Ottawa creates a 'taxpayers' ombudsman'
The federal Tories have created the positionof taxpayers' ombudsman to oversee a new "bill of rights" that will govern how the Canada Revenue Agency deals with the public.
Thegovernment said the new position is aimed at increasing the tax department'saccountability andservice to the public, andgiving Canadians"renewed assurance that they will be treated fairly, equitably, and with respect."
The first ombudsmanwill be chosenand the office will be operating by the fall. Similar positions already exist in the United Kingdom and Australia.
The person whogets the job willinvestigate public complaints about service-related issues about the tax department —such as undue delays, mistakes, misleading information or rude staff.
The ombudsman's office will also provide the public with information about the complaints process.
But there are strict limits to what the ombudsman will do. For instance, he/shewill not look into complaints about tax policy, tax law or court rulings. Also, the ombudsman will get involved only after all ofthe CRA's existing complaint resolution procedures have been exhausted.
The new taxpayers' ombudsman will also have no authority to make any changes or dole out discipline, but can suggest changes and make recommendations.
The ombudsman will not be part of the CRA and will report directly to the minister of national revenue.An annual reportwill be tabled in Parliament.
Theterms of reference of the newjob will be guided by the newTaxpayer Bill of Rights, whichcodifies much of what is already standard practice at the Canada Revenue Agency — such as the right to service in both official languages and the right to privacy.
The bill of rightsspells out the appeal process for taxpayersif they disagree with a CRA decision. It alsopoints out that individual taxpayersdo not haveto pay income tax amounts in dispute before they've had an impartial review.