Tax centre counter service shut down

Teresa Wright
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Summerside Tax Centre

Counter service at the tax centre in Summerside closed for good on Friday, marking the second time this year in-person services at a federal office in P.E.I. have been shut down.

People wishing to discuss their tax files with the federal tax officials will now have to use the telephone or internet.

Clarke Olsen, a spokesperson for National Revenue Minister Gail Shea's office, said demand for counter services represents a small fraction of the department's current service requests.

“In person discussions between the CRA (Canada Revenue Agency) and Canadians only accounted for 2.5 per cent of all interactions last year,” Olsen said.

“The way that Canadians file their taxes is changing, and the CRA is changing to meet those needs.”

Olsen added that people can visit Service Canada locations for assistance, and the CRA will provide in-person meetings when issues cannot be resolved over the phone.

But Charlottetown MP Sean Casey says he is concerned at the trend he believes is emerging with P.E.I.'s federal offices.

He pointed Charlottetown's Citizenship and Immigration office, which was closed to the public in June, as well as the imminent closure Veteran's Affairs Canada's district office in Charlottetown.

Casey questioned this during question period in Ottawa Monday.

“There's one province in Canada that doesn't have a passport office, there's one province in Canada where a taxpayer cannot get in-person service at Revenue Canada, there's one province in Canada where immigrants cannot talk to a live person and there's one province in Canada, as of next year, where veterans cannot talk to a live person at a district office,” Casey said.

“I asked whether there was anyone in the cabinet and prepared to stand up to the prime minister and defend Prince Edward Island.”

“There's one province in Canada that doesn't have a passport office, there's one province in Canada where a taxpayer cannot get in-person service at Revenue Canada, there's one province in Canada where immigrants cannot talk to a live person and there's one province in Canada, as of next year, where veterans cannot talk to a live person at a district office,” Charlottetown MP Sean Casey

He told The Guardian he believes Shea is not doing enough to protect federal public services in her role as minister responsible for P.E.I.

But in a statement emailed to The Guardian, Shea fired back at Casey. She said his comments “ignore reality.”

“In an unfortunate display, my colleague Sean Casey launched into an unwarranted attack recently in the House of Commons,” Shea wrote.

“His comments also ignore our government’s track record of success in delivering for Atlantic Canadians and for Islanders.”

She pointed to several areas where the federal government has lowered taxes and made investments in the province, such as the development and implementation of capital gains exemptions for fishers, 'record investment' in infrastructure, including housing for seniors and the disabled and $50 million in investments in the lobster fishery.

She also took issue with Casey's comments regarding the fact P.E.I. does not currently have a passport office.

“This ignores that we have enhanced passport services so Islanders can now apply at any of the five Service Canada locations in P.E.I.”

But Casey said he remains concerned over the reduction of federal services and what it he believes it says about the Harper government's attitude toward P.E.I.

“We don't matter. They don't care,” Casey said.

“When you have one province singled out with such rough treatment, there has to be some explanation.”

 

 

 

twright@theguardian.pe.ca

 

Organizations: Canada Revenue Agency, Service Canada, Revenue Canada House of Commons

Geographic location: Prince Edward Island, Canada, Summerside Charlottetown Ottawa

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Recent comments

  • John George
    October 04, 2012 - 09:05

    Casey whines - Shea delivers this should be a new slogan, look at te parking lot at the Summerside Tax Center overflowing with employees, this woman works while others yap, maybe the people of Charlottetown should have picked a winner instead of a whiner!

  • what do you expect
    October 04, 2012 - 08:56

    There hasn't been counter service at the Summerside Tax Center for years, it is a processing center with over 1000 employees, funny employment there seems to be going up since Minister Shea took over, the parking lot is overflowing everyday now, even the nightshift has a lot of employees, Gail Shea has delivered while Sean Casey whines, maybe the people in Charlottetown should have picked a winner instead of a whiner.

  • Frustrated TAXPAYER
    October 03, 2012 - 21:04

    For the information of anyone who cares. The Charlottetown Tax office is no longer going to be a walk in place. You won't be able to pay your taxes there (can't pay in cash now) and you won't be able to go ask a question and show your papers to someone trained in tax matters. You may hire an accountant IF you can afford it. To the person trying to change an address, it took me three written letters and I was tempted to send a photograph along with my birth certificate after having my mail continue to go to the old address (April to September). The poor little dear at the desk in the Charlottetown office hadn't a clue about tax matters and refused to get anyone to help me. I am a senior with little or no money and was trying to help a friend who had given me written permission to get the answer to a question he had. The other person who is not a lawyer that wrote in this site hit the nail on the head. Go ahead and ignore the people trying to complete your complicated forms, then make us feel like criminals when it is wrong. In fact, I beleive it is cruel and mean-spirited.

