by Carol Church
I am writing in regards to Canada Revenue Agency’s current trend from switching from personal, face-to-face counter service to 100 per cent electronic services.
Recent announcements from Finance Minister Gail Shea state all the great things they are doing for Canadian businesses, with services such as My Account, My Business Account and My Payment. Although these services are needed to move forward in the electronic world, CRA is taking away from all taxpayers much-needed services such as printouts on demand, payment counters and just simply receiving proper, timely and face-to-face counter assistance.
For the last couple of years in the Whitehorse office, the agency has been deleting one service after another and refusing to assist taxpayers to get the help that they need.
Taxpayers who could be helped in a matter of minutes at the counter are being turned away and told to use the phones. If you want printouts to file returns that are not filed, previously a couple of minutes were all it took to get them from our local office. Now you have to make a call, pass all the security questions and then wait for them to arrive in the mail in two to three weeks.
How is this saving money, and cheaper and better for all taxpayers?
On October 1, you will no longer be able to make any kind of payment at a Canada Revenue office. You can only make payments online, or at a bank with an original bill, or a remittance form which you can get from them, says the website …
but one must phone and wait for it to arrive in the mail.
You can also make payments through the mail, and again, only if you have a remittance form. Now, how does stopping all locations from taking payments help taxpayers in any way?
Several years ago, CRA felt it was important to be a part of the community to ensure that Canadians are kept up to date with their requirements as taxpayers. They held tax practitioners’ meetings and outreach programs, which helped teach people what their requirements are.
I thought they were finally doing a good job with teaching Canadians about their obligations. This practice continued for several years through the current government’s reign as a minority.
Once they were elected with a majority vote, it seems, things started to change. There have been no more meetings and the services that were being provided at the CRA offices started to decline.
CRA has closed many smaller offices, stating that in order to provide all Canadians with online services they need to take away from a selected few. These selected few – low-income and less-educated taxpayers, seniors and young parents – are the very Canadians who desperately need these services.
When you do not have Internet access or the knowledge to get online, as of Sept. 28 in Whitehorse, you will only be able to get assistance from the Government of Canada taxation department by calling a 1-800 number.
I do not like where this government is going with the current trend. I believe that it is taking our tax dollars and giving us nothing back in return. Over the last two years, I have had to hook up and maintain more phone lines and hire two new staff just to help cover the demand on the phones and counter looking for assistance.
It is not my job to help taxpayers comply with the taxation requirements … it is the Government of Canada’s job, and in my opinion, they are failing miserably.
I am just sickened by the audacity of this government. Robert Hill, director of the Northern B.C. and Yukon Tax Service office in Prince George, told me they are now required to run themselves as a business and must watch their budgets.
I have been in business for close to 30 years, and if I ran my business like the government runs its, I would have been broke a long time ago. Client service is the key to successfully running a business, not just budget.
Making it as easy as possible for customers to use your service and pay their bills is absolutely critical to keep revenue up. By closing their offices and payment centres, their compliance and revenue will drop … no doubt about it.
My staff and I have created a petition that can be signed to try to help save this local office. If you have ever used this office and have found it to be helpful, consider what it will be like without it. Please come in and sign the petition – let’s tell the Government of Canada that we need this office to remain in place for the benefit of all Yukon taxpayers.
Carol Church is the owner of H&R Block in Whitehorse.