SOI staff visit Canada

SOI staff visit Canada – Behind the Scenes

At the invitation of Larry McElroy, Director of the Statistics Division of Canada Customs and Revenue Agency (CCRA), seven SOI staff members, including SOI Director Tom Petska, traveled to Ottawa, Ontario, on September 8-9, for a day and a half of meetings. Tom, along with Glenn Hentz, Barry Johnson, Beth Kilss, Joe Koshansky, Suzanne Perry, and Pete Sailer, met with about 15 members of CCRA’s Statistics Division for joint presentations on respective program areas. The CCRA mission is similar to SOI’s but broader in scope and includes statistical research and tax modeling services to CCRA program groups and Federal/Provincial/Territorial Government departments and agencies.

Meetings began with an overview of the Statistics Division by Larry McElroy and included a discussion of recent improvements and future directions. Tom provided a comparable view of SOI and covered SOI’s mission, customers, budget and staffing mix, and new areas of study, including the Individual Public Use file, imaging returns, the SOI Data Bank, web site redesign, customer satisfaction surveys, tables and publications, training and development, and white space management. This was followed by a general discussion and many questions from both sides about the similarities and differences of the organizations.

The Canadians then made multiple presentations on their research program; data processing issues (data warehouse, Web dissemination, IT systems); longitudinal/panel data sets; and public use files. Regarding panel data, CCRA has decided to keep its files much simpler than those OTA expects SOI to produce. They achieve this by taking a 10-percent random sample of all taxpayers on their Master File, after their administrative processing system has perfected all Social Insurance Numbers. Following that discussion, Joe Koshansky then discussed SOI’s statistical processing; Suzanne Perry presented an overview of SOI’s computing architecture; Barry Johnson talked about his work in the estate and wealth area, including involvement with the Federal Reserve Board’s Survey of Consumer Finances.

On the second day, the Canadians discussed Finance Canada’s use of CCRA data, individual income tax pipeline processing, tax modeling issues, and individual and corporate data collection. Pete Sailer talked about SOI’s public-use files and disclosure proofing. The Canadians were interested to hear of the U.S. experience because they have never succeeded in producing a public-use file that could not be broken into. Pete suggested that, as long as they tried to include sole proprietorship industry codes and province codes, they probably could not disclosure-proof the file adequately. After additional discussion on this topic, Beth Kilss gave an overview of SOI’s products and services and some recent improvements in the area of data dissemination; Barry Johnson talked about recent web modernization efforts; and Glenn Hentz discussed SOI’s corporation statistics program.

The session ended with promises on both sides to keep in touch and plans to continue the dialogue with Larry McElroy attending the SOI Consultants’ Panel Meeting at The Urban Institute on November 7. All SOI employees who made the trip to Ottawa agreed that the staff at Canada Customs and Revenue Agency were most gracious hosts, and future contacts are much anticipated.

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