Canada Pledges To Respond Better To Taxpayer Relief Requests Canada Pledges To Respond Better To Taxpayer Relief Requests

by Mike Godfrey,, Washington

21 November 2017

The Taxpayers’ Ombudsman has said that the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) must improve its response to taxpayer relief requests.

The Ombudsman’s latest report, entitled “Without Delay,” examined the service experienced by taxpayers who are waiting for a decision on a relief request. The investigation was launched following complaints by taxpayers about the length of time it took for the CRA to acknowledge receipt and respond to their relief requests.

Under taxpayer relief rules, the Minister of National Revenue can cancel or waive penalties or interest in the case of taxpayers who are unable to meet their tax obligations due to circumstances beyond their control. The CRA administers the taxpayer relief provisions on behalf of the Minister.

The Ombudsman, Sherra Profit, said: “The Canada Revenue Agency must manage the Taxpayer Relief Program in a manner that ensures consistent and timely communications, and decisions, to taxpayers. Unreasonable delays matter. While taxpayers wait for a decision, interest continues to accumulate on the outstanding balance and if the relief is rejected, taxpayers could end up with a considerable debt.”

The Ombudsman recommended that the CRA:

  • Advise each taxpayer whether their request is routine or complex, and provide a clear and accurate estimated processing time;
  • Maintain nation-wide consistency in the processing times;
  • Review and identify the factors that contribute to fluctuations in the number of taxpayer relief requests, as well as the impact they may have on the Taxpayer Relief Program; and
  • Allocate sufficient permanent funding to the Taxpayer Relief Program to ensure that it consistently meets and/or improves upon its processing times.

The Ombudsman said the CRA has accepted two of the recommendations, and accepted a third in principle. The CRA has also confirmed that it will review the Program to determine the resource requirements and appropriate allocations.

In 2015-16, the Taxpayer Relief Program received approximately 40,000 relief requests related to penalties and interest, and completed more than 55,000 requests. The average wait time for the CRA to issue a decision was 6.5 months for routine requests and 18 months for complex requests.

Effective April 1, 2017, the CRA established a 180-day processing standard for the processing of taxpayer relief requests. It intends to meet this expectation 85 percent of the time.

Published at Mon, 20 Nov 2017 19:00:00 -0500