March 2007 - Posts
Believe it or not, I can see parallels between Deniro in Terry Gilliam's Brazil and the world of accounting.
They all trigger the same exemption for tax purposes when your spouse belongs to one of those three groups.
You see, normally in Canada the lower income spouse is the one who must claim childcare expenses for income tax purposes.
The exception is that the higher income spouse may, in this exceptional situation, claim the expenses instead.
Of course I don't think many would automatically see humour in this - that all three categories get the same treatment. But when you're dealing with tax, I'll take a pathetic scrap of meagre comedy whenever I can.
It's ironic that I never got around to really declaring the end of busy season - but I've had a pretty sweet month or so of low workloads.
Normally I could enjoy as much as three to five months of relatively slack, but through fault that is pretty much all my own, the break will technically be much shorter.
On the work side, I'm volunteering for two additional "busy seasons", perhaps to keep myself busy, but mainly because that's where the action is - so I can learn some new things and get some hours that count towards my CA designation.
So with my previous busy season stint working on a regular financial audit team over in late February, I find myself a week away from diving head first into the tax pool.
Tax season for individual returns wraps up by the end of April for Canadians, but I don't return to slacking about work - then my vacation starts.
So it's my 'fault' for going on vacation during our slow season, but it's also kind of me not to sit around the office when there's less work to go around.
But it's also to my advantage - not counting the good Workplace Karma - simply because May is part of the tourism 'shoulder' season, so I get a small benefit from savings on fares and accommodations compared to the peak summer rates.
So - work is coming back at me full-bore, but at least I'm not sitting around, waiting for something to happen. It's weird but true - at my job it's more fun when you're busy.
Canada's federal government released its budget for the next year yesterday.
While if you have a young family or certain types of businesses and investments there's plenty of things to be excited about, I don't fall into those categories.
Instead, there are two things that affect me personally.
First, there's an increase to the 48 hour exemption on how much you can bring back into the country. The $200 credit is increasing to $400. Now you can legally and bring back buy more expensive toys in the US, given you stick around for two days.
And then there's the boost to the public transit pass tax credit: you will be able to claim a credit for weekly transit passes. The catch is that for this to work, you must have at least four consecutive weeks of passes. And if you live outside Toronto and have fancy "electronic " transit passes, they're going to be included in some way too.
The 4 week requirement is probably designed to discourage people from making tons of micro-claims (the government seems to discourage those), which is a shame - even casual transit use should be encouraged - still, it's another small step forward, and a boon to people who may travel for a straight month, but don't follow the calendar religiously. I can picture this being especially cool for auditors working downtown or at clients within TTC range. No longer will it be necessary to "gamble" that you're going to have a full month worth of work at a client, only to find yourself diverted to a completely other part of the city - or country for that matter!
An interesting thought occured: you could, in theory, find yourself claiming 4 weeks of transit passes from 4 different cities that offer weekly passes. That is, if you find yourself travelling that much on your job. Interesting twist nevertheless.
Of course, I haven't read the actual fine print, but rather a summary, so perhaps my theory is completely wrong - if you're going to try this when you're filing your taxes next year, read the actual rules.
There are of course many other 'heavier' changes, but most of them don't affect me directly - yes, the credits for children and other things are nice, but I don't have any. And I doubt most of my readership cares much about the depreciation rate of their oil sands drilling equipment. If you do, though, then I'm humbled to the appropriate degree to know that I have oil tycoons among my readers.
I try not to get excessively maudlin in my writing, but I needed to share the experience this morning before moving on to discussing more light-hearted fare.
I attended a Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral earlier that same Sunday - March 11. Having only loosely planned on what I would be doing with my friends from work I didn’t realize until afterwards that the Mass and the visit to Ground Zero effectively added a ‘double pilgrimage’ to my trip to New York City to attend a training course.
After a short subway ride, the station outside City Hall on Broadway would come to serve as our portal to this experience.
After walking a few blocks, we found ourselves on Church Street where we came upon a fitting warning as to where we were about to tread - a ‘girder-cross’ from the World Trade Centre was standing metres away from the square.
