BETWEEN THE CANADA REVENUE AGENCY AND THE UNION OF TAXATION EMPLOYEES
HELD ON NOVEMBER 21, 2019
The Deputy Assistant Commissioner (DAC), Assessment, Benefit and Service Branch (ABSB) welcomed the participants and opened by expressing her sincere condolences on the passing of former Union of Taxation employees (UTE) President, Bob Campbell.
She stated that many topics on the agenda were raised as a result of commitments made at the last meeting. Additionally, there were three action items that resulted in responses provided to UTE. On May 24, Labour relations proposed a new template to capture the commitments from this committee meeting. Again, on May 24, an email was sent regarding the outcome of feedback from ABSB regarding the T1 redesign project. Finally, more recently in June 2019, the information about the Benefits Systems Renewal Project (BSRP) was provided.
The Regional Vice-President, Atlantic Region and co-chair of the Technological Change Committee questioned the role of the Assistant Commissioner (AC), ABSB. He stated that the AC should be the management co-chair of the Technological Change Committee, as per the term of reference (ToR). He also said that he asked the question a few times but that he had not received a response to date. He said that the UTE senior relations advisor and elected member would raise this matter to the AC, Human Resources Branch and the Commissioner.
The DAC, ABSB, answered that she was aware of a query but was unaware that a response had not been provided to the UTE. She explained the ABSB’s position with respect to membership. She noted that the Technological Change Committee is viewed as an important committee and forum for ABSB as evidenced by both the topics tabled by ABSB at each meeting and the presence of ABSB’s DGs at the meetings. She noted that historically it has been the DAC, ABSB who participates in the meetings and not the AC. She further explained that in a large branch such as ABSB it is commonplace for the DAC to replace the AC at meetings when the AC is not available.
The union co-chair advised that meeting material was received only three days prior to the meeting and that he would like to receive the documentation within a respectable timeframe to allow time for review and preparation for this meeting.
The DAC, ABSB agreed and stated that going forward, documents will be issued two weeks in advance of meetings.
The union co-chair advised that updates expected following the last meeting on the topic of Charities and electronic request for information (RFI) had not been provided.
As there was no representation at the meeting to provide an update on Charities, the DAC, ABSB advised that an update will be shared with UTE via email.
The Director General (DG), Technology and Business Intelligence Directorate (TABI) stated that the RFI with the TD bank pilot was scheduled for the resources management committee on Dec 5, 2019.
The local president, Halifax asked about the e-fax and questioned if Collections and Verification Branch (CVB) had evaluated the feasibility for T2 Corporate Assessing Review, GST/HST Post Assessing, Trust Accounts Exam and Assessment and Verification workloads.
The DG, TABI replied that the aforementioned workloads will be considered for future iterations of the e-fax solution.
DIGITAL MAILROOM PROJECT (DMP)
The DG, Administration Directorate (AD) advised that following the last update, contract negotiations took place from June to July 2019 and the proof of concept exercise was completed in July 2019. A contract was awarded on July 25, 2019 for an initial period of three years, with options to extend the period of the agreement for up to seven years, exercised in one-year increments at the discretion of the Agency. Alongside the procurement process, the project continues its engagements with the initial onboarders and implementation dates are planned for spring and fall 2020. The DG, AD stated that as mentioned in previous updates, change management is essential. As the new DMP capabilities are introduced into the Agency, the development and implementation of a change management plan, focusing on general awareness, short-term communications support and outreach, HR and Training assessments are important. Based on these detailed assessments, DMP will develop a training plan that will identify the appropriate support tools and mechanisms required to ensure enduring support and change for all stakeholders – those directly and indirectly impacted. The types of training will be developed in collaboration with onboarders. At this time, the DG, AD said that they are not in a position to determine any potential impacts DMP may have on the CRA workforce profile of onboarding programs and supporting functions. The initial workload with the three onboarders will run until 2021. As the project continues to progress, the DG, AD will keep the unions informed of any new developments.
The Union Co-Chair asked which forms will be part of the initial onboarding programs.
