The people at the Canada Revenue Agency are many things — but they are not stupid. I recently had to contact Rev Can because a tax rebate I was owed had not shown up and I realized that I needed to update my direct deposit account information.

Now, it should be noted at this juncture that when monies are owed to the Agency, they will move heaven and earth to speed that transaction along. You can pay over the phone, over the Internet, through computer banking or at the nearest financial institution. There may even be a service where a tax collector will come to your door to happily take said funds off of your hands. There’s never a lineup. You’re never put on hold. They are falling over themselves to pick your wallet clean. Rev Can loves getting your money — and they’re very good at expediting the procedure.

When they owe you money, however, the process gets a little less streamlined.

Firstly, you have to find someone within the Agency who actually comprehends the concept of letting go of money. My experience on the phone with Rev Can leads me to believe that there are only two of these people in existence: one, who is actually working, and the other, standing by in case the first falls ill. Needless to say, wait times can be substantial. I have an enormously comprehensive classical music education — and I owe it all to the hours Rev Can has kept me on hold, listening to Bach, Beethoven and Berlioz.

Next, should you be both patient and remarkably lucky enough to actually get through to the money refunder, do not count any chickens just yet. These people, deliberately, I am certain, have not embraced any kind of technology that might possibly empty their coffers with anything remotely resembling haste. I was told, for instance, that in order to begin my refund process, I had to fax a document to a particular department. I vaguely remembered seeing something called a fax machine at some point in the last decade or two. I think it was at the Smithsonian. In fact, it was right beside the ‘Land Line’ exhibit. “Fax?” I uttered with incredulity. “Wouldn’t it be faster to have a monk copy it out by hand, seal it with wax and send it by camel?”

The refunder did not respond to my sarcasm. Which leads me to believe that the monk and camel process may actually still be employed, say, for really large refunds. I thanked him and hung up.

I eventually did find a fax machine, but it wasn’t easy and it wasn’t quick. It was, I am sure, just exactly the way Revenue Canada likes it.


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