The mailroom at my condo was broken into last month for the third time. I decided that I no longer trusted my mail to its crowbar-compliant aluminum, and I opened a Post Office box downtown instead. I arranged for my mail to be forwarded there for three months, during which time I hoped the condo property managers would have installed newer stronger mailboxes and maybe even a security camera.
Good idea, right? Nope. Wrong.
One of the main reasons I wanted my mail forwarded was to ensure that I did not lose the tax documents I have been expecting from Canada. I have checked the box once a week, but so far the only mail that I have found there has been the “Welcome to your new address” package from the US Postal Service. Otherwise, nothing.
Yesterday, I was notified that an item of mail that had been sent to me had been returned to the sender. I was mystified about this until I awoke in the middle of the night to the sudden realization that probably all my mail has been returned to senders—including Revenue Canada. Damn! Since I was awake anyway, I decided that 5:00 AM was a good time to notify USPS of their error and I sent them a message of complaint via their website page entitled “Where’s my mail?” It occurred to me that the fact they have such a website page is not very encouraging.
This morning I went into the Post Office and explained my problem to the man behind the counter. He was very apologetic and I got the distinct feeling that I was not the first person to come to him with this problem. He explained that someone who had been filling in for him had opened the box for me on paper but had not “unplugged” it physically. It still had a red card covering the opening from their side. He fixed that problem and did a search of the mail on site to see if any of it was addressed to me. None of it was.
So, I am still left with the problem of my lack of official tax documents. In theory, one can gain access to these online but in practise it is impossible. I have tried numerous times to get into what is laughably called “My Account” on the Revenue Canada website, but it is not accessible without a current code. The code I used last year has expired, and when I try to get a new one I am given a phone number to call. Every time I try to call the number I am told that all operators are busy and all wait lines are full. Even if I could get someone to give me a code, it would have to be sent via Canada Post to my Canadian address.
I tried to get a Revenue Canada agent to call me, but the online form only accepts Canadian phone numbers and I am currently in California. This Catch 22 has now become Catch 44 or perhaps even Catch 66.
Last night, while I was awake in the middle of the night, I thought I would call on the stroke of 6:00 AM so that I would be the first person on the phone when their offices opened at 9:00 AM. I assumed that they were in Ontario and hence three hours ahead, but I guessed wrong. Each time I tried to call, the message told me their offices were closed until 9:00 but didn’t say which time zone. I kept trying until I fell asleep again at about 7:00, so when their office is open is still a mystery.
So, I don’t have my tax documents and cannot complete my tax return. I can’t access them online and I can’t reach an agent on the phone. If I don’t file my tax return, what is the worst that could happen? I have always submitted them faithfully by the deadline, so I really don’t know what happens if you don’t do that. Maybe they will put me in the stocks and throw rotten tomatoes at me, or perhaps they’ll make me stand in front of their building carrying a sign saying “Tax Return Failure.” I don’t know. Probably they’ll fine me. If so, can I claim that as a business expense on next year’s tax return?
Edit to add: After I posted this, the Canada Revenue Agency went almost completely offline. Apparently, they discovered a “vulnerability” and so online services are suspended. Now, not only can I not access my tax information, I can’t contact CRA to tell them that my documents have been lost. So, I have decided that all attempts to obey this law are futile. I expect to be in very good company when they take me to jail.