The DG, AD confirmed that in the Spring of 2020, the Business Number Systems (RC1 process) from the Assessment, Benefit and the Service Branch and Service Complaints Program (RC193 process) from the Service, Innovation and Integration Branch will begin followed by the Charities Program (T3010 process) from the Legislative Policy and Regulatory Affairs Branch in the fall of 2020.
The union co-chair asked about the volume of mail received per year.
The DG, AD will provide specific data but he clarified that the DMP project will affect incoming paper mail. It does not affect the outgoing mail nor the intra-Agency mail volumes. He also stated that DMP is a fraction of the incoming mail and he confirmed that it is too early to determine potential impacts on the workforce.
ROBOTIC PROCESS AUTOMATION (RPA)
The DAC, ABSB advised that the request for proposal (RFP) was reposted on June 24, 2019, and the contract was awarded in November 2019. The implementation date was revised to January 2020 for the first two projects: Revenue Ledger (RL) production monitoring process and RL open item management (OIM) process. The solution will relieve employees from routine, repetitive tasks therefore enabling them to focus on more value-added, and rewarding activities. The DAC, ABSB advised that HR impacts are not expected for these projects and ABSB will continue to provide updates as the adoption of RPA proceeds.
The local president, Halifax asked if employee training is required to use the system.
The DG, Call Centre Service Directorate (CCSD) stated that not much training is required since the robotic analysis is done in the background and it allows the employees to action the anomalies that are pointed out by the system.
The local president, Halifax asked what level of employee from the clerical staff would work with the RPA.
The DG, CCSD stated that the RL staff in Winnipeg are mostly levels SP03 and SP04.
The DG, Digital Services Directorate (DSD) provided some context around the demand across the service channels and many contact points such as visits to the CRA website, logins to portals and phone calls. Developing technologies such as digital assistants provide the opportunity to meet the demand and ensure the use of the right service channel. The Chatbot uses artificial intelligence (AI) capacity but is not used for decision making. The Chatbot does not access taxpayer account information, nor does it make any decisions with respect to a taxpayer’s account. It can better understand the user intent behind a question it receives and can accurately map to the correct response. The Chatbot is hosted in a cloud, paving the way for future cloud-based initiatives at the Agency. The success is being monitored to determine the quality of the appropriate responses provided to the questions and the queries recognition.
COLLECTIONS VERIFICATION WORKLOAD MANAGEMENT SYSTEM (CVWMS)
The DG, TABI explained that the second release of the Collection Verification Workload Management System (CVWMS) was successfully delivered on October 21, 2019, which integrated the Customs Collections and Tax Treaties workloads into CVWMS. This also led to the decommissioning of the Collections Verification Inventory Subsystem (CVIS). The change management strategy built in release one was focused on communication, training, and stakeholder engagement. The goal was to ensure a shared understanding of the upcoming changes, to facilitate a smooth transition to the new system.
CVWMS end-user engagement sessions started March 2018, to provide early access to the system. Early engagement allowed gathering feedback on the system and identifying potential pain points that could materialize during implementation. These observations were collected and prioritized and some changes were implemented prior to the release. Remaining issues were prioritized for future releases and workarounds developed as needed. He said that following the first release, the project has focused on post release communications, to improve communications to the field regarding system issues. The CVWMS News page was published shortly after the October 2018 release, and provides users a list of all known issues, along with their planned release dates. This page provides links to the appropriate program pages, where workarounds are located.
CVWMS News also has a subscription feature, which currently has over 340 subscribers (as of Oct 29). This allows the CVWMS Support section to send targeted messages to subscribers when issues are identified or resolved. The project continues to seek input and feedback on the new platform, in order to reassure users about upcoming fixes and enhancements.
The union co-chair mentioned his concern about the next release where more users will be onboarding.
The DG TABI, stated that the replanning exercise was approved by the Agency Management Committee and the collection and GST compliance workload is being spread over three years.
