The Canada Revenue Agency is creating an online mail service that it says will help streamline the tax workload of small businesses.
Kerry-Lynne Findlay, the minister for national revenue, announced the new My Business Account program in Whitehorse on Friday. The online service allows small businesses to submit letters online securely, similar to online banking systems that provide account statements.
The program has been run for the past year on a pilot basis. Findlay said the government received positive responses from the small businesses involved.
“Those who have used this service appreciate the fact that they get immediate confirmation that their (tax) documents were submitted. More and more, businesses will be able to transmit their forms and documents to the CRA electronically,” Findlay said.
Findlay and Yukon MP Ryan Leef held a round-table meeting in Whitehorse, where they heard many local concerns about the CRA. Among those was a worry that online filing might not work as well in rural communities, where access to reliable Internet is not a given.
To address those concerns, the traditional paper filing system through the mail service will continue to exist as well.
“It’s one thing if you’re in Whitehorse,” said Findlay. “It’s another if you’re farther out. Northern communities share those frustrations right across the territories in terms of access.
The closure of Whitehorse’s CRA office last year provoked a public outcry over the loss of over-the-counter service for taxpayers. In response, Leef offered to take over some duties of the CRA office and run them out of his constituency office on Black Street.
On Friday, Leef said now that the 2013 tax season is over, his office will review the amount and variety of service they will provide for next season.
“I think at their first introduction, they feel more comfortable being in our office and able to pose a question to our staff. But what we really saw was a trend of people not returning after their first introduction,” Leef said.
Most often, Leef’s office staff would simply provide residents with copies of government tax forms. Those forms are also available online, and once taxpayers had been shown the CRA website and how to navigate it, they often didn’t return.
“We are able to show them the navigation of the system, and they can say, ‘Oh, that’s pretty straightforward,’ and we’ve been essentially providing that first introduction for them,” said Leef. “Change can be difficult, but when they have a helping hand we tend not to see them back again.”
When the Whitehorse CRA office was closed last year, it was part of 28 closures across the country. Findlay said 21 more of those offices are set to close in the near future, because the majority of
Canadians prefer to file their taxes online.
The number of face-to-face and over-the-counter tax filings last year accounted for only two per cent of total filings, Findlay said.
“Taxpayers are using those centres less and less, so we are trying to meet that demand by upping the quality of service on the other end,” she said.
Contact Jesse Winter at firstname.lastname@example.org