Auditor General’s Report Finds CRA Call Centre Staff Blocking Calls, Giving Taxpayers Wrong information

OTTAWA – Canada Auditor General has found that the country’s tax collectors often aren’t picking up the phone, and when they do, Canadians are being given incorrect information.

The examination by Auditor General Michael Ferguson into whether the Canada Revenue Agency’s nine call centres were providing Canadian taxpayers with timely access to accurate information, found that call centre agents only answered the phone about one-third of the time, reported CBC.

When the callers do get through to the call centre, the audit found that agents are giving Canadians incorrect information nearly 30 per cent of the time.

The auditor’s office found this by calling into the call centres between March 2016 and March 2017 and asked the call agents general tax questions.

In a press conference, Ferguson said he finds the number of Canadians getting bad information from the tax agency “very concerning” because people rely on the CRA to give them the right answer.

“If people aren’t told the right date for when interest will be charged on what they owe, they may make a payment later than they should, and they may get charged interest that they weren’t expecting to get charged,” said Ferguson, giving an example of the impact of the CRA staff’s erroneous information.

“Every time the answer that they get from the call centre isn’t a right answer, there’s always the potential that that is going to impact individuals,” he said.

The auditor general estimates that based on this bad advice there is a real potential for Canadians to have made errors while filing their taxes.

Prior to the auditor general’s examination, the CRA said it was meeting its targets for access and timeliness. The auditor general found that this was because the CRA had been overstating its success by not accounting for millions of blocked calls.

The auditor general discovered that the CRA blocked about 29 million calls, more than half of its 53.5 million total call volume, because the call centres could not handle the volume of calls.

When callers were able to get through, 17 million were able to reach an agent, while 7.6 million went to automated self-serve options.

The CRA reported that about 90 per cent of callers are able to be connected to the automated self-service system or a call centre agent. However when the blocked calls are factored in, the Agency’s overall success rate dropped to 36 per cent.

The auditor general concluded that the CRA needs to step up its call centre service.

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