April’s Such a Tease: Tax Tips From Someone Who’s Terrified of Taxes
It’s April in Canada and you know what that means…
It’s the month when that most French of French colloquialisms, and death’s habitual best friend, conspire to smack all manner of doe-eyed basement dwellers in the face. That’s right, it’s tax season in Canada, which is like hunting season in some parts of the United States; but unlike our furry friends living out yonder, the hunters gunning for us like to use a person’s financial records as bait.
I wouldn’t be the first to admit that my life sometimes feels like a sitcom, and that everything which happens has happened before. That it is in fact simply a regurgitation of the same hackneyed plot points from last year, served up with a slightly different spin to keep the viewership entertained. So here I find myself in the familiar role of a poor man’s Seinfeld. Except instead of viewing the proceedings from the comfortably removed perspective of our titular comedic protagonist, I find myself staring at the calendar and saying:
To which April politely replies.
“Hello Tax payer. Did you miss me?”
Now as much as I would like to tell April and her T1-toting friends to go away, so the Easter Bunny can whisper sweet chocolatey nothings into my ear. As I suffer through the throws of my crippling taxophobia, I can’t escape the reality that if I want to be a ‘good’ – although terminally unemployed– citizen, I have to sit down and do something with the pages upon pages of smug box strewn lines sent to me by the government. Pages, I might add, which wrongfully assume that I possess anything resembling an idea about what I’ve been doing with my money (or lack thereof) over the past year.
“So,” April asks, “having a good start to 2014?”
“Sure,” I reply, knowing that April likes to butter me up with some nice weather and a smile before giving me a swift kick in the teeth. Its a pity Canada Revenue and her are in cahoots. She’s always been the most alluring of her eleven sisters. I mean April, April has everything in proportion: a little sun, a little rain, and the occasional hail enriched thunderstorm. You know, just enough of a mix to keep you guessing.
“Have you been keeping track of your income and expenses this year?” she inquires before taking a seat at her allergen strewn desk.
“Uh…,” I say kicking at the imaginary layer of dirt covering her pristine floor. “I didn’t really have much in the way of income this year…”
“No income…,” I reply, going for smooth as glass, but failing miserably.
April hits a few buttons on her eco-friendly keyboard, and shifts her attention to the monitor sitting on her right. “I see from your webpage that you describe yourself as being an “irate conforming non-conformist who is ‘functionally poor.’” She turns to me with an eyebrow raised. “Functionally poor?”
“Yeah…,” I said, giving her what I hoped was one of my most endearing of smiles.
“Hmm,” she mumbles noncommittally, my smile going for naught. A staccato of pops and clicks ring out amidst a blur of fast moving fingers. “Are you using ‘functionally poor’ as a euphemism for long-standing unemployment?”
“Has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?” I say, my smile slipping a few millimeters closer to strained.
April ignores me, her eyes returning to the screen. “It says that you haven’t filed your return from last year either?”
“No,” I muttered, as I struggled to contain the part of me which longed to deny it.
“Why is that?” She asks.
“No one’s ever told me how to fill one out–”
April cuts me off with the calculated precision of someone who’s heard it all before. “Do you still have the forms?”
“Well yeah they’re–”
“Why haven’t you mailed them in then?”
“I haven’t actually filled them in.”
“You haven’t filled them in,” she says rhetorically. I pretend not to notice the ever so subtle rise of her gracefully curved eyebrow and the slightly condescending tilt of her neck. “You do know that there’s instructions on the webpage…”
“Well yes,” I say, my cheeks reddening. “But I have this terrible fear of screwing up. Falsifying a return is a crime you see. And the instructions aren’t really all that clear when it comes to what goes where and what line needs what…” I trail off seeing no change in April’s expression although I can almost see the soul-sapping mixture of condescension and pity that swirls behind her otherwise impassive eyes.
“I’m not good with numbers!” I grumble, shifting awkwardly in my seat.
Seeing my discomfort, and perhaps catching a whiff of the fruits of my fast-moistening pits, she leans back and takes her hands away from the keys. “Is it just the forms you’re afraid of?”
Not trusting my tongue, I nod and try to ignore the small droplet of sweat, which has decided that now was as good a time as any to make a break for my nose.
“You do realize that you could hire an accountant?”
“Funny thing about that,” I tried to end my statement with a laugh — emphasis on tried. “You see the thing about being functionally poor is…”
I cringed at having my financially decrepit state summed up so bluntly. “Well yes,” I said, “though I’m not quite so hard up as some.”
“One of the many benefits of living with your parents no doubt!” She said jokingly, and had I been sitting closer I’m sure she would have patted my hand. But something about my expression, or perhaps the slackening of my jaw, must have given me away. The next thing to come out of her mouth was a half-swallowed: “Oh!”
“Yeahhh,” I drawled looking at my watch, or in the approximate location of where my watch would have been if I could afford one.
“So just to confirm,” she said after a long and wretched pause. “You don’t feel comfortable filling out the forms at all?”
I shook my head. “Math and I aren’t on the best of terms. I think I might have gotten on the wrong side of trigonometry back in grade-school, and the missus hasn’t let me anywhere close to quadrilaterals ever since.”
“And you can’t afford to pay an accountant?”
I didn’t move this time. Didn’t so much as breath. Wise-assery can only get you so far, and I’d already gone to the well too many times.
“Do you have any money on hand?”
“Maybe 30 dollars at best.” I said, finding myself on the verge of tears.
April sighed and turned up her palms. I could tell from her posture that she couldn’t relate. She sighed again and flipped her monitor so I could see. “Have you tried our NETFILE option?”
“NETFILE?” I repeated lamely.
“Yes NETFILE… You know,” she paused and fixed me with a penetrating stare, “where you submit your return online?”
“You can do that?”
“Would I still have to do math?” I asked, giving voice to my irrational fear of crunching numbers.
“Do you use PC or Mac?” she said without batting an eye. Either oblivious to, or choosing to ignore, my wretched state.
“Mac!” I said, my voice going up an octave.
April was polite enough not to comment on my possession of an item produced by one of the most expensive name-brands as she swung the monitor around. A few strategic mouse clicks later, she turned it back and highlighted a section of text from Revenue Canada’s website. I let my eyes trail over the list of names. I could remember seeing a few of them in passing the last time I traipsed through my local office supplies store.
“Which one would you suggest?”
“I can’t say,” she said, getting up from her desk. “But one of the ones for under 30 dollars would be my guess.
With that tidbit of wisdom passed, and perhaps in deference to my sorry state, April stood, came around the desk, and extended her hand. I took it, her grasp was firm and business like, almost cool even. It wasn’t until after she’d left that I realized she’d pressed a packet of anti-histamines into my sweat soaked palm. And as I stared at the small packet of pill shaped allergy relief I realized you’ve got to love April, she’s one of the few sisters who’s willing to let you see a little sun amidst the rain.