Technological Change Committee

Minutes of the Technological Change Sub-Committee Meeting

January 19, 2017

between the Canada Revenue Agency
and the Union of Taxation Employees

PARTICIPANTS

Management                                                Union

Cynthia Leblanc                                           Madonna Gardiner
Kerry Colpitts                                               Doug Gaetz
Tony Manconi                                              Brian Olford
Gordon Majcher                                           Jerome Martel
Tessie Jokinen                                             Andrea Holmes
Silvano Tocchi
Roger Houde
Jean Stewart
Valerie Walters

OPENING REMARKS

Cynthia Leblanc, Deputy Assistant Commissioner, Assessment, Benefit, and Service Branch, and Management Co-Chair, welcomed everyone to the meeting and recognized the new union representatives joining the sub-committee. She said she was looking forward to returning to productive discussions about changes in the workplace. Madonna Gardiner, 2nd National Vice-President and Union Co-Chair, also welcomed the participants and said that the union was happy to be back to the table.

UPDATE ON INTEGRAS

Management explained that Integras was a case management tool that pulled information from different Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) systems. There were three key changes that had impacted all Tax Services Offices (TSOs) over the past year.

The reassessment process (RAP), previously a manual process, had been automated in Integras. As of May 2016, the manual workload for T1 and T2 reassessment was diminishing as the online RAP functionality was being used to complete the work. As it would take many months to fully transition to online RAPs, it was anticipated that the impact on employees would be gradual. Management estimated that work on the cases remaining in the legacy systems would not be finalized until 2020. They said they were still reviewing the effect that this process change would have for employees assigned to this workload; however, they expected to see some impacts at the SP-02 and SP-03 levels. Every effort would be made to mitigate the impacts on employees.

In May 2016, Integras enabled taxpayers with a business number, to initiate electronic requests to auditors. In October 2016, the same functionality was provided to auditors. In May 2017, two-way interaction would be introduced for individual taxpayers.

With the next update, Integras would automatically prompt an employee not directly assigned to a case to explain why the file was being accessed. The union asked if the information entered in this field would be analyzed. Management said the information would not be analyzed; however, an audit trail would be created. This could help protect employees from accusations of inappropriate access to taxpayer information. The audit trails were monitored as part of the ongoing processes to identify unauthorized access.

The union said that they received feedback from the field, noting issues related to the availability of the system and the lack of a time code to record system outages. Employees were concerned about the impact of system availibility issues on their production rates and performance reviews. Management responded that they were aware of the system availability issue and it had been raised to the Assistant Commissioner of Information Technology Branch. As the issue was related to connectivity rather than the system itself, management had reached out to their Shared Services Canada colleagues. Management confirmed that users across the country were impacted by the system issues; they were considering implementing an indirect activity code to track system downtime. Management met with the regional program advisors bi-weekly and was confident that local management understood the challenges.

CHARITIES IT MODERNIZATION PROJECT

Management provided an overview of the application process for groups wanting to register as a charity. At present, both the Application to Register a Charity under the Income Tax Act, and the Registered Charity Information Return, were paper based processes. As a result of Budget 2014 funding, an online system would be built to transition the manual application process to an electronic process. While the online application process would be mandatory, online filing of information returns would be voluntary. The review of the application process would remain unchanged for employees aside from the initial receipt of the application. Management expected they would continue to receive a number of paper income tax returns for the next few years.

Management said that the project was going well and the new system would be implemented in November 2018. Working groups had been established to ensure that all teams across the directorate were involved in the transformation. The union asked what impact this change would have on permanent and determinate employees. Management answered that they did not foresee any impacts to permanent staff; however, the number of determinate employees could decrease in the future.

ELECTRONIC MAIL MANAGEMENT

Management stated that Electronic Mail Management covered a number of areas within CRA. When management provided an update at the last sub-committee meeting in May 2014, the Submit Documents service had the capacity to receive 4 different documents; it was now possible to submit documents to 30 different program areas.

The documents could be categorized into 2 types: solicited and unsolicited. Solicited documents arrived following a letter or a prompt from CRA and had an associated reference number, while unsolicited documents did not. Over the last 4 years, 2.8 million solicited documents were received. CRA began receiving unsolicited documents in October 2015, and had received over 150,000 unsolicited documents to date. All unsolicited documents received were stored in a central repository, typically FileNet, and then routed to the appropriate CRA office for processing.

