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Harper Government Committed to Cutting Red Tape: Minister Shea Announces Improvements to Phone Services for Businesses

MONCTON, NEW BRUNSWICK--(Marketwire - Jan 21, 2013) -

Editors'' Note: There is a photo associated with this press release.

The Honourable Gail Shea, Minister of National Revenue, accompanied by Robert Goguen, Member of Parliament for Moncton-Riverview-Dieppe, today announced new red tape relief for Canadian companies as part of the Harper Government''s commitment to support jobs, growth, and long-term prosperity.

As part of the Canada Revenue Agency''s (CRA) plan to reduce red tape, Minister Shea unveiled the introduction of "Agent ID," a new addition to the CRA''s business enquiries telephone service. The Agent ID number will provide increased accountability for business calls to the CRA. Having the Agent ID makes it easier for business owners and representatives to provide feedback on CRA services, and ensures a consistent and user-friendly experience for callers. 

"During the consultations that led to our Government''s Red Tape Reduction Action Plan, businesses identified the need for enhanced phone services at the CRA," said Minister Shea. "With the introduction of the new Agent ID number, our Government is acting on a key problem identified by the business community."

The Agent ID requires agents to provide their first name, a number, and a regional suffix (such as O-N-T or A-T-L for Ontario or Atlantic Region) at the beginning of each call.

"The Agent ID number is a key way for businesses to rely on the advice given to them from the CRA Call Centre," said Corinne Pohlmann, Vice-president of National Affairs for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. "Complying with a complicated tax code is not easy, and it''s only fair that you should be able to rely on the advice given to you by the CRA. Increased accountability through the Agent ID number is a step towards improving the CRA''s customer service to job creators and taxpayers."

"The CRA is listening to Canadian businesses, and moving forward on the changes they have told us are important to them," said MP Goguen. "Many of the measures highlighted in our Red Tape Reduction Action Plan have already been implemented, including launching an online secure enquiries service where businesses can ask their confidential tax-related questions, and creating a one-stop online business landing page where businesses can easily access tax information and CRA online services."

The CRA''s business enquiries telephone line handles over 3 million calls every year. As part of the red tape reduction measures, the CRA is also improving and modernizing the training provided to telephone agents, and continues to make other ongoing enhancement to its service quality and online services.

In addition to the introduction of the Agent ID number, two additional reforms were unveiled today as part of the Harper Government''s Red Tape Reduction Action Plan:

- The Honourable Tony Clement, President of the Treasury Board, announced proposed changes to the Food and Drug Regulations that will allow provincially regulated pharmacy technicians to transfer prescriptions to another pharmacy. This reform will benefit more than 15,000 pharmacists across Canada and is expected to save pharmacies an estimated $8.7 million a year in administrative costs.

- The Honourable Maxime Bernier, Minister of State for Small Business and Tourism, and the Honourable Andrew Saxton, Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board, announced plans to reduce the corporate reporting burden for businesses with revenues between $10 and $200 million. The reform would benefit 32,000 businesses and generate $1.2 million in administrative savings. For more information on this announcement, read the news release on Industry Canada''s website.

The reforms announced today will generate $10-million in annual savings for Canadian businesses.

The Harper Government has committed to cutting red tape for businesses. Launched in October 2012, the Red Tape Reduction Action Plan introduces systemic reforms to the federal regulatory system to limit regulatory creep and make it more transparent, accountable, and predictable. The Plan includes 90 department-specific changes to eliminate unnecessary paperwork and introduce time-saving measures like single windows and electronic submissions.

For more information on the CRA''s work under the Red Tape Reduction Action Plan, go to www.cra.gc.ca/redtapereduction.

For more information on the one-stop online business landing page, go to www.cra.gc.ca/businessonline.

For more information on the secure enquiries service, go to www.cra.gc.ca/mybusinessaccount.


The Minister of National Revenue, Gail Shea, and MP for Moncton-Riverview-Dieppe, Robert Goguen, today announced new red tape relief for Canadian companies as part of the Harper Government''s commitment to support jobs, growth, and long-term prosperity. Minister Shea unveiled a new feature called "Agent ID," an addition to the CRA''s business enquiries telephone service, where callers are greeted with the telephone Agent''s ID as part of the standard greeting. This allows callers to clearly identify who they talked to, and provide feedback on the information and service they receive from the CRA.

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Speaking Notes for the Honourable Gail Shea Minister of National Revenue

Business enquiries service / Red tape reduction

Moncton, NB

January 21, 2013

Check Against Delivery


  • Thank you all for being here today. I''d also like to thank my fellow colleagues, Senator Mockler and MP Goguen for attending this event. Thank you Ms. Pohlmann for being here. A special thank you to Mr. Jon Andrews for hosting the event.

  • Our Government recognizes that small and medium-sized businesses are the backbone of our country''s economy. When they succeed, they create jobs, generate growth, and promote prosperity in communities from coast to coast.

  • Naturally, we want to do everything we can to help them succeed.

  • As National Revenue Minister, I know that small businesses invest a considerable amount of time and effort to comply with Canada''s tax laws and regulations.

  • Studies by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business have shown that red tape from all levels of government cost small businesses billions of dollars every year, so action in this area is critical to ensuring continued growth in our economy.

  • That is why our Government has taken a number of steps to improve the Canada Revenue Agency''s services for businesses, and why we have made it a priority to cut red tape across Government.

  • In October, my colleague the Honourable Tony Clement, President of the Treasury Board, announced our Government''s Red Tape Reduction Action Plan, and I announced the establishment of a dedicated team to ensure that the needs of small businesses are understood by the CRA.

