CRA’s call-centre errors fly in the face of ‘Taxpayer Bill of Rights’
The CRA’s bad advice could lead to callers paying too much or too little tax and later being subject to reassessments or objections, with resultant interest and penalties
Let’s take a tax quiz.
Assuming you owed money on your 2015 tax return, as of what date does the government begin charging you arrears interest?
A) 30 days after it was due
B) May 1, 2015
C) April 31, 2016 (sic)
D) May 31, 2016
E) All of the above
The answer, at least according to responses given by Canada Revenue Agency telephone agents who were asked this question, appears to be “(e) — all of the above.”
According to a scathing report issued this week by the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) on the performance of the CRA’s call centre, the incorrect response rate on this question by the CRA was an appalling 84 per cent. Answers (a) through (d) above were among some of the incorrect responses various agents gave on the phone when asked when the interest clock starts ticking. (The correct answer is May 2, 2016 since the normal personal tax return filing due date of April 30, 2016 fell on a Saturday).
The report found that when call-centre agents responded to the AG’s tax questions, they gave wrong information nearly 30 per cent of the time.
This finding is highly troubling because callers assume the information they get from call-centre agents is accurate. If it’s not, it could lead to callers paying too much or too little tax and later being subject to reassessments or objections, with resultant interest and penalties. It might also result in taxpayers not receiving benefits to which they are entitled.
It also flies in the face of the “Taxpayer Bill of Rights.” This bill describes and defines 16 rights that build upon the CRA’s corporate values of professionalism, respect, integrity, and cooperation and describes the treatment you are entitled to when you deal with the CRA.