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Vicky Mochama is a contributing columnist for The Globe and Mail.

I am locked out of my Canada Revenue Agency account. Whenever this happens, I hope against hope and check to see whether the blockage is system-wide. Unfortunately, the student loan people have never locked me out. (I assume that they have snipers trained on my location at all times, so their cheque always clears.)

It happens more often than you’d think and possibly more often than it ought to. See, I’m ashamed to say that I have not been paying my fair share.

When it comes to taxes, I am a non-filer.

I have not filed my taxes for [redacted] years. Life is less composed of tax seasons and more of an ambient tax weather. My personal administration difficulties, while charming anecdotally (especially the joke about Australia, you’ll see), hardly seem to be a national concern. Except that they are.

The CD Howe Institute estimated that there were 1.29 million Canadians, or 4.2 per cent of potential tax filers, who were non-filers in 2019. Matching census data with tax filings, a 2020 Canadian Public Policy paper estimated the national non-filing rate to be 14.8 per cent.

Rather than being a lone shirker, I am one of a tribe of more than a million Canadians who are not filing their tax returns. Maybe they’re also all locked out of their CRA accounts.

The 2020 Canadian Public Policy paper paints a picture of this diverse community: Non-filers are more likely to be working-age, renting, and have never married. Men are more likely than women to be non-filers. Some are low-income. One in five people below the poverty line are non-filers.

Because of that, money is being left on the table, says Jennifer Robson, the author of the paper and an assistant professor of public policy at Carleton University. “If you have that low income, odds are very good that you do not have taxes to avoid paying. And odds are very good that you would qualify for benefits that would make a material difference in your life, especially if you’ve got kids.”

Ms. Robson and co-author Saul Schwartz estimate that in the 2015 tax year they studied, approximately $1.7-billion in benefits may not have been paid out.

When you are behind in tax filing, the system effectively kicks you out, forcing you to start again.

It’s not as if filing is a breeze either. If you opt to do your own taxes, you are thrown into the position of student once more – with the CRA as an inscrutable teacher marking your shakily filled answer sheet. It knows the right answer, but it would like for you to show your work.

This process, seemingly designed to defeat my willpower and crush my resolve, is a relic of the Second World War, Ms. Robson tells me, when the government started taking deductions from paycheques rather than waiting for people to pay their annual taxes. It stabilized government revenues during wartime and that’s why I cried while waiting on hold to get my T4s.

Some time after, I received [redacted] years worth of T4s and it dawned on me that I may have to do it all by paper. This is why I need that account unlocked. I want to join the other tribe: the majority – 90 per cent – of taxes are filed digitally either individually or with the help of a tax preparation service.

“This is the situation we find ourselves stuck in and it’s weird by international standards,” Ms. Robson says.

In many other countries, including Portugal, France and Chile, taxpayers with simple returns only have to verify a pre-filled form. A 2020 Liberal budget promise to bring in pre-filled tax filings hasn’t amounted to much yet but CD Howe’s report points out that Canada’s tax code, with its many niche tax credits and benefits, may be too complicated for that kind of technological overhaul.

Instead, the think tank recommends separating earned benefits from the act of filing. That is, rather than, say, white-knuckling rent payments via your meagre savings during Lockdowns 1 and 2, a person might have accessed a number of benefits without first filing.

Before anyone begins oiling their throwing stones, please know that I am not interested in clemency. Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland and Co. can effect a citizen’s arrest and ship me out with the other tax debtors to Australia or somewhere else equally horrifying. When the G-men come to whisk me to a taxation black site in the mid-Atlantic, they will know no resistance from me.

It’s tempting to keep up what is quickly becoming a tradition of not filing my taxes. I’m proud even to be part of a minority I didn’t even know existed. And I’m surprised at my delight at becoming something based on what I’m not doing; it’s a lazy woman’s dream. But I’m determined not to celebrate the one-decade mark of being a non-filer.

I just need to get into my CRA account, but unfortunately for me, interacting with the tax filing system is enough to make one go off of the idea of government altogether.

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