  • John Getson
    October 03, 2012 - 15:39

    Why do I find it so comforting to know that Clarke Olsen, spokesperson for National Revenue Minister Gail Shea's office, the writer Teresa Wright as well as other staff at this paper are aware that the Counter service at the tax centre in Summerside is closed... considering that there has been no Counter service available at the tax center in Summerside for a number of years now (possibly as many as 5) this just serves to demonstrate the level of ineptitude that our society accepts as the norm.

  • BASHING
    October 03, 2012 - 13:50

    Some of the coments here are not about the article or the closing of the centre, It is comments from misinformed people with a chip on their shoulder. Wake up little minds and stop your party bashing for once and read the article. The centre is closing and that will affect ALL Islanders (you two included). Try being intelligent for a change and read the article if you can.

    • The Centre is NOT Closing
      October 03, 2012 - 21:16

      To 'Bashing". The article does not say the centre is closing. It is saying that there will be no counter service there. This surprises me as there hasn't been any counter service at the tax centre in Summerside for some time now. What I understand for informed sources (employees) is that there will be no public access to the buiding at all, and that the Charlottetown district office will no longer allow access to the public. Imagine if you can, trying to file your taxes and pay them. Either mail a cheque or go to the bank with a payment. If you have questions, well, just spend your annual vacation going through the website looking for an answer, unless you are an accountant. Oh right. We can pay accountants to wade through the maze of rules and regulations and pay them the same as you pay the tax folks, and for what? Are we reaching the 'let them eat cake' part yet?

  • lori
    October 03, 2012 - 11:33

    Thank you Sean Casey for standing up for our small province. Unfortunately more proof that votes = action and with our small voter base we are SOL. To not a lawyer - thank you for your well written letter which should be printed and mailed to all our MPs..... for every letter of complaint there are many more who feel the same way right behind. THANK YOU. Dealing with people on the phone is impossible.

  • frustrated
    October 03, 2012 - 11:28

    I run a company office in PEI. 5 months ago, we relocated to a new office location. Since then, I've tried repeatedly to notify CRA of our new office address. Because I was not the official contact, they would not take my info nor allow me to communicate to them, so I had the owner complete the correct paperwork (twice) to authorize me as a contact, and submit it. I then waited 2-3 weeks before calling CRA to advise of the address change. The CRA policy states that they have up to 10 days to process the paperwork once received, thus my waiting 2-3 weeks. The first set of paperwork went completely missing. The second set was received and when I called I was told "today is day 9" suggesting that I would have to call back the following day..nice. When I called back two days later, I was told that they had no record of the paperwork having been received, and that I needed to fax the paperwork to a specific 1-800 number for processing. I have since faxed the paperwork to CRA...third attempt to advise them that we have a new address. It has been over 3 weeks since the paperwork was faxed in this last time. I plan to give it another week, before testing my luck with CRA customer service...wish me luck. I don't expect to be asked to give a testimonial on their website.

  • Garth Staples
    October 03, 2012 - 10:39

    Liberal Casey and Liberals have no respect for the taxpayer. Provide the service whether it is needed or not------what a concept. As a former businessman did his company provide services which were never used or keep products that never sold? Not on a bet. Think about it. How many walk-ins would there be in a month at Summerside centre? During tax preparation time I receive great service including pleasant people on the phone.

    • To Mr Staples
      October 03, 2012 - 21:10

      You are one lucky man. I am wondering if you would be willing to hold my phone next tax season while I try to figure out what the heck the guide saying. I think the people on the phone are pleasant, but not knowledgable. The tax guide and the website are spun with great long phrases of gobbly-gook to hard for the average working man to understand. Gail Shea needs to listen to the people of PEI...if she is still able and willing to do so. Not all of us are computer savvy

  • grampie
    October 03, 2012 - 10:30

    All Ms. Shea is interested in is collecting her bloated paycheque and later a bloated pension cheque. She has proven she doesn't care for the people in her riding or PEI in general. When she was Fisheries Minister, I was told by local fishers she was the stupidist Fisheries Minister ever. On wonders why the Dictator keeps her in his Cabinet other than the fact she is the only Conservative member from PEI.

  • rosieredrose
    October 03, 2012 - 10:27

    Before too long Prince Edward Island will be amalgamated with either Nova Scotia or New Brunswick and will no longer have its own government !!.

  • rosieredrose
    October 03, 2012 - 10:20

    Federal govt play the same game as Provincial govt. Whichever government is in power likes to rule with an iron hand.

  • LEADING UP
    October 03, 2012 - 09:55

    Appears we are gooing the way of the unwanted people. Taking away the very minimum we have. many people including myself have gone to the tax centre for assistance and her excuse for taking it away is QUOTE we helped the fishermen,UNQUOTE. Well Gail I am not a fishermen nor are the majority of the people of this province. How about doing something for us for a change. You don't mind taking our tax dollars you just mind helping people to fill out their form correctly.when they have a quastion. Who wants to talk to an answering machine and finally get through to someone who doesn';t understand what your question is. KEEP THE ASSISTANCE FOR THE PEOPLE.

  • Sylvia
    October 03, 2012 - 09:51

    This is definitely a concern. I hope the one in Charlottetown won't close. I still use their services.

