This week the Auditor General (AG) released the 2019 spring reports raising a number of concerns.
The first item raised related to federal government call centres.
The AG found that “millions of calls” cannot get through to a government agent.
These calls either are sent to an automated service, or are directed either to a government website or to call back later.
For those callers who are able to get through, wait times of 30 minutes or more are common.
Ultimately the report concluded that call centres are not focused on clients and has made a number of recommendations to rectify this problem.
Another area of concern relates to processing of asylum claims.
The report references that between 2017 and 2018 over 40,000 individuals were intercepted for not entering Canada at a legal border crossing.
The result is a backlog that has greatly increased wait times.
The AG has made a number of recommendations to try and streamline the process and create more efficiency.
From my reading of the report, it appears that the agency is supportive of the recommendations.
Government advertising was also targeted.
The AG concluded that the “oversight of advertising was not sufficiently robust to ensure that the Government of Canada was meeting its commitment that public funds were not to be spent on partisan advertising.”
The government has agreed with the report and recommendations in this area.
RCMP and their ability to properly equip members was also audited.
The AG concluded that “not all RCMP officers had access to the equipment they needed to respond to an active shooter situation” although progress was noted in areas such as body armour and carbine rifle supplies.
In this regard the RCMP fully agreed with the findings and recommendations of the AG’s report.
The item from the AG’s report that I have saved for last relates to the taxation of e-commerce.
In this case, the AG looked a variety of online purchases that also includes digital services such as streaming of movies and music.
The report noted that online e-commerce is a quickly growing industry and conducted the audit to determine how effectively Canadian tax policy is keeping pace.
It was determined that in 2017, the Government of Canada did not receive an estimated $169 million in GST on foreign digital products and services sold in Canada.
The AG also points out that vendors selling these same products and services from within Canada would have been required to collect and remit those taxes.
However it was noted that while these foreign based service providers are not currently subject to Canadian taxation, they are subject to taxation within the countries that are located in.
In this particular area the report made no specific recommendations.
The AG concluded that the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has limited authority on e-commerce and advised that CRA should be able to expand its compliance activities in this area.
CRA has agreed.
That leads to my question this week:
What are your thoughts on current taxation policy when it comes to e-commerce?
I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call toll free 1-800-665-8711.
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Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.