The second aspect of mail management related to paper mail. Paper mail was processed in 17 mail hubs and 40 spokes across the country. There had been a significant decrease over the last decade in the amount of traditional mail that was processed, dropping from approximately 100 million to 18-20 million pieces. The CRA had introduced technology such as radio frequency identification (RFID), to improve tracking, and was considering additional technologies, such as optical character recognition.

Management would be posting a request for information (RFI) on industry capabilities related to digital mail management shortly. Once management had received the submissions, the options analysis would begin and was expected to take one year. A suite of digital mailroom capabilities would include the ability to create digital images; extract and capture key information; and manage and route it to the appropriate place. This would improve transmission and processing, making it available to multiple users at the same time, while allowing for the appropriate controls. Management wanted to ensure the solution selected worked for all stakeholders within the CRA. The Agency already tracked and moved paper mail and records using RFID technology.

The union asked what impact these changes could have on permanent and determinate employees. Management responded that there would be no impact to staff initially. Future impacts were unknown and would depend on the solution selected and how it was implemented. Management would provide regular updates to the committee.

The union asked when the RFI would be posted. Management stated that they would proceed with the RFI to obtain industry feedback. This information would allow them to determine if a product existed in the marketplace that would meet the Agency’s needs or whether they would need to build a solution. Management would determine their next steps based on their analysis of the options presented. Management said that they would inform the union when the RFI was made public.

T1 SYSTEMS REDESIGN

Management explained that the T1 Systems Redesign project was a nine year project, presently in its sixth year. The first major release, implemented in 2015, was the Unified Assessing Framework. The framework was the basis for the assessing and reassessing system, which had previously been separate systems. System generated reassessments, also known as SYSRAPS, were brought onto the new framework in 2015.

In 2016, taxpayer requested reassessments and clean electronically filed returns were onboarded. A new common suite of tools including T1 case management, correspondence, reporting, and account overview was introduced. As workloads were brought onto the framework, these new tools would become standard for most workflows.

In February 2017, a new T1 accounting system would be implemented and the notice of reassessment would move to the enterprise correspondence system. In addition, field staff in the T1 Accounting workloads would begin to use the new common suite of tools.

An online training product about the new common suite of tools was developed and over 1,400 employees were trained before the February 2016 release. Over 10,000 TC and TSO employees had received training in preparation for the February 2017 release. Management anticipated that 4,000 employees would be trained prior to the February 2018 release.

Management explained that the majority of the remaining T1 workloads in the TC would be brought onto the framework and begin using the new common tools in February 2018. These workloads included paper returns, error inspection, confidence validity, T1 processing review and matching. In February 2019, the core tax logic for assessing would be replaced. It was anticipated that this change would not have a significant impact on employees, beyond working with the system and the new tools.

The union said that several Hazardous Occurrence Investigation Reports (T4009s) were created following the first release in February 2015. The complaints related to occupational health and safety had been raised at the National Health and Safety Policy Committee where the union had been told the issues would be resolved in February 2017. Management confirmed that some minor fixes would be implemented in February; however, the majority of the problems had already been resolved. The complaints related to font size had been addressed with the Information Technology Branch.

Management acknowledged that there had been some issues, as they expected with a change of this magnitude. In general, they were pleased with the implementation. By August 2016, employees had stopped using Citrix, which had resolved a significant issue. Management noted that over 600 system enhancements had been implemented by June 2016. Management recognized that this was a significant transition for users, as some workloads had not used an electronic case management system, and some employees had used the previous system for many years. Management had taken steps to involve the regions throughout development and implementation; they felt that this consultation had helped users to begin to accept the change.

The union asked if employees were sharing best practices and how information was being communicated. Management described the steps that they had taken to share information with the regions and noted that productivity had returned to the same level as before the new system was implemented.

The union said that they had received negative feedback on the system. Management responded that they had received a mix of positive and negative feedback. They recognized that some employees did not have as much flexibility and control over their work. Management said that this was the largest system overhaul they had ever done and they were pleased that it had been on schedule and within budget. The current system would be a foundation for future service improvements.

NON-RESIDENT SOURCE DEDUCTION IDENTIFICATION

Management explained that the Non-Resident Source Deduction (NRSD) system was created to administer Non-Resident accounts and enforce tax obligations under Part XIII of the Act, and manage Part XIII workloads. In October 2016, the NRSD system contained over 360,000 accounts with more than 74,000 active accounts. Approximately 10,000 new non-resident (NR) accounts were created annually.

