Every day when I get to work, I check my in-box for new tax returns. I have a large cardboard box that sits on the top of my desk, above my computer, where new T1s are dropped off for me to complete. Each T1 folder will contain all the information you’ve given – t slips, donations, medical receipts, investment schedules, handwritten notes etc.
Before I can actually do the return I have to sort through all your stuff. I’ll stack all your information into piles – T-slips, donations, medical receipts, political donations, T5013’s (statements of partnership income), installment remittances – and the number of piles will depend on how complex your return is, how messy your documents are and the volume of information you’ve provided.
Then everything becomes a data entry exercise. If someone has a t4, I’ll key in “t4” into our tax program. Up will pop a T4 with all the boxes emptied. Then I’ll take the numbers from the T4 you’ve given us and enter them into the blank spaces in our software. It’s the same process for each slip. Things get a little more complicated when people have rental, business or professional income. It’s not necessarily more complicated, there are just more things to keep track of, which increases the risk of missing something and ultimately requires a little more concentration.
After everything is entered, I check it. There are two levels of checking, the first ensures everything I entered was entered correctly. It’s surprisingly difficult to do this and not miss something. And it gets more difficult as the time it takes to prepare the return increases. When you’ve been looking at the same numbers for a long time it’s easy to make errors.
The second check is a little harder. You have to look at the numbers and see if they make sense. And I’m not very good at this yet. If you’re doing a tax return for a lawyer, you should expect to see a receipt for union dues to a professional body. If you’re doing a tax return for a married couple and the wife doesn’t work, then you should expect to see a spousal credit on the husbands return. It’s more challenging than the first check, but it’s the good kind of challenging. Not the one where you’re sitting at your desk thinking, “what the fuck and I am supposed to be doing.” It’s the one where you know what to do and solving the problem becomes a point of effort, not a wrestling match with anxiety.
Once I’m done all that, I hand it in to my partner. Without fail, my partner will notice something I missed or failed to consider. This doesn’t mean I did my job poorly, it means that there’s too much going on to do consider everything and from every possible perspective. Corrections are usually quick though. Maybe they’ll take an hour, often no longer than 15min.
Then the tax return gets efile or printed. After all that, the partner will call you. Then you’ll come in and pick up your return.
An accountant’s office isn’t just a black box where tax silps go in and tax returns come out. A lot of stuff happens in the middle.