Pushing back against more outsourcing at CRA

On February 19, 2021, President Debi Daviau wrote to Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) Commissioner Bob Hamilton regarding its recent decision to hire a third-party contractor to answer questions from taxpayers about emergency benefits and their impact on 2020 tax returns.

While the various programs introduced to help Canadians during the pandemic may well result in a substantial increase in the number and complexity of questions fielded by the CRA during the upcoming tax season, it is incomprehensible why public service professionals have not been asked to perform this work. CRA had many options to provide these services internally, including the hiring of term employees, and there is no good reason why it chose to look to an external provider to do so.

Private call centre staff are much likelier to provide incomplete or inaccurate information to taxpayers than CRA personnel. Their training is not of the same calibre and they are not held to the same standard of confidentiality as public service employees. Worse, many Canadians may not realize they are not speaking to a CRA professional and may inadvertently provide confidential information to these private-sector call centre agents.

This brings to mind the fiasco that ensued when hundreds of hastily prepared call centre agents were hired to provide assistance to federal employees experiencing complex pay problems caused by Phoenix.

We support our CRA colleagues represented by the Union of Taxation Employees and we call upon the Commissioner to immediately reverse this decision. Canadian taxpayers deserve the best service possible. Contracting out this critical work will once again prove more expensive and less effective than if it were performed by knowledgeable and experienced public service professionals.