At approximately 2:30 a.m. this morning I breathed a palpable sigh of relief as I stared at my iPhone in the darkness and saw two emails from the Accountant. One email concerned my mother and my late father’s estate; the other was for us. The 2014 income tax returns were at last finalized and ready to be signed! The emissions were posted shortly after midnight. Under the circumstances, with mere hours remaining before the April 30th filing deadline, my sympathies for the laborious Accountant were decidedly lacking. We were now able to move forward after having been stalled for months waiting for T5s and T3s to arrive. In addition recently my mother had been asking me again and again when we could expect to hear from the Accountant and how much the tax liability was estimated to be. On several occasions I had attempted to contact the Accountant for an update but always without success, each time being given what was effectively a brush-off. My level of anxiety and frustration had risen incrementally. But upon seeing the Accountant’s name on each of the emails so early this morning everything turned a corner and my perturbation dissolved.
I struggled for a moment to read the content of the emails and the attachments but quickly abandoned the effort and returned to bed albeit with a lighter step. But my head was swimming with detail and resolution. After tossing about in bed I knew I might as well get up and study the material and do what had to be done.
My initial project was to set up an early morning appointment with the Accountant to review and sign the documents. I fired off an email to the Accountant accordingly. Then I realized the suggestion of the Accountant to have me sign on behalf of myself and my mother (and subsequently to get my mother to sign as Executor for my late father) was the best solution so I sent an amending email to the Accountant. Meanwhile it dawned on me that I could arrange to pay the tax liabilities on-line, including the recently past due and upcoming imminent instalments. This consumed considerable time as I was aware that at this early stage of the morning great caution was required to ensure I had all the details correct – amounts, social insurance numbers and dates. As each payment was made I forwarded a copy to the Accountant for her records as well.
Oddly as much as I was relieved by this turn of events I was filled with a sense of blame that I had somehow precipitated what the Accountant characterized in her email as a “significant tax obligation” for my mother and my late father. There was some foundation for this sensitivity as I had orchestrated the unusual capital gains tax liability arising from the disposition of an out-of-province real estate holding and some long-held stocks. While I knew that these dispositions (which my mother more than once had openly desired and which our financial advisor had recommended) were in the best interests of my family, and of course the tax liability was in any event merely deferred not eliminated, I nonetheless felt uncomfortably responsible for triggering the liability. What however assuaged my worry was that I had fortunately planned months in advance to have funds readily available to satisfy the obligation. It began with the reinvestment upon maturity of a fixed account in a cashable short-term certificate. Most recently I instructed the financial advisor to liquidate an estimated amount (which turned out to be almost exactly correct) and transfer it to a chequing account from which this morning I paid the respective amounts owing by my parents. When I subsequently met with my mother to review the tax matters generally, I satisfied myself to give her the approximation of the real estate tax liability which had historically been her primary concern. As for the tax arising from the disposition of stocks, I was content to saddle that upon the financial advisor who urged us to do it to diversify the portfolio when it was transferred to his management following my father’s death. It also directs away from me the personal responsibility for being the messenger of bad news in spite of being made to feel accountable.
As for our personal tax returns, there were really no surprises though everyone had as usual underestimated the reportable income (which quite honestly was higher than anyone could have speculated last year). Accordingly, while the liability was greater, so too were the gains. This illustrates that tax liability is inevitably inarguable even though strangely offensive.
During the course of the day the weight of these matters lifted from my shoulders. Tax liability, like pain, loses its strength as its proximity diminishes, whether mollified by time or attrition. As I became more and more removed from the consternation surrounding these matters I realized we closed the door on a number of family and personal matters which allowed us to proceed with duties performed. We had for example wrapped up my late father’s estate; my mother’s affairs were now entirely her own. For our part, my law practice was now fully accounted; and we could move forward knowing better what resources we had in retirement. And none too soon for any of it!