smartphone-app-icons

Years ago, I wrote an academic paper comparing the effectiveness of CRA’s website to the offering of the Australian Tax Office (ATO). In my opinion, it was clear the Aussies had a much better grasp of the available technology, and were using it much more effectively to communicate with taxpayers.

In the intervening years, the agency’s made some noticeable strides toward better engagement with taxpayers, in particular with online services such as MyAccount, which houses a taxpayer’s detailed information. Streamlined personal tax information is available by logging in using the “My tax information” button on the MyCRA webpage. MyCRA also offers general information on payments, benefits and donating to charity. Accessing these resources doesn’t require logging in.

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An underwhelming release

CRA spent months signaling the February release of its personal tax app, which is also called MyCRA. But, as February came to a close, the mobile apps landing page on CRA’s website still only had a link to the MyCRA webpage. In a March 2 news release, CRA stated it was “proud to announce the release of its new mobile app—MyCRA—available for all mobile devices like smartphones and tablets.”

I checked the App Store and couldn’t find it. My second stop was CRA’s mobile apps landing page, but it still simply gave a link to the MyCRA webpage. On the MyCRA page, however, there’s now a hyperlink at the bottom-left that reads “Add to home page instructions.” Clicking opens a window with simple instructions for placing “this web app” on my tablet’s home screen.

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After doing that, I located the MyCRA icon now on my tablet’s home screen. But clicking it simply relaunched my browser, opening it to the same MyCRA webpage I just left. I thought the substance of the change was waiting behind the “My tax information” button, so I logged in. This gave me expected access to the status of my 2014 return (not yet filed), related notices of assessment, and RRSP and TFSA contribution limits. That was all. The app is essentially a bookmark to a mobile-friendly website.

The experience, in my opinion, falls short of expectations CRA created in its lead-up campaign. Many items the agency highlighted in its news release are general information categories that are already available without logging in, let alone having to install the so-called app. In fairness, it appears the MyCRA site is intended to be a platform for future communications, and it will doubtless evolve. For now, however, CRA has made a disappointing baby step out of what was billed as a significant move.

Doug Carroll, JD, LLM (Tax), CFP, TEP, is vice president, Tax and Estate Planning, Invesco Canada

Originally published in Advisor's Edge Report

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