Technological Change Committee

Minutes of the Technological Change Sub-Committee Meeting

April 25, 2013

BETWEEN THE CANADA REVENUE AGENCY AND
THE UNION OF TAXATION EMPLOYEES

PARTICIPANTS

Management

Union

Rick Leigh Doug Gaetz
Josée Dussault  Denis Lalancette
Nathalie Dumais  Gary Esslinger
Cynthia Leblanc  Brian Olford
Ted Gallivan Pierre Mulvihill
Karen Bradley
Kevin Pratt
Dawn Lawson
Leanne Given
Jean Stewart
 

OPENING REMARKS

Rick Leigh, Deputy Assistant Commissioner, Assessment and Benefit Services Branch, and Management Co-Chair, welcomed everyone to the meeting. He was looking forward to constructive discussions of the items on the agenda.

Doug Gaetz, Regional Vice President, Atlantic Region, and Union Co-Chair, also welcomed the participants. As a follow-up to the previous meeting, he was happy to recognize the Deputy Assistant Commissioner as the official management co-chair for the Technological Change Sub-Committee moving forward.

The Union Co-Chair asked that discussion of the previous meeting’s minutes be added as a standing agenda item. As well, the Union asked that additional details be provided to them in advance, regarding each agenda item that would be discussed at the meeting and that the information be provided earlier than was the current practice.

Labour Relations would consider the Union’s requests and provide them with a response.

T1 FILING

Management stated that there had been a number of changes made that would impact the current filing season. For example, the mailing of T1 personalized packages had been eliminated and three specialized forms were no longer being produced as the information was contained in the T1 general guide and forms. Other changes included removal of the web access code for NETFILE, the extension of the NETFILE and EFILE filing season to November 30 for the 2012 filing season, and the discontinuation of the TELEFILE service. A total of 10.4 million letters had been mailed to Canadians to advise them of the changes.

The Agency had continued its work in reducing the barriers to electronic filing. For example, the exclusion to NETFILE for first time filers had been removed and the Agency was continuing its work on reducing the exclusion for the Business Foreign Tax Credits. The changes would help the Agency in meeting its target of 73% electronic filing for the year.

The Union asked about the HR impacts of the changes, to both determinate and indeterminate employees and whether the Agency’s goal was to reach 100% electronic filing. They also asked if NETFILE could be used to file tax returns from previous years.

Management responded that in terms of HR impacts, the need for determinate employees was diminishing and would continue to do so; there was no impact to permanent employees to-date. Prior to the next meeting, Management would endeavor to provide the Union with the number of terms impacted.

It was unlikely that the Agency would ever reach 100% electronic filing; the electronic filing target for the next few years had been set at 80%. In terms of filing for previous years, taxpayers could currently use NETFILE to file for only the previous year. Management expected to expand the capability each year.

The Union asked how taxpayers could obtain paper documents now that all the CRA counters were closing.

Management replied that taxpayers could still pick up tax packages at Canada Post Offices, download the documents from the CRA website, or call the Agency to request that a copy be mailed to them. This information was included in the letters that had been sent to taxpayers.

COMPLIANCE SYSTEM REDESIGN

The update on Compliance System Redesign (CSR) followed a previous discussion that took place at the Technological Change Sub-Committee meeting in November 2011. Within the last 12 – 18 months significant progress had been made starting with an independent review that recommended that Management expand their engagement of the program areas and regions, including employees.

The CSR project was a major transformation initiative to consolidate and modernize the tool set being used by Compliance Programs Branch employees. Integras was a new, JAVA based application that would replace WIN/ALS which was outdated and no longer supported. Integras included a case management element in addition to housing all information in a modern, integrated working environment, and providing working papers to facilitate the audit work. Screeners, auditors, and team leaders would each have their own environment within Integras to complete their work.

A deployment plan had been established based on revenue lines. Because of the GST/HST revenue line’s 100% reliance on WIN/ALS, Integras would be deployed within this revenue line first, with an initial release in October 2013. New functionality would not be added until the second release in October 2014. The tool would be rolled-out to T1/T2 auditors in October 2015. Management was currently designing, building, and developing the training in tandem. The next steps included ensuring that the super-users in the regions were ready to provide support and assistance to auditors once the product was released. 

As more functionality was added to Integras the number of users would increase. It was anticipated that by October 2015 there would be approximately 7,000 Integras users.

The Union was concerned that if many employees were using the same tool, they could end up doing work other than that in their work description.

Management clarified that while employees would be working with one product, it would be configured differently for each revenue line and there would continue to be several work descriptions for auditors.

ELECTRONIC DOCUMENT MANAGEMENT

Management stated that the Agency had recognized the need to improve its methods for managing electronic documents as there was significant duplication in information being stored on the CRA information systems and it had become difficult to find.

