Telephone service at the CRA

We are interested in your general feedback about telephone service at the CRA, including any experiences you've had.

Please provide your ideas for how the CRA can improve its telephone service.

 

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Comments

BrenTax's picture
Aug 30, 2016 - 12:25

Calls to CRA general inquiries are rarely satisfactory. Within our organization the staff report to us daily of the incompetent replies from the GI line.
**It is a general rule here to call 3 times and see if you get the same answer twice.
**Agents with heavy accents react with rudeness at the polite request to transfer to another agent for clarity
**Despite agents providing ID#'s many will still place our reps on hold and not return or hang up on them
**Agents fail to be able to provide the I.T. reference for back up to their "answer"
**CRA agents have zero knowledge when questioning an adjustment delay
Over all the telephone service to an experienced tax associate is a complete waste of time and in our office we encourage finding answers in the published I.T. bulletins

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Donna's picture
Sep 1, 2016 - 16:13

Overall we find delays in getting through to the CRA, we don't want to listen to a recorded voice, we need to speak to a real person. Often the person does not speak clear English and there are difficulty with communications. It would be nice to have dedicated lines for accountants.

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Hugh N FCPA FCA TEP's picture

The inability to obtain a specific CRA representative to take ownership of an issue is an ongoing source of frustration. It's one thing to not be able to advise the caller of the likely timeframe for dealing with an issue, but why can the matter not be followed up, with a review of the item in question, a commitment to an update, and a number to call the representative if an update is not received within some reasonable period? Canadians should not have to call back every few days to try and get a status update, getting a different person having no familiarity with their account on each call.

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TLT's picture
Oct 3, 2016 - 11:53

The telephone service has been getting worse in the last few years. It used to be only during the 6 weeks of tax time that there would be a busy signal received. Now we are finding it takes multiple phone calls just to get onto the hold system year round. It has become rare to get through to the system the first try. Once in the system, it is difficult to get to senior agents. Often the lines are all busy and they are unable to transfer the call. This means calling back to general enquiries, often again multiple times, to try to get through to a senior agent again. This is a huge waste of accountant time and taxpayer money. Similarly, the loss of the non resident enquiries direct line has had a huge impact on my wasted phone time. This issue should be addressed as soon as possible.

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Hugh N FCPA FCA TEP's picture

I may be an outlier, but I would rather be able to access and address as much as possible online. Often, our staff have to make multiple calls to get put on hold for an hour so they can be put on hold while the CRA respondent goes to check out how to find the information, tries to find a more senior CRA team member, etc.

If, as a representative, I could send an Online Mail through Represent a Client, and receive a response (email or phone) in a couple of business days, that would be great. That would also allow the CRA respondent time to look up the matter, communicate with higher-ups etc. Even if that message a couple of days later indicated there would be a further delay, and provided n expected timeframe and the contact info to a specific CRA person who was taking ownership of moving the issue forward, this would be a vast improvement.

I know how hard it can be to respond to my client's questions in a quick phone call. Make it easier for us to communicate in another manner, so CRA can do their work "behind the scenes" like we often do. But give us that "person taking ownership" and timing expectation - don't leave us hanging in limbo wondering if the issue slipped between the cracks.

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Zhao's picture
Oct 5, 2016 - 14:29

Totally agree with Hugh's comment above "If, as a representative, I could send an Online Mail through Represent a Client, and receive a response (email or phone) in a couple of business days, that would be great".

Phoning CRA is always the very last resource we will use as most of time we are putting on hold for 30-45 minutes. And also a lot of times the line is just busy and we have to phone throughout the day to try our luck! Very time consuming. Would REALLY appreciate if there is an online way to ask CRA questions rather than phoning and waiting (and not uncommon getting the incorrect answer as the agent who answered the phone didn't know the correct answer).

Thank you for listening to us! We very much appreciate it!

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Shawn's picture

I would encourage CRA to have a separate line for tax professionals calling on behalf of their clients (individuals and corporations).

This will save everyone a lot of time and streamline service for both individuals and businesses.

