Impact of Adding Revenue Canada Databases Under FOAEA—Part 1 Tracing For Locating Persons
This document presents the results of the research implementation phase of a study intended to assess the impact and effectiveness of the addition of Canada Customs and Revenue Agency (CCRA) databases to federal information sources accessed for tracing payors owing maintenance arrears and in identifying and locating employers to whom attachments (garnishees) might be applied.
This report provides information on thehistory, objectives, parameters, methodologies and results of the research as well as case, payor and recipient data. It also includes a broad description of the provincial-federal tracing processes. The main study followed a Design and Pilot Phase that examined 20 files and case results to determine the requirements for a Client Data Collection Form and factors affecting the research.
Prior to 1997, only databases at Human Resources Development Canada (HRDC) were listed and being searched under the tracing component of the Family Orders and Agreement Enforcement Assistance (FOAEA) Act (Part 1). On March 6, 1996, the federal government, in a set of policy initiatives relating to child support, announced that it would enhance the capacity of the federal enforcement system by adding Canada Customs and Revenue Agency databases to the federal databases eligible for use in tracing payors owing maintenance arrears.
This project is one of a number of projects completed by the Research Unit of the Child Support Team at the Department of Justice Canada. These projects were part of the Department's mandate to report to Parliament on the implementation of the Federal Child Support Guidelines and enhancement of federal enforcement measures.
Four organizations or programs are involved in the maintenance tracing process in British Columbia. These are:
- The B.C. Family Maintenance Enforcement Program (FMEP);
- Family Search Program (FAMS—B.C. Family Justice Programs Division);
- The Family Orders and Agreement Enforcement Assistance Unit of the Department of Justice Canada (FOAEA); and
- Federal Data Source Departments: Human Resources Development Canada (HRDC) and Canada Customs and Revenue Agency (CCRA).
The purpose of this research was to track trace requests and outcomes through these organizations in order to assess the quality, timeliness, applicability and impact of the tracing data obtained from CCRA on the location of payors of maintenance orders and their employers.
Three hundred and fifteen cases were randomly selected and analyzed to determine case and recipient characteristics, arrears, payment and enforcement data. The quality, completeness, currency, timeliness and outcomes of both payor residential addresses and employer trace returns to these files were analyzed to determine trace outcomes and payment results. Other aspects of tracing, such as the duration of different parts of the tracing process, were also described and assessed. Payor, recipient and case information was provided to give a context to the findings and to provide some further understanding of the population requiring a federal trace.
A second component of this study assessed the proportional significance of the FOAEA trace function within the overall tracing process. This component was based on an analysis of the volumes of enrolment and trace request data from FMEP and FAMS.
Several limitations related to the accuracy and reliability of data affected this study. These were:
- The lack of data in some FMEP data fields required for this research. These limitations were related to enforcement, tracing, employer and payor address data (this data may not be compulsory or required for program operations);
- The difficulty in determining the exact definitions of data fields;
- The need to rely on the FMEP running record rather than specific data to verify trace outcomes and effectiveness. The running record is a narrative account of all actions carried out in relation to a case;
- The lack of clear information on trace outcomes or payments;
- The difficulty of assessing whether FOAEA data was reviewed or applied at FMEP;
- The lack of precise information on trace intervals and applications;
- The difficulty of determining the "life span" of trace data; and
- The difficulty of determining specific sources of payment.
Pilot phase results clearly indicated that employer data was requested more frequently than payor address data. Although request fields were modified in the FAMS system prior to the research implementation stage, making it difficult to identify the type of data requested, request patterns continued to suggest that employment data is still both the most requested and least likely to be sent by the FOAEA Unit. In no cases was "only" employer data sent when requested; it was always accompanied by payor data. In reality, any FAMS "request" designation is meaningless because the FOAEA Unit returns both payor location and employer data without any filtering based on the designated needs of FAMS.
The time durations of the tracing processes reviewed for this study were frequently extensive. Seventy-six percent of the cases took six months or more to go from the initial FMEP request to FOAEA received. The longest delays occurred during the FAMS search process (between FMEP request and Province Closed). Sixty-four percent of the cases took over four months in this stage. There were also significant delays in the period between Province Closed and application legal dates, especially between June and December 1998, when there were administrative problems relating to the processing of trace requests at both FAMS and the FOAEA Unit. Time durations decreased after these problems were resolved.
Data indicated that most payors were men working in semi-skilled or unskilled occupations. Most of these men were in the 36 to 45 age range. Forty-four percent of payors had been on GAIN (social assistance) in the past, three were on GAIN currently, and 53 percent had no previous records of being on GAIN.
The majority of recipients were also in the 36 to 45 age range and 50 percent had only one child. No family had more than four children. Twenty-two percent of the recipients were currently receiving GAIN, while 18 percent had received it in the past.
According to FMEP records, eight percent of the recipients had been enrolled in FMEP twice and 13 percent were involved in multiple files. Seventy-four percent of the maintenance orders were filed at the Family Court level, 25 percent were filed at the Supreme Court, and the origin of one percent was unknown.
Twenty-five percent of the files were categorized as REMO (payor in) and four percent as REMO (payor out); 72 percent were "voluntary" files (both payor and recipient live in province). Alberta was the primary recorded jurisdiction for payors living out of province.