The CRA had procured IBM’s FileNet application and would be piloting it to determine if it could meet the Agency’s business requirements. Of the three pilots that would be conducted over the next six to nine months, two would be in the Strategy and Integration Branch (SIB) and one would be in the Prairie region at the Compensation Client Service Centre. The goal of the pilot was to have the employees manage their electronic documents using the FileNet tool and the new Information Management processes in order to determine how the process differed from the current practices. This would also help in determining the pros, cons, and risks of the new tool.

Should the Agency decide to move ahead with the new tool, the roll out would take place over a four year timeframe. Various change management supports would be needed to assist employees with the transition. Management was keeping apprised of what other government departments were doing with regard to electronic information storage as well. Where possible, Management would adopt practices that had worked well in other departments.

No Human Resources (HR) reductions were expected as the changes only impacted the methods in which work was stored.

The Union asked if there would be any positive HR impacts such as additional hiring or the creation of a new helpdesk to assist employees.

Management replied that there would most likely be a need to temporarily increase staff within Information Support Services within SIB but that the increase would not be significant. There was already a helpdesk within SIB but it was possible that additional staff would be required for a specified period of time.

The Union asked if the pilot would be reflected on the yearly pilot list that was provided to them. Labour Relations confirmed that this item would be included on the list of pilots.

The Union asked if further updates would be provided to the committee. Management responded that updates would be provided as new information became available.

ELECTRONIC SERVICES FOR BUSINESS

Management stated that electronic filing had increased for both T2 and GST/HST returns. T2 electronic filing had increased to 68% from 61.4% for the same time period the previous year. E-filing for GST/HST returns had increased to 64%, up from 58%. 

New services that had recently been added were electronic change of address and the ability to electronically request an election to use the quick method of accounting for GST/HST. Despite the new electronic services, the budgets had remained the same in the program. In addition, the electronic services on the horizon included providing corporations the ability to request T2 reassessments online through the My Business Account portal and electronic filing of the RC59 Business Consent form. Both services would be available as of April 2014.

No HR impacts were expected at this time. With regard to T2 Reassessments, Management committed to providing the Union with an update on the trends in Electronic Services for Business as well as, the impacts to employees, both determinate and indeterminate.

The Business Returns Directorate was committed to addressing non-compliance and had allocated a significant investment to validation and compliance activities under the Corporation Assessing Review Program and the GST/HST Enhanced Registration Review Program. Investments in these areas would assist in managing any HR impacts should they arise.

TRUST ACCOUNTS CALCULATION TOOL

Management stated Trust Accounts Calculation Tool (TACT) was now in pilot status in eight TSOs covering all five regions. The pilot sites had identified some functional issues that would need to be addressed before national release. Headquarters was in contact with the sites to gather information and refine the tool before its national release in June 2013.

TACT training would be delivered on a “train-the-trainer” basis; orientation to the new TACT product was scheduled to take 2.5 days. Once the train-the-trainer sessions were completed local training session dates would be set-up in the TSOs.

It was expected that TACT would be fully launched in September 2013. The Trust Examination Audit System (TEAS) product would then be shut down at the end of September. As had been mentioned at the last Technological Change Sub-Committee meeting, there would be no HR impacts as a result of TACT implementation.

The Union asked if employees would be provided group training or one-on-one shadow training.

Management responded that it anticipated that training would be done in groups but noted that it was to the managers’ discretion to decide how the training would be rolled-out. 

The Union representative who had been participating in the pilot in the Halifax Tax Service Office noted that approximately 50 functionality problems had been identified in the program that had not yet been corrected. The Union would provide Labour Relations with the list of problems that had been identified. Management would look into the matter and provide a response to the Union.

The Union suggested that Management consider establishing a standard practice of responding to end users when problems were raised. This would provide the end user with confirmation that their concerns had been received and could also provide the user with information as to whether the issue could or would be addressed in future program updates.

Management believed that there had been an ongoing dialogue between the various parties but would take the Union’s suggestion under advisement.

AUTOMATED BENEFITS APPLICATION

Management stated that as per their commitment at the last Technological Change Sub-Committee meeting, they had contacted each Tax Centre (TC) and asked them to provide specific information on how the reduction in the number of Full Time Equivalents (FTEs) had been managed. Following the review of the information provided, it had been determined that the impact was much lower than originally calculated.

As a result, the actual decrease in FTEs was 24.38 rather than 55, as had been forecasted previously. In addition, as the reduction had been spread over five years and seven TCs, the tax centres had been able to absorb the reductions through attrition, retirement, and/or reassignment of staff to other Benefit workflows.

Management stated that the one territory and two provinces left to join would have minimal impacts to HR (e.g. 0.25 of an FTE). 

The Union was in agreement with Management’s previous request to remove Automated Benefit Application from the agenda.

AUTOMATION OF LEDGER POSTINGS

Management stated that, similar to the changes with e-Filing, Management was focused on finding ways to automate a number of manual processes such as ledger postings.

