Technological Change Committee

Minutes of the Technological Change Sub-Committee Meeting

May 8, 2006

BETWEEN THE CANADA REVENUE AGENCY AND THE UNION OF TAXATION EMPLOYEES

OPENING REMARKS

Mr. Sabri Khayat, Regional Vice-President, Montreal Region, and Union Co-chair, welcomed everyone to the meeting.  He was pleased to mention the excellent work that had been conducted during the last six months.  The updates were well written and provided good information on the initiatives. 

Ms. Barbara Slater, Assistant Commissioner, Assessment and Benefit Services Branch also welcomed everyone to the meeting.  She agreed that a great deal of good work had been accomplished over the last six months and appreciated the comments put forth by the Union. 

UTE then stated that it became evident, over the past few meetings, that some of the initiatives seemed to overlap.  Consequently, the Union asked Management to consider combining the related issues and that it would also endeavour to provide some suggestions on this issue.  Management agreed.  The Assistant Commissioner stated that UTE needed to keep in mind that, at the outset of planning some of the initiatives, it was not always known which direction would be taken after implementation or the resulting impacts. 

The Union then proceeded to ask Management to find a way to present the human resources impacts without using FTEs as a measurement tool.  While UTE appreciated the information on FTEs, it was easier to understand and explain data using actual numbers of people.  Management stated that the FTE impact was always known first and the human resources impact analysis was then conducted based on the FTEs.  That being said, Management agreed to provide the Union with the number of employees impacted once the data was available.

UTE had recently become aware that some regions were making or contemplating technological changes but were not aware of the established process for advising the Union.  It suggested that the CRA issue a reminder to the regions on the technological change.  Management agreed with the Union’s suggestion.

IN-PERSON COUNTER REDESIGN

On November 30, 2005, Management provided the Union with an extensive briefing, which included a detailed communication plan, the identification of affected employees, and information on the distribution of the WFA letters.

Management went on to state that the concept of the Service Agent (SA) was introduced and established in all TSOs during the current filing season.  The role of the SA included greeting individuals, educating taxpayers on self-serve options, and assisting with the navigation of electronic services.  The Service Agents were provided with training on CRA electronic services as well as soft skills on how to promote and educate taxpayers on service options.  The training also included tips, strategies and guidelines designed to assist agents in the performance of the duties within the context of a safe and secure working environment.

The implementation of the In-Person Counter Redesign initiative began in January 2006 with the installation of self-serve kiosks in all of the TSOs.  As of February 2006, thirteen TSOs would offer appointments to walk-in clients.  The use of the Outlook-based appointment feature would be limited to those sites; however, it was anticipated that it would be rolled out to all offices by mid-May.  The target was to have all the offices on the National Appointment System by January 2007.  Clients are to call our 1-800 enquiries lines to book an appointment.  It is anticipated that the majority of requests for an appointment can more efficiently be resolved over the phone. All national call centres would be equipped with access to the Appointment System and the phones at ten Service Canada pilot sites would have access to our call centers.  However Service Canada would not have access to the appointment system.  This was congruent with CRA’s position that Service Canada Agents would not have any access to the Agency’s mainframe or giving out any client specific information.  Furthermore, the Appointment System could be accessed by both the call centres and local offices, which provides the flexibility to book appointments around other priorities such as employee training.

As for the security and safety measures, in consultation with the National Occupational Health and Safety Committee, the Security Directorate and the National Unions, a decision was made to provide the Service Agents at the TSOs with portable duress alarms.

With respect to the Client Service rating cards, while they had initially been used to determine client satisfaction, it was determined that they did not provide the information needed.  Therefore, Management developed a different survey that would provide a better understanding of the type of service clients wanted to receive.  The target was to have the surveys available in the field offices by the end of May or June.

UTE asked if additional resources had been allocated to the call centres as a result of the cuts from the counter service.  Management confirmed that there had been a 25% cut from the counter budget this year, with an additional 25% cut scheduled for next year.  The remaining counter dollars were reallocated between the appointment service, outreach and call centres. The decision was mainly based on the number of walk-ins and the migration of clients using the web.

T1 NON-BUSINESS

At the November 7, 2005 meeting, the Union had been briefed on the Integrated Revenue Collections (IRC) initiative, which addressed the Revenue Collections medium and long-term goals.

The first phase would allow for the gradual rollout of the IRC to commence in June 2006.  In addition, joint working teams had been established to include field staff and other subject matter experts working together with the Information Technology Branch.  While the IRC was at the early stages of development, the current focus would be on the analysis and identification of risk and program effectiveness.  The technology would be tested at four pilot sites: Halifax, Calgary, Sudbury and Trois-Rivières TSOs.  While consultation on this initiative would continue throughout 2006, the implementation of approved tools and systems were expected to take place in incremental steps over the next two fiscal years, due to funding issues.

