(Or why the murder victim in my next novel may be a bureaucrat.)
If you’ve read my earlier post on Death and Taxes, you’ll know I have German tax forms that need to be completed by the Canada Revenue Agency in order to avoid paying a 21% withholding tax on the advance and royalties for the German version of The Beggar’s Opera.
After sending off those forms to the Kingston address provided to me two months ago by CRA, and hearing nothing, I called the Canada Revenue Agency. ‘Doug’ at the CRA booked me an appointment in Kingston to get them done in person. That’s two hours from here, closer to three in a bad storm.
After driving through the worst blizzard of the season to get to Kingston today, I was told by the Kingston CRA’s ‘Drew’ that the completed forms had already been mailed to me.
(They were, in fact, in my mailbox when I returned home four hours later, knuckles still clenched from one of the worst days of driving you could imagine, with blowing snow and ice pellets. As was a message on my answering machine from Drew telling me not to come.)
Drew was very apologetic. He explained that the system didn’t work very efficiently. He told me that if ‘Doug’ had checked my Social Insurance Number and the records electronically, Doug would have known that Drew had already done the forms and could have saved me a trip.
Drew also said that the reason it takes so long to process these forms is that, while Kingston is the proper address to send them (the only other centre that can do this is in London), all mail sent to Kingston is re-routed back to the Hub in Ottawa for ‘assignment.’ It’s then shipped all the way back to Kingston.
Let me just stop there to emphasize that fact.
All mail that is shipped to 31 Hyperion Court in Kingston — the address that the CRA in Ottawa gives to callers like me, who ask where to send forms like this — is sent back to Ottawa and then re-shipped back to 31 Hyperion Court in Kingston.
This drives him just about as nuts as it makes me –the taxpayer whose dollars are paying to send mail around in circles.
Drew showed me the paper trail. My forms arrived in Kingston from Ottawa on November 2. They were shipped back to Ottawa on November 16, then couriered back to Kingston from Ottawa on November 26 and processed on December 9.
To add to my irritation, I spoke to Raj, Irene and Doug of CRA on December 10, the day after Drew had put them in the mail. None of them bothered to check my social insurance number or my file. Drew says all of this was on it, and that it’s available electronically.
Oh, and as for my written request that the CRA send the forms directly to England, to save time?
Well, CRA doesn’t do that anymore either. For ‘liability’ reasons, he explained. In case something gets lost. (I guess it’s okay if things go around in circles as long as they come back again. I didn’t realize our tax office specialized in boomerangs. Now I know.)
But Drew did return my stamped envelope, which I then used to mail the forms off to England myself. He isn’t sure if the Germans will accept the forms, which my agent sent me as a PDF version with certain parts already completed. He said the Germans like their forms completed as originals, with everything in ink. They may come back.
We wished each other a Merry Christmas. A very nice guy with a thankless job. I thanked him anyway.
I thought about sending him a ‘thank you’ card. But I was afraid it would end up in Ottawa.