Posts Tagged ‘corruption’

The Government Giveth and the Government Taketh Away

April 8, 2008

A couple weeks ago, I received a very unwelcome letter from the government.  More specifically, it was from the Canada Revenue Agency, that branch of the government that is just one word short of a really funny acronym.  The ones formerly known as Revenue Canada.  You know, the people you pay taxes to.

Anyway, the Canada Revenue Agency people told me they had reassessed my tax return from 2006 and that I now owed them money, PLUS INTEREST, for the year or so that I hadn’t paid them, even though I had just been informed.  They said they had adjusted my Canada Pension Plan contributions downwards and that I now owe them $114.26.

I phoned the CRA and it was clear the person on the other end of the phone didn’t have a clue.  That didn’t stop him from being adamant the mighty agency employing him was right, even though he couldn’t tell me why I owed them money.  He put me on hold while he checked.  He came back and said the “system” said I had claimed more than I actually had.  He didn’t have my actual return in front of him.  If he did, he would have seen the correct amount.  Well, I did have my copy of the return in front of me – a photocopy  of the relevant page I had sent, as it happens.  He conceded that it was probably a clerical or data entry error that led to the wrong number being entered but maintained that I still owed them the $107.73.  The good news, though, was that I could probably appeal the interest of $6.53.  Yay.

I was sick with the flu at the time so my brain just wasn’t putting things together.  Fortunately, when I was in better shape to walk all the way up that hill to the mailbox to mail the bastards a cheque, I was also more mentally alert.  Something wasn’t right and I knew it.

I dug out the letter they sent and the reassessment notice.  I also dug out my tax return and supporting documents, including the original assessment that didn’t find this ‘underpayment’.  I added up the CPP contributions on the T4s.  Yep.  They added up to exactly what I claimed.  No overstatement on my part.  Then I looked at the reassessment.  Wait a minute.  This doesn’t say I claimed more than the amount on my return.  It says they adjusted it down from that number.  How can they do that?  I did actually make the contributions and I’ve got the documents to prove it.  They can’t just say I didn’t.  And, why does the “system” have a completely different number?  They can’t seem to get their facts straight and they don’t seem to be able to tell me why I owe this money.  The only thing they seem to be certain of is that I do.  Rather than sending a check, I sent a letter pointing out all of this and stating that if they still claim I owe them money they’ll have to give me a detailed explanation and justification for it.

Just a mistake?  Maybe, or maybe the government was spending money when they were swimming in it but, now that things have turned sour south of the border and there are signs of a slowdown on this side of it, there just isn’t as much money coming in as expected this year so they’re looking for ways to get some of it back.  So, maybe they’re sending out reassessments hoping people won’t question the government and just pay up.  That should help the books.

You may be thinking I’m a conspiracy theorist, but this isn’t the first time something’s gone wrong with the tax people and me.  A few years ago I decided to try their new direct deposit payment method for my refund.  After six to eight weeks, when it still hadn’t been deposited, I phoned them.  I was told it had been deposited into my account weeks earlier.  After telling the person that it hadn’t he checked my account details.  They had the right account number, but it had been deposited into a different account number entirely – one that wasn’t mine.  This happened about the time the financial scandals broke out in Ottawa, which only fuelled my suspicions further.  Either they get up to some fishy stuff with our taxes in that agency, or they make an awful lot of mistakes – with my money.

The Canada Revenue Agency People.

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Always Have a Plan B in Your Pocket

April 5, 2008

There’s been speculation in the media that the U.S. may not just be in a recession, but that this could prove to be a depression.  There are probably more Bear Stearns banks out there that are teetering on the brink and the full depth of the credit crisis is still not known.  Great – a full blown depression – and I thought the recession that started the 1990s, which was bad enough for me, was supposed to be the longest one since the great depression.  According to theories of economic cycles, the next really big one wasn’t due until about 2050, the same time global warming should have melted the polar icecaps and glaciers, and become pretty much irreversible.  Now THERE’s a party to stick around for.  Well, it may be that this will be the real big one.  Am I worried?  No.  I have a Plan B in my pocket.

A little while ago, my new passport arrived.  I now have another option.  I can now take my English teaching qualifications and experience anywhere in the world.  There’s over one and a half billion Asians who all seem to want or need to learn English.  No matter how bad things get here, I can always go to Asia and find a job waiting for me.  A job that pays well, by local standards, and usually carries a certain level of respect with it.  Best of all, I’d be taxed at Asian rates.  Asian tax systems seem to have been designed by the same people who design their electronics.  Smaller is better.

One of the places I could go to is Taiwan.  A Taiwanese woman told me once of a place on the east coast where the aboriginal women, who were there before the arrival of the Chinese, are particularly beautiful.  She went on to tell me about the working conditions, pay, etc., but she had me at the beautiful women.

Another thing I hadn’t realized about Taiwan until I recently looked at a map is that it is on the Tropic of Cancer.  Hmmm… live on a tropical island with low taxes surrounded by beautiful women…  No winter.  Sounds good, but I wonder if my lily white skin could take that sun.

‘Tropic of Cancer’ is a novel by Henry Miller.  It’s a first person account of his life, observations, sexual exploits, opinions, and any thoughts that may have run through his head, no matter how dark.  It was controversial at the time.  Aside from the prejudices of his time, it’s still a good book and I liked it.  Much of it takes place in Paris, where he’d gone to write.  I could write in Taiwan.  I could spend more time on my writing because I wouldn’t speak Chinese well.  I’d have nothing to do but sit in the brilliant sun writing brilliant words while the beautiful women frolicked around me.  Well, after I’d put in my Asian hours at work, of course.

As I mentioned elsewhere, someone in Taiwan has been reading me in Chinese.  They were reading one of my posts about Vancouver real estate.  This was just after I’d seen a news story about the election in Taiwan.  Apparently, people were so sick of corruption that they elected a new government that would be a little friendlier to China and is even willing to discuss the possibility of re-unification.  I guess not everyone is on board with that, though.  It looks like someone may be considering buying in Vancouver, just in case.

It wouldn’t be the first time, of course.  People from Hong Kong moved to Vancouver in droves in the run up to its return to China.  Many of them returned when it was apparent Hong Kong would continue to prosper.  Many Taiwanese came here in the past, when China started rattling sabres and staging naval exercises near its “rogue province”.  This election could spark another wave.  Just in time to offset the doubts Vancouverites are starting to have about the real estate market and the way the business works.

As enticing and romantic as going abroad sounds, I’m in no rush yet.  Besides, I’ve lived overseas before.  But, it’s good to know you always have a Plan B in your pocket.