There would be no apparent changes to the end user with the Release 1 of T1 NB, as they would continue to work in the same environment as before implementation.  In addition, Release 1 would focus on the portion of the T1 debtor population with the apparent ability to pay (salaried or investment income). 

Management also mentioned that there would not be any human resources impacts as a result of this initiative.

ARRANGE DIRECT DEPOSIT

Management stated that, currently, a client was able to view his/her direct deposit banking information through the “My Account” initiative.  In the future, the proposed direct deposit transaction would allow individuals to set-up, change, or delete his/her direct deposit information online.  There were no human resources impacts expected as a result of this initiative.

Through the new “My Account” option, individuals would be able to request to have the T1 and GST/HST credits, CCTB payments, or the new CCCA directly deposited at a specific bank.  In addition, clients would also be able to stop direct deposits or change the banking information as needed; however, a digital signature would be required for all requests.  This initiative would not only enhance the CRA’s service to taxpayers by offering a convenient and secure service channel, it would also reduce the cost of processing paper requests and support the CRA’s commitment to the ongoing Government On-Line initiative.

It was estimated that 24,000 direct deposit changes would be made online in the first year of operation.  Furthermore, based on the current production rate (22 per hour), this represented less than 1 FTE nationally.

Management stated that a number of direct deposit applications would be processed without direct intervention from CRA employees but the initial reduction of the workload done in the field offices would be minimal.  It also noted that manual processing would continue to be done as not all clients choose to use online services.

GST/HST REDESIGN – COMPLIANCE ASPECT

Management stated that the purpose of this initiative was to create a compliance module for the GST/HST Redesign by switching one platform for another to provide greater flexibility.  The only changes would be to the system itself; consequently, there would be no human resources impacts.

Under the new format, the Revenue Enforcement Management Information and Tracking System (REMITS) would administer two separate streams of GST/HST Non-Compliance workload on behalf of the Taxpayer Services and Debt Management Branch, those being Compliance (Outstanding Returns Only) and Accounts Receivable (Outstanding Balances Only).  As per the standardized accounting business rules, there would be automated off-sets and automatic compliance holds so that no refunds would be issued on any of the business revenue lines (including PAYDAC) where there were either monies owing or returns outstanding.  Should there be a debt on a T1 Account, a manual inhibiter would be required to be set in order to intercept credits from a Business Account.

Furthermore, Revenu Québec would take over the initial Compliance strategies for taxpayers whose business address was in the province of Quebec.  The CRA would identify the start of non-compliance and send the information to Revenu Québec.  However, no monies would be transferred to Revenu Québec until all accounts with the CRA were determined to be compliant except for T1.

One of the benefits of the Redesign initiative would be that Collections would no longer have the responsibility to use notices of assessments for debt returns.  All debit returns would trigger the issuance of an automated Notice of Assessment.

The next step involved preparing the necessary training packages in consultation with Training and Learning, as well as updating the compliance procedures training package to reflect the changes brought on by the Redesign initiative.  The “Train-the-Trainer” approach would be used to deliver the training to the field offices.

As part of the Redesign Strategy, GST/HST Accounts Maintenance would be moving to Business Returns and Payments Processing (BRPP).

The Union asked if there were plans to further integrate the CRA workforce with collections employees from HRSDC.  Management replied that this would be looked at further down the line. 

CHILD AND FAMILY BENEFITS ONLINE (CFBO)

Since the implementation of the My Account portal on the CRA Website, new services had been added to the Benefit portion of the Online Application, the latest being the Child and Family Benefits Online (CFBO).

The CFBO will allow a benefit recipient to log on the My Account portal and apply online for the Canada Child Tax Benefit and related provincial and territorial programs and/or register the child(ren) online for the GST/HST credit.  The improved process would bypass many unnecessary steps and allow the benefit recipient to obtain the notice/payment in a timelier manner.

Management expected limited human resources impacts and believed that the impact on tax centre workloads would be fairly low as the projected online application volumes for 2010 were estimated at 10%.

E-LEGAL DOCUMENTS

The E-legal documents initiative would allow the CRA to electronically file its Collection legal documents to the Federal Court (FC) in a timelier manner.  A phased-in approach was seen as the best way to introduce the two-way electronic transmission of information between the Agency and the Federal Court.  In Phase I (Fiscal 2006-2007) the initiative would be piloted in two TSOs and would be expanded to include other offices once all the stakeholders were comfortable with the results.  The electronic document transmission to Federal Court would generate an electronic notification to the CRA once the document had been registered at the court.