A dispassionate observer will only see a wide open expanse of space. A huge construction site, really. Only if you lose yourself in your memories do you realize the enormity of what happened here. You thank God it didn’t affect more people than it already did, but you wish and pray that it had never had to have happened in the first place.
The sunlight accentuated the enormous gap left behind at Ground Zero.
I felt like I was hit by the force of the souls of thousands of innocents, taken suddenly and tragically such a short time ago.
A chain-link fence held up various banners and separated us from what has turned into a reconstruction site.
We got to see David Letterman and various other sites. They were amusing diversions, but ultimately felt like shallow fluff in comparison to the very real life and death witnessed live on TV while I was still in university.
I can clearly remember those dark days - wondering whether a mobilization on the scale of World War Two was imminent. The initial shock passed, and bungled wars proceeded with no clear end in sight.
And the governments responsible for prosecuting those conflicts to completion are doing it in a half-assed fashion that seems guaranteed to only increase the risk of bankruptcy in the world’s richest country.
What a difference half a decade makes.
The extremely well documented fiascos called American elections, Iraqi liberation and related events do make one thing clear: we can also be incredibly thankful for the shallow fluff. I don’t think it dulls our rage at the criminal incompetence the poorest people of the world have been subject to – the cheers in David Letterman’s audience mocking the utter foolishness of the Bush administration are proof enough of that – it’s merely just enough to keep people from going mad from obsessing over the sad state of affairs in the world.
I can’t forget the breeze against my face.
I walked up to the chain-link fence, squinted against the bright light of the sun, looked about, and then just closed my eyes.
With what felt like the most mournful rendition of Amazing Grace ever playing on a flute a few metres away from me, I felt this strong persistent wind.
Later that day I would realize what day it was - March 11th - I was standing there exactly five and a half years since the tragic day.
Who knows if I would’ve experienced the same reaction had I showed up on any other day, but when we walked up to Ground Zero the feeling was grim and chilling.
This was hallowed ground. A mass grave for the thousands of people whose bodies were crushed to dust in a couple of instants. A place of unspeakable horror used to justify an ever-escalating cycle of violence around the world.
Within moments of arriving, I walked away from the rest of my friends to stand by myself, silently storming past the memorial souvenir touts, and let the wind take over.
The following day I felt another breeze elsewhere in the city - it was a peaceful, serene moment but it brought me back to that springtime summer afternoon. It’s like there’s a piece of this place I’ll never forget.
There was a sticker on a nearby piece of equipment showing the pre-9/11 skyline with the words “We won’t forget. We won’t forgive.”
It’s honourable to remember those who gave everything and lost it all - the brave firefighters, cops, and other heroes. But forgiveness is crucial.
Without it you will let your anger over your loss gnaw at you until it consumes your sanity, or your soul.
Something tells me it would be a Bad Idea to watch a DVD of United 93 on my laptop while flying to New York City.
Just call it a hunch.
Now I wonder if anyone's going to dare me to do it.
The Sunday star has an article on some questionable evangelical pastors operating a big huge operation near highway 400
It talks about how little the attendees earn, and how much the pastors spend on big mansions and fancy cars.
The way federal tax rules work, combined with the intense heat generated from the front page spotlight, could conceivably encourage a tax audit to take place. Should the Feds decide that the pastors have financially benefitted from these arrangements - something the Star show some journalistic common sense by not admitting - they could get hammered hard. This story may just be getting started - should the not-so-subtle insinuations from the daily be proven.
What's interesting and sad is the denial, blind faith, or combination of both exhibited in several quotes, "
It always sucks to hear about a scandal hitting any religious group, but if they deserve the attention, then the Star's doing a valuable public service, akin to how it played a key role in overhauling Toronto's restaurant health inspection regime.
And the Star, despite sometimes writing completely disastrous comments on economics, nails a key audit risk that just screams Red Flag: "
My spam level resumes its upward trend, rising above the paltry 1781 total hit in January
to hit 1832 in a shorter month but it's still lower than the 2436 all-time high reached in December.
Coincidentally, scams to pump and dump stocks - presumably by using spam as one tool - were linked to the mob according to today's newspaper. The continuing persistence of spam really is a big nuisance - but will it ever be enforced out of existence? Unlikely I suppose.