Help when CRA lets you down

National Post

2010-10-21


If you feel you were mistreated by the taxman and failed to get your concerns addressed by the Canada Revenue Agency, you may wish to consider a chat with Paul Dube, the Taxpayer's Ombudsman.

Appointed just over 2½ years ago, the Ombudsman's mission is to provide an independent and impartial review of individual taxpayer complaints as well as address any widespread service-related issues at the CRA.

Earlier this month, the Ombudsman tabled his second annual report providing a summary both of the number of cases dealt with for the year ended March 31, 2010, as well as a glimpse at the types of cases his office has been handling.

This past year, the office received 5,330 telephone enquiries, up 10% over the prior year. While many of these calls ended up being redirected to the CRA, as they were requests for information or process, the Ombudsman opened up nearly 1,200 new files for review and examination.

Out of the files reviewed last year, about 325 were closed as they were "non-mandate" files, while about 700 were closed by referring the complainant to the CRA's Service Complaints Program, various CRA program areas or other government bodies.

Of the remaining 175 files or so, about half were resolved in favour of the CRA with the other half resolved in favour of the taxpayer and remedied by the CRA prior to the Ombudsman having to make a formal recommendation. In only six cases was there found to be a complaint with merit in which a formal recommendation was made to the CRA.

So what types of cases are being heard?

In one reported case, a taxpayer who participated in the Home Buyers' Plan included the amount she did not repay in her income for 2008, as required. When the CRA processed her return, it concluded the HBP repayment was reported on the wrong line. When the income was corrected and moved to the "proper" line by the CRA, it caused a larger-than-expected refund to be issued to the taxpayer.

Later, the CRA realized its own processing error and issued a reassessment to reclaim the excess refund, plus interest on the excess refund that was issued to her due to the CRA's own processing error.

The taxpayer complained, saying that she should not be charged interest as it was the CRA who incorrectly changed amounts on her tax return.

After intervention by the Ombudsman, the CRA reviewed her file again, corrected the error and cancelled the interest she had been charged.

Another example concerned a single mother who was living on provincial disability benefits and was expecting a tax refund, which was withheld by the CRA due to a misunderstanding over child support she had received. This too was successfully resolved.

For more examples, read the report at: www.taxpayersrights.gc.ca