Technological Change Committee

Minutes of the Technological Change Sub-Committee Meeting

November 7, 2005

BETWEEN THE CANADA REVENUE AGENCY AND
THE UNION OF TAXATION EMPLOYEES

OPENING REMARKS

Ms. Barbara Slater, Assistant Commissioner, Assessment and Client Services Branch, and Management Co-chair, welcomed everyone to the meeting.  Management stated that together they would continue to build on the good work that this committee had accomplished over the years, and in the same spirit of mutual respect and understanding that has been the trademark of this sub-committee.  

The Union agreed that the Committee was an excellent forum that allowed for an open exchange of information between Union and Management on the issues. 

1. EMPLOYER COMPLIANCE AUDIT REPORTING TOOL

The Revenue Collections Branch (RCB) has developed an Excel based program that would assist Employer Compliance Auditors (ECA) in calculating taxable benefits and reporting their audit findings in a more consistent and uniform manner. 

The Employer Compliance Audit Program had been transferred from the Compliance Programs Branch to the Revenue Collections Branch in 2001, albeit without adequate employee training or job aids, and as a result, created inconsistencies in reporting audit findings.  In the meantime, most ECAs had developed their own worksheets to calculate benefits and the applicable CPP and EI premiums due but those worksheets varied significantly from auditor to auditor, as did the auditors’ working papers.  The reporting could not be integrated into the existing trust examination system software and it would take several years to develop and design an appropriate tool.  Therefore, an interim solution would involve the development of the Employer Compliance Audit Reporting Tool (ECART) for an Excel-based environment.  This program would be able to accurately calculate taxable benefits, reduce report-writing time, prepare and print T4 and T4A slips while at the same time providing a format for consistent production reporting.  Furthermore, trainers would receive a full week of training to aid in both the learning and the distribution of the programs.

The use of this tool would not affect the auditors’ mandate or work description; nor was it expected to create any human resources impacts.  An internal communication strategy would be developed to inform employees that the implementation of this tool would result in higher quality audits and working papers, as well as eliminate manual production reporting.  Management anticipated that the deployment of ECART would take place in April 2006. 

The Union asked if any consultation had been conducted on this initiative.  Management stated that dozens of ECAs had been consulted on its design and participated in the testing.  Furthermore, ECAs had been using their laptops as a job aid to conduct their work.  The ECART reporting tool would bring them on par with their counterparts in Compliance Programs Branch and RCB Trust Examiners.

2. END USER APPLICATION DEVELOPMENT MACRO RELEASES

The Revenue Collections Branch developed a series of macro applications to more effectively assist employees by eliminating the clerical aspect of information gathering and routine processing.  A macro is a series of instructions designed to simplify repetitive tasks within a program such as Microsoft Word or Excel.  The macros are created by simply “recording” keystrokes for playback at a later time, or by manually programming the instructions for the computer to follow.  The creation, and subsequent use, of macros is continuing to expand since desktop computers became a commonplace tool within the Agency. 

The national process is now established to allow for the standardized use of macros.  Moreover, the distribution model for those macros and a support structure in place for end users would allow approved macros to be released on a national scale.  In addition to the macros currently being used in the field, a number of other macros are at various planning and developmental stages.  Those planned tools would include the client view macros that would be deployed as part of the integrated Revenue Collections project’s first release. 

The use of macros would not be mandatory nor would the release of those macros result in any human resources impacts, significant changes in employment status, or working conditions.

3. DISABILITY TAX MEASURES INITIATIVE (DTMI)

In the February 2003 budget, the federal government announced the establishment of the Technical Advisory Committee on Tax Measures for Persons with Disabilities.  The Committee’s mandate involved making recommendations that would help the federal government improve the fairness of the treatment of persons with disabilities under the income tax system, taking into account available financial resources.  Since most of the recommendations had a direct impact on processing Form T2201, Disability Tax Credit Certificate (DTC), the Disability Tax Measures initiative project team was established to implement the legislative and administrative recommendations.  As a result of the proposed legislative changes, Management expected to see an increase in the DTC applications for the 2006-2007 fiscal year.  Consequently, an additional 25 FTEs would be required to administer the program.

