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On-Line Business Payments

Subject Matter

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) wanted to conduct a survey with representatives of small and medium-sized businesses to explore issues related to tax payments made to CRA. The purpose of this research was to investigate the use of various payment methods and the receptivity of businesses to using on-line payment processes. Specifically, the research was designed to determine how SMEs are currently making payments to CRA, including why they use the method(s) that they use, identify their preferred means of making CRA-related payments, explore their willingness to make online payments, including their level of interest in different online payment options, assess the factors that would affect the use of online payment including potential concerns or obstacles, and explore related technology issues. For the purposes of this research, payments to CRA included GST, payroll remittances and corporate taxes. The results of this study were used to support the development of online payment options for businesses, and the development of appropriate communications strategies to encourage businesses to make online payments once different options become available.


The survey was conducted by phone with 800 business owners/managers in all regions of the country. This included both incorporated and unincorporated businesses. A mix of sectors was included in the sample in proportion to their distribution in the small business community in Canada. Regionally, the distribution of businesses was in proportion to their distribution across Canada. Quotas were applied to ensure a minimum number of firms in rural/smaller urban areas (n= 250), as well as for business size. The final data were weighted to ensure that the results accurately reflected the SME business community in proportion to its actual distribution in Canada. Interviews averaged approximately 17 minutes in length. The research was conducted in English and French. Based on a sample of this size, the overall findings are accurate to within +/- 3.5%, 19 times out of 20. The survey was conducted by phone in order to complete the targeted number of interviews within a specific timeframe, target the appropriate respondent within each firm, and ensure that respondents answered only those questions that applied to them (i.e. maximum control over skip patterns and sequencing).

This study involved a number of challenges, including:

  • It was important to ensure that results accurately reflected the actual distribution of the small business community in Canada. This was addressed by using Statistics Canada’s Business Register to generate a ‘map’ of the SME business community in Canada. This identifies the actual distribution of businesses across the country by size, region, urban-rural and sector, and was used to determine appropriate weights to apply to the collected data to ensure that it was representative of the SME business community.
  • Minimizing response burden was an important consideration. In order not to overburden respondents, representatives of participating businesses that make all three types of payments were asked about only two of the three types of payments. Priority was given to lower incidence payment options.
  • In order to determine business size thresholds, including the upper limit for inclusion in this study and quotas for business sizes, internal CRA data was reviewed to identify the current volume of payments to CRA by type of payment and size of business.
  • One of the challenges was to develop unambiguous language to describe the different types of current and future payment options so that respondents would know precisely what each option entailed. This language was tested, as well as other aspects of the questionnaire, in a pre-test conducted in both official languages.
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