Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman
Canadian taxpayers have formal rights that have been set out in the CRA Taxpayer Bill of Rights. To help enforce these rights the Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman was established in 2008 and operates independently from the CRA. Its mandate is to uphold the Taxpayer Bill of Rights and to provide an independent review of unresolved taxpayer service complaints. Ms. Sherra Profit, who is a lawyer, was appointed to the position in April 2015 and is the second person to be appointed Canada’s Taxpayers’ Ombudsman since the Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman was created in 2008.
Mandate of Canadian Tax Ombudsman
The Ombudsman will not review matters that are before the courts, will not deal with complaints relating to tax policy or program legislation and cannot direct the CRA to take action. The role of the Tax Court of Canada is to review specific Canada Revenue Agency assessments and direct them to change the assessment if incorrect. The Taxpayers’ Ombudsman will deal with service complaints. Typically this includes undue delay; poor or misleading information; staff behaviour; or mistakes, which could potentially result in a misunderstanding. A service complaint can be submitted through one of our top Canadian income tax lawyers if it requires a technical explanation. The Taxpayers’ Ombudsman website also contains information about how to submit a tax service complaint.
Canadian Taxpayer Bill of Rights
The Canadian Taxpayer Bill of Rights is a set of 16 very specific rights that Canadian taxpayers have in their relationship with the Canada Revenue Agency. Here is a discussion by a Toronto tax lawyer of some of the more important rights.
Right to Receive Entitlements and to Pay no More and no Less than What is Required by Law
The first right seems to be very self evident, but it is very important. This right means that Canadian taxpayers can expect to receive the benefits, credits, and refunds to which you are entitled under the Canadian Income Tax Act. This means that CRA should inform taxpayers of credits available, and taxpayers can expect to pay no more and no less than the correct amount required under tax law. It is important to realize that taxpayers must still claim for credits that they are entitled to receive. CRA cannot know if, for example, a child has participated in activities eligible for the Children’s fitness tax credit.
Right to Privacy and Confidentiality
Taxpayers have the right for CRA to protect and manage the confidentiality of their personal and financial information in accordance with the laws they administer, such as the Income Tax Act, the Excise Tax Act and the Privacy Act. Furthermore, only CRA employees who need information to administer programs and legislation have access to taxpayer information.
Right to a Formal Review and a Subsequent Appeal
This is the right routinely invoked by our experienced Toronto income tax lawyers. It means that Canadian taxpayers are entitled to a formal review of their file if they disagree with a proposed income tax assessment . If even after this review there is no agreement with the tax department then there is a right to file a formal Notice of Objection. The income tax appeals officer responsible for handling the Objection will not have been involved with the original decision under dispute and has an obligation to provide an independent review of the file.
Right to be Treated Professionally, Courteously and Fairly
Canadian taxpayers can expect that CRA will treat them courteously and with consideration at all times, including when they ask for information or arrange interviews and audits. Taxpayers can also expect the Canada Revenue Agency to listen to them and to take their specific circumstances into account.
Right to Relief from Penalties and Interest Due to Extraordinary Circumstances
This is another right routinely exercised by our top Toronto income tax lawyers by filing taxpayer relief or fairness applications. This right means that Revenue Canada has to consider a request to waive or cancel all or part of any penalty and interest charges if the taxpayer was prevented from complying with tax obligations because of circumstances beyond their control. Specifically included is the right to relief due to financial hardship.
Right to be Represented by a Person of Your Choice
Canadian taxpayers have an absolute right to be represented by a Canadian income tax professional. They can choose a person to represent them and to get advice about their tax and benefit affairs. CRA is required to deal with this representative once they have been properly retained and authorized. Furthermore when dealing with a Toronto income tax lawyer (but not a tax accountant) all communications between the tax lawyer and taxpayer, as will as the files, are privileged and confidential. This also means that an income tax collections officer is required to communicate with the tax professional and not the taxpayer if so instructed by the taxpayer. Failure to do so is grounds for a service complaint to CRA or to the Tax Ombudsman.
Right to Lodge a Service Complaint or Request a Formal Review Without Fear of Reprisal
CRA employees are expected to act in accordance with the CRA Code of Ethics and Conduct and the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector. If a Canadian taxpayer lodges a service complaint or requests a formal review of a CRA decision CRA is required to treat them impartially and they are entitled to receive the benefits, credits, and refunds as set out in the tax law, and pay no more or no less than what is required by income tax law. Taxpayers should not fear reprisal.