Canada Revenue Agency – Ongoing Saga

2012 May 28

I collected all the information and faxed it to the Winnipeg Tax Centre on May 4. Not seeing a refund in my bank account or a letter from CRA, I called the Winnipeg Tax Centre and confirmed that they received the additional information. The polite lady said yes, they received the additional information, that it was under review and that I should hear back shortly.

Three weeks after submitting the additional information and one week after talking to a human at CRA, there is no refund or letter. Nothing.

It makes no sense.

Two (child care expenses and medical expenses) of the four requests for additional information regarding the “Disability Amount Transferred From a Dependent” have absolutely nothing to do with the Disability Amount. If I didn’t claim any child care or medical expenses, the Disability Amount Transferred would remain the same. Sounds like  a fishing expedition to me.

In fact, I didn’t claim the child care expenses. Per CRA rules, the spouse with the lower income claims them. In my case, my wife is the spouse with the lower income, so she claimed child care expense on her return. And CRA already issued her refund and notice of assessment.

So I sit and wait.



Canada Revenue Agency

2012 May 1

For the second year in a row, my tax refund is being held up by the pre-assessment review process.

In 2010, Corbin had major mental health issues that required hospitalization twice at CPRI (a facility operated by the Province of Ontario through the Ministry of Health) in London, Ontario. Part of the treatment plan approved by CPRI and ourselves, was for Corbin to come home for weekends. Corbin suffers from attachment disorder and both the medical staff and Tina and myself agreed that it was prudent that Corbin not be away from his family for long periods of time.

The treatment plan also required that we visit with the pediatrician, psychiatrists, social workers and other staff at CPRI. Due to Corbin’s complex neurological and mental health diagnoses, much of the ‘treatment’ falls on us, the parents. So over the two hospitalization period, were were travelling to London twice or three times a week.

Per the medical expense claim guidelines, trips for medical purposes can be claimed as a medical expense. We did not claim any trips that were for visiting purposes. We only claimed trips for the weekends and for meetings/appointments with CPRI staff. After Corbin was discharged, we had numerous appointments with doctors and psychologists. So I claimed them at the rates described in the medical expense guidelines.

The medical claim for the 2010 tax year was a higher than usual amount. I figured that CRA may ask for proof. And they did as part of the pre-assessment review.  I worked my butt off. I got a copy of every receipt, a copy of every medical report that CPRI prepares after any visit, a copy of the treatment plan and a copy of the intake and discharge dates. I prepared a spreadsheet outlining every trip to CPRI and wrote a detailed letter of all the medical expense claims. I was impressed with the two-inch thick of documents. ‘How could they deny the claims with all this detailed information’ I thought.

Well they turned down all the claims relating to CPRI. Every. Single. One. They asked for ‘more’ information including intake and discharge dates. It was at that moment I knew that CRA didn’t even bother looking through my documents I sent them. If they did, they would have seen documents with those dates – documents I referenced in my detailed letter to them.

By the time I heard back from CRA, we were having another crisis during the summer followed by another in the fall. I just didn’t have the time or energy to fight CRA. So I didn’t bother appealing the reassessment – I heard that appeals can take one, two or more years to be reviewed. My energy was better invested in stabilizing my family than fighting a huge bureaucracy, one that can apparently easily dismiss hard evidence simply by having a nameless bureaucrat ‘write’ a letter.

Fast forward to 2012 and guess what? Yet another pre-assessment review letter. This time they are questioning the “Disability Amount Transferred From a Dependent” amount and my “Annual Union, Professional or like Dues” amount.

Hey CRA, you have a Disability Tax Credit Certificate for Corbin on file. You have been giving me that claim for 9 years now. In fact, I had you revise three years of my returns when the first Certificate was back dated to before we adopted Corbin (well only after I called you four months after I submitted my request to review previous tax returns). Now you want me to provide his name, SIN date of birth – you have that information. I haven’t ‘changed’ or ‘swapped’ kids!

So I’ll have to submit another detailed letter and wait. So much for those TV ads encouraging Canadian tax payers to claim all their tax credits.

In The Meantime…

2012 March 31

It’s been a while since the last post. Halloween. Christmas. New Years. March Break. And all the good stuff and the crazy stuff that happens in between.

Corbin and Jeremy attend weekly practices for their respective soccer teams and both still have a strong desire to play soccer.

