Canada Revenue Agency cuts misleading, confusing taxpayers, Liberals say

The federal Liberal party's national revenue critic says Conservative cuts to the Canada Revenue Agency are hurting service and confusing taxpayers, leading to fines and lawsuits against them in some cases.

Closing service desks, telephone and letter issues confusing and costly, says critic

Liberal national revenue critic Emmanuel Dubourg says Conservative cuts to the Canada Revenue Agency since 2012 have caused more confusion and led to misleading information for taxpayers. (CBC)

The federal Liberal party's national revenue critic says Conservative cuts to the Canada Revenue Agency are hurting service and confusing taxpayers, leading to fines and lawsuits against them in some cases.

Emmanuel Dubourg said in a Tuesday morning news conference that $314 million in cuts to the CRA since 2012, along with the decision to close its tax service counters, has left Canadians with fewer ways to get answers to their tax-related questions.

"When the roof starts leaking, they apply a new coat of paint on the crumbling walls. The mess is impressive," he said.

"In this weak job market, Canadians are busy trying to keep up with rising costs and stagnant incomes. The last thing they need is a tax agency that sends them incomprehensible letters, fails to answer their calls and misleads them."

Dubourg, a former CRA employee, said the Conservative government is instead focusing on its controversial auditing of charities by spending $13 million to audit groups that may be doing "excessive political advocacy."

Telephone, letter services criticized

Dubourg said some people are facing fines, lawsuits and bankruptcies because of these communication issues.

"The 130 million letters the CRA sends to Canadians are not well organized, the presentation of information does not inspire confidence and the tone used lacks empathy. Often, even the main purpose of the letter isn't clear," he said.

"All these misled individuals then saturate the phone lines and overwhelm the shrinking service staff. That's terrible management and it's typical of this government."

Dubourg also cited internal CRA audits that said less than half of entrepreneurs who call the CRA for the first time will get a response and it takes an average of three calls to get in touch with a representative.

When someone does talk to someone from the CRA, Dubourg said audits show they are misled around 25 per cent of the time.

The CRA said last year it closed its service desks in 2013 because the same assistance would be offered more easily, quickly and economically online and over the phone.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.