Service Standards and Commitments Guide

Published: December 2009
Content last reviewed: December 2009
ISBN: 978-1-4435-1773-7 (Print), 978-1-4435-1775-1 (PDF), 978-1-4435-1774-4 (HTML)

Ministry of Finance Service Charter

Our Commitment To Quality Service

The Ministry of Finance is committed to delivering quality service in benefit and tax administration that is both accountable and accessible to all Ontarians. We recognize that the need to improve never ends nor do our customers' expectations for more convenient and accessible services.

Our goal is to be recognized by our clients as a professional and effective organization that keeps pace with the rising expectations of Ontarians for high quality, cost effective public services. For instance, all of our services will be actively promoted in both official languages, and those services will be of the same quality and accessibility.

We have updated our Service Standards and Commitments guide. Outlined here is the level of customer service that you should expect when dealing with the Ministry of Finance. Our goal is to reach 80% in our standards for benefit and tax administration. We report annually on our results. The complete report is available on our website at: ontario.ca/finance.

Our commitment to you

  • We will provide quick and respectful service using clear language in both our written and verbal communications.
  • All services we provide will be available in both official languages and will be of equal quality and accessibility.
  • All information you receive from us will be accurate and unbiased.
  • Applications and information requests will be processed in a timely manner.

Our promise to you

  • When dealing with us, your information will remain private and confidential.
  • We will give you a clear explanation of your file and will communicate ways for you to review or appeal our decisions.
  • We will give you the opportunity to voluntarily disclose your tax information.

Tell us what you think

We are always looking for ways to improve our services and input from our clients is an invaluable resource. We encourage you to tell us what we are doing right, and what we can improve upon.

Service Standards and Commitments

The Ministry of Finance and its employees are committed to meet the following Service Standards and Commitments in the delivery of our programs and services. We will strive to achieve these Service Standards and Commitments and will request your feedback and suggestions so we can continue to improve over time.

Service Standards

  1. Ontario Public Service Common Service Standards
    1. Telephone
    2. Mail (includes fax, mail and email)
    3. Walk-in Services
    4. Customer Feedback/ Complaint Resolution
  2. Core Business Services
    1. All Ministry programs
      • Taxroll/Client Account Updates
      • Account Adjustments
    2. Benefits specific programs
      • Acknowledgment of Eligibility
      • Benefit Payments
    3. Tax specific programs
      • Registrations
      • Refunds
  3. Objections and Appeals
  4. Policy/Legislation Changes
  5. Audit
  6. Collections

Service Commitments

  1. Impartial and Professional Service
  2. Privacy and Confidentiality
  3. Accessible Information
  4. Assistance
  5. Reliable Written Information
  6. Education/Outreach Programs
  7. Accessible Customer Service for People with Disabilities
  8. Voluntary Disclosure

Service Standards

1. Ontario Public Service Common Service Standards

We will meet the Ontario Public Service common service standards for telephone, mail and customer feedback/complaint resolution. When you call or write to us at any time, these are the standards you can expect:

  1. Telephone: Your call will be answered by the third ring and you will have the option of reaching a person. Your call will not be redirected more than once. All calls will be returned within one working day.
  2. Mail (includes fax, mail and e-mail): All correspondence will be answered within fifteen working days of receipt. If a conclusive response is not possible within that time, an interim acknowledgement with an anticipated date of response will be provided within five working days of receipt.
  3. Walk-in Services: You will receive staff-assisted service in the order of your arrival and will be told the expected waiting time. The best times to receive speedier service will also be posted.
  4. Customer Feedback/Complaint Resolution: Your complaints will be documented and acknowledged within two working days, and with each contact, you will have the opportunity to provide feedback on our service.

2. Core Business Service Standards

We have established standards to provide a high level of service in all of our core business areas.

  1. All Ministry Programs

    Taxroll/ Client Information Updates
    When you advise us of changes in your personal or corporate information we will make those changes promptly:
    • Walk-in and Telephone – within 2 working days
    • Mail-in and ONT-TAXS online - within 15 working days of when the request is received.
    Account Adjustments
    Adjustments can include corrections to keying errors and re-posting any errors such as wrong date or wrong amount or a change in information that could affect your entitlement. These adjustments will be made within 30 working days of receipt of all necessary information.
  2. Benefit Specific Programs

    Acknowledgment of Eligibility
    We will confirm your entitlement under our Benefit Programs within 60 calendar days of receipt of all required information.

