Technological Change Committee

Minutes of the Technological Change Sub-Committee Meeting

March 14, 2005

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 stated that the Technological Change
Sub-Committee had a solid reputation for being a good consultation forum by allowing open and frank discussions, as well as the continuous exchange of information between meetings.

The Union expressed concern over the lack of detail provided in the written updates regarding human resource impacts, especially since in-depth discussions had been held at the May 2004 Technological Change meeting. It clearly articulated that words such as “negligible” or “minimum” did not fully explain the impact on employees, nor was it acceptable to exclude term employees in any impact assessment. The Union understood that technology in the workplace was inevitable, however, they needed to be provided with a complete picture of human resource impacts.

Mrs. Barbara Slater, Assistant Commissioner, Assessment and Client Services Branch, and Management Co-chair understood the Union’s concerns, and agreed that since the information had been shared with the Unions during the Federal Budget briefings on February 24, 2005, the information had not been included in the current written updates. In the future, Management would expand on the information provided in the written updates.

UTE took the opportunity to draw attention to the use of the Online Audit Trail Search (OATS). OATS is an investigative tool used by the Security Directorate to identify access made to taxpayer data by CRA employees. However, it had come to the Union’s attention that it was also being used to conduct performance assessments. UTE asked to meet with the appropriate management representatives to discuss the matter. Management agreed.

1. T2 2D BAR CODING

In November 2004, a feasibility study on the use of 2D Bar Coding in the T2 program for the data capture of corporation returns was launched. An analysis would be conducted to determine whether, and to what extent, 2D Bar Coding could be used in a corporation return-processing environment. If feasible, implementation could begin in the Fall 2006.

Although electronic filing is gaining popularity for corporation returns, 1.4 million returns continued to be filed on paper.

Corporate returns are more complex and involve a significantly larger volume of data than the T1 returns. However, if proven practical, 2D Bar Coding could significantly reduce the processing costs; especially in the data capture area. Management did not anticipate any changes to the system until the Fall 2006; however, the Unions would be kept informed on the progress of this initiative.

The Union asked whether a human resources impact analysis would be conducted at the same time as the feasibility study, or if the initiative would be implemented first. It expressed concern for the employees keying in the returns. Management replied that the human resources analysis would be done prior to the implementation of the technology. Furthermore, the impact on employees would depend on how extensively the technology was used. Management went on to state that because the move toward electronic filing would be gradual, employees had ample time to develop new skills for other positions in the TC. Directors in the field would work with employees and Unions to explore training opportunities.

2. CHANGE MY RETURN (nee NETRAP)

Management stated that Change My Return had been designed to support the Government On-Line initiative, and CRA’s commitment towards using more on-line services. This option also significantly improved client services, reduced costs for both the client and the CRA, as well as supported sustainable development.

The Change My Return initiative would be rolled out in two phases, beginning with Phase I in November 2004 and targeting individual Canadian clients. It would accommodate most changes currently requested by phone or mail with some exceptions. All electronic requests for the first six months reviewed manually, after which, next steps would be determined. There would be ongoing consultation with the TC Management and staff. Furthermore, there would be no human resources impacts expected in the first Phase.

The proposed plan for Phase II involves the conceptual and planning phase while allowing third parties with client authorization to request changes. Management stated that human resources impacts could be up to twenty-two FTEs across the seven Tax Centres; however, employees having the knowledge/skills could transfer to other programs. Management would continue to keep the Union informed as information becomes available.

The Union asked for the number of requests for changes that were made on the manual returns. Management replied that, information was limited at this time. However, Management agreed to provide the Union with more detailed information on the numbers of clients using the Change My Return initiative once more data became available.

The Union also asked for detailed information on the number of employees and FTE’s (terms and indeterminate) impacted as a result of this initiative. Management would endeavor to provide the Union with a more accurate employee count.

In response to the Union’s concern that this initiative would reduce the client’s use of the counter, Management stated that an electronic access survey would be conducted at the counters to determine why individuals continued to come to into the office if they had access to the Internet. Management would share the survey results with the Unions.

3. EXPANDED USE OF BUSINESS NUMBER BY ONTARIO

The Business Number (BN) partnerships existed to provide better client service and improved data integrity.

Although Ontario forms part of the Business Registration Online application, it does not use the BN as its business programs account identifier. In the fall of 2004, discussions took place between the province of Ontario and the Agency to implement a formal BN partnership. This initiative would be similar to projects already undertaken and completed with Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Manitoba, and British Columbia. The province indicated an interest in linking approximately 30 Ontario business programs to CRA’s Business Number. Further discussions would take place in 2005. As with previous projects of this nature, the partnership should not have any impact on resources, in fact, workloads would likely be created as a result of the partnership.

4. INTEGRATED REVENUE COLLETIONS (IRC)

The Revenue Collections Branch is in the process of launching the Integrated Revenue Collections (IRC) initiative to address Revenue Collections medium and long-term needs. The business transformation has been driven by a number of key factors. The continued growth of accounts receivable was no longer sustainable, therefore Revenue Collections needed to implement new collection and compliance strategies to effectively manage the entire spectrum of taxpayer debt. In addition, Revenue Collections had to meet increasing pressures within a diminishing resources base, as funding for specific initiatives sunsets.