The local president, Halifax, questioned the number of new onboarding users and the use of a time code. He mentioned that in 2021, they will onboard five thousand new users and he asked if there will be a time code for systems downtime, training time or reading time and if this will affect the employees and their performance cycles. He mentioned that some users are currently being penalized and performances are being affected.
The DG, TABI stated that the June 2019 meeting addressed the details and the nuances of the CVWMS issues and the use of a time code. At this moment, there is no intention to create a time code for system downtime for an individual project.
DIGITAL DISABILITY TAX CREDIT APPLICATION
The DG, DSD explained that this initiative stems from the Disability Advisory Committee and is seeking to improve the way the CRA administers and interprets tax measures for Canadians with disabilities. He said that the Committee released its first annual report which includes 42 recommendations, one of which asks that the CRA explore electronic filing of the Disability Tax Credit (DTC) application. In line with this recommendation, the ABSB has undertaken the creation of a digital alternative to the paper-based Form T2201, DTC certificate. The first release of this digital application tentatively planned for 2020 and is expected to allow the medical practitioner to enter basic taxpayer information and respond online to simple questions related to the impairment. Once the information has been entered, the medical practitioner will be prompted to generate and print a PDF version that will be identical to the paper-based form. The printed form will then be given to the applicant to submit to the CRA. Once submitted, the form will be received and processed at the tax centres in the same way manually completed paper forms. The application is currently going through usability testing for the impairment categories walking and dressing and is being done with individuals, medical practitioners, and assessors. The results from the usability testing will help inform further development as additional impairment categories are added. This first release focusses on eight of the ten impairment categories that are eligible for the DTC. The second release will address mental functions and life sustaining therapy and will explore solutions that would allow electronic medical practitioner certification that could be implemented in future releases.
The union co-chair asked how exactly it would work.
The DG, DSD explained that the identifier for the client must be entered. There is no validity until the form is printed, signed and submitted.
DIGITAL SERVICES strategy
The DG, DSD offered an overview of its digital services delivery. The strategy and roadmap identifies digital service priorities based on client needs and expectations gathered through detailed analysis and validation of client feedback which identifies digital service enhancements and also infrastructure and organizational enhancements necessary to deliver the easy, seamless digital service experience.
He also talked about the progress tracker which is found in the strategy that will provide Canadians with a service that allows them to track the status of their files with the CRA. The first phase of the project, will be released December 16, 2019. This tool will provide taxpayers with general processing timeframes for select CRA services that currently have published service standards. The second phase would be launched in secure space by improving the functionality, design and infrastructure of some common services within the three existing CRA secure portals that will launch a streamlined entry point into CRA’s digital services in October 2020.
The local president, Halifax mentioned the timelines standards.
The DG, DSD, stated that the work is aligned with the same service standards.
The DG, DSD mentioned that the secure portals re-engineering is a large undertaking since it will create a consistent user experience for CRA clients by improving the functionality, design and infrastructure of some common services within the three existing CRA secure portals (My Account, My Business Account, Represent a Client).
During the summer of 2019, the project successfully tested a refreshed design in the Represent a Client portal using a beta version and gathered useful feedback for future development. He also explained that a Proceed to Pay button was added to My Account and My Business Account (MyBA) in October 2019, allowing users to pay both outstanding and interim balances from account balance pages with the simple click of a button. Additionally, after filing a GST/HST or Speciality Business Return within MyBA, a Proceed to Pay button will dynamically appear if there is an amount owing on the confirmation screen. The CRA made this commitment to its clients following the results of the 2018 Serving You Better consultations.
The DG, Information Technology Branch (ITB) advised that the primary objective of the Data Security Initiative (DSI) is the prevention of data loss. In an effort to ensure taxpayer and employee data is protected, ITB will be deploying a new solution called TITUS to aid employees protect sensitive information. Most employees are not familiar with the protected category level for email or documents which may result in increased risk of information being stored and/or handled incorrectly. The TITUS Classification software will enable the CRA employee to categorize all email messages and Microsoft Office documents, ensuring the sensitivity of information will be properly identified and captured. TITUS will be deployed as a plug-in software to Microsoft Office Suite including Outlook and TITUS button options will be visible, and located in the MS Office Suite toolbar ribbons and once clicked, it will offer the option to select the level of categorization.
