The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA; French: Agence du revenu du Canada, ARC) is the revenue service of the Government of Canada. The CRA collects taxes, administers tax law and policy, and delivers benefit programs and tax credits for the federal government and most provincial and territorial governments. Legislation administered by the CRA includes the Income Tax Act, parts of the Excise Tax Act, and laws relating to the Canada Pension Plan, employment insurance (EI), softwood lumber, and tobacco. The Agency also oversees the registration of charities in Canada, and ensures their compliance with tax and common law.
From 1867 to 1999, tax services and programs were administered by the Department of National Revenue, otherwise known as Revenue Canada. In 1999, Revenue Canada was reorganized into the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency. In 2003, the Canada Border Services Agency was created out of the CCRA, leading to its current name.
The CRA is the largest organization in the Canadian federal public service by number of personnel, employing 43,908 people and has an operating budget of $5.1 billion as of the 2018-19 fiscal year. The Agency’s headquarters are based in Ottawa, itself divided into 5 program branches, which directly support the CRA’s core responsibilities, and 7 corporate branches, which deliver internal services within the organization. The CRA also has operations throughout the rest of Canada, including 4 Tax Centres (TCs), 3 National Verifications and Collections Centres (NVCCs), and 25 Tax Services Offices (TSOs), organized into four regions: Atlantic, Ontario, Quebec, and Western.
During the 2017 tax year, the CRA collected approximately $430 billion in revenue on behalf of federal and provincial governments, and administered nearly $34 billion in benefits to Canadians.
The CRA is responsible to Parliament through Diane Lebouthillier, the incumbent Minister of National Revenue. The day-to-day operations of the Agency are overseen by Bob Hamilton, the Commissioner of Revenue.
Prior to Confederation, the collection of taxes and customs duties was the responsibility of the Department of Customs in each of the British North American colonies. In 1867, Parliament enacted legislation which established two separate departments, Inland Revenue, and Customs. Until end of World War I, the majority of federal revenue came from customs and excise duties, but as the war effort placed increasing pressure on government finances, the Borden government introduced a personal income tax in 1917. While intended to be a temporary measure at first, the federal government has since continued to levy personal income taxes, and are now the largest source of revenue for the federal government. Both Inland Revenue and Customs were eventually merged into a single department, Customs and Excise, between 1918 and 1927.
In 1927, the Department of National Revenue Act was enacted by Parliament, which changed the name of the department from Customs and Excise to National Revenue, while retaining its earlier mandate. The Department of National Revenue would gain increasing responsibility as new social programs, such as the Canada Pension Plan, and new streams of revenue, such as the Goods and Services Tax were gradually introduced over the latter half of the 20th century. In 1993, EFILE was first made available to Canadian taxpayers wishing to submit their taxes electronically.
In 1999, the Chrétien government introduced legislation that would transform Revenue Canada from a department to a new agency, the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency (CCRA). This change was implemented to reduce duplication in tax administration, streamline services to Canadians, and provide the tax administration with more flexibility in corporate planning, and in forming relationships with provincial, territorial, and Indigenous governments. The CCRA was given a broad mandate that covered taxation, customs, and border protection. This arrangement only lasted until December 2003, when the Canada Border Services Agency was spun off from the CCRA due to issues relating to interdepartmental collaboration between the CCRA, Citizenship and Immigration Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency on border protection and immigration enforcement.
Following the CBSA’s spin-off, the CCRA was rebranded as the Canada Revenue Agency, with its strategic direction pivoting towards enforcing compliance with Canada’s tax laws and delivering benefits to Canadians. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the CRA joined several other government departments in transitioning to temporary telecommuting arrangements. The CRA also extended deadlines for filing returns and payments for the 2019 tax year. The Agency was also tasked with delivering emergency financial benefits to Canadians on behalf of the federal government, processing millions of applications through its IT systems.