Management anticipated the gradual rollout of the IRC to take place in 2006. Joint working teams would be established to work in conjunction with ITB and other business owners.

The IRC is at the very early stages of development, with current activities focusing on analysis and identification of indicators of risk and program effectiveness. Consultation would continue throughout 2005, and the implementation of improved tools and systems was expected to take place in incremental steps over the next two fiscal years. Employees would receive training and information on changes to the current work processes and systems support.

Management did not foresee any job losses as a result of this initiative, nor should there be any impacts on work descriptions. An internal communication and human resources strategy, as well as a plan would be developed, and put in place to support the transition. Management would continue to keep the Unions informed on this initiative.

The Union asked who would be given the responsibility of gathering the client information. Management replied that a team of experts would be assembled, such as an examiner, a collector, and a non-filer working together to put together a complete picture of the client.

The Union agreed that, given the information provided, it would be premature to discuss human resource impacts. However, they appreciated Management’s commitment to keeping the Unions informed on this initiative.

5. NON-PROFILE TO PROFILE

Management stated that approximately 560,000 initial assessments required some type of clerical review prior to being processed. Those actions could range from as little as addressing additional memo fields to a complete manual assessment of the tax return. The goal of the Non-Profile to Profile project would be to reduce the number of returns requiring manual intervention prior to being entered into the system for processing.

The Agency currently maintains enough data and systems logic to re-assess up to seven years online. Any tax year that is prior to those years must be assessed manually. In addition, the notice of assessment must also be produced manually. Therefore, in February 2005, the CRA implemented the Additional Years On-line. This involved accumulating one additional year of data and logic, until twelve years had been stored. Management expected full implementation to take five years, at which time the Agency would be in a position to assess an additional 26,000 assessments online, and approximately 31,000 additional reassessments on-line.

For the 2005 Tax Program, Management expected a reduction of about 13.5 FTE’s across the seven tax centres. After 5 additional years had been brought on-line, Management expected an impact of 36.7 FTEs. The Union asked for a breakdown of FTE’s by TC, and reiterated the need to provide more detailed information on human resource impacts. Management agreed to do so.

Management expected that all returns requiring manual intervention would be reviewed to determine if other system changes could be introduced to either reduce or eliminate the need to manually assess returns. Some of the returns to be reviewed included, Bankruptcies; Over-sized fields; Returns of First Nations Peoples; Returns of deceased clients, as well as some multiple jurisdictional returns.

The Union asked whether work descriptions would need to be revised. Management did not foresee changes to the work descriptions.

6. SHUTDOWN OF THE AUTOMATED GENERAL LEDGER (AGL)

The Automated General Ledger (AGL) system currently provided parallel processing with the Revenue Ledger (RL) system for the tax programs. Following recommendations from the OAG, a proposal was approved to shutdown the AGL in order to reduce administrative burden, improve business processes, and move to a single general ledger (GL) platform for all CRA Business Lines.

Nationally, approximately twenty clerical staff (CR-03/CR-04) worked with the AGL and the RL systems. With the shutdown of the AGL, information from various documents would be keyed directly to the RL system instead of being keyed in the AGL first and subsequently passed to the RL. Employees keying information onto the system would continue to be responsible for clearing suspense accounts in the RL instead of the GL.

Phase I began several months ago and was completed at the end of February.
Management had received positive feedback from the participants. Phase II would begin
at the end of March, in Ottawa.

The AGL would be phased out over the next 4 to 6 months as the transition was linked to implementation dates for the different revenue lines; however, employees would continue to perform the same duties. Resource impacts were not expected.

WRITTEN UPDATES (link to updates)

For the record, the Committee agreed to remove the following written updates from the next meeting’s agenda:

  • Service Strategy;
  • Corporation Internet Filing;
  • Standardized Accounting Electronic Service Delivery;
  • The Benefits portion of the Interactive Information Services (IIS) / Smartlinks, and
  • The Child Disability Benefits initiative.

Warehouse Rationalization Project

In addition to the written update on the Warehouse Rationalization Project, Management stated that the radio frequency (RF) bar code scanning equipment had now been installed and tested. Furthermore, installation of the carousel equipment would begin this week in Mississauga, along with onsite testing. The carousel equipment was expected to be operational by June 27, 2005. It was noted that the carousel equipment would not be introduced in Winnipeg.

The Union asked to be provided with the number of employees currently working in this section, as well as the number of employees that would be impacted. Management replied that out of the twelve employees, eight employees could potentially be impacted; however, if the quantity of work increased, then it was probable that more resources would be required.

The Union asked for the breakdown of FTEs prior to implementation, including the number of part-time/full-time term employees and part-time/full-time indeterminate employees, as well as the groups & levels. Management agreed to provide the required data.

Authentication Management Systems (AMS)

The Union asked whether AMS initiative would result in any human resources impacts, as there had been no indication in the written update. Management stated that no human resources impacts were anticipated for AMS.

