Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Audit Adventure

It was, appropriately, Friday the 13th when I got the message from Canada Revenue Agency. I was instructed to call them back and when I did, Monday April 16th , they claimed I’d been randomly selected for an audit.

There are approximately 33 million Canadians in this country and I was randomly selected for an audit! Go figure.

The Revenue Canada Agency flak generously offered to conduct the audit at our home. How sweet. No, thanks! Who in their right mind would want an audit done at their home? I said it would be fine at their office and so the date was set for May 8th at noon, at Revenue Canada offices on Jean Beraud Avenue in Laval.

They sent a letter dated April 17th, confirming, “Audit of income tax return for 2009”. In the letter, I was instructed to bring the kitchen sink and all relevant receipts for it. The letter further instructed me to bring all sales invoices, sales reconciliations, shipping records, all business bank account statements, duplicate deposit slips, cancelled cheques and bank account reconciliations, all credit card statements, lines of credit statements and loan/mortgage documents, including the repayment schedules and purposes of the loans and on and on. I was instructed to also bring all personal bank account statements, bank books, transaction records, cancelled cheques and bank account reconcilations. Blah, blah, blah, signed Tina Frazori, Audit Division, Canada Revenue Agency.

Never one to let a wildly fun opportunity slip past untested, Susan decided to accompany me; good thing, too, because, as it turns out, a “Richard Dagenais Audit” really means a “Richard Dagenais Family Audit”. Susan had to provide relevant documents and Revenue Canada insisted on seeing Tristan’s bank account! It seems chance had deemed us possible cheaters and now, we had to be ruled out as possible cheaters.

When we arrived, we were led into an “interview room” where we were interrogated for just over an hour. “Audit”, I learned, is just a shorter word for “investigation”.

We were interrogated in great detail about earnings, accounts, savings, investments, properties, spending habits, costs, lifestyle and we were asked us about our non-existent lottery winnings, vacation homes, planes, boats, snowmobiles and exotic excursions. We were asked to sign forms granting Revenue Canada access to bank accounts, statements and loans. Somewhere along the line, I had apparently managed to achieve multinational status!

I admitted I had a safety deposit box with nothing in it.

As the impersonal grilling went on, I began to seethe internally. The morning television show where I had been working as a feature reporter was cancelled in 2008. The next year proved very challenging for us. Through good fortune and hard work, I managed to avoid going on employment insurance, found enough freelance work, but still cashed RRSP’s to help pay bills.

Toward the end the hour, no longer able to contain my indignation, I finally blurted out, “Do you catch many high-rolling cheaters by doing this? We’re just people who were lucky to get through that year!” I went on, “I find Revenue Canada’s complete lack of humanity indecent and disgusting.” Then, curtly, I demanded, “Are you done? Can we leave now?”

Susan, perhaps rightly, called my outburst, "unnecessary".

People who lose their jobs and, not just me, should be given a break by the government. As a taxpayer, I would happily subscribe to a program that gave earnest, hard-working, newly-jobless Canadians a break. Tax bills could be forgiven, RRSP’s savings paid back, or a few months of their mortgage could be paid by the government. A little humanity could go a long way to encouraging people to continue contributing any way they can. Fewer EI claimants would be a good thing.

Finally, we were instructed to pick up our tax papers at Revenue Canada offices on Wednesday of this week. Susan went in to sign for our material while I waited in the car. The letter in the file said simply, “We confirm that no changes will be made to income previously reported.”

Thanks for that.

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