exhausted businessman holding a telephone

Do your clients ever complain to you about their frustrations in trying to reach the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) by telephone? Perhaps they’re calling to find out the contribution room available in their RRSPs or TFSAs. Well, you can reassure them that they’re not alone and, more importantly, this service is improving.

According to the CRA, this past tax-filing season, 74% of calls made to the CRA’s individual tax enquiries phone lines were answered (45% by an agent and 29% by automated service) compared with 37% for the 2015 tax-filing season (30% by an agent and 7% by automated service). More callers can now wait in queue, which has reduced the number of call attempts needed to reach an agent to an average of 2.1 in 2017-18 from an average of 3.3 attempts in 2015-16. Although this is certainly an improvement, the CRA says “it will continue working to further meet the evolving expectations of Canadians.”

The Office of the Auditor General of Canada (OAG) issued a scathing report on the performance of the CRA’s call centre in the autumn of 2017. The object of the audit was to determine whether the CRA’s call centres provided Canadian taxpayers with timely access to accurate information.

In June, the CRA tabled the federal government’s formal, written response to OAG’s report. The CRA accepted all the recommendations in the report and reiterated the government’s commitment to improving the services that the CRA’s call centres offer to taxpayers. Specifically, the CRA is implementing a three-point action plan to ensure the OAG’s recommendations are adopted: focusing on modernizing technology, improving agent training and updating service standards.

The OAG report revealed that call-centre agents answered only about one-third of the calls made to the CRA’s call centre. Furthermore, the report states that the CRA actually blocked more than half of the calls it received (about 29 million out of 53.5 million) because it could not handle the volume. (Blocked calls were those that did not reach either an agent or the automated self-service system.) Instead, callers were given either a busy signal or a message to go to the website or call back later. This meant that each caller made an average of three or four call attempts per week.

In response, the CRA announced that it’s making the transition to a new telephone system that will connect callers with agents more efficiently while informing callers of current wait times. Callers will be given a choice to either stay on the line, choose a self-service option or call back if the expected wait time is too long.

The new technology to implement this is expected to be ready later this year. For some of our clients, it cannot come soon enough.