OTTAWA – It’s time to pay your taxes again. Just don’t trying paying them at the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).
According to Union of Taxation Employees (UTE) National President Betty Bannon, this is not an April Fool’s joke. By this time next year, the CRA will have closed its cash counters and will not accept payments at any of its 47 locations across the country.
“In spite of the Revenue Agency’s motto - More Ways to Serve You! - CRA is doing just the opposite by closing its cash and client service counters as part of the Liberal government’s expenditure review exercise”, says Bannon. “It’s a short-sighted measure to try to save a few dollars.”
Right now taxpayers can walk into any of the Agency’s 47 client service counters. Individuals and small businesses owners use the service to make payments in a number of ways, including cash. They also have an opportunty to get the answers they need to their personal and business tax questions. Any problems with Child Tax Benefits or GST rebates can be dealt with on the spot.
“People come to the Agency’s client service counters for a reason,” says Bannon. “They want their service face-to-face. Even CRA acknowledges that the service is needed because they calculate “wait times”. In their 2003-04 report, the Agency standard was 20 minutes, which they only achieved 81% of the time. If people have to wait, it’s clear there is need for the service, since telephone and electronic services are also available.”
Instead of being able to walk-in at their convenience, anyone who needs tax help will need to phone and make an appointment. CRA call centres are already overworked. Anyone calling will have to get in line just to make an appointment.
“CRA’s decision to close the counters affects many vulnerable people,” says John Gordon, PSAC National Executive Vice-President. “People who access this walk-in service include seniors, low wage earners, recent immigrants who may face language barriers, people with literacy problems and citizens eligible for GST rebates and Child Tax Benefits.”
“As long as there is a need for the walk-in service, the Agency should be meeting that need,” says Gordon. “Canadians are paying for this service; they deserve to receive it.”
In response to the Agency’s decision to close their walk-in service, UTE, a component of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), today announced the start of a national campaign. The union is calling on the Liberal government and the Revenue Agency Board of Management to rescind their decision. A variety of activities are being planned to save this service, including meeting with Members of Parliament, as well as reaching out to organizations representing seniors and other citizens affected by the CRA’s decision.
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For information: Betty Bannon, National President UTE, (613) 266-5956 (cell)
Louise Laporte, PSAC Communications,
(613) 560-4287 or (613) 558-4975 (cell)