THE federal government is on a mission to reduce the red-tape burden for Canadian businesses, and its revenue minister was in Winnipeg Thursday seeking feedback on some of its more recent initiatives.
One of them is the proposed creation of a new Registration of Tax Preparers Program (RTPP), which would see the Canada Revenue Agency appoint a number of tax liaison officers to deal directly with tax preparers and small and medium-sized business who have questions about their tax return.
Revenue Minister Kerry-Lynne Findlay explained in an interview following a closed-door meeting with about 20 local business leaders from the Winnipeg and Manitoba chambers of commerce that about five million small and medium-sized businesses file tax returns each year.
In 2013, revisions had to be made to 35 per cent, or 1.7 million of those returns.
Findlay said the government is hoping if there are tax liaison officers available to answer questions and clear up any confusion that may arise while the tax returns are being prepared, that will dramatically reduce the number of cases where revisions have to be made after the fact.
"The idea behind that is to help businesses get it right from the start," she said.
"We really feel it will make a big difference, and we're getting very positive feedback from the business community on that."
Findlay said consultations with tax preparers and the business community will be continuing until May, with the goal of having the new program in place for the 2016 tax year.
Until the consultations are completed, the department won't know exactly how many liaison officers will be appointed, she added.
The minister also discussed a number of other red-tape-cutting measures the government has introduced in recent months.
One of them involves revising remittance thresholds so most small and medium-sized businesses only have to submit employee deductions for things such as the Canada Pension Plan and employment insurance once per year, instead of on a quarterly basis.
Findlay said that's expected to eliminate more than 800,000 payroll remittances per year for more than 50,000 employers, saving them both time and money.
Another change involves the introduction of an "agent ID" program whereby every tax agent who deals with small and medium-sized businesses has a special ID number clients can refer to if they need to call back with followup questions. That way they can talk to the same agent, rather than having to explain their case to a different agent each time.
Another change enables businesses to submit written questions online, rather than having to call in and speak to a tax agent in person. The department is also committed to providing an answer, in writing, within 48 hours.