Barely a month after acknowledging delays in processing taxpayer-requested assessments
, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) is facing fresh criticism as a newly publicized investigation undermines earlier claims it made of meeting its service targets.
Canada’s Auditor General Michael Ferguson has announced the results of a year-long investigation into whether the CRA’s nine call centres were giving Canadian taxpayers timely access to accurate information. According to the audit, call centre agents only answered the phone about one-third of the time, reported CTV News.
During the examination conducted from March 2016 to March 2017, the CRA reportedly blocked some 29 million calls — over half its total call volume of 53.5 million — because the call centres could not accommodate them all. Callers who could not get through within two minutes would hear a busy signal, or be prompted to either visit the website or try calling again.
Prior to the auditor general’s review, the CRA said that roughly 90% of callers were able to get connected to a call centre agent or the agency’s automated self-service system. It turned out that the agency had not accounted for millions of calls that were blocked; considering the blocked attempts, the agency’s overall success rate plunged to 36%.
Among callers who got through to a call centre during the audit, nearly 30% were given incorrect information — a statistic that Ferguson called “very concerning.”
“Every time the answer that they get from the call centre isn’t a right answer, there’s always the potential that that is going to impact individuals,” he said. “If taxpayers cannot get timely access to accurate information, they may file incorrect returns, miss filing deadlines, pay too little or too much tax (and later be subject to reassessment), or miss out on benefits they are eligible to receive.”
Responding to the report, National Revenue Minister Diane Lebouthillier said the CRA will be updating its call centre technology to update callers on current wait times, improve agent training, and setting up a “national quality control team.” She also promised to improve the quality and clarity of information that the agency provides.
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