Thursday, June 27, 2013

New Taxpayer Right in Canada: No Reprisals for "Service" Complaints

From the Canada Revenue Agency website: Harper Government launches new right to ensure Canadian taxpayers are treated fairly [french version here]
The new right says:
16. You have the right to lodge a service complaint and request a formal review without fear of reprisal.   
We know that to be trusted, effective, and efficient, we must conduct ourselves ethically and honestly, and the CRA strives to do so every day. Our employees are expected to act in accordance with the CRA Code of Ethics and Conduct and the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector. These codes are terms and conditions of employment and they reinforce our commitment to serve the public with integrity, professionalism, respect, and cooperation. This right means that if you lodge a service complaint and request a formal review of a CRA decision, you can be confident that the CRA will treat you impartially, and that you will receive the benefits, credits, and refunds to which you are entitled, and pay no more and no less than what is required by law. You should not fear reprisal. We are required to apply the law and relevant CRA guidelines and policies, which may include the charging of penalties, or requiring the payment of your debt. When CRA employees act in accordance with the law, these do not constitute acts of reprisal. If you feel that you have been subject to acts of reprisal, the CRA wants to hear from you. We take your concerns seriously. Tell us about them by completing section 3 – Reprisal Complaint on Form RC193, Service‑Related Complaint. We can assure you that we will address your complaint, and that we will send it directly to an investigation office located at CRA Headquarters. This will ensure that the investigation is conducted independently of the office associated with the complaint.
At a meeting with members of Certified General Accountants (CGA) Canada to discuss taxpayer fairness, Minister Gail Shea stated:
“Our Government is committed to ensuring that all Canadians are treated with fairness and respect by the Canada Revenue Agency. In our system of voluntary compliance, taxpayers must have confidence in the objectivity and fairness of CRA’s actions as a tax administrator. This new addition to the Taxpayer Bill of Rights will help reinforce public confidence in Canada’s tax system, and ensure that Canadians taxpayers feel free to speak up if they have a disagreement with the CRA.”
 Curiously, the CRA website adds the following:
Although there is no evidence that Canadians have been subject to reprisal by the CRA, in his work across the country, the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman heard that taxpayers would sometimes hesitate to lodge a complaint for fear of being treated differently afterward. To address this unwarranted fear and encourage Canadians to speak up if they have a disagreement with the CRA, the Ombudsman recommended that a new right be added to ensure Canadians are confident they will be treated fairly. 
The Taxpayer Bill of Rights is an agency statement that lacks the force of law, but many of its rights are legislated (via the Charter or otherwise). This new right aligns with observed attempts by tax agencies to present themselves as "service-oriented," that is, as if taxpayers were customers. It remains to be seen if and how taxpayers will avail themselves of this newly articulated right.

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