The current system was a stand-alone, stove-pipe system, with separate registration and identification functionality. As NR accounts were created and maintained as separate distinct taxpayer entities, it was not possible to check for other debt owing prior to issuing a refund. The NRSD system was not compatible with other CRA systems.

Once this project was implemented, Management expected that officers would have complete information allowing them to resolve accounts in a more effective manner. This project would provide a better account identification structure and would align with Agency standards. Better data capture and integrity would result in improved analysis and reporting capability. This project would also provide electronic services to clients, and would link into other CRA systems/accounts such as the SIN, BN and T3 accounts.

These changes would be implemented in several phases. In October 2017, the new identification framework and registration process would be implemented and the existing NR accounts would be migrated. An account type determination review for interoperability with the Automated Collections and Source Deductions Enforcement system would take place in May 2018. In October 2018, online registration and Phase 1 of the refund offsetting process would begin. Phase 2 was planned for February 2019. Management expected that the impacts on staff would be limited to training on the new system.

SERVICE MODERNIZATION (E-INTERACTIONS)

Management explained that the goal of the E-interactions strategy, now known as Service Modernization, was to facilitate interactions between the CRA and taxpayers. The name change reflected the priorities outlined in the Minister’s mandate letter, and spoke to the desire to improve the level of service offered to Canadians. Service Modernization also included the improvements in the digital channel space and the complementary work being done to improve service in other areas. The strategy included approximately 47 projects, although that number fluctuated. Management provided an update on the enhancements and services introduced in 2016.

MyCRA was a mobile application that had been in operation for almost two years. Initially, it provided access to information such as the notice of assessment and tax return status. Now users could also change their address, register for direct deposit, and request a proof of income statement. Management would continue to monitor how users interacted with technology, to determine what functions could be developed in future.

MyBenefits app was an application that provided benefit recipients with information on their benefits. As Canadians regularly contacted the Agency for an update on their benefits, Management hoped that this would provide citizens with reassurance regarding their benefit payments, although the audience was relatively modest to date.

The CRA Business Tax Reminders application, which enabled business owners to create reminders and alerts for all business tax deadlines, had been updated for use with new operating systems.

As of October 2016, a link was established between My Account and My Service Canada Account. This meant users could navigate between the two portals without having to log into the portals separately. This was an important development in the move towards integrated services and a single online window for services. Management noted that both Service Canada and CRA’s My Account had five million Canadians registered.

The union noted that the process to request a password by mail was an irritant for many My Account users. Management said that as of February 2017, clients would be able to authenticate their identity through a CRA call centre with telephone authentication.

With Online Mail or e-Delivery, the CRA delivered correspondence to clients through their secure online portal. Since implementation, the CRA had sent over 10 million pieces of mail to the approximately 4.5 million Canadians registered for this service. In February 2016, the CRA added a service to allow individuals and their authorized representatives the option to view their available online mail through the “View mail” service. In May 2016, businesses and their representatives could sign up for online mail by providing an e-mail address when filing a return. In July 2016, instalment reminders, payment summaries, and benefit notices were added to the list of correspondence available through online mail. All high volume correspondence had been made available electronically; Management would continue to expand this service.

The Auto-fill my return service enabled individuals and authorized representatives to automatically complete parts of a 2016 and 2015 income tax and benefit return. This service was tested last year and would continue to expand. It assisted clients in completing their returns by reducing errors.

With My Audit Business Enquiries, taxpayers under audit, their representatives, and CRA auditors could exchange documentation and communication through the secure online portal.

Management highlighted some of the key enhancements that were planned for February 2017. The express notice of assessment service would deliver the results of an income tax and benefit return immediately and send a notice of assessment directly to the certified tax software the day after a return was filed. Account alerts would also provide better fraud protection by notifying individuals or their representatives about activity such as password, address, or direct deposit changes. These changes would trigger an e-mail to the client informing them of the change. The union said that this was an excellent feature, as fraud and scams continued to be a significant concern for the public. Management recognized that fraud and scams eroded the confidence of Canadians in online services and hoped that these enhancements would reassure citizens and encourage them to use the electronic services available to them.