The average amount of arrears attached to each payor was $16,741, although arrears ranged from $0 (current data) to $211,291. Twelve percent of the payors had made no payments and 58 percent had made payments of under $5,000. The average amount paid was $8,040.
Although 61 percent of payors had technically made payments at some time in the past six months, only six percent were making regular payments. In over 40 percent of the most recent payments, the source of payment was federal intercept funds, suggesting the use of standard deductions of federal payments (NOFIs). These were applied in the majority of cases owing maintenance arrears.
Each file had an average number of three FAMS and/or FOAEA traces; more than one third had undergone over four searches. Five percent of the cases had extensive (8 to 19) search histories.
Each file was undergoing an average of three active enforcement actions. Most of the active enforcement actions attached to the files were NOFIs (garnishees of automatic federal payments). These were in place on 89 percent of the files. Credit Bureau actions were in place in 70 percent of cases and driver's license enforcement actions in 40 percent. However, active Notices of Attachment were only found on 14 percent of the files and federal license denials on 10 percent.
An analysis of the payor and employer trace returns concluded the following:
- While employer data is most required and requested, payor data is most likely to be returned;
- More payor data per case is returned than employer data. This is often because payor returns include more multiple addresses;
- CCRA sends more incomplete payor residential addresses than HRDC;
- The "quality" of employer returns (all sent by CCRA) is higher than comparable data sent by HRDC. There were no incomplete and only three duplicate addresses sent by CCRA. There was also a higher proportion of employer data than payor data that was "new" to FMEP and FAMS (i.e. not already in their databases);
- Despite being "new" to FAMS and the FOAEA Unit, the employer data provided by CCRA is older than the payor residential data. Sixty percent of the most current trace results were dated 1997 or earlier, compared with 30 percent of the most current payor addresses; and
- Considering the date of trace returns in relation to the time of the FMEP request, it is estimated that 56 percent of the payor residential addresses were "current" in comparison to 39 percent of the employer addresses.
An analysis of the outcomes of trace results shows that seven payors and nine employers were accurately traced using FOAEA data. Using the total number of files with trace returns as a baseline, this suggests a success rate of 2.3 percent for payor residential addresses and of 5 percent for employers. These percentages would be substantially higher if it were possible to accurately determine what type of trace was required.
All successful trace outcomes were ascertained by a review of the running record.
Ten of the sixteen successful traces resulted in payments to FMEP. Nine of the ten payments resulted from CCRA data.
Total payments obtained as a result of FOAEA traces were $18,027; payments ranged from $104 to $6,934.
The study concluded that the addition of CCRA data has expanded tracing effectiveness and has increased the amount of payments for cases. Data indicates that CCRA data was responsible for 10 trace returns (62.5 percent of the total), and 94 percent of the payments ($17,027.00).
One of the most significant findings of this study is that, despite the overall volume of data sent by the FOAEA Unit to FMEP, a large proportion is not requested, not required, incomplete, already available or outdated. Considering that the FOAEA data represents only a small proportion of the data reviewed by FMEP, these characteristics have also led to FOAEA data being undervalued.
A restructuring of the FOAEA tracing system needs to be undertaken to ensure that FMEP receives the most minimal but highest quality data possible. A restructuring would include:
- A reduction in the overall volume of data generated by the FOAEA Unit and sent to FMEP;
- Filtering of trace data by request and currency of data (filtering could be done at the FOAEA Unit or FAMS);
- Elimination of all duplicate and incomplete data; and
- Upgrading of the FAMS and FMEP electronic systems to permit ongoing monitoring and assessment of tracing application data and outcomes.
It should be noted that the small number of FOAEA trace completions could be partially explained by the fact that the cases that are ultimately sent to the FOAEA Unit are those that have already undergone many search procedures over a length of time, all of which have been unsuccessful. Considering the problematic nature of these cases, it may be unrealistic to expect a high rate of completed traces resulting from FOAEA data.
- That search request criteria be more clearly defined by FAMS and that these criteria be used by the FOAEA Unit to select and designate trace returns.
- That filters be applied at the FOAEA Unit and/or FAMS in order to:
- Eliminate all incomplete and duplicate addresses sent by the FOAEA Unit; and
- Ensure that only the most recently active address in each category be sent.
- That FAMS/FMEP/FOAEA explore the possibility of FAMS automatically filtering FOAEA data in order to eliminate payor residential and employer addresses already searched. This process would minimize the volume of data returning to FMEP.
- That a simple internal monitoring system, based on distinctive data fields, be incorporated within FAMS and FMEP to identify the data responsible for a valid and completed trace of a payor residential or employer address. For example, the data fields could be triggered by the issuance of a Notice of Attachment or a completed payment. This would permit continuous internal assessment of the effectiveness and utility of different information sources and tracing methods.
- That small scale file reviews be carried out on an annual basis to monitor the duration of specific components of the tracing process. This would require the more accurate identification of some trace process dates (e.g. the dates for FMEP review of files and FOAEA transfer of data).
- That the system of data transfer be restructured so that all FOAEA data is transferred electronically from FAMS to FMEP rather than by hard copy.
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