The DG, ITB said that no training will be offered since this is a simple click button to help guide the user to select the appropriate category level of classification (Unclassified, Protected A, and Protected B). She said that TITUS would be deployed in two possible configurations. For the majority of the CRA population, the enforced version environment will be deployed where the system will persistently alert and prompt the user to categorize their email message and/or MS Office document. Some exception and pre approved cases may apply where the configuration may not be enforced which allow the user to ignore alert and bypass the prompt to categorize their email message and/or MS Office document. A TITUS Infozone page is currently available and can be found by using TITUS in the keyword search. The TITUS is not implemented in the workplace yet but the full deployment is scheduled for May 2020.
The Regional Vice-President, Pacific Region asked what would happen if the document or emails are not classified.
The DG, ITB replied that the system will offer messages to prompt you to classify the document and it will also let you know if you haven’t classified it.
The local president, Halifax asked what would prevent employees from selecting protected B on everything to cover themselves.
The DG, ITB replied that it is a possibility but as they get familiar with the definition, employees will select the right option.
The DG, Major Projects and System Integration Directorate (MPSID) mentioned that since the previous meeting, the 2018 federal budget proposed two very significant changes for T3 returns. These changes seek to improve the quality of filing and identification information that will assist the Agency in determining tax liabilities and effectively counter aggressive tax avoidance. The CRA began working on the T3 modernization project in the fall of 2018 and has now completed Options Analysis. Development of business requirements for the first two releases is underway and scheduled for completion by March 2020. The first release includes changes to support subsequent releases such as the new T3 online registration system. The second releaseintroduces the core T3 assessing system and the solution to capture beneficial ownership information. It also includes the capacity for electronic filing. The T3 project will re-use many of the solutions that were created as part of the T1SR project. These solutions include leveraging the T1 platform for accounting, returns processing, correspondence, electronic filing, and reporting. New T3 specific solutions are being proposed for assessing and capturing the beneficial ownership information. Leveraging these existing tools will better align our T1 and T3 workloads, in addition to being able to offer electronic services to our T3 filing community. These important changes will ultimately reduce the processing time required to assess T3 returns. During this fiscal year, potential impacts will be examined to assess how the job descriptions, organizational structures, and key activities will affect T1 and T3 personnel.
The first release is scheduled for 2021; the second release for the core processing and the expected increase in return is scheduled for 2022 and the reassessment in 2023. The impacts on employees are mostly expected in 2022.
The DG, CCSD shared that call agents now use a Personal Identification Number (PIN) along with the SIN to validate caller identity. The approach was soft launched in August 2019 to allow time for the agents to adjust to the new procedures and to also look at the security provisions. Identity authentication also incorporates a tax data element in addition to SIN and PIN. Promotion of PIN creation and use will occur in advance of tax filing season.
The local president, Halifax, asked if there is a list of predefined tax questions. He explained that SIN plus PIN is making it simpler for the caller but now that the tax question is being added, it can be seen as a burden to the client.
The DG, CCSD confirmed that PIN authentication should be more convenient for callers (compared to answering the multiple detailed tax questions) while, at the same time, maintaining taxpayer confidentiality and integrity requirements.
The DG, CCSD asked if a follow up update on PIN is required. He also mentioned that ABSB is currently exploring the use of PIN authentication for the Business enquiries call sites and is also exploring a call back function in HCCS.
The DAC, ABSB thanked everyone for their contribution. She reiterated the action items; the charities font size, the co-chair role and the notion of providing the agenda and material two weeks in advance. The next meeting is scheduled on May 28, 2020 and the material will be available on May 14, 2020. The reference to the briefing sheets will be looked at to make sure they include comprehensive information.
The union co-chair thanked everyone. He also reiterated the fact that the co-chair’s role will need to be discussed at a higher level but he appreciated the change that will be made in preparation of these meetings.