CRA and me: Assessment Excitement

This past summer, the CRA sent me a letter of assessment for my son’s school fees. These kind of assessments happen often. While I am slightly freaked out by them, it is still not a big deal. The letter asked for all associated documentation supporting my medical claim for my son’s school fees.

I dutifully collected all the receipts for the School and for my son’s Occupational Therapist. I wrote a cover letter outlining what I was sending and I sent it via registered mail to the CRA.

In that previous paragraph I made two mistakes (one small and one critical error):

  1. I could have easily scanned all the receipts and submitted them to the CRA on line. Much faster, and less expensive. Hopefully I will remember that for the next time.
  2. The letter asked for all associated documentation, and I misinterpreted that to mean receipts, and that caused a big problem.

 For those unaware, if your child is disabled you can claim their schooling or training as a medical expense. You must have a DTC first, and then ask permission of the CRA to be able to make that claim on your taxes. This is where my blunder took place.

My son had changed schools a while back, and I had never done a new letter outlining how his new school would help him with his disability (Autism Spectrum). Without this letter, and supporting documentation from his Doctor and other medical professionals, the CRA had every right to deny this claim on my taxes. As I did not include any supporting documentation with my assessment, the CRA denied my claim, and sent me a bill for what I owed.

The CRA was in the right to do this, and I was in the wrong for not sending it. I want to be clear on this point, I am not casting any shade on the CRA, they have actually been very helpful in this case.

It took a while, but I finally received my Assessment response via email, and I was shocked and upset to see the results(an over $4000 tax bill). After reading the email a few times, my wife read it and pointed out my mistake. She realized that I had not sent a new package outlining how the new school helped my son. I believe I sputtered and swore, but then came to the epiphany that my wife was right.

The past few weeks I have spent collecting the needed data and letters to support my claim for my son’s school expenses, and submitted them (electronically) to the CRA.

As the date of when I was supposed to pay my new tax bill came closer, I realized my reassessment was not going to be completed in time. Again, this was due to my procrastination, not the CRA inaction. I decided to call the CRA, and they directed me to their collections group.

When I spoke to the collections person, he brought up my file, I explained that I had submitted the needed documentation, and they decided to give me a 90-day extension on my due payment. This means I won’t have to fork out $4000 at Christmas time.

There is no guarantee that the CRA will accept my claim and documentation. Given the amount of supporting documentation I am hopeful that this is sufficient, but at least I won’t have to pay out a large sum of money now (that might be refunded later).

Conclusion

As I have said previously, if you don’t ask the answer is always no. I asked the CRA for clarification on what they needed, they provided that to me. The CRA also granted me an extension on payment, because I asked, and had a good set of reasons.

Sometimes the CRA screws up, but in this case, they are actually the heroes in this story (so far).

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Movember, My Story

Movember is about Men’s Health issues, I hadn’t really thought too much about it, but last year it really hit home.

I’d just returned from CPFC16, and was still thinking of all the great new ideas I had been inspired to write, when my health suddenly went very wrong. I’d been having some issues with my bladder, that I had been hoping would go away. As you can guess, that was not the brightest thing and things got worse.

To be blunt, I couldn’t urinate and it was starting to really hurt, and like a numb-skull, I picked up my car pool mate. Four times driving in I pulled the car over and attempted to urinate to no avail. Finally after being at work for 2 hours, I decided to go home and call my wife. She yelled at me, “Go to the HOSPITAL!”, and I took her advice. I continued to spasm and feel like I was about to  explode the  whole way driving there (screaming in pain every few minutes).

The emergency room at the Queensway Carleton Hospital was quite busy, but I was eventually triaged and found to have a heart rate through the roof and a blood pressure to match, and I was shouting in pain. Evidently if you show up at Emerg with these symptoms, you get to  go straight in. I continued to groan and yell in pain until I was diagnosed to be in a state of complete retention and my bladder was in spasm.

The QCH Emerg team did a fantastic job, put in a catheter, gave me a pain relieving shot and that crisis was finally over (although I continued to spasm for a while longer). I was holding over 1.5 liters in me, and was in danger of causing permanent damage had I not come in. I was given a tutorial on how to deal with my new catheter, and told to contact my doctor. Luckily I was already seeing a urologist and was due to see him a week later.

