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Feds want to know about Phoenix pay problems before tax season

Anyone who has been overpaid or underpaid should speak up before T4 slips are issued


 
The T1 General tax form for 2015 is shown in this recent photo. Tax season is upon us once again and the Canada Revenue Agency has implemented several new measures in an effort to help streamline the filing of income tax returns. (Graeme Roy/CP)

(Graeme Roy/CP)

OTTAWA — With tax season fast approaching, the federal government is still trying to clear a backlog of paycheque problems for thousands of its employees — and is urging those who’ve been overpaid to reach out before T4 slips are issued next month.

Employees who believe they’ve been overpaid should contact the department’s call centre to ensure their cases are handled as a priority, said Marie Lemay, a deputy minister at Public Service and Procurement Canada.

“Our goal is to clear up as many of these cases as possible before tax slips are issued,” Lemay told a news conference Wednesday.

The Canada Revenue Agency has said it will be flexible with civil servants who think their tax slips are incorrect. The tax agency is ready to deal with the after-effects of the Phoenix pay system debacle, said director general Randy Hewlett.

“In most cases, 2016 overpayments that were made in error can easily be corrected without adverse tax implications,” Hewlett said.

At the same time, officials said their focus will soon shift toward trying to reduce the time it is now taking to deal with thousands of new pay change requests.

While basic payments are currently being made to federal civil servants, it’s taking far too long — sometimes months — for overtime, parental leave and other pay changes to be processed, said Lemay.

“As we approach the completion of the backlog, we will soon begin to reassign compensation advisers to deal with incoming requests,” she said.

“Focusing our resources will enable us to process more requests so that we can start bringing down the wait time and clearing out the late payments.”

The government said it would focus on resolving pay issues for employees on parental or disability leave — two categories of workers that unions representing civil servants said they considered priorities.

Last month, the Public Service Alliance of Canada and 13 other unions won a federal court order forcing the government to deal with such cases.

The order also requires the government to maintain the staffing resources needed to resolve the ongoing pay problems. The department is looking for pay-processing workers, but there are only so many specialists available, Lemay said.

The backlog of cases created shortly after the Phoenix system was launched nearly a year ago has been reduced to about 7,000, down from a peak of roughly 82,000 cases, said officials. Those numbers represent the backlog of cases filed by the end of June 2016.

About 5,000 of the remaining cases have received at least partial payments of what they’re owed.

But the unions say the numbers are much larger because more workers have reported pay problems since that time.


 
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