Where else can I go for help?
The Canada Revenue Agency is bound by the Taxpayers Bill of Rights. If you think you are being treating unfairly, the Tax Ombudsman’s Office may be able to help you be heard.
No matter how long you work in the tax industry, there are times you get frustrated with the system when trying to assist a client. You explore all avenues when dealing with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and you try to work towards a resolution, but sometimes it can seem like you are up against a wall.
Fortunately, there is another option if you need help with the CRA. The Taxpayers Ombudsman is an independent and impartial person appointed to look into complaints about the service provided by the CRA. The Ombudsman reports directly to the Minister of National Revenue, and is not an employee of the CRA. The current Ombudsman is Paul Dubé.
Part of his position involves explaining his mandate and some of the efforts his office has undertaken on behalf of taxpayers. The duties of his office are varied and include conducting impartial and independent reviews of service-related complaints about the CRA to ensure it respects the Taxpayer Bill of Rights. The office also facilitates taxpayers’ access to assistance within the CRA, identifies and reviews systemic and emerging service-related issues with the CRA that have a negative impact on taxpayers, and provides advice and makes recommendations to the Minster of National Revenue about service-related matters in the CRA.
One example of his work has already led to changes. At the presentation, he spoke about a single mother with three children who was asked to prove her children were born in Canada; the CRA was withholding her Canada Child Tax Benefit (CCTB) until it had sufficient evidence. She provided the CRA with a comprehensive list of documents to prove her case, including a letter from the doctor who delivered the children. The CRA still did not recognize the claim. She was referred to the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman, who reviewed the case and found she had provided more than enough evidence to confirm the childrens’ status. This case led to a review by the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman, which found similar experiences and cases. The office wrote a report, called Proving your Status, which resulted in changes to the policy for establishing CCTB eligibility.
There are steps the Ombudsman cannot take. For example, he cannot review complaints that relate to CRA policies or programs or cases before the courts. Nor can he direct the CRA to take action. But he can look at mistakes, misunderstandings, undue delays, poor or misleading information and staff behaviour.
Sometimes dealing with the CRA feels a little like “David and Goliath,” even as a tax professional who understands the system. If you do not have experience dealing with the CRA, it is easy to get overwhelmed if you have an issue. If you have exhausted your options, the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman can be a great resource.
Mr. Dubé is a lawyer by trade who started practicing law in New Brunswick. He was very active in the legal community for years before leaving for Ottawa. So if you are hitting a wall with the CRA, review the Taxpayers Bill of Rights and see if you can submit a request to the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman. To contact the Ombudsman’s office, visit www.oto-boc.gc.ca or call 1-866-586-3839. Doing so may help you get past the wall.
Senior tax pro and national spokesperson