Canada

Canada’s taxpayers’ watchdog says complaints have spiked amid coronavirus pandemic

Canada’s taxpayers’ ombudsperson says his office has seen a steep spike in complaints compared to one year ago, delivering an early warning about how complicated returns should be handled this year.

Francois Boileau says the number of complaints from taxpayers about the Canada Revenue Agency was up 93 per cent in December from the same month in 2019.

Urgent requests, for people in dire financial straits, are up 120 per cent since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, he says.

Read more: Canadian dentists push for clarity about vaccine priority: ‘We’re doctors too’

Boileau says the statistics paint a portrait of the difficult circumstances some Canadians find themselves in as a result of COVID-19, and the need for the agency to improve services for the coming tax season.

Story continues below advertisement

He says too many Canadians still spend hours trying to get through to a call centre agent.

Boileau adds that delays are especially frustrating for people who received the Canada Emergency Response Benefit last year and are now trying to sort out whether they have to repay some of the aid.

Just a few weeks ago, the CRA sent out letters to 441,000 people questioning their eligibility for the CERB, and warning they may owe back some of the payments. The Liberals have promised leniency for people who will have problems paying the money back, but have yet to say what options will be available.

[ Sign up for our Health IQ newsletter for the latest coronavirus updates ]

Boileau noted that some callers continue to complain about waiting five hours or more to speak with an agent.

Coronavirus: Feds deploy mobile health units to GTA hospitals

He says he is worried the CRA won’t be able to meet response-time standards as the calendar ticks closer to what will likely be a complicated tax season due to the pandemic.

Trending Stories

Story continues below advertisement

“I hope it (won’t) be,” Boileau says. “They are preparing for it. They know what’s going on and they’re taking all the necessary steps.”

While the pandemic has been a focus of Boileau in his first few months as ombudsperson, his office continues to work away on a review of how the CRA has handled the processing of Canada Child Benefit payments.

Boileau’s predecessor, Sherra Profit, launched the review of the CCB in late 2019 after three years of flagging overly stringent eligibility rules that prevented payments to some of Canada’s most vulnerable families.

In some cases, newcomer families to Canada haven’t receive child benefits because they can’t get needed documents, such as a note from a school or family doctor. In other situations, women fleeing domestic violence have felt like they need to get their partner’s signatures on forms and other information about custody _ despite the government promising that wouldn’t be the case.

Boileau says some of these situations add complications for the CRA, which has to take time to sort things out.

Read more: Canada reports 146 more COVID-19 deaths as feds approve rapid PCR test

“It takes time and time is of the essence with the CCB,” he says.

“It’s really touching the lives of citizens, taxpayers that are in a vulnerable state of mind.”

Story continues below advertisement

Boileau says his officials are currently reviewing answers from the agency to some additional questions, although there is no firm timeline on when the review will be complete.

The office of the federal auditor general is doing its own review of the CCB, which it expects to publish this year. According to the auditor general’s website, the review will focus on whether recipients were eligible for the benefits, and that payments are made in a timely and accurate manner.

View link »

Football news:

Cavani has returned to training and is likely to play against Crystal Palace
Fabio Capello, Juventus played Rugby against the Port. Only Ronaldo and Chiesa can make a difference in this squad
Neymar: I posted how I was recovering from my injury, and I didn't get any messages saying, Wow, what a professional. No
Ole Gunnar Solscher: The work of the judges is very difficult and without additional pressure. We have to make their decisions
Joan Laporta: I'm sure Messi won't stay at Barca if I don't win the election. He gives the club 30% of revenue
Trent had idolized Gerrard since he was a kid, and he was in a fairy tale: he got Steven's care and the captain's armband. The story of a great relationship
Hazard's recovery from the injury is delayed. He probably won't play against Atletico on March 7