I learned to  live with my catheter, but  when I saw my urologist  he wasn’t sure what might have caused this specific problem. He knew I had a larger prostate but wasn’t sure that was the case, so he took the catheter out, to see what might happen. What happened was 4 days later I was at the QCH emergency room,  (luckily with already filled in forms from my Doctor), and they put back in the Catheter.

We tried this one more time, and I was scheduled for a “scope”. You can guess where the scope might go, and sure enough my prostate had grown and was now obstructing my urethra. Drug treatment wasn’t going to help, so I got scheduled for a Trans Urethra Resection of the Prostate (TURP).

The procedure went OK, a few hiccups in my recovery, but nothing too serious. I am now somewhat back to normal, with a few side-effects that I am dealing with. Why this happened is still not clear, but it  is not  thought to be Cancer (all tests have shown clean for Cancer, but I also know that Prostate Cancer can be elusive in tests).

Why Are You Writing This?

Why am I writing this story in a Finance blog? First, November is Men’s Health Awareness month, so let me help with a simple checklist that could have made this incident less stressing for me (and my Loving Wife who was an angel throughout  this thing).

  • I had a “scare” 10 years ago, when my blood test suggested cancer of the prostate. I had a biopsy, which came back clean, but that (in hindsight) was a warning. Catching cancer early is essential for men.
  • If you have issues pee’ing, you need to tell your Doctor. Don’t think it is an isolated incident, tell the Doctor. Remember to see your Doctor more than once every 10 years too.
  • If things feel like they are “getting worse” (restricted stream, getting up 3 times a night to pee, etc., ) go and see your Doctor and get referred to a Urologist.
  • If you can’t actually pee for more than a 6 hour period (and you think you should), it is  time to go to the  Emergency Room
  • Prostates are finicky things, as your Urologist will tell you, but things can go wrong quickly, so don’t “piss around” (pardon the pun).

Better to be Lucky?

I was very lucky, that the Queensway Carleton Hospital staff acted quickly and professionally (even though I was shouting and starting to get quite agitated). I also had my TURP at the QCH and they treated me very well. My Urologist did a great job, as did my GP, but  they have also been very frank with me about things. I am most likely going to have to have another TURP some time in the future. The good news, I know the  warning signs, and will not ignore them.

Don’t wait, don’t be squeamish, don’t be afraid, and you will be fine. If you do nothing, things will not get better.

Another classic, do as I say, not as I do article by me!

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What Would You Pay $213.52 For ?

Last week I visited my Doctor for my annual “physical” to make sure I am medically OK, and as usual the Medical Services and Drug Industry got a shot in the arm (as did I, got a tetanus booster right there and then to begin things).

I received a plethora of prescriptions including one for my orthotics (old beat up knees appreciate those) but I then asked for the Shingles Vaccine. I asked because Mrs. C8j reminded me, but also because a few folks who I work with (around my age) have had shingles, and their description of the condition convinced me I wanted anything that might stop this condition.

My Doctor pointed out that in Ontario, for folks my age (55) , the vaccine is not covered under Provincial Medical Plan, however, my insurance company (and my wife’s coverage added on top) did end up paying for it. I was glad that I wasn’t going to have to pay for the vaccine, so off I went to Loblaws (where I get my prescriptions) to get the vaccine, and then bring it back to my Doctor to get the injection.

After I had my shot, the nurse handed me the bill (that was in the bag from the pharmacy with the Shingles Vaccine) and I was surprised to see that the total cost for the vaccine was $213.52. I didn’t have to pay for it thanks to my insurance, however, after hearing from my co-workers description of having shingles, I would have paid for it myself, if my insurance had not.

I believe the rule in Ontario is, that after 60 the vaccine is free, but I wasn’t going to wait. Both the co-workers I know that have had shingles are much younger than 60, and typically shingles can be caused by stress, and I figure I am going to feel a lot more stress when I am 55 than when I am over 60 (I hope).

Why Did I Do it ?

