Revenue Canada made a $6500 mistake. Is that their problem?
June 16, 2015 10:51 PM   Subscribe

I owed Revenue Canada $279 and sent them a check at the end of April. Today I got an assessment that claims my "Payment on filing" is $6785, and added credits of $5.07 refund interest and $6508.32 total credits, for a total refund of $6513.39. Does Finders/Keepers apply in this case? How many years does Revenue Canada have before the money is no longer rightfully theirs? Not to mention the ethical considerations…
posted by morspin to Work & Money (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
No. If the error had been (by either party) at your expense and you'd overpaid, you'd want your money back right? Send the money back.
posted by jrobin276 at 11:16 PM on June 16, 2015 [4 favorites]

Or consent to a reassessment.
posted by ageispolis at 11:31 PM on June 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

Lol finders keepers does not apply. If they find out they will ask for the money back, sometimes with interest. Failure to return it, sometimes even to report it, is a crime.
posted by smoke at 2:23 AM on June 17, 2015 [9 favorites]

Lol finders keepers does not apply. If they find out they will ask for the money back, sometimes with interest. Failure to return it, sometimes even to report it, is a crime.

Yep, seconded. You don't want this hanging over your head.
posted by Drexen at 3:12 AM on June 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

Finders Keepers doesn't work when private banks makes these types of mistakes it sure as heck doesn't work when a government makes the mistake.
posted by edgeways at 5:04 AM on June 17, 2015 [3 favorites]

Finders Keepers never works.
posted by JPD at 5:15 AM on June 17, 2015 [3 favorites]

Check the SIN to make sure it's yours. Then call them about returning the money.
posted by tckma at 6:46 AM on June 17, 2015 [3 favorites]

Nope nope nope nope nope.

Call them, then follow up with a letter. Do not spend that money.

If, by some miracle, you get an official letter from them acknowledging that

1) that money was sent to you by mistake, but
2) that the Government of Canada was not going to correct that mistake and
3) was disclaiming interest and ownership of that money.

THEN it's yours. Until you have that letter (which you will almost certainly never have.) don't spend the money.

Instead, what you'll get is

"We mistakenly credited you with $X, please remit that back by Y date or Z bad things happen. Regards, Revenue Canada."

Now, if you keep this money in an interest bearing account until they tell you to pay it back, the interest you earn with it? That interest *is* yours. So, if you have such a place, do that, and don't pay it back until you have to.

But you're going to have to pay it back, and you need to contact them now and let them know to make sure that, if for some reason they try to assert that you did something to take the money, you have a nice long paper trail that says "Nope, I went to you to point out the error" and the courts will go '"Yep, this is all on you, Revenue Canada.'"
posted by eriko at 6:49 AM on June 17, 2015 [4 favorites]

Ooh, tckma makes a good point -- make sure that was actually meant for you and not just a simple misroute.
posted by eriko at 6:50 AM on June 17, 2015

I work for a (local, US, not-IRS) taxing authority; if we made a mistake like this we would definitely issue an invoice for reimbursement. By our local law we can go back 8 years to collect reimbursement, more if it were something more egregious. Which means, worst case scenario, that we can also assign 8 years worth of interest, plus penalties. There are some other fees that can be assigned as well.

In this case, if we were able to clearly identify that the mistake was ours we would likely waive the interest, but we would not waive the penalties or other fees, as you should also be aware that these monies were incorrectly distributed to you. BUT, if we made that mistake to begin with its likely that your file is in our system with whatever mistakes already, plus, let's face it, government record-keeping isn't the greatest - files get lost, identifying record numbers get transposed, etc. So you would likely be in a position where we would force you to produce all of your documentation proving what your original liability was and where we made the mistake. It would have to be your original, auditable financial records. How many years do keep all of those? If you don't have them when the invoice comes due you might get stuck paying all of the interest.

In short, just sort this out now. For that amount of money it just isn't worth the headache.
posted by vignettist at 7:13 AM on June 17, 2015

You have to call, and let them know.
Being taxes, they will almost definitely sort it out. Also, there is possibly some poor schmo who paid 6.5k, and is only showing a 250 credit.

The only time I have had a 'Bank error in your favour' situation with a not-the-ird section of my government, I called, and talked to a bunch of people, and they assured me it would be sorted out. Nothing happened. I called again, wasted time etc, nothing happened. I checked each time that they had the correct records, and that they had evidence of my calling and informing them in the system, and they did.
After spending at least 3 hours of my time trying to give them their money back, I gave up, and kept it in a bank account as financial crisis buffer, ready to hand it over should that ever happen.
It has been at least 8 years now, so I'm pretty sure that isn't going to happen now.

I mean, I know it wasn't REALLY 'government fuckup karma' for, especially that really bad time I was ill and didn't get the money I was entitled to for nearly 3 months, while every single government employee I talked to agreed I has done everything right, it was all there in my records, and it would be sorted out soon, but meanwhile I had no food money, no rent money, had borrowed all the money I could, and thought I was going to be kicked out of my home...
But it kinda felt like it.
posted by Elysum at 8:49 AM on June 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Oh yeah, I've had Revenue Canada direct deposit money that was 100% due to error on their end. When they caught it (which was before I'd even noticed it in my account), it was demanded back, plus interest. In my case, just paying the interest was easier than having to endure even one government phone call.

You really do not want this money.
posted by bethnull at 5:18 PM on June 17, 2015

I actually got through to Revenue Canada today, but the agent didn't want
to talk to me, as I'm not an officially authorized representative of my
wife's. So she gets to go through all this.

Thanks for all the advice, everyone. Our accountant at work said most likely
she will have to cash the check, and then write RC a check for the same amount.

OK, "cheque".

The most likely cause: at some point two digits in a SIN were transposed, leading
to the incorrect assessment. And, yes, the poor shmoe who's told he owes RC
another $6250 + interest has it much worse than we do.
posted by morspin at 8:11 PM on June 17, 2015

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