I have not seen 630am since... well, I guess since I happily rose to take in Petra almost one month ago. Vacations are different though - getting up early when you are tired never seems like the tragedy it does when the alarm goes off and the first thing one thinks is "Canadian tax breakfast? Whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy". (Cue audio clip of the US figure skater Nancy Kerrigan when that thug-for-hire whacked her on the knee with an iron bar before the 1994 Olympics)
Anyway, I thought it was a good idea to attend a breakfast seminar on the subject of Canadian tax for expatriates. And fitting, since this time last year I basically thought of little else. (In hindsight, not being able to focus on the great unknown that was my mad move to Abu Dhabi, I instead laser-focused my immense capacity for anxiety on the tax issue.)
I am not going to go into it here - not likely to get much sympathy from people back home forking it over every pay, I imagine - but let's just say Revenue Canada has succeeded in making the issue of working in a tax-free country an entirely grey area. Meaning you might do every single last thing right, and by now, I pretty much have, and someone will still look at your departure return or your NR73, which I learned, just in time, not to mail away, and say "ummm, not so fast". It's a question without an answer and, well, I don't have to tell anyone how frustrating those can be.
Anyway, this breakfast was just the way I remember this sort of businessy thing to be when I was back in Ottawa (except with excellent bread and cheese). I am just rubbish at networking - at one point scrawling my gmail address onto a crumpled receipt from Al Falah Plaza and walking away like a distracted toddler when I saw someone I knew, without so much as a "nice to meet you". I asked a guy from Calgary what kind of work he does here, and he seemed sort of like he was talking to a slow person when he replied "oil and gas".
A woman I like to call "the world's rudest Canadian", who I had a brief but untirely unpleasant encounter with at the post office before Christmas, was also at the breakfast. Suffice to say, I did not try networking with her. Although on second thought, perhaps I should have.
Clearly there are people with bigger tax issues than I, however, because the speaker was throwing around terms like "when you go back to Canada with between $1 million and $5 million" and "you could save yourself a couple of hundred grand". Oh reeeaaally. And I get just as cranky when they open up questions to the floor and people insist on asking extremely specific questions, and followup questions, that could only possible pertain to them, as if the rest of us had all the time and interest in the world. For example, the woman who wanted to know if she could come back to Canada before her husband, and when the tax guy said no, you should come together otherwise he could be taxed on his last paycheque when you were there and he was here, and she followed up by asking "could I fly back and meet him in London? It's such a long flight!" I was so annoyed by then I developed a tiny crush on the tax guy when he said "you can meet him wherever you want, just not in Canada". There is a first time for everything, I guess. I was also flummoxed to learn if I give up my drivers' license and return after five years, I may be subject to graduated licensing. That will be awesome. I can just imagine the conversation.
ME: Hey, friend, want to come to work with me?
FRIEND: Not really.
ME: Oh, come on, it will be fun!
FRIEND: Well, okay.
ME: Want to drive over to my house first, so you can sit in the passenger seat and supervise me on the way there?
I did learn that my tax situation would be much, much improved if I were to marry a man from outside the country. So I am considering adding that to my list of New Year's Resolutions (and they were: 1) Buy a kettle 2) wear heels more often so I can learn to walk in them 3) read more important non-fiction - okay some important non-fiction 4) tackle that hummus issue and 5) Figure out this &%$# tax situation!).
I found myself in a bizarre scrum after the presentation, where I waited impatiently in the middle of a sort of strange debate between fellow countrymen over what ID to take when going back for a visit. (??) All I wanted to ask was "can I make a lump sum RRSP contribution as 2008 was my departure year"?
For the record, yes I can.