Small businesses and tax practitioners think CRA’s service got worse in the last three years, CFIB says

by Morinville Online Staff

A new report by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) indicates small businesses and tax practitioners have given the Canada Revenue Agency a grade of C or satisfactory. Although the grade remains the same as in the CFIB reports of 2014 and 2017, 31 per cent of businesses and 76 per cent of tax practitioners believe CRA’s service has declined in the past three years.

“The CRA played a key role in delivering COVID-19 support programs to help small businesses survive the pandemic. Both business owners and tax practitioners had generally positive views on the administration of COVID-19 support programs. Almost two-thirds (63%) of business owners also felt that the CRA treated them with respect,” said CFIB’s Senior Vice-President of National Affairs, Corinne Pohlmann. “However, while the CRA has made efforts to improve its interactions with small businesses, there’s still room for improvement.”

Among those surveyed, 66 per cent of business owners felt intimidated by the CRA, 51 per cent felt as if they were treated like they did something wrong, and 48 per cent felt that they were not being provided with the tax guidance their business needed. Twenty-three per cent felt that the CRA is accountable for its mistakes or is making an effort to be small business friendly.

The survey shows a lack of confidence with the Business Enquiries Line and those who operate it, one of the only ways that small businesses can connect directly with the CRA. Only 23 per cent of business owners and 28 per cent of tax practitioners felt confident in the answers provided by agents from the call centre.

“Long wait times to reach an agent, dealing with complex language and sometimes receiving inaccurate answers can be very frustrating for businesses and take too much of their time and energy. It shouldn’t be complicated,” said Michelle Auger, CFIB senior policy analyst and co-author of the report card. “The CRA needs to continue to improve its service to make it easier for businesses to comply with their tax obligations.”

CFIB is calling on CRA to improve tax compliance and the services it offers to small businesses through the following measures:

  • Improve accessibility to CRA staff by improving the CRA call centre and increasing the number of senior agents in order to improve wait times
  • Ensure accurate and timely information is being provided, including rewriting website content in plain language and making it easier to find relevant content on the website
  • Ease the regulatory tax burden for small businesses by establishing a standard tax deduction for small businesses and updating the thresholds for GST and source deductions on a more regular basis to account for inflation

“Business owners just want certainty and clear answers when they contact the CRA. It’s hard to do that when they’re forced to call agents multiple times, navigate a complicated website and deal with burdensome tax regulations. We hope the CRA continues to improve its services, so owners can devote more time to operating their businesses,”  Pohlmann said.

The seventh edition of the CFIB’s CRA Report Card can be found online .

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