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Canada To Respond To Taxpayer Services Criticism

by Mike Godfrey,, Washington

28 November 2017

The Canada Revenue Agency's (CRA's) call centers fail to provide taxpayers with timely access to agents to answer their queries, according to a new report by the Office of the Auditor General.

The Auditor General's most recent audit focused on whether the CRA's call centers provided Canadian taxpayers with timely access to accurate information. It concluded that the CRA gave taxpayers very limited access to call centre services, and that the Agency blocked more than half of the calls it received because it could not handle the volume. Blocked calls were given either a busy signal or a message to go to the website or call back later.

The Auditor General found that each caller made an average or three or four call attempts per week and that, even after several attempts, some callers did not always reach an agent or the automated self-service system. The report pointed out that in the case of callers who do not have internet access, call centers may be the only way for them to ask the CRA for information.

The Auditor General also said that when agents responded to its tax questions, they gave its callers the wrong information almost 30 percent of the time, meaning that the rate of agent errors was higher than the CRA's own test levels.

The Auditor General made the following recommendations:

  • The CRA should review how it manages its incoming calls to improve access, by considering practices such as increasing the maximum wait times to speak with an agent;
  • The CRA should consider giving callers information on call wait times so that they can decide if they prefer to wait, use self-service options, or call back later;
  • The CRA should ensure that its quality assurance practices generate more effective results, in order to improve accuracy, identify opportunities for continuous improvement, and identify and monitor training needs; and
  • The CRA should assess and improve its performance indicators and its reporting on the accessibility, accuracy, and timeliness of its call centre services.

Revenue Minister Diane Lebouthillier said that one of her priorities is to ensure that the CRA "offers quality service and treats Canadians as valued clients, not just as taxpayers."

Lebouthillier added that "clients have a right to receive information that is clear and precise, when they need it." She said that the CRA has hired more agents, increased self-serve options, and has been "implementing measures that will allow our clients to reach our agents more readily."

Lebouthillier did however acknowledge that there remains work to be done. She said that the Government has launched a three-point action plan to modernize CRA call centers. This plan focuses on technology, the training of agents, and the updating of service standards.

She explained: "Beginning in 2018, our clients will see numerous improvements when we implement a new telephone platform in our call centers. This platform will connect Canadians with agents more efficiently and will inform callers of current wait times. Additionally, a new national quality control team will be put in place to improve agent tools and training."

"Finally, we will update our service standards to provide Canadians with clearer and more transparent information about the service they can expect from our call centers."

TAGS: tax | revenue guidance | training | audit | tax authority | internet | Canada | revenue statistics | standards | individual income tax | services

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