Who among us doesn't love to complain about taxes? (Aside from those who don't owe any, that is.) Income taxes, sales taxes, corporate taxes, excise taxes, property taxes, estate taxes - the list goes on and on. Complaining about how much tax we pay is as Canadian as Red Rose tea and Timbits.
Sometimes, however, our complaints go beyond mere grudges about how much we pay. Occasionally the Canada Revenue Agency makes a mistake or fails to live up to our service expectations.
In those situations, there are a couple of things you can do.
If you feel your tax assessment is incorrect, the first step is to take it up with the CRA directly. Here are a few tips on how to do so from the office of the Taxpayers' Ombudsman.
1. Know your rights
The Taxpayer Bill of Rights outlines what you can expect in your dealings with the CRA. Knowing the service you are entitled to before you deal with the CRA can help you make the most out of your interactions.
2. Be prepared
Be clear about why you are contacting the CRA. Have pertinent information and documentation on hand when you call. This could include your income tax return, Social Insurance Number, business and GST registration numbers (where applicable), plus any correspondence from the CRA relevant to your complaint.
3. Stay calm
Tax issues can be complex and dealing with them can be stressful. Do your best to explain clearly why you are contacting the CRA. Remember that the agent you are speaking with is likely not responsible for, or even aware of, the situation you are seeking help with. If you are disrespectful or take out your frustration on them, you make it difficult for them to effectively understand your situation and provide the assistance you require.
4. Keep a record of your communications
Make detailed notes of all your communications, written or verbal, with the CRA, including dates. If you deal with the CRA by phone, make a written summary of the conversations. Keep all correspondence you send to, and receive from, the CRA. A record of your dealings with the CRA may come in handy at a later date if a dispute arises regarding what was discussed.
5. Ask phone agents for their identification
When contacting the CRA call centres or general enquiries line, you are entitled to know the identity of the agent who is handling your call. Ask the agent for their first name, agent identification number and regional suffix. This information will reinforce the agent's accountability and may be helpful if, at a later date, you have to prove that you spoke with an individual at the CRA or confirm that you received advice.
Once you've talked to the CRA directly, if you're unsatisfied with the service you received, you can request that the Taxpayers' Ombudsman review your complaint. You should know, however, that the Ombudsman will only address service-related issues, such as undue delays, poor or misleading information given by the CRA, staff behaviour, and mistakes, which could refer to misunderstandings, omissions or oversights.
If, on the other hand, your complaint is simply about the size of your tax bill, you'd better pour yourself some Red Rose tea and grab a Timbit.