What Canadians think about the CRA's customer service

a man is on his laptop and rubbing his forehead in frustration from dealing with the CRA

What Canadians think about the CRA's customer service

Do you get frustrated when dealing with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)?

Do you find you’re on hold for an unreasonable amount of time? Do you think they have work to do when it comes to improving their customer service?

If you said yes to any of the above, you won't be surprised by the results of a recent CRA report. 

In December 2019, the CRA released their findings from a series of consultation sessions held with Canadian taxpayers last spring.

The message is clear: the CRA needs to improve their service experience.

Canadians expressed frustration with:

  • Long wait times
  • Rude agents
  • A lack of response from the CRA
  • A feeling of animosity and being a target

The CRA knows it has work to do. In October 2018, they appointed a chief service officer (CSO) to “lead the CRA's transformation towards becoming more client-centric.”

The CSO led the consultations, which included feedback from more than 3,000 Canadians through a combination of online submissions and in-person sessions from April — June 2019.

Of the Canadians who responded, 92% had at least one or more interactions with the CRA in the past 12 months.

We’ve summarized the key themes from the report below.

Long wait times and dropped calls

According to 29% of respondents, their most negative experience was being on hold for long periods of time. Respondents described waiting on hold for about 45 minutes and sometimes over an hour.

One person wrote, "I waited one hour and thirty three minutes to speak with someone and one minute into the call he hung up on us."

Respondents also found calls were being dropped, which means they had to call again and wait on hold yet again.

Another person said they called multiple times a day, with no results: "I sat on hold for more than 45 minutes and then got a message saying that all agents were busy and to call back another time. I got this message five times a day for a week."

Rude or unhelpful agents

According to 27% of respondents, CRA employees were rude or unhelpful on the phone.

One person described them as “argumentative, aggressive and badgering."

Some respondents expressed that the agents lacked empathy. One woman wrote: "Documentation from Revenue Canada had an incorrect date of death for my 19 year old son. I wanted it corrected and the agent said the wrong date didn't make any difference. I knew he meant to my taxes, but the tone was dismissive. To a mother who had just lost her son it was horrible."

Lack of response

According to 19% of respondents, the CRA’s long processing times made them feel the CRA was failing to respond in a timely manner.

Many reported waiting several months for a file to be assigned or reviewed.

One person wrote: “A request for further information was sent out over the summer months with something near a 30 day response time. Not acceptable considering people with summer holidays. It was a potentially significant tax liability and I was only lucky to return a couple days prior and prepare and submit the necessary documents."

Feeling of animosity and being a target

According to the report, 8% of respondents felt the CRA was adversarial and aggressive in its auditing and reassessment practices.

One person said: "Almost two years of back and forth and a large bill for penalties resulting from delays that I had nothing to do with. I had to pay the bill in order not to incur further penalties. It felt like extortion. It was a terrible infuriating experience."

What could be improved

Nearly one-third (28%) of respondents said a reduction in wait times would improve their experience with the agency, with 5-10 minutes suggested as a maximum wait time.

To speed up the wait times, respondents gave the following recommendations:

  • Hire more agents provide more information online to prevent phone calls
  • Extend call centre hours beyond a normal work day
  • Upgrade the CRA’s phone system to handle the large volume of calls.

About 1 in 5 (18%) respondents wanted agents to be more trained in customer service and tax law.

One person wrote, "Your telephone staff are extremely uneducated with anything concerning taxes."

According to 14% of respondents, there are issues with communication, transparency and keeping track of records and taxpayer files.

Respondents gave the following recommendations:

  • Provide more up-to-date information online
  • Use simpler language in communication
  • Provide welcome packages for first time filers and newcomers
  • Give all departments access to uploaded documents

The CRA stated “a series of short term changes will be undertaken in response to the concerns and aspirations expressed by Canadians throughout the public consultation process.”

They said all activities they will be undertaking to improve their customer service will be described in the CRA's 2020-2021 Corporate Business Plan, which will be released in April 2020.

Canadian Federation of Independent Business gives the CRA a “D” grade

In January 2020, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) released a report that gives the CRA a “D” grade for the quality of service and information received by small business owners.

In the fourth edition of its CRA Report Card, the CRA was given an overall grade of D, down from a C.

The grade is based on 200 secret shopper calls to CRA’s business enquiries line.

According to their report, their callers were unable to receive accurate information from the CRA and were on hold for more than an hour.

The report says when their callers had questions, they were transferred to more senior agents for a response, increasing the wait times.

Book an appointment with FBC

You don’t have time to wait on hold — you’re too busy running your business. That’s why you need a small business tax specialist.

FBC works with Canadian small business owners to minimize their income taxes and maximize their assets.

We offer tax planning, preparation and audit representation as well as bookkeeping and financial planning to cover your complete financial needs, all available year-round for one fee.

Thanks to our year-round Membership model, our Members can call us anytime with questions or concerns — we don’t charge per phone call.

And we deal with the CRA on your behalf so you don’t have to.

Interested in learning more?

We're offering a no-cost, no-obligation consultation to explain how you can make sure you’re taking advantage of all the tax-saving opportunities available to you.

Click here for free articles, eBooks and webinars for busy business owners


People have also enjoyed other articles related to these topics:

Tags:  
  1. Farm Taxes
  2. Small Business Taxes
  3. Trades Taxes
  4. Tax Consultation
  5. Tax Planning
  6. Tax Preparation