Why I Decided to File my Own Tax Return

Kentee Gardin
Photo by Kentee Gardin

Let’s start with a story.

I’ve been working since the age of 16; granted at the time I just wanted a bit of play money to get myself the latest video game, it was also a major sore point with many of my friends. When they wanted to party on the weekend, I had to say “Sorry, but I’ve got to work in the morning.” The way I saw it was that the weekends were my cash cow days because I could put in a full day’s work, where on the weekdays I could only make so much without sacrificing my studies.

I was an odd teenager to say the least. Some of the first things that I did were invest in my RRSPs and purchase just enough life insurance to cover funeral expenses. Though I did both these things with the advice of my family’s tax person, as an adult I feel that these investments were well worth it. If anything, I regret not contributing more to my RRSPs.

Limited Information:

For many years, I didn’t ask questions about how things were done. I was just happy that I didn’t have to think about it. Then shortly after I started my first ‘real job’ working in animation, I started reading books on finance and began to get that area of my life in order.

I started to ask questions. I didn’t want to be blind to what was going on with any of my finances including my taxes.

My questions were met with hazy answers at best and at worst I was told not to worry about it. My instinct was to worry and I was right to do so. That same year I ended up getting a not so nice call from the government asking for proof for things that I was in no position to provide. Some of the things that they were asking for never existed to begin with.

I was furious. I was ashamed. I looked for another tax person.

Tax Preparations Services Were Painfully Insufficient:

A relative referred me to H & R Block because of how easy they made everything. Schedule an appointment, bring in your documents, and it’s done within minutes. It’s so fast that it really makes you in awe of their mad tax skills.

I handed in the information from my RRSPs, T4, and tax deductions from my student loan. The tax woman handed everything back but my T4 back to me and told me that I had to pay out an additional $539 plus their $75 service fee.

I started to ask questions. After being treated like I was some sort of terrible person for wanting to reduce what I would need to pay out, I was told to find someone who could actually cater to my ‘particular’ needs. I didn’t know that asking “why aren’t you using my student loan interest rebate?” was such a dangerous question.

Services Failed to Meet my Changing Needs:

I found someone else to handle my taxes. I told them what I wanted and already being about a month behind getting my taxes out, I just wanted them done.

I told them to make me aware of possible tax breaks and what sort of information I would need to provide in the future. For a while, it worked out great.

The crux happened when I decided to go overseas. Explicitly speaking, what happened next wasn’t the fault of the tax person.

I had left the responsibility of handing in specific bits of key information to a relative; logic being that they used the same service provider. When I got back, I asked my tax person what she needed for my 2011 taxes. I take this time to ask questions about business taxes and what sort of paperwork she would need for that sort of tax preparation. I learn that she doesn’t do business taxes.

This is when I found out that I had yet to submit my taxes for the previous two years. I was livid and after a year of fighting with the government about the source(s) of my income, I’m finally caught up.

Why I decided to do my own taxes:

To put it simply, I was tired of being in these situations.

I wanted to move on with my career as a Design Consultant but I wasn’t prepared for a full corporate entity which I’m told is a lot more paperwork.

I also enjoy learning new things. I had been meaning to get a handle on this tax thing for the past few years (as of the H & R Black incident) and to really get into learning about the available tax breaks as an individual and now as a business.

I’m less dependent on a service provider to handle my taxes on my behalf; though I most certainly prefer to use one to save me time. I now know how to collect the tax information that I need so that I can file my taxes from anywhere in the world.

While I expect I haven’t done as well as my usual tax service provider, this whole experience has taught me some really valuable lessons as to what sort of service provider I need. I want someone who I can trust first and foremost; I want someone from whom I can get answers and advice from, and who will help guide me around this tax maze, regardless of whether or not it’s for personal taxes or business taxes, while pointing out some lesser known sites as we make our way to the exit.

In the next couple of years, I would genuinely like to hand off all book-keeping and tax responsibilities. For now, I want to get comfortable with the numbers.

Amber Dalcourt is a design and digital media consultant for Evil Ink. She still finds doing her taxes rather trying.

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