Reduce redundancy of data requests across government departments – Results (June 2014)

StatCan-2 – Update on initiatives to reduce redundancy of data requests to businesses and organizations

In response to the Red Tape Reduction Commission’s recommendation to reduce redundancy of data requests across government departments, Statistics Canada has undertaken a number of initiatives. The agency is working to reduce demands for duplicate data from businesses and organizations by negotiating the use of information collected by other organizations and by participating in several interdepartmental initiatives.

Collaborating with the Canada Revenue Agency

Statistics Canada is collaborating with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) to identify opportunities to further substitute survey data with tax data based on information supplied by businesses. Many businesses will benefit from reduced compliance costs through fewer duplicate data demands. These initiatives can also benefit Statistics Canada statistical programs by providing efficient access to more detailed industry data.

Among the key initiatives:

Accessing supplementary information

Statistics Canada is in the process of negotiating access to supplementary information already being collected by CRA, in a number of areas, including obtaining more information on pension plans, trusts and partnerships. CRA has committed to adding several new schedules to its line of data products provided to Statistics Canada in fiscal year 2014–2015.

Simplifying reporting

Statistics Canada is working with the CRA and Finance Canada to simplify the process of providing financial statements when corporations file their annual tax returns. Statistics Canada has proposed a change to the CRA tax reporting requirements to automatically select the applicable financial accounts based on the industry code of the corporation.

Statistics Canada is participating in discussions with the CRA to identify efficiencies in the reporting requirements for charitable organizations. The intent is to reduce the time required, especially for small and medium charitable organizations, to provide the required information.

Expanding the use of tax data

In response to new demands, Statistics Canada always contemplates using tax data and other non-survey data as a solution before launching a survey. Statistics Canada also attempts to expand the use of tax data for existing programs, as reflected in the following examples.

Statistics Canada has taken steps to further reduce the burden imposed on businesses through its Integrated Business Surveys Program. The use of tax data to estimate for smaller enterprises has been in place for many years. Testing has now proven that the agency will be able to reliably estimate for enterprises that have more complicated structures, resulting in an increased number of companies being eligible for replacement of survey data by tax data for reference year 2013.

Statistics Canada has also improved the production of statistical information by using tax instead of survey data to estimate household investment and dividend income and corporate profits.

The 2013 Farm Financial Survey will use information from tax records instead of survey questions. For the first time, the Census of Agriculture will include the collection of a Business Number. In the future, this will permit certain financial information to be retrieved from the tax system, rather than asking respondents to provide it on the questionnaire.

Assessing the feasibility of substituting survey data with data from other sources

Statistics Canada is investigating how data from external sources can be used to support and/or replace survey data collected from businesses.

Investment data

Statistics Canada’s Quarterly Survey of Financial Statements’ Investment Funds questionnaire was replaced by non-survey data, saving businesses close to 10,000 reporting hours in 2013 while improving the coverage of the investment funds industry.

Big Data

The potential of using Big Data is another initiative that Statistics Canada is exploring. Pilot projects and collaboration with federal government departments, national statistical institutes and international organizations are underway with a view to exploiting shared resources and expertise, and finding opportunities to translate large collections of data into useful statistical measurement.

Initiatives with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Statistics Canada works closely with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), collecting data to meet AAFC’s statistical and policy program needs. Statistics Canada has identified ways to reduce the burden placed on Canadian farmers without compromising the statistical information produced. Strategies under consideration include gaining access to data already collected though administrative files, such as those created for business risk management programs, like AgriStability, AgriInvest and AgriInsurance.

Reducing burden on small farms

Statistics Canada extended sampling practices to agriculture surveys that will save farmers operating smaller farms an estimated total of 12,000 reporting hours. Statistics Canada is planning further reductions by the end of 2014.

Reducing number of questions of Census of Agriculture

Statistics Canada is looking at ways to reduce the burden placed on Canadian farmers every five years when the Census of Agriculture is conducted by using non-survey data to complement or replace some of the census questions, thus reducing the number of questions without losing any relevance.

Exploring other methods to reduce time imposed on farmers

Statistics Canada has been investigating the use of remote sensing and administrative data to estimate crop yields. It has been determined that the method is sound; however, further work is needed to investigate the reliability of the outcomes. If the estimates are of acceptable quality, this method could be used in the future to replace a survey.

Collaborating with other government departments

In addition to its work with CRA, Finance Canada and AAFC, Statistics Canada has identified opportunities to partner with other federal departments and with provincial and territorial governments to reduce burden on the business community. Many of these opportunities are still in the proof-of-concept or feasibility study stage. As an example, Statistics Canada is collaborating with Service Canada on its e-payroll project. In addition to streamlining business reporting, this project will increase the number and quality of variables available for statistical use.