If a taxpayer has a tax question, it stands to reason that the Canada Revenue Agency would best know the answer, but according to a recent CBC report, business owners who sought tax advice from the Canada Revenue Agency helpline were given incorrect information 25 per cent of the time. The survey also found that 44 per cent of callers had difficulty connecting to the helpline, and had to deal with incredibly long wait times and poor customer service. In fact, it took the average caller nearly three attempts to reach a CRA agent, and in some cases more than 14 attempts.
The results are much worse than CRA’s previous estimates of 92.5 per cent accuracy and mirror similar findings by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (“CFIB”). The CFIB conducted its own testing (found here: http://www.cfib-fcei.ca/cfib-documents/5550.pdf) in 2010 and 2012 and determined that call centre employees were providing wrong or incomplete answers 19 per cent of the time. Other problems included long wait times, lackluster customer service and inaccurate information, earning the CRA a mark of C- in both 2010 and 2012.
Given the complexity of the Canadian tax code, it’s not surprising that Canadians need to ask for help to do their taxes. In fact, the CRA helplines handle about 3.3 million business inquiries and 14 million individual inquiries per year. What is surprising, however, is that the CRA itself finds it difficult to understand the tax code. Receiving inaccurate information has serious legal and financial consequences for taxpayers trying to comply with a difficult tax code. Acting on false information- even if it comes from a CRA agent – is not a valid defense and taxpayers can find themselves facing a grueling audit with thousands of dollars in taxes, interest and penalties on the line. Furthermore, filing a grievance with the CRA Complaints and Disputes department does not eliminate a taxpayer’s liability.
If you are facing tax issues that require knowledge of the tax code, do not rely exclusively on the information given by CRA – speak with the tax professionals at Tax Solutions Canada to understand all of your options before you end up making a tax mistake that could cost you thousands of dollars. Call us today at 1-888-868-1400.