In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.
— Benjamin Franklin
I’m sure many people are familiar with this quote. Why? Because like most idioms, it is largely based in fact or speaks to a larger, maybe even universal, human experience.
For all you folks in North America, there is one season even more dreadful than the insanity between American Thanksgiving and Christmas (or just Christmas for us Canadians over here. Our Thanksgiving is in October) and that is tax season. Be it the IRS or the CRA collecting, tax season leaves most of us feeling a little rubbed raw. If we were sows, and the IRS and CRA were our greedy little piglets, our teats would be so dry and chapped from all the excessive suckling going on. Mercifully, we are not pigs.
I am thankful everyday that I live in Canada; I am thankful for the freedoms and rights I enjoy, access to clean drinking water and infrastructure, public education, healthcare and the like, and I understand that a great many of these things come from federal tax dollars. However, I’ve watched my parents, both of whom served over 25 years in the Canadian Armed Forces, be penalized for collecting their government pension and continuing to work to pay bills, their mortgage, feed themselves and put my younger sister through university. Surely they should get some tax breaks? WHAT A LAUGH!
Every year they owe an absolutely obsence amount of money in taxes, and I can’t help but think how unfair this is. My family has always lived comfortably, but we are the working middle class. We don’t own luxury vehicles, our home is not extravagant, we all work full-time jobs, we’ve never taken family vacations and yet, my parents somehow owe a boat-load of money to the CRA each year.
This could be because I’m new to the whole ‘tax’ thing, but it seems ludicrous to me to tax people in a middle income bracket so much that paying it back in time for next year’s tax season is difficult, for some even impossible. CALL ME CRAZY. Again, this speaks to my utter naivete about personal finance and the innerworkings of the Canadian government, but something just doesn’t add up.
Just like my most recent Panic/Cope/Live/Happy moment…
We contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.
— Winston S. Churchill
I adulted like no adult has ever adulted before, or like every adult adults each and every day. Aside from owning my own home, I did the next best adult-y thing someone can do. I did my own taxes for the first time ever. I should explain that even though I’ve worked since the age of sixteen, my mother has always done taxes for the whole family and I, girl who almost flunked every math class she took, obliged her.
This year was different, though. I got my first real post-grad job. I was earning more than peanuts and I even opened an RRSP because we both know that someone with a liberal arts degree isn’t getting a pension, ever, which meant I had Mutual Funds to claim. I still don’t own any property or a car, but considering I was living in my parent’s basement not too long ago, this was progress!
So I did my own taxes, and using an idiot-proof software program, I was convinced I filled in each line correctly. I did not omit any information, I did not try to find ways to write off my insane monthly parking costs as a ‘business expense’ (even though the only reason I have it is because my office is located downtown, in the most inconvenient spot) nor did I try to pull the ‘I didn’t know’ card and slip something by the CRA. The software promptly told me I would have a modest return and that was that, right? WRONG. SO WRONG.
Today, I sat down today to pay my rent which is due the first of every month. I’m currently redoing my office because, being in a basement apartment, the space is not really conducive to writing. As a result, I’m a little shorter on funds than I am most months. For the sake of clarity, when I say ‘funds’ I only ever mean my Chequing account because I never touch my Savings. My total combined balance between both accounts was THOUSANDS of dollars off. Not a couple hundred, but THOUSANDS.
I immediately called my dad in a panic and he quickly assured me that I could check with the bank on Monday. Because it was the weekend, there was likely a post pending that I wouldn’t see on my online banking until then. He then called back 30 seconds later and I could hear my mom in the background talking about calling them. Turns out, my bank’s help line is available 24/7.
That’s how I met Nicole, a very kind Customer Care Representative who informed me I’ve been baking at my current establishment for 10 years and signed me up for e-statements for my credit card. I explained (see: babbled) my situation in a single breath and she laughed the awkward laugh of someone who is unsure if it’s appropriate to laugh at my completely serious inquiries about being arrested for tax fraud.
She then calmly checked the pending transactions on my account, which I will be writing my bank about seeing as this entire situation and my almost heart attack could’ve been prevented if, y’know, customers could actually see these things on their online banking. It turns out, I did my taxes wrong.
Not the kind of wrong where you suddenly owe a small fortune and your belongings will be repossessed if you can’t pay, but the kind of wrong where I was suddenly a few thousand dollars richer and convinced that if I spent a dime I’d be shipped off to some max shack as a big time white collar criminal for tax fraud. She assured me that it was indeed my money.
For the first time in a long time, I came out on top, student debt notwithstanding.
Proof positive that an anxious person can and will stress out about anything and everything, even the good stuff. It’s something I’m working on, one panicked moment at a time.