The Taxman

I have recently become the object of some unwanted attention: I have a tax stalker. This is completely my fault because I made a very big mistake on my 2012 tax return. This mistake was so bad that a file was opened (probably a red file) and I gained a personal relationship with a tax department official, whose sole task is to protect the national treasury of tax dollars and make the world safe for law abiding citizens (and surely I was not a member in good standing of that community).

This all began with a voice message from the tax department that asked me to call them about an issue with my 2012 return. We then played telephone tag for about two months. I considered it a good sign that trading phone messages seemed to stave off any potential escalation of attempts to contact me, but I did go on higher alert for ‘dry cleaning’ vans loitering outside my door.

During all of this I had no idea what the problem might be that also gave me ample time to speculate. Did they object that had plowed most of my earnings into (government approved) tax shelters and didn’t in fact pay any income tax that year, making me eligible for a rebate on my home energy costs, which means the tax man was actually paying me instead of me paying them. Had I inadvertently included veterinary fees in my medical expenses (and really, no jury of my peers would quarrel with that). Was it a no-no to have billed my time through a third party corporation (and just being able to say I have a relationship with a third party corporation puts me dangerously close to Conrad Black territory, or at least Martha Stewart territory).

Right about then I started to make the plan for what to do to keep myself busy in prison. Perhaps making ponchos would not be out of the question but maybe writing a book might be a better bet. I decided I would call it “Red is the new Black” in honour of my file folder, my hair colour, and also (you probably noted) a clever reference to Mr. Black. How could NetFlix possibly resist?

As it turns out, my grave error was putting my self-employed income on the wrong line of my tax return – the line that says ‘Other Income’. This income was earned by billing people an hourly fee for renting my brain. The contract(s) specified a particular number of hours it would take to complete the job, and at an agreed interval I would send invoices via an incorporated entity to avoid any inference of an employment arrangement with my clients. Near as I can tell, if I had never told the tax man I had earned this money, they would never have known that I had earned it. The essence of my crime, therefore, was a failed attempt at honesty. I am really not sure what the moral of this story is. Perhaps it’s that honesty is the best policy, except when it’s not.

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