I like taxation, and I have worked in the industry for over 17 years, and no, I am not a CA / CMA / CGA… Yet. I did not wake up one day deciding this was my passion, but after almost 11 years at the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), I certainly have learned a thing or two about Canadian taxation, and in the private sector afterwards I learned a thing or two about US tax, the MRQ and I had the opportunity to manage staff on a permanent basis and test out those MBA skills I worked so hard to learn.
Now I get to help people solve their tax problems and that is what makes me happy.
Here is a little biography about myself and my work-experience;
I graduated from University here in Toronto with a specialized honours degree in Public Policy and Administration. The economy was in a downturn so I began to sell promotional items which I would customize for clients, such as; Pens, mugs, sports uniforms, etc. and I did that for just over a year-and-a-half until I applied to the CRA at the suggestion of a friend. Seven months, later and I was settling in for my first day of training. I will never forget the horror of walking through the office and seeing one fellow sleeping at his desk and another doing the crossword… Little did I know what would come next. The CRA, or maybe all governments, are unique in many ways. They have goals, they have mandates and they have unions. The fact that someone was resting had no bearing on the amount of work they accomplished, or how much they knew. I certainly learned that you cannot judge a book by it’s cover.
11 months in to a job working in Collections, I was part of the most recent hiring group which was let go due to budget issues, however we were entitled to write entry exams allowing us to be re-ranked for potential re-hire. I wrote all the exams, completed the interview and was ranked 1st, meaning if the CRA decided to hire anyone from that list, they would have to offer me a position first, and sure enough they did.
The next 10 years was a giant blur of exams, coffee breaks, crosswords and discussion about the amount of work which needed to get done vs. the amount of work allowable under the union guidelines. For the most part this was never an issue. During my time there I moved from an entry-level collector to a field officer and then to a resource officer and I touched a lot of areas during my time there including; compliance, GST/HST, Taxpayer relief (then fairness), Director’s Liability, Audit, Training and Learning, and so much more. I also completed 3 years of accounting towards a CGA/CMA and my MBA degree. I took 2 parental leaves and I worked with management to set up a collections conference and a mentoring program which I ran for 2 years. I also performed a ton of training for all of the new hires and the rest of the staff. I found I had an ability to take legislation and break it down into English and explain it to everyone, which helped with training and resolving complex issues.
I found treating staff as resources got the most of them and I was afforded many opportunities to manage teams within my areas. I also found that by picking up the phone and speaking to the so-called debtors, that I could get across to people who owed the CRA money and explain what steps the CRA would be taking and use that to discuss what was in their best interests and what was in the best interests of the CRA. As a result, I closed a lot of files without having to take any legal or enforcement actions other than talking to them. “How would you like to resolve this?” was / and still is, a very acceptable opening line. No accusations, and no blaming. When I needed to flex my muscles to get something done, I certainly did just that and when push came to shove if I needed something done that was being delayed I found ways to get it done faster, or I learned it myself and taught others how to do it.
I was awarded the CRA Employee of the Year one year for my work in the office and my extracurricular work (volunteering and course-work) and as you could expect, I was quickly realizing that I was wearing out my welcome there. I needed a change.
So just before 11 years at the CRA, I threw my resume online and I was hired by the world’s largest transfer agent to run their investor tax reporting department which I happily did for 4 years. In this role, I learned about investor slips, T4’s, T5’s, T3’s, T5008’s, and the US forms, W8’s, W9’s, 1099B’s, and got my feet wet with Cost Basis and FATCA. I also had a brief dive into Qualified Intermediaries, but thankfully that nightmare was moved off to compliance and legal.
While working there, I was plucked away for an opportunity as an AVP at a bank which afforded me an opportunity to dive deep into FATCA and the mutual fund side of tax reporting; Contribution receipts, T3’s, and the like.
When that opportunity ended, I was asked to work as a consultant, leading FATCA for the bank, but from somewhere down near Dallas, Texas but I decided to remain here in Toronto and I’m glad that I did.
In case you were not aware, there was a recent study published – which for the life of me I cannot find right now – which revealed that 55% of all bankruptcies in Canada were due to the Canada Revenue Agency (amounts owing / collection / enforcement actions). That tells me that there a LOT of Canadians with tax problems and many who have tax problems but don’t know they have tax problems because they never open the brown CRA envelopes.
Now, on to my current role:
As the Managing Director of a professional tax firm committed to helping Canadians who have tax problems resolve their matters with the CRA, I have the opportunity to do what I like doing the most – helping others. In doing this, I also help the CRA resolve some of their most complex accounts and I help people get their debt in order and their tax accounts current and up-to-date. The management team are incredibly knowledgable about the industry and my colleagues, peers and staff are second to none. It’s a good fit all around.
Since I have taken over this role, I have met with, and spoken to, many Canadians across the country about their tax problems and together we have worked to help them become debt-free and resolve their CRA problems so they can go back to being able to sleep at night. I am happy to help you or someone you know.
It’s amazing what all that CRA knowledge in so many different areas can do to move a file forward.