Phase II (Fiscal 2007-2008) would introduce the registration of the E-Notification to TSOs and CRA Headquarters.  The remaining documents requiring a seal would now be
E-filed to the FC.

During Phase III (Fiscals 2007-2008), TSOs would E-file their legal document requests directly to the FC.  The E-notification would then go directly to the TSO with a copy to Headquarters.

Phase IV (Fiscal 2008-2009) would see the Information Technology Branch automate the movement of the legal document information from the ACES Mainframe database to a graphical user interface.

In order to have a smooth transition during each phase, a one or two hour training session would be given to all affected staff; however, it was premature to provide the Union with exact numbers of employees at this time.

In response to the Union’s question on the human resources impacts, Management replied that the first estimate was 20 employees, however it would look into the issue and get back to the Union.

As to the Union’s question on whether all garnishees went to Federal Court, Management agreed to research this matter and advise the Union accordingly.

WRITTEN UPDATES (link to written updates)

For the record, the Committee agreed to remove the following written updates from the next meeting’s agenda, Warehouse Rationalization Project (WRP), Authentication Management Systems (AMS), Efile On-Line, Manual Notice Preparation Program, Processing Efficiencies, Shutdown of the Automated General Ledger and Call-Centre Upgraded Technology.

EFILE Online

The Union asked for clarification on the data pertaining to the number of returns filed using EFILE.

Management explained that “the 2% increase over last year’s program” means a 2% increase in comparison to last year’s number of returns processed at the same date.

My Account for Individuals

The Union asked why there would not be any human resources impacts on the “My Account for Individuals” initiative.

Management replied that the only changes involved moving from one release to another, and, therefore, there would be no human resources impacts.

2D Bar Code

The Union raised concerns with the use of the word attrition as a means to absorb the reduction of 109 FTEs during Phase II of 2D Bar Codes.  In the Union’s view, attrition should only apply to permanent employees moving out of their current positions. 

Management agreed that the language needed to be revised.  The initial intent was to advise the Union that the reduction would be absorbed through employees who decided to drop-off the callback list and through the rehire activities. 

The Union asked to be provided with the number of individuals that would be impacted by the reduction in FTEs, as well as the supporting rationale in time for the next meeting.  Management agreed to look at ways to provide further details in the future, i.e. job numbers.

GST/HST Redesign

The Union raised concerns with the fact that Management stated that there would be no WFA impacts as a result of the initiative when the table provided indicated a total reduction of 19 FTEs at the DACON-02 level.  Management would clarify the data provided to the Union in the written update.

Management went on to mention that the timing of the releases for this initiative had been delayed until April 2007.  The timetables needed to be revised to ensure that adequate testing was conducted and provided confirmation of the integrity of the data.  The impacts of the delay would also be looked at, especially if employees were being affected by the initiative.

Management committed to sharing a communiqué and Newsletter on the GST/HST Redesign initiative with the Union.

Change My Return

The Union asked for clarification on the table provided in the written update, specifically, in which field of work would the FTE reductions occur.  It also wanted to know whether Management expected a reduction in FTEs in the future, and whether the decrease would be the same for 2007-2008 as it was in 2005-2006.

Management stated that reductions would occur in the reassessment section in the Tax Centres.  With respect to the reduction of FTEs, Management would look into the matter and provide a response at a later date.

Non-Profile to Profile

Management confirmed that the initial savings for 2009-2010 were still accurate.

Employer Compliance Audit Reporting Tool (ECART)

Management confirmed that training started on May 1, 2006, in the Pacific Region and would be rolled-out nationally.

Post-Dated Cheque (PDC) Redesign

The Union expressed concern with the discrepancy between the information provided at the Tech Change meeting and what was actually happening in the field, in terms of FTE reductions.

Management advised the Union that in the last budget exercise, it was clear that small impacts would occur in every program.  Nevertheless, it would look into the specific issue and get back to the Union.

Third Party Privileged Management

Management clarified that there would not be any HR impacts in the 2005-2006 fiscal year, that is, from the launch of the initiative in February 2006 to March 31, 2006.  The human resources impacts for 2006-2007 were not yet known.

CLOSING REMARKS

The Union was pleased to see that since the last meeting, Management had made a concerted effort to provide more information on the human resources impacts.  It went on to state that the Technological Change Sub-Committee was always improving the calibre of information provided, and it looked forward to the next meeting.

Management thanked everyone for their contribution during the meeting and was encouraged by the Union’s positive feedback. 

Barbara J. Slater
Assistant Commissioner
Assessment and Benefit Services Branch
Canada Revenue Agency

Betty Bannon
National President
Union of Taxation Employees

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