The Canada Revenue Agency introduced the Taxpayer Bill of Rights in 2007. The bill was a response to complaints that the agency did not take seriously disputes made by Canada’s small businesses, and that many of Canada’s small business owners felt backlash from the agency after dealing with it.
Background: Why Canada Got a Taxpayer Bill of Rights
The concept for a taxpayer bill of rights originated in the state of Colorado, USA, in 1992. The voters in Colorado amended the state constitution to limit revenue to all levels of state and local government. The amendment, known as TABOR, limited the government’s ability to consume too large a chunk of state revenue, and forced the government to refund surplus money to the taxpayers. The CRA’s own version of TABOR is somewhat similar, at least in the sense that it tries to limit the burdens imposed by government. The execution is very different, though. The CRA’s pledge to small businesses is not even enforceable by law. In this sense, the listed rights really act as a pledge that the CRA will try hard to be courteous and fair. The Taxpayers’ Ombudsman is supposed to ensure that the CRA follows its own rules. If the CRA doesn’t live up to its own listed service rights, it is up to the Ombudsman to tell the CRA to fix its errors. The Ombudsman cannot compel the CRA to take any action, so this is just a recommendation.
The CRA’s Statement on TABOR
The CRA justified TABOR on the grounds that, “We believe we can help reduce the costs small businesses incur to pay their taxes by simplifying and reducing the frequency of their interactions with us, and by improving our communications with them.”
16 Rights and 5 Commitments for Small Businesses
The first part of the Taxpayer Bill of Rights lists 16 rights that all taxpayers, including business owners, possess. Many of the 16 rights refer to issues surrounding confidentiality, fair treatment, and the right of business owners to lodge complaints without the agency taking revenge. If your business wants to file a compliant or dispute a ruling by the CRA, particularly one that may violate the 16 rights, it should follow the procedures laid out on the CRA website. The CRA also wrote out five commitments to Canada’s small businesses.
- The CRA is committed to administering the tax system in a way that minimizes the costs of compliance for small businesses.
- The CRA is committed to working with all governments to streamline service, minimize cost, and reduce the compliance burden.
- The CRA is committed to providing service offerings that meet the needs of small businesses.
- The CRA is committed to conducting outreach activities that help small businesses comply with the legislation we administer.
- The CRA is committed to explaining how we conduct our business with small businesses.
The five commitments to small businesses are not treated the same as the 16 rights. The commitments can be difficult to measure and evaluate, and you have no real recourse if you feel the CRA does not live up to their commitments. Still, nothing prevents you from voicing your concerns to the CRA directly.