The Canada Revenue Agency and The Canadian Tax Preparation and Software Industry
The success of the Canada Revenue Agency’s (the “CRA”) digital services, in conjunction with innovations brought by the software industry (the “industry”), has helped transform tax filing in Canada, making it easier than ever for Canadians to meet their tax obligations and get the benefits they are entitled to. This ongoing collaboration between the CRA and industry has been at the core of the evolution away from paper filing to the broad adoption by tax filers of digital tax preparation and communication tools. As a result, nearly 90% of individual and benefit 2017 income tax returns were filed online.
In order to build on the success of the long-standing relationship between the CRA and industry, as part of the Government of Canada’s newly launched OneGC strategy, the CRA and industry plan to strengthen cooperation through this joint service collaboration plan. OneGC represents a significant step forward in how the Government of Canada will work with the private sector to improve services to Canadian taxpayers by providing world class, innovative digital services.
The primary goal of the Digital Service Collaboration Plan is to produce and promote innovative, secure, and convenient electronic tax filing services. This goal can be achieved by increasing collaboration between the CRA and the private sector, and by mutually recognizing the respective goals and expertise of the CRA and the software industry. In support of the goal, this plan sets out overall directions, defines and distinguishes roles and responsibilities of the CRA industry, consistent with the OneGC approach, and highlights high level plans and goals by the CRA and the industry.
THE PLAN – CANADA REVENUE AGENCY
The CRA believes that Canadians have benefitted from the important contribution that industry has made in making a range of tax software products and options available to make filing easier and more accurate than ever. In recognition of this important contribution, and to accelerate innovation and improve service to Canadian taxpayers, CRA’s plan is to:
- Continue to make core system improvements and to make enhancements to the tax filing experience. The success of the Online mail initiative, Auto-Fill, Express NOA and ReFILE are four of the recent key initiatives that are improving the tax filing experience. The CRA will continue to make system enhancements to build on these successes.
- Expand the availability and improve application programming interfaces, consistent with OneGC, in order to allow the industry to spur innovation and better integrate their software products with the CRA systems. The CRA does not plan to develop and offer its own tax preparation software, and plans to remain on, and accelerate the current path, whereby the industry uses its expertise to provide a range of user friendly commercial products and services that give consumers and tax preparers competitive options, including low cost and no cost tax filing solutions for Canadians in need.
- Monitor the take-up of the recently launched File My Return (FMR) service over the next three filing seasons. The goal of the FMR service is to simplify filing for individuals in straight-forward and recurring tax situations that may be more comfortable using phones rather than filing on line. The CRA plans to publically share results on an ongoing basis, and has no plans to make significant changes to the FMR service over this three-year monitoring period.
- Convene quarterly meetings with the software industry to optimize the collaboration on ideas, the exchange of perspectives, as well as to ensure clarity among the parties of priorities and direction of the CRA.
THE PLAN – TAX PREPARATION AND SOFTWARE INDUSTRY
The tax preparation and software industry recognizes the importance for Canadians to adopt the CRA’s digital services, as these services provide the opportunity for Canadians to have fast and secure services while increasing accuracy and maximizing convenience. The industry also supports the OneGC strategy, a key Government of Canada initiative that recognizes – rather than recreate – the important contribution the private sector can make to improving services to Canadians. In recognition of these factors, and the shared goal of improving the digital filing experience, the industry’s plan is to fully support the CRA’s key initiatives of Online Mail, Auto-Fill, Express NOA and ReFILE. It will work towards incorporating and improving these services into tax preparation software and the tax filing experience, and to support the further development of CRA’s digital services. The plan is to actively raise awareness and encourage Canadians to adopt these services. Specifically:
- Online Mail allows individuals to receive, organize and store their mail in a secure, fast and convenient way. The industry shares the CRA’s goal of increasing the use from its current take-up of approximately 25%, to 50% of tax filers, within three years.
- Auto-fill allows tax preparers and individuals to securely and automatically download significant elements of tax returns based on the information the CRA has on file. The industry shares the CRA’s goal to increase use from its current take-up of approximately 35%, to 50% of tax filers, within three years.
- Express Notice of Assessment (NOA) is a new service launched in February 2018 that allows individuals and tax preparers using NETFILE or EFILE software to print and store their NOAs seconds after filing in a simple and secure way, eliminating the need for paper NOAs to be sent via mail by the CRA. With the full launch of Express NOA this year, the industry shares CRA’s goal to have 50% of tax preparers and filers use Express NOA within three years.
- ReFILE is a new service launched in February 2018 that allows individuals and tax preparers to amend T1 returns by refiling electronically. These returns can be reprocessed in near real-time, similar to initial filing, subject to validation and verification. With the full launch of ReFILE this year, the CRA’s goal is to have ReFILE used to make 50% of tax payer requested adjustments within three years.
Both the CRA and the industry also recognize the importance of assisting Canadians in need, such as those in northern and remote locations where computer and internet access along with storefront tax preparation services may not be readily available. In recognition of this important objective, industry commits to working with the CRA to offer additional targeted services and products in order to reach and serve these important taxpayer communities.