When You Try to do the Right Thing

I went for a drive in the snow this morning with my friend – we’ll call her Harriet. As we toured the Island she told me the story of an issue she’s been dealing with lately.

Harriet is a “good girl”. Oh, she might get a bit pushy when it seems appropriate, but for the most part she follows the rules and tries not to get on the naughty list when it comes to Authorities. In this case, the Government. πŸ™‚

I should begin by explaining that Harriet lives on a combination of pensions. Most of them are in the form of support payments the Federal entities provide old people. In addition, and hardly worth mentioning, she has a tiny retirement benefit from one of her former employers.

Last December she received a letter from Service Canada. It was very confusing and wanted to know about employment income for the previous year because maybe the Government should pay her more money. Weird, because as I mentioned she’s a pensioner. She doesn’t get any employment income.

So, being a good girl, Harriet gave Service Canada a call. When she got somebody on the phone they told her that, as her income had gone down in 2020, they maybe should increase her pension. Harriet replied that this was very nice of them, but her income didn’t go down in 2020.

Well. That led to a one hour verbal inspection of her tax return which discovered that she hadn’t reported that tiny pension I mentioned before.

Now my friend Harriet does her tax returns on the first day that online E-filing is available every year. This means that the tax application pre-populates her return with the data on file with the Federal Government. She doesn’t worry if her former employer hasn’t sent her (what is known here as) a T4A slip because they have to submit that information to Ottawa before the deadline. Harriet knows that the Feds have the numbers even if she doesn’t.

It seems there was a glitch somewhere in 2020 and her former employer neglected to report her income. The very nice lady at Service Canada told her to contact Revenue Canada and get it straightened out.

Remember Harriet is a good girl. She tried calling Revenue Canada and a pre-recorded voice told her that the wait would be 5 hours. She might be retired but my friend still has stuff to do and she wasn’t going to sit there for a day trying to sort out something which wasn’t her fault to begin with.

Harriet said that what bothers her most is that she originally made that first call just to get a piece of paper off her desk and now it felt like half the Government was taking a very strong interest in her tiny tax return. What was supposed to be a minor issue had turned into a snowball rolling down a mountain and an avalanche was imminent.

There are limits to my friend’s patience. πŸ™‚ After 3 days of trying to do the right thing the right way she came up with her own plan.

Harriet went back online, called up her tax return for 2020, created a fictional T4A, and submitted an amended return. Later that day she got a call from some Area Supervisor in Service Canada and explained what she had done. The woman laughed. Harriet also pointed out that if she was going to hide income it wouldn’t be a tiny amount like the one they’re so interested in.

At the end of February this year Harriet once again filed her income tax return online. This time she double-checked the information from the Revenue Canada files. Once again her tiny pension had not been reported. So, once again, she created her own T4A to report the money she’d received.

Last week she received a letter from the Federal Government. It says that, based on her amended return for 2020, they had paid her too much money so they’re going to deduct it from her current year’s pension – and they’re going to do it in only 3 installments.

Harriet sighed and told me that if she hadn’t made that initial phone call they would never have realized that she had unreported income and none of this hassle would have been necessary. It’s the price of being a “good girl”.

She then asked me to take her up to Big Ship Timber – the highest point on the Island. I don’t think she’s going to jump – she probably just wants to do a little yelling. πŸ™‚


  1. I relate to this story so much. I’m also a good girl (well, in most areas not personal πŸ™‚ ). I also have been screwed by The System when trying to do the right thing. Several times. Of course my red tape is American. One instance had me lose my entire retirement fund… and I now live below the poverty line. Or there is “do you get a roof over your head” or “food”? (Both isn’t an option…) Etc. Welcome to the First World, eh?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I wonder if the pension isn’t somehow being reported under another company name , seems odd a regulated pension won’t report for 2 years .Maybe the company was bought/went bankrupt. Making a tax form herself for an entity may make the income in a higher bracket. Instead of just wanting to clear off her desk, digging deeper into the the why would seem prudent. I’d also do the return by hand – or at least look to see if the tax tables match what she was charged for income she sees reported or if the pension is there twice but hidden .


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s