Wednesday, April 09, 2008
Tales from the Tax Trenches Part Two
Interesting how specialties happen. You’d think tax accountant is descriptive unto itself; that there would be no specialties as a sub-header. But I have a speciality. And the speciality is back taxes. As in people who haven’t filed taxes in years and years.
I thought I’d seen the worst when someone came to me with twenty-five years of unfiled taxes but there was even a tardier one to follow.
How do they get away with it? You ask.
Living under the radar is how. Taking jobs that don’t require an SIN (nixers, we called them back home). Living a life that does not entail having a mortgage, for to have a mortgage you have to produce your tax returns. Part of the black economy. Living a life of fear, wondering when Revenue Canada is going to catch up with you. Not telling a partner of your exiled from civilization status.
The situation starts with a couple of years of unfiled returns. Another year or so and the whole backlog become too overwhelming, too almighty a task to deal with. You find a large old trunk, or label a hefty garbage bag and throw all the bits of paper in there. Something at the back of your mind tells you it would be totally criminal to throw all the paperwork away. So you tote around this millstone, this growing pile of papers on every house-move you make. Until finally a partner says something like, isn’t it time we got married or bought a house together? And slowly but surely the house of cards, represented by the trunk of papers, the enormous garbage bag of unresolved issues, tumble out on to the floor. So the partner shops around for someone who can handle this frightening and mountainous mess. They call me.
And I can negotiate with Revenue Canada, in the case of the twenty five year unfiled back taxes, as Revenue Canada had not been chasing him, I was able to settle on filing his last fifteen years and the other ten were ‘forgiven’ as part of voluntary disclosure.
Last year I had a thirty-year case the biggest so far. As Revenue Canada had been unsuccessfully trying to find her, they wanted every year filed. There was no forgiveness. So I complete the task as I always do anyway, a year’s return at a time.
Inevitably, and this always comes as a shock, my clients have overpaid their taxes or not claimed any credits or GST rebates and are owed tax refunds plus accrued interest at the end of all the paperwork.
But more than that, the look of relief and freedom on their faces as I have them sign all the completed returns makes my job so worthwhile. Out of the darkness and living in the sunshine. Finally. After so many years of hiding. From themselves.
P.S. 150 POSTS! YAY ME!