Letter to the editor, published in The Guardian on May 17, 2014
Cut backs to services can happen on a gradual basis and you don’t even realize what you’ve lost until you tried to access the service.
Most people only think about the Canada Revenue Agency at tax time and this year, if you appeared at our Tax Services Office in Charlottetown, you would have been met with a locked door because we no longer offer public services as of November 1, 2012.
This is the date that the government made the decision to lock the front doors of our Charlottetown office along with 21 other offices across Canada as part of a phased in approach. By November 1, 2013, the remaining Tax Services Offices in Canada followed suit.
For the taxpayer, this means that you can’t pick up a tax return from the CRA, you can’t ask for assistance with a tax question and you can’t drop off your payment.
Alternatives were offered. Want to make a payment? Do so via your online banking services. Tax questions? Access our website or call a toll-free number. No phone or internet? No problem. Go to a Service Canada location and you can use their phone or computer. Want a tax form? Again, call a toll-free number or visit a Service Canada location.
While I can agree that there is a population of people who can navigate a government website or can call a toll-free number to receive service, I believe that most Canadians want to walk into one of our offices and have a face-to-face conversation. We want to know that when we are dropping off correspondence to meet a filing deadline, it is stamped with a received date and/or we can get a receipt to confirm we dropped off our payment.
The CRA has moved to a self-service model where you can’t walk into a tax office and ask a question, update your mailing address and/or request a reprint of lost or misplaced T4 slips so that you can file your tax return.
As of April 2014, it goes a step further when it comes to our records storage because the government made the decision to contracted out our records storage to a private for-profit company rather than continue this service in-house. This means that all the tax returns and accompanying receipts such as your medical information, will no longer be stored by the Canada Revenue Agency.
The documents that require storage has personal information that an individual would not want in the wrong hands. This records storage service generated well-paying jobs for Islanders who contributed their income to their community and local businesses.
The Union of Taxation Employees has a campaign underway that is raising awareness of the public services we’ve lost as taxpayers and asks the public to send a message to your Member of Parliament asking that the decision to eliminate public services be reversed. As a taxpayer, we pay for these services and we feel Canadians deserve face-to-face interaction with the Canada Revenue Agency.
In addition, our personal tax information should be maintained and stored by the Canada Revenue Agency, not contracted out to a private company. We deserve better and encourage you to contact your MP on this issue.
Dawn Hardy is President, Summerside Local 90006, Union of Taxation Employees.