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Hugh N FCPA FCA TEP's picture

Shawn hits on a significant issue which would not be easy to change at CRA - compartmentalization. Often, tax issues involve the corporation, individual owners, trusts, etc. in combination, but CRA reps deal with separate areas. For example, personal tax questions on Line 104 are advanced by representatives who cannot access T4PS slips which are reported on that line, I assume because the EPSP is a Trust. But the issues don't compartmentalize themselves as easily, and dealing with multiple CRA personnel is not efficient for us or you.

A very simple example is the fact we have separate telephone lines for business and individual enquiries. When our client is a sole proprietor with a GST account, both numbers become relevant.

Related to this, the processes are very different - the T1013 and RC59 processes, for example, both authorize access to client data, but the processes are completely different. Using the T1013 to obtain access to data for Trusts and Estates is a third process quite different from the first two. This likely makes perfect sense to CRA's Personal Tax, Corporate Tax and Trust Tax units, but in practice we deal with all three for the same client (defining "client" as the owners and the various other entities they own), so having to switch between three different processes makes for a lot of confusion at our end.

Completely restructuring CRA to address these issues would clearly be an extremely challenging process, but some means of integrating the services, and making the processes consistent, would be less change with a lot of positive results. A call in line to a CRA representative who will take ownership, not just transfer calls (mentioned elsewhere) would also be excellent, especially if that person can then coordinate the relevant CRA sections behind the scenes, and be a contact point for the taxpayer/representative and the other CRA officials in the various sections which can address and resolve the issues.

In practice, we also have specialists. The year end partner may need to consult with, say, a tax specialist. But he doesn't refer the client to the Tax Guy - he goes down the hall and arranges for assistance from the Tax Guy, then reports back to the client (whether with an answer, or to schedule a meeting or call with the two people at the firm, and the client, so everyone is on the same page). That's client service - minimizing the client's time by using a single point of client contact who gathers the relevant resources internally, not letting the client play telephone tag with multiple members of your own organization.

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Hugh N FCPA FCA TEP's picture

I believe this is an area CRA is undertaking as a pilot project. I suspect it may also get dovetailed with the Registration of Tax Preparers initiative, assuming that proceeds. However, as a Devil's Advocate, why should a tax preparer have special access that a taxpayer does not? To bring that point home, why should an inexperienced junior tax preparer have special access that a taxpayer with good tax knowledge does not?

Of course, providing a "Less Complex" and "More Complex" line to the general public will have the obvious results. Perhaps CRA's tax professional line should have published expectations of the research a tax professional would already have done before calling in, and enforce that when a caller clearly has not checked other published resources first.

Look up "Problem Resolution Program", a special CRA service accessible only by referral from a CRA representative - unless you are a Member of Parliament. I find it odd that a call from an MP has a shorter service standard than dealing with a service complain from other sources (http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/gncy/stndrds/2014-2015/srvc-stdrds-rslvng-dspts...). I also would prefer not to be put in the position of telling my client that complaining to their MP might get CRA moving, but CRA's own published service standards suggest this is the case.

The reality is that we all want to have our issue take a higher priority - that only happens by pushing everyone else further back in line. CRA also needs to be provided with the resources necessary to respond to all enquiries in a reasonable time, not have phone lines that ring busy on regular occasions, have long hold periods or cannot connect callers with the people who can resolve their issues because there aren't enough of them to be available either. The harsher reality?

Having those people costs money, and that money comes from tax revenue. We also have to be reasonable on our expectations - I'd rather be able to call (email through the Portal would be even better) a CRA rep who can review the issue(s) offline, and come back with a full response in a realistic period of time (say, within a week to either have the answers, or have a timeframe for the really complex issues to be addressed) than have a dozen tax experts sitting idle, on the taxpayer's dime, awaiting my call. Then the same person who takes my call (after a few attempts to get past the busy signals and some time on Hold) could instead open my email, take ownership of the enquiry, figure out who can address the issues and co-ordinate a timely and complete response, and be available for direct contact if the issues are not fully resolved, rather than requiring me to call in again and explain all the history to a new, random CRA representative. I think that would also be WAY more efficient for CRA, so we can all win.

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