    Benefit Payments
    Once you are determined eligible under a Benefit Program, we will send your first payment within 30 calendar days.
  3. Tax Specific Programs

    Registrations
    We will complete registrations in the following time frames:
    • International Fuel Tax Agreement:
      • Walk-in – same day
      • Mail-in – within 15 working days of when the request is received by mail
    • Motor Fuels and Tobacco Tax:
      • Within 15 days of provision of application and required security
    • Other Programs:
      • Telephone – 1 working day
      • Mail-in – 1 working day
      • Walk-in – 1 working day
      • Ontario Business Connects – within 15 working days
    Refunds
    We will provide you with a timely refund or equivalent credit for all overpayment of taxes, provided that you do not owe money under any other provincial tax statute.

    The ministry has the responsibility to refund any overpayment of provincial tax within a reasonable period of time provided that you do not owe tax under any other tax statute. Taxpayers are required to pay only what is due.

    When you make the request and are entitled to a refund, the following time frame will apply once all required information and documentation is received:
    • 40 working days

3. Objections and Appeals

We will advise you of how to file a Notice of Objection and an Appeal within the specified time periods if you do not agree with an assessment, a disallowance or a determination of eligibility or entitlement decision issued by the Ministry of Finance.

You may disagree with the way we have interpreted or applied the legislation, program policy or calculated an assessment with respect to your particular circumstances. Some differences of opinion regarding tax liability or benefit eligibility can be settled through meetings with staff from the tax office.

However, if you still disagree with a tax assessment, grant allowance or determination of eligibility or entitlement, you may request a Notice of Objection form from the auditor who conducted your audit, or from any Service Ontario office. This form and the guide Ontario Taxes and Programs: Objections and Appeal Procedures is available on the internet at ontario.ca/taxappeals or by calling 1 866 ONT-TAXS (1 866 668-8297).

The completed form objecting to an assessment or disallowance under a tax act must be sent by registered mail with 180 calendar days from the day the Notice of Assessment or Statement of Disallowance was mailed or personally delivered to you.

Exceptions to the 180 calendar day period are set out in the following chart:

Statute/Programs Days to File Notice [*]
International Fuel Tax Agreement 30 Calendar Days
Community Small Business Investment Funds Act
Ontario Home Ownership Savings Plan Act
60 Calendar Days
Ontario Guaranteed Annual Income Act
Income Tax Act (Ontario)
Ontario Child Care Supplement for Working Families
Ontario Research Employee Stock Option Tax Overpayment
90 Calendar Days

[*] from the date the Notice or Determination was mailed or personally delivered.

Objections
Once a Notice of Objection has been filed, the Tax Appeals Branch will conduct a timely, independent review of the assessment and will:

  • Acknowledge receipt of the Notice of Objection with 5 working days.
  • Deal with Objections on a first-in-first out basis.
  • Within three months of the Objection being assigned to an Appeals Officer, have that officer contact you to discuss the Objection.
  • Contact you if additional information is required or to obtain clarification of your Objection.
  • Keep you advised of the progress of the review.
  • Provide you with 30 working days to respond to our proposed resolution of the Objection, with respect to complex Objections.
  • Upon completion of the review, advise you in writing of the results.
  • Resolve Objections dealing with interest and penalties within three months of receipt.
  • Resolve 80% of all Objections within two years of receipt.

Throughout the Objection review process, you may:

  • Discuss your case with the ministry's Tax Appeals Branch and submit a proposal to resolve the disputed assessment.

Appeals
If you are not satisfied with the ministry's decision regarding your Objection, you may appeal to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.

4. Policy/Legislation Changes

We will ensure that information explaining significant changes in policy or legislation is available by the next working day following the change. Information will be in a format that is accessible and convenient to you.

5. Audit Standards

A visible audit program is essential to maintaining the integrity of the self-assessment tax system by making sure that everyone is following the same rules and paying their fair share of taxes that are due. Audits are an impartial examination of a taxpayer's return and/or books, records and operations. Throughout the course of an audit, you will receive fair, courteous and professional treatment.

The objective of an audit is to assess the correct amount of tax and may result in no assessment, an assessment of additional taxes, or a refund of overpaid taxes. Some audits are conducted from our premises ("desk audits"), while others involve on-site interviews and examinations of financial records and accounts ("field audits").