4. CALL CENTRE UPGRADED TECHNOLOGY

The National Collections Call Centre (NCCC) is no longer able to meet the needs of its ever-expanding workload, in particular, specific deficiencies existed in the eight year old dialer technology that was limiting the ability to increase operating efficiency while providing a continuous level of service to clients.  At the same time, scheduling, forecasting, and tracking, along with adherence to schedule and performance management became time consuming.  Consequently, the reports generated from the current technologies were fragmented and did not provide real-time and historical reporting capabilities.  As a result, a decision was made to purchase new technology to replace the aging equipment in the NCCC that would allow a “blended” inbound/outbound-calling environment with greater capacity to add work, generate additional revenue, and improve service to clients.

The most significant changes for the agents would prove to be in the screen presentations and call routing where work would be automated and set to a priority listing rather than manual instructions to change work through traffic controller emails.  In order for a smooth transition, a three-hour training session for agents and managers would take place within a one-month period before cutover, and include follow-up training up to three months after cutover.  The complete technology equipment upgrade for the NCCC was scheduled for December 12, 2005, while the workforce management efficiencies would be contracted before the end of this fiscal year

The Union was pleased to learn that the training would be conducted on a timely basis before the implementation of the technology.  It wanted to know if the technology would have any impact on the agents.  Management stated that the agents already used telephony equipment and the related software to conduct their work.  The upgraded technology would only enhance the employee-working environment, as well as improve the level of service to clients.  Furthermore, there was some potential to hire additional agents due to the new technology and the increase in workload.

5. PRE-AUTHORIZED PAYMENT PLAN ON INTEREST

In the fall of 2001, the CRA introduced a pre-authorized payment plan (PADS) for personal income tax (T1) arrears, requiring clients to complete, sign and return the paper T1226 form to the Agency, for processing and approval.  This would allow individuals to access the PADS plan option via “My Account” on the CRA Internet website.  As part of the process, the client would need to register online for a Government of Canada EPASS in order to meet the enhanced security and protection of confidential client information.  Once clients obtained their CRA activation code they would be able to visit
“My Account” and electronically arrange their personal income tax arrears,
21 hours/day, 7 days a week.

This was considered a high priority initiative, and Management expected it to be an option in “My Account” for an April 2006 production release.   This initiative would also promote and support the Agency’s involvement in the ongoing Government Online (GOL) process, as well as the sustainable development initiative, through the reduction of paper.  Management did not anticipate any human resources impacts as a result of this initiative.

The Union asked whether the parameters of the computers had been considered during the implementation of this initiative.  Management stated that the parameters of the computers were the same at the local level; therefore they did not anticipate any issues with the equipment.  The Union also wanted to know what types of payment plans would be acceptable to the CRA.  Management stated that if a client owed $5000 or less, a payment plan of up to a maximum of 12 months would be acceptable to the Agency.  However, for a payment of $5000 to $100,000, a payment plan of up to 8 months would be established. 

6. POST-DATED CHEQUE (PDC) REDESIGN

In performing its remittance-processing program, the CRA annually processes over
34-million payments.  It is one of the few organizations that process such large quantities of payments while making minimal use of technology.  One of the ways to modernize and streamline the payment processing operation is to implement the “microfilm equipment replacement” initiative with image archival equipment in all the taxation centres to accommodate the volume of payments processed at the Ottawa Technology Centre (OTC).  The equipment purchased had more capacity than the 25% currently being used and given the capability of the software to process post-dated cheques, it was determined that post-dated cheques would present an ideal pilot for extending equipment usage. 

The Post-Dated Cheque Redesign initiative would be piloted at the OTC for new PDCs received at the beginning of April 2006.  If the pilot was successful, existing PDCs would be converted to the Banctec solution in late summer 2006.  Prior to implementation, Revenue Processing staff at the OTC would receive training on keying data from an image, as well as on changes to the FIP system.

