On January 27, 2016, Sherra Profit, the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman, addressed a meeting of the Canadian Bar Association Tax Section on the subject of assisting taxpayers in resolving their service complaints.
The Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman handles individual complaints from taxpayers where he/she was not able to resolve a service complaint through the CRA’s internal process or if the complaint process hasn’t been tried and there are compelling circumstances for the Ombudsman to review it. Such compelling circumstances could include, for example, situations in which an auditor repeatedly contacts a taxpayer when the taxpayer has asked them to deal with their authorized representative, or unexplained delays by the CRA in processing a refund.
The Ombudsman’s mandate with respect to individual complaints is strictly on the service side, and no technical tax issues will be considered in the investigation.
The Ombudsman also handles systemic investigations in respect of which she reports directly to the Minister of National Revenue. Such investigations have addressed processing delays, or system-wide mistakes (i.e., a large number of individual taxpayers being erroneously classified as deceased in the CRA’s database). These systemic investigations could arise out of recurring complaints, requests from tax professionals, or otherwise.
The Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman operates independent of the CRA and attempts to be impartial and fair in the review of service-related complaints. The Ombudsman is ultimately accountable to the Minister, not the CRA. All information communicated to the Ombudsman through the complaint process is kept confidential, except to the extent a taxpayer gives consent to its release to assist the investigatory process.
Ms. Sherra also provided a list of tips for tax professionals for assisting their clients with service-related complaints:
- Manage the taxpayer’s expectations
- Use the CRA Service Complaints Program first, unless compelling circumstances exist
- Provide a signed consent to authorize a representative
- Submit detailed information
Contact information, if a complaint is contemplated, can be found on the Ombudsman’s website.