I was happy to see the recent announcement from the Harper Government, The Honourable Gail Shea, Minister of National Revenue and Minister for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, Mr. J. Paul Dube, the Taxpayer’s Ombudsman and Roxanne James, Member of Parliament for Scarborough Centre.
They announced the addition of a new right to the taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, which gives Canadian taxpayers the ability to lodge a service complaint and request a formal review without fear of reprisal. This is as it should be and how it should have been since the inception of the Ombudsman`s Office in 2007.
The fact of the matter is, however, in 2010 the Ombudsman`s office clearly addressed a number of issues regarding those taxpayer`s rights; the result was that the Ombudsman`s Office clearly stated the following:
- Quote “Policies and Practices of the CRA are at odds with the provisions of The Taxpayer`s Bill of Rights –specifically – Article 5 –which ensures professional service and fair treatment.”
- Quote “Article 6: you have the right to complete, accurate, clear and timely information; CRA`s policies are at odds with this Article 6.”
- Article 11: Accountability - again the Ombudsman`s Office found that there were misunderstandings as to which types of information should normally be released informally and which should be subject to a Formal Access to Information request. The CRA`s Appeals Division does not even provide all information, documentation, T20 Reports, etc. that was used as a basis for their decision.
OMBUDSMAN`S RECOMMENDATIONS 2010:
Quote: “Once the Appeals Branch has reviewed a taxpayer`s objection or appeal and made a decision to confirm, vary or reverse the CRA`s original decision, it should provide the taxpayer with the reasons for its decision in writing. These reasons need not refer to every factor or conclusion in the process of reaching the decision, but should be sufficient, when read in context, to show why the Appeals Branch made the decision it did.
Providing reasons means providing basic information about the decision, including a description of the decision, 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.
We recommend that the CRA either provide these reasons in the body of the decision letter to the taxpayer, or institute a policy that the Report on an Appeals or Summary Report is enclosed with every decision letter. “
Furthermore , in that 2010 Ombudsman`s report there was information pertaining to what the COURTS say about providing meaningful reasons which are as follows;
- Reasons provide accountability;
- Reasons ensure better decisions;
- Reasons are necessary to an effective appeal process;
- The obligation is to explain the WHY of the decision;
- Reasons have to be given in a timely manner: and
- The obligation to give reasons has to be workable and sensible.
In conclusion the CRA POLICY ON PROVIDING INFORMATION ABOUT APPEALS DECISIONS ALLOWS FOR:
- A lack of consistency
- Providing explanations on a discretionary basis
- Requiring an application to get information about decisions.
Despite specific recommendations from the Ombudsman`s Office, and comments of agreement from the Courts resulting from seven (7) court cases including the Federal Court, the policy of the CRA in this regard HAS NOT CHANGED!
I do have firsthand knowledge on these specific issues since I continue to file Notices of Objection and Appeals to the Tax Court of Canada. NONE of these recommendations have been present in the cases I have had before or after the implementation of the Taxpayer`s Ombudsman`s Office.
My business as an Income Tax Consultant dealing with the CRA for the last 29 years is testament to the fact that the CRA PROTOCAL PRECLUDES TAXPAYERS FROM EXERCISING THEIR TAXPAYER BILL OF RIGHTS.
We applaud the Harper Government, Gail Shea, the Minister of National Revenue , the Ombudsman`s office and Roxanne James , MP for Scarborough Centre for their obvious commitment to all Canadian Taxpayers for fair and reasonable treatment; BUT IT WILL MEAN NOTHING FOR THE TAXPAYERS IF THE CRA CONTINUES TO IGNORE THE GOVERNMENT’S STATED POLICY.
Now you have the right to complain without fear of reprisal. I hope you will do so if you feel any of your stated rights are being abused.