Canada’s first ever Taxpayer’s Ombudsman was in Halifax Thursday to explain exactly what he does.
Paul Dubé said his role is to be an objective party for disputes between taxpayers and the Canada Revenue Agency, which collects taxes for the federal government. He said he may rule in favour of either party, depending on who is violating policy or not acting professionally.
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“We don’t take sides,” he said during an interview with Metro Halifax at the Lord Nelson hotel. “We are impartial, independent investigators.”
The main goal, he said, is to ensure taxpayers rights are respected by the CRA. “Even if the CRA had a 99.9 per cent satisfaction rate we’d be looking at the potential for 38,000 complaints related to service or fairness.”
Dubé said his office is also trying to change its policies, in an attempt to save time and money, improve tax methods and ultimately avoid future complaints. So if Canadians feel the taxman is treating them unfairly, he said they can contact his office for free.
But the Taxpayer Ombudsman does not handle tax calculations, so if you don’t agree with the amount owed to the CRA, he can’t help you. The Ombudsman deals strictly with taxpayer’s rights, Dubé explained.
The CRA is given lots of authority in order to keep money flowing into Ottawa. “They can seize your bank account, impose penalties in interest, garnish your wages,” Dubé said. “They have pretty significant powers.”
But he thinks those powers need to be used fairly, and he’s there to monitor that.
The Taxpayer Ombudsman does not work for the CRA, rather, his office reports directly to the minister of revenue as a special advisor.