'No way to know' impact of bad CRA tax advice: minister
Published Thursday, March 5, 2015 10:06PM EST
Last Updated Thursday, March 5, 2015 11:28PM EST
The minister in charge of the Canada Revenue Agency says “there is no way to know” if incorrect tax advice given to business callers has had a financial impact on businesses.
An internal CRA survey conducted in late 2013 showed that 25 per cent of business inquiries were incorrectly answered by CRA agents. Minister of National Revenue Kerry-Lynne Findlay called those results “unacceptable,” but said in an interview Thursday that “there is no way to know that there is a financial impact” when a tax inquiry is answered incorrectly.
“It depends on the circumstance, it depends on the information that’s been asked,” she said following an event in Halifax.
“I know that some of the questions that were asked in the survey didn’t necessarily have an economic impact,” Findlay said.
But the Canadian Federation of Independent Business and some individual business owners say wrong or confusing advice will certainly translate in some financial losses.
Kari Akbudak, who runs a home healthcare supply company in London, Ont., said she has received conflicting answers from different CRA agents when she called to inquire about charging HST on certain products.
If she ends up not charging the harmonized sales tax on products that require it, “I will have to pay the HST out of my own pocket,” she said.
The revelation that CRA call centre agents were wrong one-in-four times when answering business tax inquiries has prompted calls for an overhaul of the agency’s services. Questions have also been raised about the accuracy of information handed out during some 14 million calls per year from individual taxpayers.
The CRA has said that only eight per cent of those individual inquiries were answered incorrectly. But tax experts have disputed that number.
Dan Kelly, the president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, said the economic consequence of a mistake is “massive on the taxpayer and almost non-existent on the CRA itself.”
Opposition parties have also criticized the CRA and Findlay’s handling of the situation. They are demanding a full public review of the system and refunds for affected taxpayers.
The CRA, meanwhile, has insisted that it’s doing its part to improve services by implementing accountability measures for call centre agents and creating mobile apps for taxpayers.
Findlay also said that there is a formal complaints process for those who were given wrong information.
The CRA has said that call centre agents are monitored six times each quarter for accuracy. But the agency has not provided the results of those internal audits.
With a report from CTV’s Peter Akman