Corbin has triumphantly returned to horseback riding through WETRA. He no longer needs a lead and is able to guide the horse to where he wants the horse to go; Corbin can even get the horse to walk backwards. So lots of success here.

With an incentive program in place at home, school has also been a limited success. We would have like it if the school increased his time by another 30 minutes but that’s like unlikely to happen this late in the school year – just like every school year in the past. Why does it have to be so hard to work together?

Jeremy has his own issues at school, especially with math, but continues to plug away with the aid of an Educational Assistant.

Tina and I are dreaming ways to fix or improve both the inside and outside of the house. Just need to save some money and get on with it.

That’s life in a nutshell. Just motoring along.

Goodbye Bell Canada

2011 September 15

Today is Day 2 in a partly post-Bell Canada world. Yesterday, we switched from a Bell Canada phone land line to Cogeco Home Phone. We chose the Basic Line package which is a land line and nothing more. No additional features or options.

This package is regularly $29.99 per month – much cheaper then the $50 we paid monthly to Bell Canada. Since we have two other services with Cogeco (TV and Internet), that is reduced by $10 to $19.99 a month. More savings, yeah.

Right now, Cogeco has a promotion that will knock off another $19.99 if you sign up for 24-months. With the Basic Line package that means a monthly charge of $0.00 for 24 months. We will save at least $1,200 over the next 24 months. That’s a nice chunk of change.

The installation was free since this was a bundled service. The technician replaced the smaller cable modem with a larger cable modem that has a built-in battery and replaced an existing phone jack with a dual socket phone jack. A phone cord runs from the cable modem to one socket in the new phone jack. This connects our internal phone lines with the cable modem. We had an existing phone in this part of the house, so that phone is plugged into the second socket in the phone jack.

Everything works like a charm. Cordless and wired phones work the same as before. The battery back-up provides up to 8 hours of stand-by time. This isn’t too much of a problem since we have three cellphones in our household.

Long distance via Cogeco is 7  cents per minute anytime to anywhere in Canada and the United States. We currently use a Walmart Prepaid Calling Card that gives us a rate of about 3 cents per minute. Cogeco has a deal with Gold Line where you can buy preset dollar amounts with no contract. Rates for Canada and the United States are 2.5 cents a minute. The Gold Line plan requires you to call an access number. You can also use other long distance providers.

With the Basic Line, additional features such as Call Display are only $4.00 each per month.If you want two or more features or want included long distance minutes, you should look at the other phone packages that Cogeco offers.

So goodbye Bell Canada land line. No more paying $10.95 for Call Display. No more paying a $6.95 network charge. No more paying $2.80 for touch tone service. That’s $20.70 for those of you keeping track. We pay just a bit more than that for a cellphone with Bell that includes Call Display, Message Centre, unlimited evening and weekend minutes, unlimited incoming minutes, unlimited text messages and 250 local minutes (plus the system access fee and 911 fee are waived).


Mid Summer Musings

2011 August 1

Summer is flying by. It’s August already.  After a wet spring (who knew Windsor can get that much rain?), it has been a good summer.

We signed up Jeremy for soccer and the first quarter of the season was a dud due to all the rain. At one point, three games in a row were cancelled. Now, over a 20-game or so season, that’s not a big deal, but Jeremy was going to miss a bunch of games because of camp and cottage. He managed to get a few games in before heading to Camp Winston for his first camp experience.

He missed the last week and a half of school – he didn’t seem to mind that. Once we arrived at Camp Winston, Jeremy was off with one or two of the counsellors. Tina waited in line at the office to complete paperwork and submit Jeremy’s meds (all one of them). I went over to J’s cabin in the Jean Lodge. It was located right between the Nature Shack and a temporary zoo (After picking up Jeremy, he did mention that some of the animals were noisy and would wake him up in the morning. Ha ha ha).

Jeremy had a great time at camp. He did everything. Ropes course? Check. Kayaking and canoeing? Check. He definitely wants to go back.

Corbin’s camp session was after Jeremy’s, so it was a crazy weekend of packing, unpacking and so forth. Corbin was on the maintenance crew again and loved being at camp.

