CRA Service Complaints – What They Are and How to File Them

Published by Dilara Boyd on

If you’re unhappy with the service you’ve received from the CRA, what can you do about it?

Many interactions with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and with their Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) claim reviewers are positive. However, in every organization, there are a few individuals who offer a lower quality of service. In case you run into one of the latter individuals, filing a service complaint may be an option you wish to explore.

IMPORTANT: Use this option with caution and be sure to follow procedures outlined on the CRA website. Note that service complaints are in relation to your treatment, not the overall assessment of the file. 

CRA Service Standards & Taxpayer Bill of Rights

CRA Service Standards

Type of ClaimNumber of Days to ProcessCRA Success RateAverage Days (within CRA 's control)Average Days (outside CRA 's control)Total Average Time (days)*
Refundable claims120 Days95%432870
Refundable claimant-adjusted claims240 Days94%12064184
Non-Refundable claims365 Days96%9973172
Non-Refundable claimant-adjusted claims365 Days94%160129289
All claims95%7147118
* The average days (within CRA's control) and the average days (outside CRA's control) may not add up to the Total Average time due to rounding.
CRA updated table: April 21 2017 1

Taxpayer Bill of Rights

We discuss the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights in our post on surviving an SR&ED review.

When is a CRA Complaint Appropriate?

Most interactions with the CRA are positive experiences, however, the CRA acknowledges that when their service standards are not carried out, taxpayers should have a recourse for action. The CRA defines eligible service complaints as follows: 1

A service complaint is an expression of dissatisfaction with the service, quality, or timeliness of the work performed by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). This could include, but is not limited to, the following:

  • undue delays;
  • poor or misleading information;
  • staff behaviour; or
  • mistakes, which could potentially result to a misunderstanding or omission.

Service-related complaints do not encompass what the CRA deems to be “normal” delays in claim processing or disagreements with a CRA decision/assessment or with regulations under the Income Tax Act.

CRA Complaint Submission Process

If a taxpayer wishes to complain about the service, quality, or timeliness of the CRA, they must follow this three step process: 2

1. Contact the CRA

Prior to filing a complaint, the CRA recommends that taxpayers a) discuss the issue with the CRA employee directly involved, b) take the issue to the employee’s supervisor if need be, and only c) file a complaint if no solution is reached. At no cost to the taxpayer, a complaints officer will be assigned to the review the case.

2. Compile information and send the complaint

The CRA requires that the following documentation be included in a complaint:

– the Form, RC193 Service-Related Complaints, or write the CRA a letter;
– your contact information (name, mailing address, and telephone number);
– details of your situation;
– any supporting documentation.

Compiling and sending your complaint sets the complaint process in motion: 3

A complaints officer will review the complaint to resolve it in a fair and timely manner. How long it takes to resolve your complaint depends on the complexity of the situation. Our goal is to resolve your complaint within 30 business days. The complaints officer will send you the outcome of the review by mail.

3. Contact the Taxpayer’s Ombudsman

If the taxpayer is dissatisfied with the CRA’s handling of a complaint, they can issue a complaint to the Taxpayer’s Ombudsman.

Fictional Scenario

Although timelines for the CRA’s complaint process vary on a case-by-case basis, we have created the following fictional scenario to illustrate the general chain of events.

Please note that this is an exaggerated, worst-case scenario.


A company (“the taxpayer”) meets with their CRA Research and Technology Representative (RTA) during a technical review to discuss their SR&ED claim. The reviewer arrives late and wearing yoga pants. During the four hour meeting, the RTA;

  • appears distracted and uninterested,
  • treats the taxpayers in a dismissive and condescending manner,
  • glances briefly at the supporting documentation but does not review it carefully,
  • hyper-focuses on elements that the taxpayer indicates were eligible support work that required less than two business days, and then,
  • in the final 30 minutes of the meeting, the RTA opens up a notebook and reads off the reasons they believe the project is not eligible (a list that the taxpayer believes was written before arriving at the meeting),
  • the RTA announces that they do not currently believe the project qualifies, however,
  • suggests the taxpayer submits additional information.

As requested, the taxpayer sends the additional documentation requested by the RTA to provide more context. The taxpayer hears nothing back until they receive a draft technical and financial report four months later – a full three months after the reviewer had indicated it would be ready.

The report contains statements that conflict with the information provided in person and in the report, sweeping generalizations, and a final assessment that the taxpayer’s SR&ED claim “does not comply with section 248(1) of the Income Tax Act” – but no explanation as to why they did not meet the requirements.

The taxpayer contacts the RTA by phone, who again is dismissive and tells the taxpayer to a) file a Notice of Objection if they are dissatisfied with the report, or b) send in more information. The taxpayer is now frustrated with the process and wishes to have the behaviour addressed. The taxpayer wants to return focus to a professional, impartial discussion of issues surrounding their claim’s eligibility.

Filing the Complaint

Note that, as per CRA policy, the taxpayer first discusses this issue with the reviewer involved, and then with the reviewer’s supervisor when the issue is not initially resolved.

  1. June 1st: The taxpayer files a complaint with the CRA. Along with their contact information and supporting documentation of the issue (timelines to show the escalation of events, records of correspondence with the CRA, references to relevant sections of the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, etc.), the taxpayer also submits form, RC193 Service-Related Complaints, answering the following questions:4
    • Describe your service-related complaint and tell us what action you have taken to try to resolve the matter. Include the name(s) of the CRA employee(s) and office location(s) you have contacted, and describe any action that they have taken.
    • Describe the outcome you want.
  2. August 15th: The taxpayer receives a letter from the CRA, acknowledging receipt of the complaint. The letter also includes a reference number and contact information for the CRA complaints officer assigned to the complaint.
  3. August-October: The complaints officer stays in regular contact with the complaint, providing updates about the complaint’s progress.
  4. November 1st: The taxpayer has a productive conversation with their RTA and the Research and Technology Manager (RTM). While some aspects of the original submission are still refused, the RTA reviews the original information again and provides a positive assessment. All parties are happy with the outcome.


This article is based on CRA policy documents available at the date of publication. Please consult the CRA website for the most recent versions of these documents.


Have you had any first-hand experiences with CRA reviews or filing a complaint against a reviewer/the CRA?
Comment below or add to the conversation on our LinkedIn group, Facebook page or Twitter to share your experiences or insights.

Our Comprehensive Guide to SR&ED includes more information on how to survive a review with CRA examples and much more – sign up today!

Show 4 footnotes

  1. Government of Canada. (November 22, 2016.) Service Standards 2016-2017. (Accessed: September 14, 2017.) Retrieved from:
  2. Government of Canada. (April 12, 2016.) Make a service complaint. (Accessed: September 14, 2017.) Retrieved from:
  3. Government of Canada. (April 12, 2016.) Make a service complaint. (Accessed: September 14, 2017.) Retrieved from:
  4. Government of Canada. (July 21, 2017.) Form RC193 Service-Related Complaints. (PDF document). (Accessed: September 14, 2017.) Retrieved from:

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