  • Today, Minister Clement is in Toronto, announcing further changes stemming from the Red Tape Reduction Action Plan, and I am happy to be here in Moncton, in order to announce further improvements at the CRA.

  • In addition to this, my colleagues, the Minister of State for Small Business and Tourism Maxime Bernier, and Parliamentary Secretary Andrew Saxton, are also announcing another important regulatory reform in Quebec City and Vancouver, respectively. 

  • The CRA is now making it easier for businesses to meet their tax obligations, by agents, modernizing its telephone enquiries services and improving training for call centre.

  • I''ll also touch briefly on some of our Government''s other achievements in cutting red tape, because I know this is an important issue for many small business owners.

Business Enquiries: Agent Greeting Policy

  • I''ll begin with the Canada Revenue Agency''s call centre services.

  • The Canada Revenue Agency delivers its telephone enquiries service to businesses out of three national call centres. Incoming calls are distributed to each of the call centres based on time of day and agent availability. This provides businesses with faster and reliable access to service, no matter where they are located in Canada.

  • At any given time during operating hours, more than 350 call centre agents are available to answer business enquiries by phone. During peak periods of the year, the number of scheduled agents increases to 500.

  • Last year, business enquiries agents answered close to three and a half million calls. Eighty-one per cent of those calls were account-specific.

  • In many cases, business owners or representatives had researched their questions in advance, using information available on the CRA''s Web site. They already had general information at their fingertips and wanted to understand how it applied to their specific situation.

  • As taxpayers, you have a right to expect clear, accurate, and consistent information from the people who administer your tax account. You also have a right to be served with professionalism, fairness, and courtesy-all of those rights are clearly spelled out in the CRA''s Taxpayer Bill of Rights that was introduced by our Government in 2007.

  • Part of good telephone service is letting the caller know who you are. This helps to establish a friendly relationship as well as a sense of accountability.

  • In 2011, the CRA began a pilot project whereby business enquiries agents provided their first name, agent identification, and a regional suffix (such as A-T-L for Atlantic Region) at the beginning of each call.

  • After evaluating the results of the pilot, including positive feedback from business owners, tax practitioners, and important stakeholder groups like the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, I am pleased to announce that the CRA will make the agent ID a permanent feature of its greeting policy for the business enquiries lines.

  • Today, business callers are well aware of the agent ID and the fact that they can take note of it for future reference.

  • While callers may not connect with the same person if they telephone again at a later date, all call centre agents are equipped with online reference tools and have direct access to taxpayer accounts on the CRA''s systems. This allows them to view the latest account transactions, as well as the most up-to-date notations by previous agents, in real time.

  • In addition to being more in line with current industry standards and practices, the new policy ensures a consistent and user-friendly experience for all callers.

  • The identifier number also allows business owners and representatives to provide feedback on the service and information they receive from the CRA. Our Government wants to ensure that the voices of business owners who are actually using CRA''s services are heard by the agency and serve as a key guide in our efforts to improve services. 

  • This change will build on the progress we are already making through the establishment of a dedicated small business team at CRA, to ensure that the needs of these key job creators are incorporated into the development of CRA services. The new Agent ID greeting has been long asked for by the business community and important stakeholders like CFIB, and will provide businesses with yet another way to provide useful input regarding the level of CRA''s service.

Business Enquiries: Call Centre Training

  • To further improve the quality and consistency of responses, the CRA is modernizing its Business Enquiries Training Program. This involves re-developing over 60 training products, to make them more engaging, interactive, and skills-based.

  • Course material is directly linked with references and external Web site information so that agents and callers can literally be on the same page when discussing technical questions.

  • Before they finish their training, call centre trainees practise their newly acquired skills in a classroom setting that simulates the work environment. Once they complete the course, their performance is regularly monitored to identify further training and coaching needs.

  • For certain low-frequency, highly specialized enquiries, calls can be referred to a specialist on that topic. CRA call centre agents frequently refer more complex technical enquiries to audit specialists or to our rulings programs for income tax or GST/HST. This "centre of expertise" approach has resulted in higher accuracy and better service to taxpayers.

Reducing red tape

  • Of course, telephone is not the only way to interact with Canadians. More and more business is being conducted online, and Canadians expect government to be there to serve them. The CRA is constantly improving its electronic services to keep up with the times.

  • Last January, the CRA created a new, single landing page for businesses on its Web site, bringing all of its online services for businesses together in one convenient spot. A menu of activities in plain language links directly to specific services built with business needs in mind-such as "make a payment," "register a new business," and "calculate payroll deductions."

  • Also, for the last year, businesses have been able to electronically file up to 100 information returns in a single submission using the CRA''s Web Forms application.

  • Since April, they have been able to ask the CRA tax-related questions about their accounts online, and get written answers to their enquiries through My Business Account.

  • These more responsive electronic services make it faster and easier for taxpayers to do business with government.


  • In today''s uncertain economic climate, our Government is more determined than ever to provide services to Canadians in the most streamlined, cost-effective, and timely manner possible.

  • In this regard, CRA''s success in cutting red tape for business was recently reflected in the Price Waterhouse Coopers Report entitled Paying Taxes 2013: Canada and the Globe, in which PWC ranked Canada 8th out of 185 world economies for ease of paying tax.

  • We have a solid record of service improvements: as technology progresses, we adopt it; as training methods get more sophisticated, we implement them; and as the service needs and expectations of Canadians evolve, we do our best to meet them. Our new agent greeting policy, investments in call centre training, and achievements in cutting red tape are just a few examples of our ongoing efforts to serve you better.

  • We want to make it easier for you to focus on what you do best: running a business, creating jobs, and generating growth in the economy.

  • Thank you for joining me today, and I wish you much success in all your business endeavours.

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