We booked two weeks at the “cottage”. It was an wonderful two weeks of clean air, happy kids and relaxed parents. Adam’s mom also enjoyed the fresh air and warm sun. We did a few day trips including Sainte-Marie among the Hurons in Midland, the Emlvale Jungle Zoo, the Big Chute Marine Railway, bowling and shopping in Barrie and shopping in downtown Orillia. We had most of our meals at the cottage including home-made pizza twice. We managed to squeeze in a fire before a fire ban was issued (it rained only once and that was in the early morning hours – the weather couldn’t have been better).

Corbin is participating in a soccer league for kids with autism – Special Stars. The league had indoor practices during the winter and early spring. Outdoor games began in June and are played Sunday evenings. The games are about 30 to 40 minutes long with plenty of breaks. Corbin loved it. He thrived and had lot’s of fun playing. He is thinking about playing  next year.

Around the house, the fence guys finally showed up – a year later – and replaced some posts and top boards. I had to get one section completely replaced due to tree roots. It was nice to get that out the way. We bought a small outdoor coffee table from Canadian Tire and added an umbrella that my mom game us. It’s a nice setup and provides just enough shade on the patio.

I finally relocated the computer of Jeremy’s room into the living room. That included relocating the printer as well. The ‘move’ went well and the computer is up and running. Now we just need to move the desk out of there and the rest of the ‘office’ stuff. Slow but steady.

Tina has been busy organizing services and activities for Corbin. We recently changed service providers and feel we are in a much better place in terms of support for Corbin, especially as he heads into his teen and early-adult years. Our primary support worker also feels better about the transition.

Tina also planned an awesome weekend getaway at the Retro Suites Hotel in Chatham, Ontario to celebrate our wedding anniversary. She rocks!

A Huge Update

2011 April 4

Is a lack of updates a good thing, a bad thing or an indifferent thing?

The Szymczak family has been busy over the past three and a half months.

Corbin is in a much better place compared to a year ago. He is doing well at School, expanding his time there from 45 minutes to well over two hours each morning. We were a little skeptical when part of the morning would include French. Fortunately, the French teacher is a past teacher of Corbin’s and they have been able to figure out a way for Corbin to be successful.

Scouts has been sporadic but Corbin still tries to attend each meeting. He is back into organized soccer via a league for children with special needs. Currently they are practising indoors and the competitive season will begin later this spring.

Easter is usually a rough time for Corbin and he has been exhibiting some signs of difficulty. With some help from our support workers, we are slowly making it through this period. One exceptional difference from a year ago, is that Corbin and Jeremy have been playing together much better and for longer periods. There still is the odd OCD moment where Corbin insists that Jeremy play with him, but for the most part they are working things out.

Jeremy is, well, Jeremy. For his seventh birthday, Tina booked a couple lanes at a local bowling alley. Pizza, pop and bowling. The kids had a great time. We were grateful for the gift cards and money that J received – we already have enough toys.

Jeremy is transitioning from Beavers to Cubs and if he can attend three Cubs meetings, he will be promoted to Cub at the season-end overnight camp (hopefully a tornado won’t hit Leamington this time).

He is into skateboarding and cycling – he does need a bigger bike. His little 12-inch bike is a wee bit too small. Jeremy continues to play his Nintendo DS and he has become an Angry Birds expert on the iPad.

For Christmas, we travelled to Brantford to spend time with my mom. We also travelled to London to spend a day with Tina’s family. Other than the $800 repair to my van, Christmas was very relaxing.

We finally got a big flat screen TV for the basement – replacing the old 32-inch tube we had. I picked up a 320GB PS3 with three games and one blu-ray movie at Best Buy. We also upgraded to an HD PVR via Cogeco. The old SD digital box is in our bedroom.

Tina is doing some part-time contract work with Windsor-Essex Family Network and continues to manage all the support workers, Maryvale, CPRI and other agencies and professional for Corbin.

I’ve been busy on a long-term project – new Zoning By-law – and updating all our applications forms and processes. At home, I’ve been busy playing PS3 and watching movies on the new TV 😉

Growing Up

2010 December 7

Yesterday, Corbin and I went to Walmart to shop for new belts. A replacement for me and a first one for Corbin.

I had Corbin try on a bunch of belts and he settled on two designs. I said he could only have one. He chose the studded belt. He was proud of his purchase and even more impressed that he could not only put the belt on, but that he could close the belt.

Clappy hands.