The federal government is proposing to spend $206 million over the next five years, starting in fiscal year 2018-19, and $33.6 million per year thereafter, to help the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) to address what the government says are long-standing service deficiencies in Budget 2018.
“Canadians continue to face unacceptable delays and challenges in dealing with the CRA,” says the government in the budget documents. “More needs to be done to make the agency and its services, fairer, more helpful and easier to use.”
The government says it will also undertake a comprehensive departmental review of the CRA’s service model, examining all aspects of the agency’s work to ensure Canadians who deal with the CRA “feel like valued clients, not just taxpayers.” The government says it will provide further details about this review in the coming months.
The government’s additional resources will be directed toward improving the following three areas:
1. Telephone Services
The government indicates in this year’s budget that Canadians have been frustrated in their attempts to interact with the CRA by telephone in recent years, suffering “frequent busy signals, dropped calls, and long wait times.
Building on previous investments made in the area, the government says it will direct additional resources toward enhancing telephone technology and hiring more agents. The government says it will also provide additional training to CRA staff to make sure “Canadians get the correct information they need.”
2. Community Volunteer Income Tax Return
Through the community volunteer income tax program, community organizations host tax preparation clinics and arrange for volunteers to prepare tax returns, free of charge, for individuals with modest or low incomes. Last year, more than 700,000 individuals were helped via the program, the government says.
In the budget, the government proposes to double the size of the program, helping hundreds of thousands more individuals prepare their returns and access benefits. The extra resources will be directed toward additional “year-round” benefit clinics and more outreach activities to vulnerable groups including seniors, newcomers, people with disabilities, youth and Indigenous communities.
3. Strengthening Digital Services
A majority of Canadians now interact with the CRA digitally, with almost 90% of tax returns filed electronically and roughly 77% of payments completed online, the government says. Millions of Canadians also access CRA’s online services every year to apply for benefits, or to ask questions.
“A secure, reliable and modern online system is vital to the service that the CRA provides to Canadians,” the government says in its budget documents.
The government says that additional resources will be directed towards updating and modernizing information technology infrastructure to deliver a better digital experience, ensuring that services remain available and uninterrupted, even during peak hours.