To conduct a quality field audit in a timely manner, we will:

  • Arrange with you a mutually agreeable date for the commencement of the audit, generally with 15 working days notice.
  • Prior to commencing the audit, provide you with an initial list of information required and the name of the individual who will be conducting the audit and their manager and telephone number should you wish to further discuss the findings of the auditor.
  • Confirm with you the people designated to speak on your behalf during each segment of the audit.
  • Generally conduct the audit during your normal business hours with minimal disruption to your business operation.
  • Discuss with you any potential adjustments as they arise and give you the opportunity to provide further information.
  • Maintain the confidentiality of taxpayer information, safeguard your records and handle them with due care.
  • Once the field work is completed, prepare a statement of proposed adjustments reflecting the results of the audit.
  • Have the auditor meet with you and/or your representative to explain any proposed adjustments and provide you with information about how you can comply in the future.
  • Give you 30 working days to respond to the proposed adjustments if you wish to provide additional information/arguments before the audit is completed.
  • At the conclusion of every audit, provide you with the final audit results, notification that the audit has been concluded and advise you that if as a result of the audit, additional tax is owing, that this tax is to be paid immediately to avoid additional interest charges.
  • Provide a Quality Service Questionnaire to recipients of an audit 30 days after an audit is completed.

With respect to desk audits, the above will also apply, where applicable.

Joint Audits
We are committed to streamlining the audit process through the performance of joint audits with those jurisdictions conducting reviews under comparable legislation. Joint audits under several tax statutes are being conducted with the federal government (Canada Revenue Agency). While such joint audits are only being done on a limited basis at the present time, we will continue to seek ways to expand them further if business is agreeable.

Consolidated Audits
In order to reduce the overall time spent by our auditors at the business location, we are committed to conducting more consolidated audits across various Ontario tax programs where the business is agreeable to it.

6. Collections

We are responsible for collecting the revenue payable under the law so that the government is able to fund programs and services which are a priority for the people of Ontario. Tax laws require taxpayers to meet their tax obligation and to pay their fair share.

If you fail to pay or remit your provincial taxes, penalties and interest in a timely manner, we will:

  • Notify you of your delinquency by mailing Default Notices, Assessment Notices or Statements to your last known address.

If your account remains delinquent after notice, we will:

  • Take progressive collection action by way of letters, telephone and personal contact.
  • Only take more severe sanctions when other methods have failed and you have been advised of the consequences of non-compliance.
  • Provide you with the name and telephone number of the collections manager should you wish to discuss any matter relating to the collection.
  • Consider reasonable payment arrangements where the whole amount owing cannot be paid immediately.
  • Refrain from further collections action while the terms of any payment arrangement are being met.
  • Release garnishments when all taxes, interest and penalties owing are paid.
  • Not take legal action following an original assessment for 30 working days, other than in exceptional circumstances.

Service Commitments

1. Impartial and Professional

We will provide impartial, professional and courteous service and provide a means for you to hold us accountable for the services we provide. We will be pleased to deal with you or your authorized representative.

We will:

  • Be impartial and treat you or your authorized representative in a professional and courteous manner.
  • Not be paid, evaluated or promoted on the basis of the amount of assessment or collections from taxpayers. We do not have a quota system - but one that is based on applying tax laws fairly and equitably.
  • Conform to the Ontario Public Service Conflict of Interest Guidelines.
  • Meet our published service standards.
  • Properly identify ourselves and the reason for the contact.
  • Provide information to help you understand tax law and its impact.
  • Make services available to you in either English or French.

2. Privacy and Confidentiality

We will keep your tax returns and personal information secure and confidential and only use your information in accordance with the Freedom of information and Protection of Privacy Act.

In keeping your tax and personal information on file, we will:

  • Ensure that it is secure.
  • Give you access to that information.

When collecting information from you, we will tell you:

  • Why we are asking you for information.
  • How we will use it.
  • What will happen if you choose not to provide the requested information.

In disclosing information about you, we will:

  • Discuss your tax and personal information with your authorized representative, with the proper written authorization.

3. Accessible Information

We will offer clear, understandable and current program and tax information and will make this information available to you or an authorized representative, through various media.

We will:

  • Ensure that information explaining a significant change in policy or legislation is available to all clients by the next business day.

If you encounter forms or publications which are difficult to understand or which do not contain enough information, we encourage you to call 1 866 ONT-TAXS (1 866 668-8297) to suggest changes or to request assistance.

