Canada’s taxpayer ombudsman says his office is inundated with dozens of complaints from Canadians saying the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) is still asking them to pay pandemic-era benefits they’ve already paid. .
François Boileau said that since the end of tax season this spring, his office has heard from an unusually large number of Canadians who say their tax returns have been recovered.
“This is very unusual for our office. This is the first time we’ve been under immense pressure,” Boileau said.
In December, the Auditor General of Canada discovered that approximately $4.6 billion in pandemic benefits, such as the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), had been sent to ineligible individuals.
Many Canadians have had their tax refunds withheld after the CRA deemed them ineligible for the benefits they received. The agency said in May that $237 million had been raised from some 775,000 Canadians by recovering tax refunds and other benefits.
Some taxpayers have disputed that and asked for a review of his eligibility. But others who say they received an overpayment in error and have since returned the money are your tax return is still denied.
Since April, Boileau’s office has seen about 60 complaints from taxpayers who said the CRA is still looking for money they’ve already returned.
As a result, the office faces a backlog of complaints. The office is currently still addressing the complaints it received in early June, even though it brought in additional staff to help. A spokesman for his office said it can take up to 120 days to process those complaints.
“We have so much pressure right now that we can’t deal with any new complaints. [right away]Boileau said, though he encouraged Canadians to reach out if they’re having trouble.
Boileau said the most common complaints are from people who have reimbursed another department, such as Employment and Social Development Canada, but still receive reimbursements from the CRA.
“They are asked to pay again because there is [was a] lack of communication between the two departments,” he said.
Asked by the CBC if it was concerned about the delay, the office of Minister of National Revenue Diane Lebouthillier said the government has increasingly provided the ombudsman’s office with more resources to carry out its work.
“We have full confidence in the quality and effectiveness of the Ombudsman’s work and will continue to monitor the situation closely,” the spokesperson wrote in an email.
Katrina Miller, executive director of Canadians for Tax Fairness, said she’s not surprised by the backlog of complaints.
“It fits a pattern where we’ve just seen a very confused response from the CRA in terms of CERB payment,” Miller said.
“It is the job of the Government of Canada to resolve your discrepancies internally so that you can communicate clearly and transparently.”
In May, Boileau said he was considering launching a formal investigation into whether there is a larger systemic problem at play. A spokesman for his office said he is still considering an investigation, but is currently focused on addressing the complaints.