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.


  1. It hadn't occurred to me there are people out there who haven't filed tax returns for so long. As you say, it must be an incredible relief when they finally get it all sorted out. Glad I'm not one of the partners who suddenly stumbled on my loved one's incriminating paperwork up in the attic!

  2. Congrats on your century and a half of posts WWW!

    I hope your procrastinating clients mend their ways once you have sorted them out. It must be a satisfying job !

  3. Nick:
    Stuff like this can drag someone so far down, some of my clients have been sick physically, it takes such toll.
    Thanks T. You must be up there yourself in the postcounts!
    yes clients usually stick with me afterwards and I keep them up to date. And of course they refer me to more of the underground who want to crawl out!

  4. Well done on 150 posts. I guess the relieved look on their faces is your job satisfaction - and the fee of course

  5. I've been so busy of late I'm still trying desperately to catch up on everyone's posts for the last week or two.

    I loved this one (and the previous 'Tales from the Tax Trenches').

    It never ceases to amaze me how some people seem so adept at complicating their lives.

  6. Self-sabotage is a mysterious thing, RJA, I used to be awfully good at it myself. Almost afraid to have an uncomplicated life...if there is a good thing to come out of it I think that by being there we can truly help others.


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