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Taxpayers Have 'Right To Know' Says Canada's Ombudsman

by Mike Godfrey,, Washington

16 November 2010

The Taxpayers' Ombudsman in Canada has published a special report which examines the right of taxpayers to be provided with reasons for decisions made by the Appeals Branch of the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).

The Taxpayers' Ombudsman is mandated to identify and review emerging and systemic issues related to the CRA's service to, and treatment of, Canadians, and to make recommendations for solutions to the Minister of National Revenue, Keith Ashfield.

The Ombudsman's systemic review concluded that when the CRA’s Appeals Branch does not provide reasons for its decision on a taxpayer's appeal or objection, it fails to fulfil its commitments to fairness, openness, and accountability.

The report advocates that the CRA's Appeal Branch should provide:

  • Basic information about its decisions, including descriptions of individual decisions;
  • The authority under which the decision was made;
  • A description of the main steps in the decision-making process; and,
  • Reference to the main factual basis for the decision.

This currently is not being routinely carried out by the CRA's Appeals Branch, the report finds.

The Ombudsman's recommendation, based on the taxpayer's right to clear, accurate, and timely information (Taxpayer Bill of Rights, Article 6) and the taxpayer's right to expect the CRA to be accountable (Taxpayer Bill of Rights, Article 11), is that the CRA's Appeals Branch provide written explanations for a decision when they inform a taxpayer of the outcome of their appeal or objection.

Welcoming the contents of the report, Ashfield said that the recommendations are "fair and appropriate," and that he had tasked the CRA to develop a plan of action and make necessary changes to accommodate the recommendation.

“Our government is committed to ensuring the fair and equitable treatment of all Canadian taxpayers. That is why we developed and introduced the Taxpayer Bill of Rights and created the position of Taxpayers' Ombudsman to report to the Minister with recommendations on how the Canada Revenue Agency can better serve Canadians. The role of the Ombudsman is to ensure that the Canada Revenue Agency is respecting the rights of taxpayers as per the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, and I am pleased to accept and act on the recommendation in his report,” the Minister said.

TAGS: individuals | compliance | tax | business | tax compliance | law | enforcement | Canada | standards | regulation | penalties

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