Accounting | Tax

5 CRA service improvements you should be aware of

From faster processing of T1 adjustments to the extended Officer Liaison Initiative, here’s what you need to know

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Young man talking on telephone with a headset within a cubicle at a Call Service In the 2019 federal budget, a provision was made to expand the CRA’s dedicated telephone support line service for tax service providers across Canada and make it permanent (Getty Images/Hero Images)

The 2019 federal budget made no mention of a comprehensive tax review—a long-overdue initiative that would make our tax system simpler to comply with and easier to administer. Still, it did earmark funds for a number of service improvements at the Canada Revenue Agency. 

“This is concrete proof that Ottawa is listening to concerns CPAs have raised about some taxpayer service problems,” says Bruce Ball, vice president of tax at CPA Canada.

Here’s what you can expect: 

FASTER PROCESSING OF T1 ADJUSTMENTS

Taxpayers commonly file T1 adjustment requests when they have forgotten to include a deduction or income in their tax return. But CPAs have voiced concerns over the time it takes for the CRA to process certain requests. 

Fortunately, the budget announced that resources would be allocated for the CRA to to hire staff to deal with these requests more quickly. “That will allow them to reduce the backlog of requests that accumulates each year,” says Ball. 

TIMELIER RESOLUTION OF OBJECTIONS 

The budget also frees up resources to help the CRA resolve taxpayer disputes more quickly. 

“The CRA has already made solid progress in reducing the time needed to resolve low-complexity objections,” says Ball. “In recent discussions, the CRA told us they focus on reducing the time associated with more complex objections.”

Ball adds that CPA Canada will continue to pursue discussions with the CRA about the objections and appeals process, with a view to improving the tax system.

EXPANDED LIAISON OFFICER PROGRAM

The CRA will also be receiving resources to assign more experienced CRA auditors to its Liaison Officer Initiative—a program meant to help new small- and medium-sized businesses understand their tax obligations. 

“The program already serves about 9,500 new unincorporated businesses every year and the CRA plans to use the additional resources to serve another 1,700 incorporated small businesses annually,” says Ball.

For more on this program, see CPA Canada’s March 2017 tax blog.

HELPLINE FOR TAX SERVICE PROVIDERS

For a few years now, the CRA has been operating a pilot program with CPA Canada’s cooperation in which it offers tax service providers a dedicated telephone support line to help them deal with technical tax issues. In the budget, a provision was made to expand the service across Canada and make it permanent. 

“This  will give small- and medium-sized service providers access to  experienced CRA staff on tax issues that are more complex and interpretive than those viewed as general inquiries,” explains Ball. “Among other issues, the CRA’s dedicated support line personnel can provide technical guidance on how tax rules work.”

Ball adds that members have also said they would like access to more senior CRA officials to deal with specific client issues they cannot resolve through the CRA’s online services. “CPA Canada is continuing discussions with the CRA on the best way to do this,” he says.

ENHANCED DIGITAL SYSTEMS

Right now, CPAs and taxpayers who file requests cannot get a confirmation of receipt or status updates from the CRA. The issue has come up in general discussions with members and also in a CRA-CPA “design jam” brainstorming session last fall. (a day-long session devoted to discussing concerns with a view to resolving it once and for all)   

As a result of the design jam, the CRA plans to create enhanced digital systems that would allow taxpayers (and their advisers) to track both the receipt and progress of their requests to the CRA. 

A provision has been made in the budget to fund the program. 

MORE ON THE 2019 FEDERAL BUDGET

See CPA Canada’s Tax Highlights and other resources at cpacanada.ca/federalbudget. For more on CPA Canada’s thought leadership on tax reform and related issues, go to cpacanada.ca/taxreform.