Ottawa, ON, Canada, Jan. 7, 2020 -- The quality of service and information that small business owners receive from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)'s call centre has dropped, finds a new report by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB). In the fourth edition of its CRA Report Card, CFIB awarded CRA an overall grade of D, down from a C-, based on 200 secret shopper calls to CRA's business enquiries line.
"We evaluated the CRA on real questions that our Business Counsellors answer on a regular basis. These are common questions from business owners, but some posed a real challenge for many of the agents we spoke to," said Corinne Pohlmann, CFIB's senior vice-president of national affairs. "It's very concerning to find that business owners calling the CRA are often getting inaccurate information or may be left on hold for over an hour."
This year's drop in grade was largely due to the long wait times to have questions resolved. While CRA's new phone system greatly improved the ability to connect to an agent and largely eliminated busy signals, frontline agents appear to have significantly more limits on which questions they are allowed to answer. This meant that more questions had to be transferred to a second more senior agent, increasing wait times substantially. While the average time to connect to a frontline agent was 15 minutes, the average time to reach a senior agent was one hour, and the longest wait was two hours.
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Wrong information poses major problem for small businesses
In addition to increased wait times, the accuracy of information provided by CRA agents has decreased, with only 60 per cent of calls receiving a complete response, down from 69 per cent in 2017. The rules around Capital Cost Allowances, which were revised in late 2018, seemed to stump CRA agents in particular—only half were able to provide a complete answer and a full quarter answered incorrectly.
"A quarter of CRA agents were unaware of the new Capital Cost Allowances that had been in place for more than six months and told callers to claim just 25 per cent of costs in the first year, not the 100 per cent they are entitled to," added Pohlmann. "This kind of misinformation is not just a waste of time for business owners, but may also cost them a significant amount of money that could otherwise be reinvested in the business or its employees."
CFIB outlines path forward for CRA
CFIB is committed to continuing to work with CRA on improving the service it provides to business owners and recommends that the agency take proactive measures to address the issues uncovered by the report:
Increase CRA's service standard to ensure that 80 per cent of calls should be received by an agent within 15 minutes, up from the current 65 per cent goal.
Set an additional standard that outlines a timeframe for resolving questions, such as 80 per cent of calls resolved within 20 minutes.
Update CRA agents more regularly about tax policy changes to ensure they are not providing business owners with outdated information.
Ensure more businesses know about the My Business Account service, particularly because CRA will honour the guidance agents provided in writing, so even if the information is later proven to be wrong, the business will not be penalized.
"From our previous report cards, we know that CRA is willing to listen and improve," concluded Pohlmann. "We hope they take this feedback and use this as an opportunity to continue working to improve their customer service to Canada's small businesses going forward."
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
About Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB):
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) is Canada's largest association of small and medium-sized businesses with 110,000 members across every industry and region. CFIB is dedicated to increasing business owners' chances of success by driving policy change at all levels of government, providing expert advice and tools, and negotiating exclusive savings.
About Canada Revenue Agency:
The Canada Revenue Agency provides information, services, and applications that help promote compliance with Canada's tax and regulations, including forms, publications, and guides.
Published: Friday, January 10, 2020
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