Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Taxman Cometh

I don't know how I got to be this way.

I used to be extremely organized with my tax slips. I would put my T4 slip and any pertinent receipts into a manila enveloped, labelled Taxes in thick black marker. I kept that envelope in a folder, in a file cabinet, with a small tab that stuck out. Tax slips was written in red.

As soon as I had all of the forms and slips that I needed, I rushed to the post office to obtain the paperwork to start the tough work of figuring out how much money I would be claiming from Revenue Canada. I never owed money. I would be wondering how many figures would occupy the final line, and what I would do with that reclaimed sum. Some years, it would be a pittance: maybe 20 or 30 dollars. Once, the amount was less than a dollar, so I would neither be remitting a payment nor collecting a return.

But the forms would be sent off, well ahead of the April 30 deadline.

When I got married, I grew lazier. The forms would collect in a couple of places, and I would have to search every spot to make sure I had all of my tax information. As we entered the computer age, I would love typing in the numbers, watching the numbers go up and down, from an amount that I owed to an amount that I would get back. My heart would race when I would see a large figure that put me in the red, but I would calm down as all my numbers were crunched, and I would return to black.

I would get my wife to provide all of her tax information and I would fill out the returns for the both of us. She was better at organizing the slips, provided that she got to them before I did, before I could stash them wherever I could find a free space to stuff papers.

And then I stopped doing out taxes.

I don't know if it was because we got busy with our kids, or whether we never seemed to get all our receipts and slips together, or whether we could find the paperwork. Tax time came and went, one year, and then another year passed. After two years of not filing tax returns, we received a letter from the Canadian Revenue Agency, and we were given 30 days to file.

My wife and I panicked, fearing that we finally owed. And so, that night, we searched the house and gathered our forms. Over the next evening, we filled out the paperwork. And, when all was said and done, for our negligence of not filing our taxes, the CRA owed us 10 grand.

Take that, government.

You might think that my wife and I learned our lesson, that we would be more organized, that we would be sure to file our taxes on time. But no, we got worse.

For the next five years, we continued to stick receipts in various folders, paying no attention, letting tax year after tax year go by. Papers were lost. Information forgotten. We were sure that we were going to get audited, and so, last December, we hired a tax company to find our missing information and to prepare our returns for us. It was going to cost us a few hundred dollars to do so, but we figured that that would be our penalty for being so negligent.

It was humbling, but relatively painless. It took a few weeks to retrieve all the information, and when all was said and done, we still walked away with a sizable return.

Last weekend, before I learned that the tax deadline was extended to midnight, May 5, I thought I would be organized and would file our 2014 returns by the end of April. But, while I learned that procrastination was unacceptable, I have yet to learn that putting all of my receipts in one place is the best route to go. I lost my T4 and Relevé 1. I had to go, begging for HR to reissue them. I hung my head in shame, after having to retrieve my slips for the previous five years.

But, I'm happy to say that one day before the extended deadline, my taxes are filed.

Next year, things will be different. I hope.

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