Wherein I give CRA’s payment system a failing grade

As many of you know, I recently relocated to Calgary, Alberta where I am spending my sabbatical year in the School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary. Because I have left the province of BC, I am no longer eligible for the BCECTB (the provincial equivalent of the CCTB). And because the monthly payment for the period July 2015-June 2016 was below a specific threshold, a lump sum was deposited into my account in lieu. However, because I am no longer a BC resident, I need to pay back a portion of this lump sum. That, in and of itself is no big deal, because I was expecting it.

I received my ‘bill’ from CRA on August 24 though the bill was dated July 29, 2015. If you follow me on twitter you will have heard me complain about CRA’s mailing delays and here is proof in point. The letter also tells me that “You have to pay any amount you owe as soon as you receive this notice.” Most of you will also know I am a good taxpayer, so I sat down this morning to pay this bill.

I started off by logging into my CRA Account. There as no reference to this assessment under the “Important Information” heading. The ”Account balance and statement of account” page showed an account balance of $0.00. I then went onto the Benefits and Credits page and selected “Canada child tax benefit” link and buried under the notices link was a completely different summary of the amount owing than I was sent. And it was that summary, the one online, not the one sent to me that detailed more specifically the total benefit received, when it was deposited, and why I owed the amount I did. The assessment that was sent to me was not clear how the amount was calculated and I don’t take things on blind trust, especially things from CRA.

Nowhere ,though, appeared any information or link on how to pay this amount owing. So I googled “pay CRA” and the top link was to CRA’s “My Payment” page. However, because my bank card has the Visa debit logo, something I have no control over, I am not permitted to make a payment using this system.

So off I went to my bank’s webpage to make a payment through them. However, when I go to add CRA as a payee, I encounter more roadblocks. First, there is no listing for Canada Revenue Agency. This I find odd. So on a lark I enter in just CRA and at least now I get a few options, but I find listing everything under CRA and not Canada Revenue Agency to be troubling and opaque. Second, the options listed are not appropriate to my situation. The options are

  • CRA PAYROLL DEDUCTIONS – REGULAR REMITTER (MONTHLY REMITTERS ONLY)
  • CRA PERSONAL INCOME TAX BALANCE OWING/ARREARS 2014 & PRIOR
  • CRA PERSONAL INCOME TAX PAYMENT WHEN FILING FOR 2014
  • CRA PERSONAL INCOME TAX QUARTERLY INSTALMENTS FOR 2015

None of these options are appropriate for my situation, which is a credit repayment for 2015, and CRA warns me in its payment information that should I use the wrong payee, my payment will not be appropriately applied and I will be liable for any late fees assessed (though no information my CRA My Account or the mailed notice provide any information on potential late fees, including when they might be assessed and how much they would be).

CRA does accept payments by credit card, using a third party provider, which means a fee but when I look into that, they only accept payments towards T1, T2, payroll, and GST/HST. Again, none of these apply.

So this means I have to physically go to a bank. I can’t think of the last time I had to go to a bank branch to pay a bill, but I am pretty sure the year started with 19. Paying taxes owing should not be this difficult and CRA really needs to step up its game in this service area. And so much for paying my bill “as soon as I receive this notice.” I have no idea when I will get a chance to locate a branch in my new area and have the time to go. Since I am not teaching this year, I am getting a bit of the grader DTs. To manage these, I am grading CRA’s payment system, and my grade is FAIL.

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