The current procedure for updating financial information on the Automated Subsidiary Ledger (ASL) system and Revenue Ledger (RL) was a manual three-step process. During the 2011-2012 fiscal year, 318,446 of these forms were processed. A proposal had been made to automate the voucher posting process. This would see financial requests completed directly on the ASL system by the originator, posted in real-time and automatically fed to the RL system thereby eliminating the duplication of resources from both Subledger and Revenue Ledger units, increasing the accuracy of ledger postings and decreasing processing time.

Headquarters would be providing employees impacted by the changes with the necessary training and tools to perform the work on-line. There would also be an overlap period to ensure a contingency plan during the field’s adjustment to the new procedures.

Management stated that they anticipated that the initiative would decrease both the Subledger and Revenue Ledger workflows by approximately one third to one half of the current volumes for both ledger areas. In terms of staffing implications, Management stated that there were currently 34 FTEs (13 in ASL, 21 in RL), throughout the seven TC’s, the Ottawa Technology Centre and International Tax Services Office, all classified as SP-02’s. It was expected that the automation of financial vouchers would mean a reduction of approximately 12 – 18 FTEs. The Human Resources Impact Analysis was underway and more information would be shared with the Union at the next meeting.

The project implementation date for automation of ledger postings was scheduled for February 2014. Management would provide the committee with a further update at the next Technological Sub-Committee meeting in the fall.
The Union asked about the types of forms that the program processed.

Management explained that it dealt with exceptions, for example, transactions such as returns that, because of system limitations or complexity, required manual processing.

SECURE ONLINE SERVICES

Management stated that work had continued on the various Secure Online Services (SOLS) initiatives and the implementation dates remained unchanged.

E-Documents, known to taxpayers as Submit Documents, was a secure method for taxpayers and their representatives to submit supporting documentation and receipts to the CRA. It was implemented in October 2012 for the first early adopter, T2 Corporation Assessing Review Program, and as anticipated, volumes were low. As of March 13, 2013, 95 businesses (6%) had chosen to submit e-documents. In April 2013 the T1 Processing Review (T1PR) program was implemented.

In April 2014, CRA would be expanding the service to include Benefits and Office Audit programs. In addition, Management was exploring the possibility of allowing online submission of unsolicited documents. Each HQ area that implemented the new service was providing the necessary training to regional staff and updating procedural manuals, as required. An online tutorial for call centre agents was also available.

The take-up rate of this service was directly linked to a shift in taxpayer behaviour. As a result, it was difficult to quantify the possible HR impacts; however the impact was expected to be gradual. Management would continue to monitor take-up rates, as well as analyze the HR impacts, and would inform the committee as more information became available.

The Manage Online Mail service, known as E-Delivery, was implemented on April 8, 2013. This service electronically notifies Canadians that they have new correspondence or an action request from the CRA that requires viewing in the secure portal. In order to assist E-Services Help Desk and Business Enquiry Agents, an online training tutorial had been made available and the functional program areas had advised regional staff of the changes through standard Pre-Release bulletins.

The E-Delivery service for Representatives (available via Represent a Client) was scheduled for implementation in April 2014. The E-Delivery service for Individuals (My Account) remained in the Options Analysis phase; no solution or confirmed implementation date had been determined. Management was projecting a reduction in the quantity of CRA correspondence which would, over time, have an impact on mail service sites. Similar to E-Documents, the reductions in print-to-mail were directly linked to the take up rate of E-Delivery and therefore, it was difficult to quantify the HR impacts. That said, the changes would have a greater impact on the term workforce. Management would report back to the committee as the changes continued to be implemented.

The E-Payments initiative included the electronic Pre-Authorized Debits (E-Pads) project. E-Pads would authorize the CRA to withdraw a pre-determined payment amount directly from an individual’s or business’ account at a Canadian financial institution on a pre-determined date. The E-Pads for individuals release was scheduled for April 2014 while the E-Pads for business release was scheduled for October 2014.  As with the other SOLS initiatives, HR impacts would be based on the take up rates for the service.

The Union requested clarification regarding who was able to submit documents to CRA via E-Documents. 

Management responded that anyone who had secure access to the CRA portal could submit documents (e.g. a T1 client could submit T1PR documents via My Account, or a T2 client could submit T2 CARP documents via My Business Account).

CLOSING REMARKS

Both Management and the Union thanked everyone for their contributions to the discussions.

The Union also requested that the final, approved minutes be provided earlier. Given that this meeting had been held at the UTE National Office, they asked if future meetings would be held at the same location.

Labour Relations stated that they were in discussions with the UTE National President regarding the possibility of alternating the location of the Technological Change Sub-Committee Meeting between the UTE National Office and a government facility. Once a decision had been made, they would inform the committee co-chairs. Labour Relations would also look into the Union’s request regarding the timing of the agenda and the minutes and would get back to them at a later date.

Original signed by

 

Original signed by

Rick Leigh
Deputy Assistant Commissioner
Assessment and Benefit Services Branch
Canada Revenue Agency

Bob Campbell
National President
Union of Taxation Employees

Date:  July 17, 2013

Date: July 15, 2013