It was premature to predict the human resources impacts at this stage, as the data would be contingent on the performance and success of the project.  Management anticipated minimal reductions at the TCs, however they would provide the Union with the data once the pilot was completed.  Management also mentioned that budgets would not be impacted until 2007-08.

7. THIRD PARTY PRIVILEGE MANAGEMENT

The Assessment and Client Services Branch was currently working on a new electronic service for third parties to be launched in February 2006, called represent a client.  This new initiative would provide authorized representatives with secure and controlled online access to their clients’ tax information.  To ensure the success of this initiative, the project was being developed and launched in two phases and possibly a third one down the road.  Phase I would extend the authentication services to authorized third party representatives to enable access to their clients’ individual tax information.  An authorized representative would have online access to most services available to individuals under My Account.  Furthermore, the online service channel had been developed for seamless integration while at the same time complementing the paper and telephone service delivery avenues.  Representatives would then be expected to register online for this service, where they would obtain a representative identifier (REPID) to provide to their clients, and their clients would need to authorize them either through the My Account portal or using a revised T1013, authorizing or cancelling a representative form.  The calls concerning this new service would be handled by e-services helpdesk.

During Phase II, the emphasis would be on improving services to clients, as well as extend the authentication, registration, and authorization solutions to business programs.  Phase II was tentatively scheduled for an October 2007 release.

Management did not anticipate a significant take-up rate in the immediate term based on the last two years.  As with other recent GOL service introductions, this initiative would be “soft launched” insofar as human resource issues were concerned.  The project team would monitor the take-up rates and assess the impact as the initiative moved forward.  Management expected the human resources impact analysis to be completed by December 2005, and would share the results with the Union.

The Union asked if the security system was strong enough to prevent situations of fraud from occurring.  Management stated that only the client has access, and that although not all fraud could be prevented, appropriate security measures had been put in place.

WRITTEN UPDATES (link to written updates)

For the record, the Committee agreed to remove the Matching Redesign written update from the next meeting’s agenda.

Warehouse Rationalization Project (WRP)

The Union requested that Mississauga be placed in brackets after the Eastern Distribution Centre.  The written update would be amended to reflect the Union’s request.

Interactive Information Services (IIS) Smartlinks

The Union asked if the implementation of Smartlinks would be limited to specific call centres or if the CRA wanted to install this technology at all call centres.  Management stated that they would like to see Smartlinks incorporated in all call centres.

Government On Line (GOL) Income Verification Project

The Union asked for a list of the programs currently in production.  Management agreed to provide the list of the fifteen programs, as well as the seven currently in the testing mode. 

T2 2D Bar Coding

The Union asked to be provided with the results of the human resources analysis once it had been completed.  Management agreed.

Change My Return

The written update under Phase II stated that twenty-two FTEs would be impacted as a result of this initiative.  The Union asked for a breakdown between indeterminate and term employees.  Management agreed to provide this information.

Integrated Revenue Collections (IRC)

The Union asked that the French written update be amended to include the information on the ten or so business analysts in the Revenue Collections Branch at Headquarters, and that a copy be provided to the Union.  Management agreed.

Non-Profile To Profile

The Union appreciated the extensive detail provided in the charts on FTE savings, however, receiving a “before and after” snapshot of the number of employees (indeterminate, term, part-time, etc.), would be more beneficial as it was interested in the individual rather than the financial aspect.  Management agreed to provide the Union with specific data on the number of employees involved in this initiative.

CLOSING REMARKS

The Union was pleased to see that since the last meeting, Management had made a concerted effort to provide more information on 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 contributions during the meeting and was encouraged by the Union’s positive feedback on this forum. 

Original signed by George Arsenijevic for

Original signed by

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

Betty Bannon
National President
Union of Taxation Employees

Date:  February 2, 2006

Date:  January 30, 2006