outset what they’re dealing with. In terms of waiting for the CRA process.”

Boileau said the issue resulted in his office sending more than 1,700 urgent requests to the CRA. That was a 130 per cent increase on 2020-21, which was already a record year for such requests, he said.

Complaints to the Taxpayers Ombudsman jumped from 1,507 in 2019-20 to 3,533 in 2020-21 and then 3,847 last year. Boileau said some of the recommendations in his report last year — which could help address some issues — have yet to be implemented.

“We believe communication is key and keeping Canadians informed should be the agency’s top priority,” Boileau said. “There is still a lot of room for improvement in the agency’s ability to communicate transparently with Canadians and deliver services in a timely manner.

“The CRA’s contact centers continue to be the main driver of complaints,” he said. “For years, we’ve heard Canadians express their dissatisfaction with this service.”

He cited long wait times, receiving conflicting or inconsistent information and premature phone calls as reasons for frequent complaints to his office.

“It’s had a huge impact on us over the past year,” Boileau said.

In his latest report, the Ombudsman called on the CRA to make a range of changes, including:

  • Look for ways taxpayers can receive a security code the same day they request it, allowing timely access to their CRA account. The CRA currently has a policy of mailing ID verification forms and security codes.
  • Find a way to provide in-person, same-day taxpayer identification; and
  • Make it clear to Canadians that receiving certain benefits can increase their income and inform applicants that the increased income may affect their other income-based benefits.

Boileau said that despite the “record high” number of complaints, many people remain unaware of his office’s services and that he will continue to “inform Canadians of their rights as taxpayers.”

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