Before we begin, I need to explain a few things. First, the client I'm about to describe is dead and can't be embarrassed by what I'm about to say. Second, for those from other countries, here's a quick explanation of how a tax return is prepared in Canada. The taxpayer gets slips from all their income sources, like employers and banks, called T-Slips. The preparer enters the information from the T-slips onto the tax forms and calculates the tax or refund owing. Then the tax forms are mailed or electronically submitted to the government. Nice and easy.
Not so easy when the client is from Hell.
I should have known something wasn't right when I got the call. My business partner had a new client for me. He never passed new clients on to me unless he had to. It was my first clue, but I missed it. He claimed he was too busy. Okay.
So I went to the client's house and was invited inside. I go my first good look at the client and wished I hadn't. She was old, skinny and ugly, wearing a very worn, nearly transparent pink nightie. But hey, it doesn't matter what she looks like, as long as she pays my bill, right? So I looked away as fast as I could but the damage to my mind was permanent. I looked for something else in the room to settle my eyes on before I suffered brain death.
That's when I saw, The Thing(tm).
It was the scrawniest, saddest, five-pounds-soaking-wet excuse for a dog I have ever had the misfortune of meeting. It was supposed to be a Chihuahua, but apparently it had been disowned by it's family and beaten with golf clubs. The fact that it hadn't made a sound at all since I entered the house, should have warned me that it might not be completely sane.
For those of you who don't know me personally, I'm the guy that knows the names, favorite foods and walk times of all the neighborhood dogs. I can count on one hand the dogs I've met that I wasn't able to charm. Animals seem to think I'm some big, funny-smelling affection and attention factory, and they would be right.
I looked down, and addressed the quivering lump of mange.
"Hello sweetie." I said as gently as possible.
The dog moved like bear trap. Growling and snarling it leaped forward and sank its fang (Yes, "fang". I wish I were joking) into the tip of my left Rockport Pro Walker. It bit down hard and tried to kill my shoe by shaking it to death, while I was still wearing it.
I stayed very still while the client pried The Thing(tm) off my foot and put it in the next room.
"Oh, Muffy. You're in trouble." she said.
I was relieved. Usually something goes wrong when you meet a new client. You just hope it will be minor. A bad dog, I could handle. No problem. Glad we got the problem out of the way. Now down to business. Oh, what a sad, silly boob I was. How little did I know. The dog attack was my ticket out, but I ignored it and blindly strapped myself into the Tax Rollercoaster of Death.
We sat down at the table and chatted for a few minutes to set the tone, then I tried to begin the client interview. I looked around and didn't see any files. No problem, they're probably safely stored in another room, I thought. Ha!
"So Mrs. Client, do you have some paperwork for me to look at?"
"What? What paperwork?"
"Well I'll need to examine all your receipts and slips to prepare your tax return. Where will I find your papers?"
"Oh, I don't have any slips."
"Is that bad?" she asked.
I decided to try a different approach while my heart rate settled.
"Did you have your return filed by someone last year?" I asked.
"Great! Do you have a copy of your tax return I could look at?"
"Oh, no. I don't have any copies."
"You don't have copies of your previous tax returns?"
"Oh, no. Am I supposed to? He never gave me any copies. Oh he's in trouble."
"No copies." I muttered.
"Is that bad?" she asked.
"Mrs. Client, can you tell me who prepared your tax return last year? I can get a copy from him."
"Oh, I don't know."
"You don't know who filed your tax return last year?"
I decided to try yet another approach while I relaxed my fists.
"Did you get a refund last year?"
"Great! Did you keep your Notice of Assessment?"
"My What? I was never assessed!"
"No no, it's just what they call the papers that come with your cheque. Do you have those?"
"Oh, no. They never sent me any papers. They put the money right in my bank. Were they supposed to send me papers? Well they didn't. They're in trouble."
Someone's in trouble lady, that's for sure, I thought.
"Ok, let me put it this way. Where do you keep your records?"
"By the stereo, of course."
"No Mrs. Client, like your bills and papers and things. Those kind of records."
"Oh, right here." She pointed at the table. There was a large fruit bowl full of mail and papers.
"May I look through them?"
"Oh, no. I can't have you looking through my mail."
"Well perhaps you could look through them for me. Your tax slips come in the mail so they may be in there." I pointed to the pile.
"I don't understand. I thought you were going to file my tax return. Why do you want to go through my mail?"
"I don't, I just need some kind of documentation to work with, some T-slips, last years' return, a notice of assessment, anything official on paper."
"Oh, well I don't have anything like that."
"Is that bad?"
"Mrs. Client, how can I file your tax return if I don't have any documents to work with?"
She looked at me like I was crazy.
"You're the Tax Preparer, that's your problem!" she replied.
I am so glad I don't have to prepare tax returns anymore.
Now you know why.
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