4. Assistance

  • We will listen and respond to your enquiries and conduct ourselves in a manner that encourages public confidence.
  • We will provide timely, accurate responses to questions and requests for information.
  • We will explain to you the implications of your current entitlement or tax situation.
  • If you seek to learn more about your entitlement or liability and how it is determined, we offer you the option of meeting with us.

If you are making a general enquiry, you do not have to identify yourself.

However, if you are making an enquiry about your obligation or entitlement, it is important that we are certain about your identity before we proceed with our discussion. This ensures that personal information is only given to you or your authorized representative. This means you need to give us your name, address, telephone number and tax file number and/or the reference number on your correspondence if your enquiry is in response to a letter from us. If applicable, a copy of the notice of assessment should be sent with written enquiries and shown during walk-in enquiries.

If we cannot assist you immediately, we will tell you when you can expect a response based on the complexity of the issue.

If you are not satisfied with the assistance provided, you can ask to speak to the manager in the appropriate area.

Written advice will be provided if you require a detailed explanation or interpretation as it applies to your particular situation.

5. Reliable Written Information

Written information from us may be in the form of tax bulletins, notices, publications, rulings and interpretations and letters. You can rely on this information as it applies to your circumstances, as follows:

  • Tax bulletins, notices and publications and letters can be relied on for general guidance and confirmation of entitlement. We are available to help you if you require clarification.
  • Rulings and interpretations provide a binding written opinion about the way a law would apply to your particular arrangement.
  • No liability will be assessed against you where you, as a client, rely on information provided in writing by an employee of the ministry. This is limited to situations when information was in response to a written request from you containing full and accurate disclosure of the particular circumstances and you relied on that information.
  • When you seek a written ruling or interpretation, we will tell you when you can expect a response based on the complexity of the issue.

6. Education / Outreach

We frequently develop and deliver education and information programs to new and existing clients about the services we offer, and inform them of their obligations and entitlement.

7. Customer Service Accessibility

We will ensure policies are consistent with the principles of independence, dignity, integration and equality of opportunity.

We will:

  • Communicate with you in a way that best meets your needs.
  • Ensure that alternate measures are available to enable you to access our services.
  • Permit the use of a support person or service animal when visiting any of our locations.
  • Ensure all services are in an accessible manner.
  • Post a notice to advise you of any temporary disruptions in facilities or services.
  • Establish and document a process to receive and respond to feedback on how services are provided and actions we will take when a complaint is received.
  • Ensure that employees receive the training to better provide services.
  • Make information available in alternative formats upon request.

8. Voluntary Disclosure

We will allow you to voluntarily disclose your tax situation without incurring a penalty or being prosecuted for tax violations under certain conditions.

We encourage all bona fide voluntary disclosures with respect to the tax and grant statutes.

Any corporation or individual, who voluntarily discloses a violation of a provincial tax statute administered by the ministry and who makes full payment of the debt and interest owing, will not be prosecuted or assessed a civil penalty provided that they meet the following five conditions:

  • The disclosure must be voluntary (i.e. must not be prompted by any enforcement action or contact by audit staff).
  • The disclosure must be full and accurate.
  • All books of account, records and documents must be made available and questions from ministry staff answered so that the information disclosed can be verified.
  • The disclosure must not relate to information for the current tax return.
  • The disclosure must involve an offence with a civil penalty, fine or jail term.

You will be sent a written confirmation of the acceptance of your voluntary disclosure.

How to Reach Us

For more information on our programs, you can reach us the following ways:

  • By phone: 1 866 ONT-TAXS (1 866 668-8297) between 8:30 am and 5:00 pm
  • On the web: ontario.ca/finance.
  • In person: For program information, visit a ServiceOntario location. For tax issues call 1 866 ONT-TAXS (1 866 668-8297) for an appointment to meet with a ministry representative at a local tax office.

Electronic Feedback/Enquiry

We welcome your comments and questions electronically. Participate in our customer service questionnaire.

You can also e-mail us at service.standards@ontario.ca

To see how we have been doing so far, please read our Annual Report.

Access to Information

Forms and Publications are available by:

  • Phone: 1 866 ONT-TAXS (1 866 668-8297) or 1 800 263-7776 for teletypewriter (TTY)
  • Website: ontario.ca/finance.
  • Fax: 905 436-4445.

General Enquiries

Ministry of Finance
33 King Street West
PO Box 627
Oshawa ON  L1H 8H5

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