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After two years of record numbers of complaints to the Office of the Taxpayers’ Ombudsman, complaints have returned to their typical level, according to the ombudsman’s annual reportreleased on Thursday.

The ombudsman advises the Minister of National Revenue on CRA services and makes recommendations.

The annual report outlines the ombudsman’s activities, identifies key Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) service issues, examines trends and outlines the most common complaints received in the fiscal year.

The ombudsman opened 1,506 complaint files in fiscal 2019–20, the report said. (This figure doesn’t include files received between March 14 and March 31, 2020.)

This shift represented a return to the level of opened files in fiscal 2016–17, after two years of record numbers (in 2018–19 and 2017–18), the report said.

The levelling of complaints could be due to such things as increased public awareness and knowledge of current tax and benefit programs, increased use of the ombudsman’s website and social media platforms before making a complaint, and changes in service delivery, the report said.

Within the complaint files opened, the ombudsman identified 3,098 issues, the most common being a lack of fairness in the debt collection process, delays in processing T1 returns and adjustment requests, and a lack of clarity of information regarding processing T1 returns.

The most complaints came from Ontario (almost 43%), followed by Quebec (more than 17%) and B.C. (almost 14%).

The ombudsman closed 1,962 files, consistent with the previous year.

However, closed files had a 10% increase in the number of issues examined in which the CRA didn’t respect the taxpayer’s service rights, the report said. These rights include professional, courteous and fair treatment; and the provision of complete, accurate, clear and timely information.

Earlier this year, the ombudsman released Sub-Standard, a report examining delays and lack of transparency in the CRA’s processing of individual income tax returns and adjustment requests.

The CRA didn’t accept all the ombudsman’s recommendations in Sub-Standard, although it did accept some.

Regarding the recommendations, the ombudsman’s annual report said, “[M]any of the CRA’s responses lack clarity and do not fully address the recommendations. Often, the CRA reiterates actions it is already taking and deems to be sufficient, serving only to maintain the status quo.”

For more details on the ombudsman’s activities, read the full Taxpayers’ Ombudsman annual report.