June 19, 2015 - 7:00 AM
OTTAWA - Almost seven in every 10 callers looking for help from the Canada Revenue Agency are greeted by a busy signal because the lines are overwhelmed, newly released documents show.
Figures tabled in Parliament this week show that in the 2014-15 fiscal year, about one-third of the 60.1 million calls made to the tax agency went through on the first try. The remaining two-thirds, or 40.9 million calls, got a busy signal.
The CRA's phone system doesn't allow every call into the system. When the system is at capacity, callers hear a busy signal, forcing them to make multiple calls.
So far this fiscal year, things have gotten worse.
The data show that of the 12.8 million calls between March 30 and May 1, 2015 — the most recent figures available — a busy signal greeted almost four in every five calls. At that rate, by the end of this fiscal year 59.6 million calls to the CRA won't be connected right away — or at least be put in the queue to speak to an official.
The wait times are supposed to be two minutes, which the CRA meets about 81 per cent of the time, according to the figures tabled in response to an order paper question from Liberal MP Ralph Goodale.
Goodale said the figures show that budget cuts at the CRA, including decreases in front line staff to handle inquiries, have eroded its ability to meet service standards.
"It's pretty meagre and it mocks the word service," Goodale said.
The funding to the CRA's taxpayer's services, for instance, has been cut by about 24 per cent between 2012-13 and 2015-16 fiscal years leading to an equivalent reduction in the number of staff, government documents say.
"This is an organization that is not in a position to provide the standards of service that Canadians should expect," Goodale said.
Goodale said the government needs to revisit its budget cuts to this part of the CRA and review the technology used to answer citizen queries to improve service standards.
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News from © The Canadian Press, 2015