Internet posting highlights inappropriate access to tax records by CRA workers

In the wake of allegations in the media that personal tax information of several high-profile sports figures was being posted to an Internet chat group by a Canada Revenue Agency employee, the Commissioner initiated a complaint and this Office launched an investigation.

We found that a former Canada Revenue Agency employee had posted to the chat group personal information of this nature, which he appears to have gleaned over his years with the agency. We further confirmed that other agency employees in various tax centres, likely motivated by curiosity, also inappropriately accessed the tax information of these athletes.

There was no evidence that the employees who accessed the information had disclosed it to outside sources – and in particular to the former staffer who had posted the information on the Internet. Therefore, we could not issue a finding on that portion of the complaint.  

Even so, accessing people’s personal tax information without authorization and for purposes unrelated to the employee’s duties constitutes a breach of the Privacy Act.

Accordingly, the portion of the complaint dealing with the improper use of personal information by Canada Revenue Agency employees was well founded.

The Canada Revenue Agency advised us that it suspended one of the employees who accessed the personal tax data of these individuals without authorization, and fired two others. The agency also implemented corrective measures, including modernizing the National Audit Trail system, in order to better monitor employee access to computer systems containing taxpayer information.  

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