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Canada Introduces Taxpayer 'Bill Of Rights'

by Mike Godfrey,, Washington

30 May 2007

The Canadian government has announced two new initiatives, a Taxpayer Bill of Rights and a Taxpayers' Ombudsman, to ensure that the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) is more accountable to Canadians.

"All taxpayers will be better served by these new initiatives that will enhance the services delivered to Canadians by the Canada Revenue Agency," explained Carol Skelton, Minister of National Revenue. "We want taxpayers to know they have rights and that we at the CRA take these rights seriously. By introducing a Taxpayer Bill of Rights, we are ensuring that taxpayers are served with a higher standard of service, and if that fails, they have a Taxpayers' Ombudsman to turn to."

"When it comes to taxes, this government not only believes in strong accountability, but fairness," added Finance Minister Jim Flaherty. "We have introduced the Tax Fairness Plan and the Anti-Tax Haven Initiative. Our next important step is introducing a Taxpayer Bill of Rights and a Taxpayers' Ombudsman, which will ensure fair treatment of all taxpayers by the CRA."

The Taxpayer Bill of Rights includes 15 rights, plus 5 new commitments for small businesses. Under the Bill of Rights, taxpayers now have the right to:

  1. Receive entitlements and to pay no more and no less than what is required by law.
  2. Service in both official languages.
  3. Privacy and confidentiality.
  4. A formal review and a subsequent appeal.
  5. Be treated professionally, courteously, and fairly.
  6. Complete, accurate, clear, and timely information.
  7. As an individual, not to pay income tax amounts in dispute before an impartial review has been conducted.
  8. Have the law applied consistently.
  9. Lodge a service complaint and to be provided with an explanation of CRA findings.
  10. Have the costs of compliance taken into account when administering tax legislation.
  11. Expect the CRA to be accountable.
  12. Relief from penalties and interest under tax legislation because of extraordinary circumstances.
  13. Expect the CRA to publish its service standards and report annually.
  14. Expect the CRA to warn taxpayers about questionable tax schemes in a timely manner.
  15. Be represented by a person of the taxpayers' choice.

The CRA also outlined its commitment to small businesses, which includes being committed to:

  1. Administering the tax system in a way that minimizes the costs of compliance for small businesses.
  2. Working with all governments to streamline service, minimize cost, and reduce the compliance burden.
  3. Providing service offerings that meet the needs of small businesses.
  4. Conducting outreach activities that help small businesses comply with legislation.
  5. Explaining how the CRA conducts business with small businesses.

The government also announced that it is creating the position of the Taxpayers' Ombudsman to enhance accountability and service to the public, and to provide taxpayers with assurances that they will be treated fairly and with respect. The Ombudsman is expected to be operational by late 2007, and will operate independently and at arm's length from the CRA. Taxpayers who are unsatisfied with the action or response from the CRA may request the Taxpayers' Ombudsman to undertake an independent review.

The Taxpayers' Ombudsman responsibilities will include:

  • Considering whether or not CRA officials have properly handled a service complaint in cases where taxpayers feel they have not been treated fairly or appropriately;
  • Providing advice to the Minister of National Revenue about service- related matters in the CRA (including submitting an annual report to the Minister, which will be tabled in Parliament);
  • Identifying and reviewing systemic and emerging service-related issues that have a negative impact on taxpayers;
  • Providing information to taxpayers about the complaint resolution mechanisms within the CRA.

In addition to introducing these new measures, the CRA said it will now track the types and number of complaints received through a new service complaints process, and will increase awareness among Canadians on how to complain to the CRA.

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