The Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman of Canada says it received many more complaints compared to the same period last year, which sends an early warning on the complexity of the returns to be processed this year.
François Boileau reports that the number of complaints against the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) increased by 93% in December compared to the same month of the previous year.
As for the urgent requests formulated by people in financial difficulties, they have climbed by 120% since the start of the pandemic, he adds.
According to Mr. Boileau, the data paints a portrait of the difficult circumstances in which some Canadians have lived since the start of the pandemic. They reveal the need for the CRA to improve its services for the next tax season.
He laments that too many Canadians still waste hours trying to contact a call center agent.
The delays are particularly frustrating for people who received the Canada Emergency Benefit (CEP) last year who are now trying to determine whether to repay some of the aid, Boileau says.
Just a few weeks ago, the CRA sent letters to 441,000 people questioning their eligibility for ECPs and warning them that they may have to repay part of the money. The federal government has promised leniency for people who will struggle to repay, but has yet to say what options will be available.
Mr. Boileau mentions that some have complained of waiting at least five hours before speaking to an agent.
His concern is that the CRA will not be able to meet response time standards as the tax filing season approaches. The pandemic could complicate the whole process.
“I hope that won’t be the case,” said Mr. Boileau. The agency is preparing for it. She knows what’s going on and she takes whatever action is necessary. “
Although the pandemic has been at the center of Mr. Boileau’s concerns since his appointment as ombudsman, in October his office continues to review how the CRA handled the processing of Canada Child Benefit payments. children (ACE).
Boileau’s predecessor, Sherra Profit, started this ACE review at the end of 2019. The office had received numerous complaints about overly strict eligibility rules that prevented payments from being made to some of the most vulnerable families. from Canada.
In some cases, newcomers to the country have not received child benefits because they cannot get the necessary documents, such as a grade from a school or a family doctor.
In other situations, victims of spousal violence feel they also need to add their ex-partner’s signature on forms – although the government has promised this will not be the case.
Mr. Boileau says that resolving some of these situations takes time.
“It takes time, but time is running out with ACE,” he admits. It really affects the lives of citizens, of taxpayers who are in a vulnerable state of mind. “
He noted that his office is currently reviewing CRA responses to some additional questions. There is no firm timeline on when the exam will be completed.
The Federal Auditor General is conducting his own investigation into ACE. He plans to publish a report this year. According to its website, “the purpose of this audit will be to determine whether the CRA has verified that the beneficiaries were eligible, and that the amounts paid for the Allowance were correct and made in a timely manner.”