Taxpayers' Ombudsperson requests the Canada Revenue Agency improve the information it provides to those facing violence

OTTAWA, ON, Dec. 9, 2021 /CNW/ – Today, Canada’s Taxpayers’ Ombudsperson, François Boileau, announces that a service improvement request he made to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has been accepted. The request made was to improve the information it provides to those facing domestic violence, including those accessing the Canada child benefit (CCB).

The pandemic has had a profound impact on many Canadians and the new measures and protocols implemented to encourage social distancing has also affected those facing domestic violence. Statistics Canada reported that one in 10 women is very or extremely concerned about the possibility of violence in the home1 

For many, the CCB is a lifeline that helps feed, clothes and shelter their children. While conducting our examination, we determined that the information the CRA provided to those affected by domestic violence was insufficient.

We also found that the issue goes beyond the CCB, as there may be other situations when the CRA requires, or requests, information, a signature or documents, that may put a person in danger. That is why the Ombudsperson identified that the CRA provide a resource that tells individuals not to contact an abusive partner.

As a result, the Taxpayers’ Ombudsperson recommended that the CRA create a webpage that informs those facing violence on what is required or what to do if they are asked for information or documents that may put them in danger.  

The Ombudsperson is pleased the CRA has accepted the service improvement request. Those facing domestic violence can now visit the webpage for those who are in a violent situation or survivors of abuse on how to continue getting their benefit and credit payments or apply for benefits. The new page is located on the Child and family benefits page. However, it is currently a feature on the page and it is unclear as to whether it will remain a highly visible and accessible webpage.

The webpage also informs individuals who are at-risk that a spouse’s signature is not required on the Form RC66, Canada Child Benefits Application. However, the application form still requests the signature. As such, further communication with the CRA will be undertaken to ensure that complete, consistent and clear information is found on the form as well.

The Ombudsperson discovered that individuals in these difficult situations needing to prove eligibility for the CCB may be put at risk if they think they need a signature or documents from their abuser. The issue came to the Ombudsperson’s attention during our systemic examination into the CRA’s administration of the CCB.

The Ombudsperson is pleased overall by the action taken on the service improvement request, and trusts the CRA will continue to update its webpage, such as to include information on how to remove an authorized representative should they be the abuser.

Background information

The Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsperson works independently from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). We review complaints about the quality of service taxpayers and benefit recipients receive from the CRA. We are mandated to uphold eight of the 16 rights outlined in the Taxpayer Bill of Rights. We also look at service issues that affect more than one person, or a part of the population.

Quote

“We must protect those that are vulnerable and are not able to navigate the system easily. No one should have to face an abusive partner, nor put in danger to get benefits they are entitled to. When it comes to the service that the CRA provides to taxpayers and benefit recipients, it remains one of our top priorities to ensure that everyone receives clear information.”

François Boileau, Taxpayers’ Ombudsperson

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1 Statistics Canada. (2020, April 8). The Daily — Canadian Perspectives Survey Series 1: Impacts of COVID-19, available at: https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/200408/dq200408c-eng.htm

SOURCE Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsperson

Taxpayers' Ombudsperson requests the Canada Revenue Agency improve the information it provides to those facing violence WeeklyReviewer

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