    • John Getson
      October 04, 2012 - 08:42

      Sadly Sylvia the Charlottetown Counter service has closed as of Sept 29

  • Arnot
    October 03, 2012 - 08:52

    I rarely agree with politicians like Sean Casey. Mostly because of the party line politics he and some other Island MP'S play, to the point of numbness. However, he is certainly correct in this case and while Gail Shea's points may be true, about certain positive things being done by her government; these points are not related in any way with regards to services that should be provided by the federal government that Sean Casey is talking about. We are, as he says, the only "province" in Canada without these services being provided in a proper way. We may be a small province with few voters, as compared to much of the rest of the country, but we are a province. Annoying as that may be to some, unless PEI loses it's provincial status, the federal government is required to honour it's obligations. These are decades old, non-partisan, ongoing, responsibilities of any national government.

  • What is next
    October 03, 2012 - 08:39

    and Shea is the Revenue Minister and she can't even protect services in her own district/province? Afraid she is the one that is not in touch with reality!

  • UnequalAnimal
    October 03, 2012 - 08:33

    I worked for Revenue Canada / CRA 12+ years ago. Back then, I recall they had an initiative going on back then to get "clients" to stop coming in to speak to them, and to stop calling them. The project was called.....the web. The good news is that CRA has successfully completed this project. The bad news is those who are not internet savvy or simply frustrated from trying to communicate with CRA via their systems are left out in the cold. Ironically, I suspect CRA will call or visit you fairly promptly, if they have an issue with you. All animals are equal but some are more equal than others....

  • Not a Lawyer
    October 03, 2012 - 08:31

    I would like to address this as a taxpayer who often needs help with tax matters. I can give you the number of hours I spent trying to reach a person with knowledge on the telephone. It never happened. That was last February. The matter still is not resolved. I went first to the internet. The Income Tax Act is probably the most complicated of all legislation in Canada. After half a day searching, I still could not find an answer to my question. I called into the Charlottetown office seeking help and was told to go to the internet. When I explained, I was told to call a 1-800 number. I waited 23 minutes before I got a live person, whose response to my question was....check our website. It should tell you what you need to know. When I said I had tried that, had tried the office and was now calling, the lady said she didn't know what to tell me!!! I asked for a manager or supervisor or to speak to someone who would know and she said she couldn't make a connection to the local office and suggested I look at the internet again. Now while this comment may seem long, you need to know that I was on day 3 of getting an answer and still none. I called someone I know who works at CRA and was told I should ask for an appointment with someone in the local office as it might be complicated. Once again I called the 1-800 and waiting this time for only 18 minutes. Spoke to a lady who told me the answer would be in the Guide or on the internet. I explained neither was there and if she believed it was, could she direct me to the place. She couldn't. So, dear Ms. Shea, I hope that every Islander who is unable to find the answers to the questions regarding things like medical claims, disability claims, T4 inaccuracies, etc, call your office for the answers. You had a dedicated and knowledgeable staff at the desk in Charlottetown that was dependable 'user-firendly'. Your agency is NOT serving the Canadian public at the front line, which is where most taxpayers are. Please explain to me, a member of the honest, hard-working Canadian public, why you have cut services to the point where your complicated legislation is available only to those with an MBA or CGA, and what you are planning to do about the 'ordinairy' Canadian struggling to get information and explanations. It is October now....and several of your employees have handled the file. One group in one province has one answer and due to change of address, another group has another. Personally, I think that several thousand dollars have been spent on this one file! Imagine how easy and cheap it would have been to have a knowledgeable person sitting in the office speak to me last February!

    • Sylvia
      October 03, 2012 - 09:54

      That's an excellent comment. If you haven't sent it to Gail Shea, you should.

  • tax centre liberal parasite parking lot
    October 03, 2012 - 08:31

    What do you expect. Majority rules right Ghiz? Tell Casey to wise up and drop the poor pitiful me lines. Self enrichment and Casey is right in there. The Liberals are really finished. thanks eh

  • Third party island stooge insightful
    October 03, 2012 - 08:19

    We could not expect anything different from Casey if the Liberals were majority, look at the way the Liberals operate in PEI. We are seeing some backbenchers in majority parties start to speak up. The trained seals in legislature continue role playing in obedient manner.

  • OBSERVER
    October 03, 2012 - 08:13

    Does anyone know the increase in numbers of personnel assigned to the Veterans' Affairs Canada "Communications Group" since Harper has been PM??? These and others like them are where the cuts should happen, not the 'front line' workers.

  • Island Vet
    October 03, 2012 - 08:10

    Good for Casey! The Harper Government is saving money on veterans' backs and should be ashamed of their actions. Send the soldier in "harm's way" then make it difficult for him to seek help, The ultimate aim is make the veteran and any recognition of what he has done completely disappear from Canadian society. Next thing they will want to remove monuments and Rembrance services. Shea and Duffy will be there in 'silent witness. The Royal Canadian Legion's "SILENCE" on the PEI closure is deafening!