How To File A "Service Complaint" Against The Canada Revenue Agency

In writing this blog post, we are not advocating filing baseless, frivolous, vexatious and retaliatory "service complaints" against Canada Revenue Agency ("CRA") auditors, collections officers and other employees of the CRA. However, we have learned from the experience of our clients that some legitimate complaints arise from time-to-time.  It is in the spirit of transparency and openness that we have decided to write about the CRA service complaints process.  Before we give this information to you, we ask one thing - when you write a service complaint, do not do so in anger.  Take your time to be fair.  After you write the service complaint, do not press "send" right away.  Print what you have written and put it in a drawer for 24 hours.  Then read the service complaint again and make any changes that you feel are warranted and appropriate.  If you send a fair service complaint that is factual, rather than emotional, you increase the chances that the reader will address your concerns.  I have been informed that all service complaints are reviewed and taken seriously.

There is a form for "Service Complaints" about CRA employees. You must complete an RC193 "Service Related Complaint" form.  The form asks for your information - service complaints cannot be made anonymously.  The reason why service complaints cannot be anonymous is that the CRA has to review the alleged treatment of a particular taxpayer and conduct an internal review of the contents of the complaint.  However, service complaints may be filed on your behalf by a representative, such as a lawyer, accountant, bookkeeper, consultant, etc.

The form requires the taxpayer filing the service complaint to describe the actions of the CRA employee giving rise to the service complaint and state the action the taxpayer wishes the CRA to take.

There are many legitimate reasons why a taxpayer may file a service complaint against an employee of the CRA.  The first place to start is the "Taxpayer Bill of Rights" and RC17 "Taxpayer Bill of Rights Guide: Understanding your rights as a taxpayer".  The next document to consider when completing a service complaint is the CRA's "Service Standards 2016-2017". The CRA has also prepared a publication on "Complaints and Disputes".  You may also wish to consult your accountant, lawyer or bookkeeper to assist you with the drafting of the service complaint.

For example, if an auditor is acting in a biased manner towards the taxpayer, the taxpayer should make a statement that they are being treated in a biased manner, present the facts in support of the claim and make a requested action, such as the replacement of the auditor with another auditor.  It is not possible to ask that the taxpayer never be audited.  But it is reasonable to request another auditor.

For example, if the auditor does not seem to understand the legal issues involved in the file and fails to consider the issues, you should ask for a meeting with a Team Leader.  If the auditor refuses to arrange a meeting with his/her Team Leader, you should file a service complaint.  The basis for the complaint would be the lack of knowledge and the refusal to arrange a meeting with a Team Leader.  The concern would be that the auditor is not communicating with others within the CRA and using appropriate resources.  It is not uncommon for new auditors to be "in over their heads" when dealing with new and complex issues.  It can be beneficial to raise these issues in order to keep the audit on track and to minimize the risk of the auditor making incorrect assessments.

After the complaint is written, put it away for a day and make appropriate revisions.  The service complaint may be submitted to the CRA electronically (through My Business Account), by fax or by mail. See the Submissions options.

We have filed service complaints on behalf of our clients.  Normally, we receive a letter within a few weeks acknowledging receipt by the CRA of the complaint.  The complaint is forwarded to the Tax Services Office most closely connected to the service complaint.  In every file in which we filed the service complaint, we have received a telephone call about the service complaint.  In every case, there was a requirement that the CRA employee respond to a supervisor who was looking into the service complaint.  In every file, we received a response from the CRA about the steps to be taken.  In every case, the service complaints were taken seriously. In most cases, the matter was resolved satisfactorily.  This is because we were reasonable in how we discussed the issues and were reasonable in what actions were requested.

For more information, please contact Cyndee Todgham Cherniak at 416-307-4168 or email cyndee@lexsage.com.

Call Me Maybe - But Is BC PST Payable On the Call?

In December 2012, the British Columbia Ministry of Finance issued Bulletin 2012-018 "Telecommunication Services".  On February 25, 2013, they re-issued Bulletin 2012-018 "Telecommunication Services".

The Bulletin must be read in conjunction with the Provincial Sales Tax Act, Bill 2 Provincial Sales Tax Transitional Provisions and Amendments Act, 2013, and the Provincial Sales Tax Exemptions and Refunds Regulations.

The purchase of a taxable telecommunication service will be subject to PST at a rate of 7%.

It is important to recognize that the old rules no longer apply.  The new BC PST has new and more expansive rules.  British Columbia has taken the opportunity to fill in some of the gaps. For example, the new definition of "telecommunication service" in the Provincial Sales Tax Act is broader than the old version and means any of the following:

(a) the right, whether exercised or not, to utilize a telecommunication system to send or receive a telecommunication by means of an electronic device that is ordinarily situated in British Columbia;

(b) the utilization of a telecommunication system to send or receive a telecommunication by means of an electronic device that is ordinarily situated in British Columbia;

(c) a dedicated telecommunication service;

(d) the right, whether exercised or not, to download, view or access, by utilizing a telecommunication system, one or more of the following telecommunications by means of an electronic device that is ordinarily situated in British Columbia:

(i) an audio book;

(ii) an audio program;

(iii) music;

(iv) a ring tone;

(v) a television program, motion picture or other video.

The term "telecommunication" is broadly defined to mean "signs, signals, writing, images, sound or intelligence of any nature." A "telecommunication system" is defined to mean "a wire, cable, radio, optical or other electromagnetic system, or similar technical system, for the transmission, emission or reception of a telecommunication."

A number of the previously permitted exemptions are being reinstated.  Please refer to sections 83-88 in Division 5 of Part 4 of the Provincial Sales Tax Exemptions and Refunds Regulations signed into law on February 28, 2013.

If you require legal advice concerning the application of the new PST rules, please do not hesitate to contact us at 416-307-4168.