The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) offers recourse for clients who feel that they have not been treated fairly or the service they received was sub par. This post will touch upon the process to file complaints, deal with disputes, and applicability of tax relief provisions.

Service Complaint

If a client feels that they have not received proper service from CRA staff, then they can file a service complaint for remedy. A service complaint can be filed against the CRA for various reasons including, but not limited to, supplying wrong information to client, causing undue delay to proceedings, and employee behavior. However, due to the wide scope of the causes, the CRA also defines matters that cannot entail a service complaint. This CRA page offers examples of such non-service complaint matters and routes to deal with those issues.

A client can proceed with a service-related complaint using the following steps:

  1. Speak to the CRA staff member in question, or their supervisor, to resolve the issue.
  2. If Step (1) above did not provide a solution, complete Form RC193 and mail or fax it to the CRA.
  3. Contact the office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman (last resort only)

More details about the process after a complaint has been filed can be found here and it is worth remembering that information provided to the CRA is covered by the Privacy Act and hence, kept confidential.

Dealing with Disputes

In case of a disagreement with the Notice of Assessment received from the CRA, a client can try to resolve the dispute by calling 1-800-959-8281. If the verbal method does not yield a solution, then depending on the situation (topic of disagreement), a client can follow instructions provided for each topic on the dispute resolution page. In order to ensure that everyone receives every benefit available, a client has the right to a formal review in the event of an unresolved dispute.

Taxpayer Bill of Rights

The Taxpayer Bill of Rights is an extension of CRA’s core values including professionalism, respect, and integrity and also outlines CRA’s support to small business clients to ensure fair and accurate service.

Taxpayer Relief

In the event of a client being unable to meet their tax obligations due to unforeseen circumstances such as personal tragedies, natural calamities, or CRA errors, there are tax relief provisions available to address such cases. At the discretion of the Minister of National Revenue, the CRA may offer a waiver or cancellation of penalties/interest, accept late submissions, and offer refunds or reduce payable taxes beyond the normal 3-year period. The taxpayer relief legislations allow the CRA to exhibit flexibility and resolve issues depending on individual situations.

As with service complaints, there are certain requests that may not fall under tax relief provisions. Such requests may include seeking assessment/reassessment of a tax file, waiver or cancellation of tax, or inquiry about penalties/interest charged. If you are dealing with one of these non-tax relief issues, please call the relevant CRA toll-free number. More information about tax relief provisions can be found in the IC07-1 publication.

Have you had to file a service complaint, deal with a dispute, or use the tax relief provisions? How did your experience turn out?

About the Author: Clark works in Saskatchewan and has been working to build his (DIY) investment portfolio, structured for an early retirement. He loves reading (and using the lessons learned) about personal finance, technology and minimalism.  You can read his other articles here.

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What do you think of this Darren Week’s – Ed Gilmore presentation titled ‘Tax Secrets Canadian Tour’:

‘this exciting event will shine light on the TRUE Canadian tax facts. At the seminar, Ed, a former Senior Investigator and Canadian Revenue Agency Auditor, will reveal dozens of new tactics and information never previously revealed in public! ‘

I’m signed up to attend the event, but at these types of investor events they’re always trying to pull you in for more money. Have you heard of him, and is he a reputable investment advisor? I’ve heard that some of the schemes that he’s tried to sell in the past (e.g. WebNet) have gone south, and he’s claimed his innocence. Am I wasting my time?

I had to go through the dispute process and let me just say that it does not seem to be geared towards helping taxpayers. Even after a formal review the CRA found in favour of themselves going contrary to the Income Tax Act. It wasn’t until I started legal proceedings through the tax court that I got a remedy. The CRA lawyer called me and informed me that the CRA would be settling on all counts because they were violating the Tax Act and that they should never have proceeded as far as they had.

The dispute resolution procedure might work for some issues, but if you don’t think they’re resolving your issues properly don’t be afraid to take the CRA to court.

@whaddayathink?: I hadn’t heard about him and checked out the link. I see that the “price is free”; so, there is no monetary loss apart from 2 hours of your life (of course, time is money if you want to look at it that way!), if it turns out to be a damp squib. As you said, there may be products for sale at the presentation.

If you do attend and have time after, please do drop a line about whether it was useful.


Here’s my followup of the event I commented on earlier.

As I had guessed, it was a sales pitch. It took awhile for me to figure out what it was, as the presentation wasn’t all that clear, but they were pushing an aggressive tax strategy using donations via a gifting program that have a questionable fair market value (e.g. pay $100 and get a $1000 donation deduction). The former tax guy was there to try to reassure everyone that when the CRA clamps down on it (it’s not an if, but a when as people who have signed up for this have already received notices of assessments), that it will take a long time and extra interest and penalties will probably not be incurred.

The main takeaway I got was that if the CRA ever takes you on, file a ‘Notice of Objection’, and any interest or penalties won’t accrue until the review has taken place.

Interesting take-home message! Certainly not for the Average Joe who has enough on his daily plate (called life) without having to dodge the taxman!

Thanks for letting us know about the presentation.

If you suspect someone in your condo building may be running a service which may or may not be reported to Revenue Canada, is the complaint left anonymous? This would be in the event of an audit. It would be imperative it kept anonymous in my situation.

The phone line for the Canada Revenue Agency (1-800-631-9010) is a joke. After pressing “1” for English and selecting from the next list of options they hang up on you. Whoever is in charge of the phone system is incompetent and should be fired.

I called to get clarification regarding a letter they sent me, which merely said “We have completed our review. Based on the documentation submitted, we allowed the claim(s) under review.” Good explanation! Wow! Why don’t you save the paper and stamp and just mail me my income tax return check already. It’s 6 months late.