Red Tape Awareness Week exclusive: CRA "Customer Service" Needs Improvement

Busy signals, incorrect information and no caller ID too frequent 

TORONTO, Jan. 12 /CNW/ - As part of the second annual Red Tape Awareness Week, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) has released a report card on the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) customer service experience. With an overall grade of C-minus and Ds in three of the five categories assessed, the results show that CRA has plenty of room for improvement.

The assessment was conducted by CFIB staff between November 8th and 26th 2010. It involved making 85 phone calls to CRA's business enquiries line from various locations across the country. 

CRA did best in the categories of agent professionalism (B) and meeting its own service standards (B+). The grade for the categories of connecting to an agent, accuracy of information, and accountability were all D.

A particular weakness highlighted in the report card was the difficulty some callers had just trying to connect with an agent with 14 per cent of calls taking more than one attempt because of busy signals. On two occasions callers spent an entire day trying to get through. When callers did connect to CRA, they typically had to go through four or five automated prompts before being able to connect with an agent.

When callers were able to get through to an agent, CFIB found that the information they were looking for was not always readily available or correct. In total, 21 per cent of inquiries resulted in the agent providing incorrect or incomplete information.

"Taxpayers simply can't afford to get incorrect information and bad advice from CRA since when the auditor comes knocking it isn't considered a valid excuse and you can find yourself seriously out of pocket when you thought you were in compliance," said Corinne Pohlmann, Vice President of National Affairs.

Some progress was made to improve accountability in 2009 when a policy requiring CRA agents to provide an ID number was introduced. However, CFIB's assessment revealed that only half of the CRA agents provided their ID numbers when asked. Some agents refused to provide them or claimed not to have one.

CFIB's recommendations for improvement include introducing a Taxpayer Fairness and Service Code based on the one used in British Columbia and Saskatchewan.

"British Columbia and Saskatchewan introduced common sense fairness codes in 2005 and 2009 respectively, which has helped create a much more taxpayer friendly culture," said Laura Jones, Vice President of Western Canada. "Both Codes contain important provisions such as the right to get information in writing and the right to rely on that information—if the tax authorities get it wrong the taxpayer isn't on the hook. But the most important thing the Code does is treat taxpayers like partners not adversaries. It's a great model that CRA should embrace," concluded Jones.

To evaluate performance, CRA agents were asked one of four standardized questions: application of GST/HST between provinces, EI eligibility for relatives, late remittance of payroll deductions, or the retention of tax records.

To view the CRA report visit: www.cfib-fcei.ca/redtape

As Canada's largest association of small- and medium-sized businesses, CFIB is Powered by Entrepreneurs™. Established in 1971, CFIB takes direction from more than 107,000 members in every sector nationwide, giving independent business a strong and influential voice at all levels of government and helping to grow the economy.

SOURCE CANADIAN FEDERATION OF INDEPENDENT BUSINESS

For further information:

or to arrange an interview, contact Meghan Carrington or Adam Miller at 416 222-8022 or emailpublic.affairs@cfib.ca

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