Disputes sometimes arise between taxpayers and the Canada Revenue Agency. If your clients have an issue they can’t resolve through direct contact with the CRA, you may want to advise them to contact the Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman.
The ombudsman office operates independently of the CRA, and its role is to listen to complaints, review systemic issues, and improve the CRA’s accountability.
Taxpayer Bill of Rights
Taxpayers have rights, and they deserve to be treated justly by the CRA. In particular, they have the right to be treated professionally and receive clear, timely information from the agency. Make sure your clients understand their rights and know they can complain to the ombudsman if they don’t agree with what’s happening with the CRA.
In particular, if a client has been mistreated, given incorrect information, or faced unfair delays, it should consider submitting a complaint. Unfortunately, the ombudsman does not take complains related to tax policy or tax assessments. Those issues need to be addressed through the CRA’s appeal process.
Before submitting a complaint to the Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman, the taxpayer should try to resolve the issue with a rep from the CRA. If he cannot get the help he needs from that individual, he should request to speak with a supervisor. He can also start the formal complaint process. There are only a few exceptions to this rule. To file a complaint, your clients can use Form RC193 (Service Related Complaint) or submit a complaint electronically.
Whether your clients mail in their concerns or use the electronic service, they need to include their social insurance number and contact details, the reason for the compliant, and the details of the outcome they want. If your clients want you to handle the complaint process for them, they need to authorize you online using the CRA’s My Account service or by attaching Form T1013 (Authorizing or Canceling a Representative) to their paper application.
Understanding the Process
To illustrate how the process works, take a look at the case of Kim Roberts, a single parent from Toronto. The CRA required her to prove that she had custody of her child so she could claim child benefits. She provided a court order detailing the custody arrangement, but although that was one of the documents listed as sufficient proof on the CRA’s forms, the agency rejected her claim and asked for more details. However, in the letter requesting more details, the agency again said that a court order would suffice as proof of custody.
In a situation like this, the taxpayer is getting incorrect or misleading information from the agency, and should file a dispute with the Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman. On the complaint form, the taxpayer should explain that she provided the requested details but faced a rejection regardless. Then, she should outline that the outcome she wants is acceptance of the documents and reinstatement of the benefits.
Submitting a complaint to the ombudsman can help your client directly, but it can also help to improve how the CRA functions in general. For example, if the ombudsman receives multiple complaints like the one described above, it can identify a systemic issue, and help steer the CRA toward the right adjustments. To safeguard your clients’ rights, make sure they know about the Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman, and consider helping them through the complaint process.