More people filing returns electronically

Tax centre, call centre offer many services to taxpayers

Published on March 27, 2014
Client service agent Lachelle Porter speaks with a taxpayer about their income tax file at the Canada
Revenue Agency call centre in Mount Pearl.
— Photoa by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

The so-called tax pain gets a little easier each year for taxpayers as more of them file their income tax returns electronically.

Suzanne Parks, director of the St. John’s Tax Centre, said the reason is that filing electronically is easier than filing paper returns. It’s also faster and secure, she said.

“While the majority of Canadians now file their returns electronically, we still do receive many paper T1s,” Parks said.

“In fact, last year our tax centre processed over 600,000 paper returns, over a million e-filed returns and over 620,000 net-filed returns.

“So you can imagine how our dedicated teams of employees are extremely busy this time of year.”

In fact, in Canada so far this 2014 tax-filing season, only 16 per cent of returns filed are paper returns. In the 2013 tax-filing season, 25 per cent of returns filed were paper returns.

On Wednesday, members of the media were given a tour of the St. John’s Tax Centre on Empire Avenue in St. John’s and the Newfoundland and Labrador Call Centre on Glencoe Drive in Mount Pearl.

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) tax centre opened in 1980 and began processing returns in February 1981. It services clients from Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and part of Ontario — regions serviced by tax services offices in St. Catharines, Peterborough and Kingston. At peak periods, the tax centre has about 1,100 employees.

“I’ve been director for 11 years and in that time I’ve seen many changes, especially in how the CRA works,” Parks said.

“For many Canadians, the tax centre is just the place, the building where our taxes get done, but we are much more than that.”

The Newfoundland and Labra­dor Call Centre opened in December 2007. It’s part of a national network of six call centres that respond to individual inquiries.

At peak periods, the call centre in Mount Pearl employs about 350 people and operates seven days a week.

Wayne Fagan, assistant director of the Newfoundland and Labrador Call Centre, said each year the centre answers about 1.5 million calls in both official languages.

“That’s a lot of calls on a daily basis. For example, on Monday (March 24) this centre answered almost 11,000 calls in the day,” he said.

“We are part of a national network and answer calls from across the country. We help Canadians understand their tax obligations and guide them through various steps to apply for tax credits and benefits, and many other things.”

Workers at the Tax Centre and Call Centre also volunteer for the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program. The program runs volunteer tax clinics across the country to aid modest-income individuals and families with simple tax situations to complete their returns.