The last reason for getting the vaccine was, one co-worker, went to his Doctor and asked for the vaccine. His Doctor, pointed out that it was for older folks and that he really didn’t need the vaccine, so didn’t give my friend a prescription. What happened? Less than a month later, my friend got shingles, and he is younger than me! At that moment, I decided I was getting the vaccine.

If you want more info about Shingles, this is the CDC web page on it.

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Just a Bag of Medical Conditions

As I age, I seem to becoming a quite valuable commodity to the medical profession. When I was in my 20’s I didn’t really have a Doctor (certainly didn’t go to see him or her very often). As I reached my 30’s I started seeing one doctor regularly for check ups (and on occasion to repair a catastrophic joint issue caused by me thinking I was a much more talented athlete than I ever was), but now in my 50’s I seem to be a veritable growth industry for the medical profession.

I see various specialists now for many of the issues that an ageing out of shape man might need, and I keep wondering how does the money flow here? In Canada with socialized medicine I don’t really pay for the visits, however I do pay for the prescriptions that are given out, and I am wondering how much business (i.e. cash flow) is one beat down old Cajun Man creating in the medical world?

My guess is that my Family Doctor (who seems to now be more of a Medical Concierge than an actual medical practitioner) , who is at the center of a medical machine that is making some kind of “good will” or even “kick backs” for sending me to various specialists. What specialists you might ask?

  1. I have a Urologist on my speed dial thanks to my prostate (including a cancer scare a few years ago) and then an actual problem.
  2. Two other urologists who I saw for vasectomy
  3. An Orthopedist who specializes in knees, for my beat down knees
  4. An Orthopedist who specializes in shoulders for my torn rotator cuff
  5. A surgeon who ended up taking out my gall bladder (that was 15 years ago)
  6. Various different physiotherapy clinics for my ankles, knees, and shoulders. Note (so far) my back has been fine.
  7. An ophthalmologist  who seems to enjoy occasional zaps with a laser for my stretching retinas.

I must be a valuable commodity, not to mention my Dentist who I think has a new addition on his house thanks to my bad oral hygiene (when I was younger). The biggest issue I think I have is that no matter how healthy anybody thinks they are if you look hard enough, and see enough specialists, they are going to find something wrong, and even worse, I don’t get a cut of any money made off my bad health. I should be able to send out a Request For Proposal and find the Doctor who will do the job for the right price. Yes, I am being facetious, or am I?

I guess the good thing about this all, is that it isn’t costing ME anything directly (just the taxes I pay for the medical system), other than my medical insurance.  What do ageing folks do in the U.S. I wonder?

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Another CRA “Review” Passed

The CRA does seem to enjoy asking me for documentation for my tax returns, but I have manged to appease the Tax Mavens for now and have passed yet another Tax Return Review.

For those who have not had the CRA tap them on the shoulder and ask, “Excuse me, but we’d like to actually see the receipts for all those expenses you have claimed”, which is what a Claim Review is, it is not an audit, but with the proliferation of E-file’ing the CRA does like to double-check to make sure we are claiming all the credits that we can (OK, that is me being overly optimistic, it might be that they want to check our facts as well).

The trigger this time was a very large medical expense claim, and having three children at University at the same time sent up a red flag somewhere in Shawinigan, so I was asked to supply receipts for these claims.

The Medical Expense claim was high because:

  • Thanks to our friend at the Blunt Bean Counter I had made a claim about education expenses for my son being a medical expense, which had already been OK’ed last year after I submitted a review request. This is an important expense for Parents with disabled children who are at specialized schools (I don’t seem to have written anything about this one, so my apologies, I will be writing one very soon about that). This is a straight forward claim, however, I will elaborate on it very soon.
  • My son works with an Occupational Therapist (that my medical insurance refuses to cover) which I also claim

As for the University side of things I needed to supply the T2202A  forms for all three of my kids (signed by each of them) with the tuition amounts on them as well.

The cool part about this review was that I realized that I could log onto the CRA account using my On Line Banking User ID (i.e. my bank card and password) and using that I was able to send copies of all my documentation on-line without having to mail the originals to the CRA.  This made this much simpler, and made the process easier for me, so I must tip my hat to the CRA for adding this feature (who says no good ideas come out of the government?).

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