NETFILE

The Union asked if human resources impacts were anticipated, and whether NETFILE would remain in the Winnipeg and St. John’s Tax Centres. Management replied that no human resources impacts were anticipated, and that NETFILE would remain at both centres.

The Union asked for clarification on the information in the written response regarding the three million returns that had been filed using NETFILE, representing a 20% increase from the previous year, yet no human resources impacts were expected. Management clarified that, while it was not always easy to predict the impacts, the statement should be amended indicating that no reductions were foreseen for the e-services help desk.

National Quality and Accuracy Learning Program (nee Quality Assurance Monitoring)

The Union expressed appreciation for the continued exchange of information and ongoing dialogue in between the Technological Change meetings. This initiative continued to be an excellent example of union-management working together.

Standardized Accounting Electronic Service Delivery (ESD)

The Union asked for clarification on the impacts, as the English update did not match the French. Management confirmed that there were no human resources, nor training impacts for this initiative. Both parties agreed to remove this item from the agenda.

Electronic Bill Presentment

Management stated that approximately 11 million payments were received each year, mostly from large financial institutions. This initiative would assist the small and medium enterprises wanting to use epost. However, in order to take advantage of this initiative, the client must already be paying their bills electronically. Management anticipated a 2% take-up rate for the first year, and expected most of the savings to be attained through stamps (25¢ per mail out).

The Union asked for clarification on the human resources impacts, as the written update stated they were negligible. Management clarified that there would be no impacts as a result of this initiative. They would continue to keep the Union informed of the progress on the Electronic Bill Presentment.

My Account for Individual – Tax and Benefits (nee My Account-Benefit Payment Online (BPO)/ My Account Phase II: Electronic Statement of Account)

The Union stated that the English version of the written update did not match the French. Management agreed to amend the document and provide an updated copy to the Union. Management also confirmed that there would be no human resources impacts as a result of this initiative.

Child Disability Benefits

Further to the Federal Budget announcement, the Union asked if there would be any impacts on this initiative. Management stated that the Agency would be implementing all the administrative changes but still required direction from the Department of Finance regarding the legislative amendments.

As the Child Disability Benefits is now an ongoing operation program it would be removed from the agenda, instead Management agreed to brief the Union on the Disability Tax Measures initiative at the next meeting.

Government On Line (GOL) Income Verification Project

The Union asked Management to explain whether this initiative had any human resources impacts. Management stated that the Government On Line Income Verification Project had not experienced any human resources impacts nor had the base budget been reduced. As a matter of fact, the reduction in the requests for printouts or duplicate notices would allow the agents to spend more time on value added activities such as processing enquiries for the core business lines.

Processing Efficiencies

The Union asked for clarification regarding “the re-direction of resources to keep other inventories current and have staff participate in various projects initiated by Headquarters”. They also asked if this initiative would result in any human resources impacts. Once the information was available, Management would provide the Union with clarification on the redirection of resources, as well as any human resources impacts.

Microfilm Equipment Replacement

Management stated that there would be no human resources impacts as a result of the Microfilm Equipment initiative. Furthermore, due to budget reallocations, they had been able to purchase imaging equipment for the seven TCs.

2D Bar Code

Further to the implementation of the 2D Bar Code, the Union received numerous questions from the field regarding human resources impacts. The Union specifically asked to be provided with before and after data of the number of employees located in the work sites. Management stated that a detailed analysis had been done; however, it could not be discussed until after the Federal Budget announcement. The information required additional validation, and once the data was confirmed, the Union would be provided with the details.

The Unions expressed concern that this initiative appeared to affect some of the TCs more than others. Management replied that up until now, some of the TCs had less electronic filing to handle, however the impacts should stabilize.

GST/HST Redesign

Management explained that this initiative was intended to move GST processing from the current system to the business lead up system. The intent was not to change the processing but to provide a new tool.

The Union asked if human resources impacts had been considered prior to moving forward to develop the technology. Management explained that once the procedures for the new systems are finalized, workloads would be reviewed to determine the impacts, if any, on the current jobs. However, the main focus would be on the training, skills and work descriptions rather than redundancy or reductions.

The Union asked if the 58.2 FTEs had been included in the budget cuts. Management was not aware if all numbers had been included.

Management stated that the Province of Ontario was interested in having the federal government collect corporate tax for Ontario, and although many details would need to be worked out, the additional work given to the Agency could far outweigh some of the human resources impacts contained in the Federal Budget announcement.

CLOSING REMARKS

The Union expressed appreciation for the roles played by all participants of the Committee, and encouraged everyone to continue to improve the good working relationship that had been fostered over the years.

Management also thanked the participants, and committed to working with the Unions in the same spirit of mutual respect and understanding that was a trademark of this
Sub-committee.

(Original signed by)
Barbara Slater
Assistant Commissioner
Assessment and Client Services Branch
Canada Revenue Agency
(Original signed by)
Betty Bannon
National President
Union of Taxation Employees
August 10, 2005
Date:
August 8, 2005
Date: