This may be of more interest to Canadian expats than those from other countries. Nevertheless, it points to some bureaucratic issues which may not be unique to Canada.
For most people in Canada, the annual deadline for filing a tax return is April 30th. This is a bit more gracious than the April 15th deadline imposed by Uncle Sam in the USA.
In February, I received by mail the 2012 tax return package from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) . This gave me lots of time until April 30th.
Mistake #1: Without looking, I simply assumed the CRA package would include all the required forms for both the federal and provincial components of income tax. These components are interrelated and one cannot be completed without the other. They both get filed with the feds in the same place at the same time.
Mistake #2: Expecting that I would owe money, I was in no hurry to look at the forms - let alone go through the wretched task of filling them out. I decided that mañana would be soon enough. But, one mañana led to another mañana, and so on and so forth.
Around April 20th, I finally bit the bullet and opened the CRA package. Over the next few days (at on-again, off-again pace), I successfully navigated through most of the federal forms, then turned my attention to the provincial forms. In short order, I was compelled to stand back and say, “oh @$#&%!”. They gave me the wrong provincial forms. The federal forms were correct but the provincial forms were not. With absolutely no reason for doing so, they gave me the forms for Ontario instead of British Columbia. I have not lived in Ontario for more than thirty years. Oh well, the federal government at work.
With little more than a week to go, there was no time to ask CRA to send the right forms - they would just put them in the mail. Luckily, I was able to locate and retrieve the right forms on the Internet. Everything was ready to go on April 24th - or so I thought.
Mistakes #3: Off to FedEx in San José to courier my tax return to Canada. Unfortunately, while filling out the waybill, another “oh @$#&%!” moment arose. The return address provided by CRA was a post office box address in Ottawa - not a physical address. Problem: FedEx will not accept packages addressed to a post office address in Canada unless you also provide a telephone number. I did not have a telephone number at hand. Even if I did, its use likely would have been a joke. A call from FedEx to CRA probably would have gone something like this:
Bienvenue à l'Agence du revenu du Canada. Pour le service en français, s'il vous plaît appuyez sur un. Pour le service en anglais, s'il vous plaît appuyez sur deux.
Welcome to the Canada Revenue Agency. For service in French, please press one. For service in English, please press two.
... and on and on through several levels of automated options and holds before speaking to a real live person.
In short order, I could imagine FedEx giving up and hanging up (and rightfully so) - then contacting me to supply a physical address. Meanwhile, the April 30th deadline would have come and gone.
Solution (I thought): Three or four blocks down the street from FedEx on Paseo Colón, we found a Wendy’s outlet (yes, the norteamericanos Wendy’s). The front door advertised WiFi. So we went in, bought some frosties, and tried to connect with CRA using my iPad. Unfortunately, the ability to connect repeatably failed. More @$#&%!. So, while in Wendy’s and enjoying our frosties, we looked for any other working WiFi “hotspots” that might be nearby. Lo and behold, a Quiznos outlet appeared on the screen - and its Internet connection worked (yes, the norteamericanos Quiznos).
Through Quiznos, I got a physical address for CRA in Ottawa, went back to FedEx, and used that address on the FedEx waybill. The package was delivered the next day.
Mistake #4: One more time, “@$#&%!”. It turns out that the address I used for CRA via Quiznos was a local office address for persons living in the Ottawa region of Canada. It was not the address for the “International Tax Services Office”. Problem: If it took more then three business days for the local Ottawa CRA office to deliver the package to the International Office, I have to wonder whether my tax return will be considered as having been filed by April 30th. Time will tell.
Mistake #5: This mistake threads through all of the above mistakes. Because I procrastinated, I was obliged to send my tax return to CRA via FedEx. Mistakes 2, 3 and 4 would not have arisen had I promptly dealt with the CRA package provided to me in February. FedEx would have been out of the loop. Nevertheless, the cost of using FedEx was minor - but it was not trivial. It amounted to the cost of a three or four star dinner in Costa Rica.
Mistake #6: Incredibly, it has now been suggested to me that my deadline for filing a tax return might not have been April 30th. Because I am self-employed with my artwork, the deadline might be June 15th under the screwy rules in Canada. So, even if I did not complete everything by April 30th, there may be no consequence. Again, only time will tell.
Lesson learned: Unless you are absolutely sure that you do not owe money to the revenuers in whatever country might be of concern, then do not delay looking at forms, completing the forms, and filing a tax return at the earliest opportunity.
Note from Diana: This blog post was created by my husband, Lance. I dunno, is it just me, or do you detect some finger wagging admonishment here?