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Collection officer did not divulge debtor personal information

An individual complained that a Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) collection officer improperly disclosed her personal information to another person.

Our Office learned that the complainant owed the CRA for overpayment of the Canada Child Tax Benefit (CCTB). She had been entitled to the benefit while she was married. However, she continued to receive the benefit following her divorce, even though she had not been awarded custody of her children. The CRA discovered the overpayment when her ex-husband and mother-in-law, who was the children’s caregiver, applied for the benefit. The CRA was able to recover a portion of the overpayment but, after a while, its letters requesting payment of the remainder of the debt were returned unopened.

A CRA collection officer then reviewed the file, and phoned the mother-in-law, whose name was on record as the current recipient of the CCTB. Our Office was informed by the collection officer that she identified herself to the mother-in-law and stated that she was trying to track down the daughter-in-law’s current contact information. The complainant maintained that the collection officer then divulged her personal tax information concerning the CCTB. However, both the CRA officer and the mother-in-law denied this. Both maintained that the mother-in-law immediately guessed why the officer was trying to contact the daughter-in-law, and, upon being questioned, the officer said she could not disclose any details.

Under the Income Tax Act, CRA collection officers have been delegated responsibility for collecting tax debts owed to the Government of Canada. In this instance, the evidence indicated that the CRA’s collection officer did not provide any details regarding the complainant or her tax file to the complainant’s mother-in-law. In our view, the Collections Officer followed the basic principles of an investigator’s obligations of procedural fairness. The person merely introduced herself as a CRA Collections Officer and requested contact information for the complainant. Our Office therefore considered the complaint not well-founded.

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