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Electronic Service Delivery Survey

Subject Matter

The Canada Revenue Agency wanted to conduct a survey among Canadian businesses and third party service providers to explore a wide range of issues related to the electronic delivery of CRA services. Service-providers include companies that offer services to help businesses comply with CRA requirements. This includes companies involved in payroll, tax preparation and accounting. The purpose of the research was to collect information to help CRA set a client-focused direction with respect to the development of electronic service delivery (ESD). Specifically, the research was designed to measure awareness and usage of current CRA ESD initiatives, obtain client reaction to future ESD initiatives being contemplated by CRA, and identify potential barriers or obstacles that might prevent business clients from making greater use of ESD services. The findings were used to support program development.


A placed-mail methodology was used to collect the data. Potential respondents were first contacted by phone. Those who agreed to participate were sent the survey by mail. Completed surveys were returned by mail (in a business reply envelope included with the survey) or fax. A set of reminder calls was also made. Different questionnaires were used for each target audience, although there was significant overlap in the question areas. As well, questionnaires used in Quebec (for both groups) did not ask about activities or services pertaining to the GST/HST. A pre-test was conducted with each target audience. The pre-test involved a total of 40 participants (20 per audience, half in each language). Pre-test participants were recruited by phone, sent the questionnaire by fax, and asked to complete it and return it within 48 hours. The returned surveys were reviewed for errors, and all participants were called to take part in a debriefing telephone interview. The pre-test findings were presented in a summary report (under separate cover). Participants were paid incentives of $60 to take part in the pre-test. In total, 614 surveys were completed by business representatives, and 306 by service providers (these were the targets that were set). The margins of error are +/- 4% for the business representativesí survey, and +/- 5.6% for the service providersí survey, 19 times out of 20. The survey was administered in all regions of the country.

This study involved a number of challenges including:

  • The survey was complex both in terms of structure and subject matter. To address this, a placed-mail methodology was used. This allowed respondents to take the time to look for the specific information sought and, if necessary, consult others who might have it. In addition, a comprehensive pre-test was conducted with each target audience to ensure clarity (described above).
  • Response rates are a significant challenge with self-administered surveys. In order to address this, a set of reminder phone calls was made to encourage those who agreed to participate. The survey questionnaire was also formatted so as to make completion of the survey as easy as possible. Since this was a complex survey, with numerous skip patterns, extreme care was taken in the structure and presentation of the survey.
  • The study involved different target audiences. This required that different questionnaires be used for each target audience, although there was significant overlap in question areas. Layered on top of this was the requirement that questionnaires used in Quebec (for both groups) not ask about activities or services pertaining to the GST/HST. In total, eight distinct questionnaires were used, and extreme care was taken to ensure that the right questionnaires went to the right respondents (and that modifications made following the pre-test were made to all versions of the questionnaire).
  • It was very important to ensure that the data collected was as representative as possible of the target audiences. In order to address this, the survey sample for both audiences was randomly selected from sample lists provided by list brokers that specialize in business audiences. For the business audience, a mix of businesses by size (number of employees) was targeted to participate in the study. Quotas were established to try to ensure a good distribution. The final data was weighted by number of employees to reflect the actual distribution of CRA business clients according to T4 returns. A mix of sectors was also included. For service providers, a mix of large and small companies was included. Weighting was not applied to this data.
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