Management said that in May 2017, an “Audit Enquiries” link would be added to MyAccount to enable individuals undergoing an audit, their authorized representatives, and the auditor/compliance programs officer, to communicate electronically and exchange documents. Management clarified that this enhancement would enable clients to share spreadsheets, which would also be accessible for Canadians with a disability. Management said they would confirm how information was being exchanged for the Trust Examiners and Employer Compliance Auditors and provide a response to the union.

DEBT MANAGEMENT CALL CENTRES’ INFRASTRUCTURE

In April 2014, Shared Services Canada (SSC) led a project to procure a Hosted Contact Centre Service. This initiative would bring all partnering department contact centres onto a common hosted platform service. The Hosted Contact Centre Solution would provide new functionality and enhanced tools that the CRA could leverage in order to reduce long-term costs. Although the contract was awarded to IBM in October 2015, numerous delays and challenges had prevented the CRA from using this contract.

As an interim solution CRA decided to leverage existing government contracts with Bell and Rogers. This would prevent any service disruption and reduce the pressure on limited telephony resources. Ultimately, the Agency wanted three centres that could handle inbound and outbound calls in order to assist with the CRA’s collection efforts. Management hoped to send information out to vendors in January 2017. However, due to movement with the SSC and IBM contract, management was discussing whether the CRA would go with the interim approach or with the SSC contract.

The union asked about infrastructure problems that were affecting the call centre implementation in Shawinigan. Management responded that the Quebec Region management team had raised concerns with the infrastructure in the Shawinigan office; they were working with the Information Technology Branch and SSC to address these issues. As a result, management would be delaying the implementation of some changes at the Shawinigan call centre until a solution had been found.

ReFILE

The ReFILE service would be introduced in February 2017 to allow electronic filers to submit T1 adjustments. In 2018, the initiative would be expanded to include the NetFile software. This would allow taxpayers to go through their efile service provider to change their return. The efile association had been advised of the change and a soft launch was planned.

The union asked what impact this change would have on employees. Management responded that they did not expect this change to have an impact on employees.

WORKLOAD MANAGEMENT

The workload management project would create a fully integrated system to replace the numerous workload management systems being used by the Collections and Verification Branch (CVB). The solution would deliver a new case and workload management system with a comprehensive client view, and increased capabilities and effectiveness in workload management. It would also address three critical problems: duplication of effort, inability to leverage technological advances, and aging and unsustainable technology.

The solution would maximize the return on investment made in the Integrated Revenue Collections project by integrating the full breadth of CVB workloads into the Business Intelligence sphere, and would move the benefits realized through the Accounts Receivables Platform to a sustainable technology. It would also modernize CVB systems so that workloads could leverage investments by other branches in the portals and enterprise correspondence, decreasing costs associated with future initiatives tied to these systems. In addition, it would separate the presentation layer from the business and data layers that are currently intertwined in both the PAYDAC and Non-Resident Source Deductions systems, thereby making the code more supportable and decreasing potential funding pressures associated with application sustainability. It would also improve CVB’s ability to predict non-compliance behaviour and efficiently inform the end-users about its population.

The project was expected to be completed in 2022-2023, with new phase introduced in October of each year. The six sub-projects included:

  • 2018 release– Non Filer and Non-Registrant;
  • 2019 release – Other Government Programs;
  • 2020 release – Collections and Compliance (except Source Deductions);
  • 2021 release – Manual workloads;
  • 2022 release – Source Deductions; and,
  • 2023 release – Part XIII (Non-Resident)

Funding for the project had only been confirmed for the following two years; however, management expected additional funding. They did not anticipate any impacts on employees, other than training.

Management expected to provide an update on the project to this sub-committee every six months. The union asked if it was possible to have a demonstration of the solution. Management explained that the Agile methodology was being used for development, so it was not possible to provide a demonstration. They added that they were planning to create a communication strategy and they anticipated that it would include screen prints.

CLOSING REMARKS

The Management Co-Chair once again welcomed the new members of the sub-committee and wished everyone safe travels home. The Union Co-Chair observed that the names of several agenda items had changed as projects had evolved over time. The union requested that the agenda identify if a project was new or had undergone a name change, and that management note in their updates if they would be providing future updates to the sub-committee. Management agreed. The union said that it was good to be back at the table and thanked the management team for the information. Both parties looked forward to the next meeting.

Cynthia Leblanc
Deputy Assistant Commissioner
Assessment and Benefit Services Branch
Canada Revenue Agency

Marc Brière
National President
Union of Taxation Employees

Date: 

Date: