In my line of work, I hear a lot of stories about life’s setbacks and curveballs: Sickness. Disasters. Divorce. I always feel privileged to be trusted with hearing how people cope while complying with the CRA, and also to be a part of figuring out how to climb back up.

So I know that s#&t happens, I just don’t expect it to happen to me. I’m an accountant. I’m organized. But the fact is, setbacks find all of us, and often, several find us at the same time.

I’m sharing what’s happened over the last six months not just as a way to explain how it’s impacted business, but also to share the lessons and takeaways that all of us can learn from. Sometimes there are silver linings; always there are lessons.

Setback #1. The Staffing Curveball

It was such a pleasure to introduce you to Jenny McGovern, CPA, CGA, as she joined our office in February to help clients with bookkeeping services. This was ‘good change’ (I can hear Shrek: “Change is good, Donkey”), but it was still a change. As you know, it takes time to get team members trained and in a groove with you.

 Just before tax season, our long-time accounting technician Mely Pelayo let me know she was leaving at the end of March. Keira, an enthusiastic Okanagan College student, came aboard to help manage communication and files during tax season to help ensure we continued to uphold our service standards.

 Setback #2. The Flood

When a neighbouring tenant’s washing machine failed in early May, water seeped into our office, soaking the flooring and damaging furniture.

 In the weeks that followed, I had to spend countless hours communicating with insurance adjuster and the restoration project manager, and making decisions when my brain was struggled to tell up from down. I had to count on the kindness of a nearby café for washrooms as we were three weeks without a toilet and six weeks without running water. In mid-August, the office had to close for a week to have all the carpets replaced.

Yes, we do have beautiful new carpets and baseboards now, but woman alive, it was stressful getting here. Because, of course, in the middle of this is tax filing deadlines, clients counting on us, and the insane need to appear as if everything is fine.

Setback #3. The Malware Attack

In June, my computer was targeted by ransomware malware. My frantic call to a friend in IT ended with him saying, “Charlene, disconnect everything from the Internet. Now.”

Fortunately, client files are backed up securely off site and I didn’t have to pay the bad guys bit coins. But again, countless unrecoverable hours were lost to dealing with restoring the computer and paying for IT support.



 1. Create a protocol for managing curveballs

You are human like me and could face a curveball sooner than later, if you haven’t lately. If you don’t already have one, make a list of the people you’re going to call if you face an emergency—whether it’s flood, fire, IT or legal.

2. Ask for help and lean on people

You will need to vent. You will need to be eased out of certain commitments and timelines. I learned I have many, many awesome people in both my professional and personal life that were willing to step in and assist me, any way they could. The day I discovered the flood a client on the phone said, “Charlene, I don’t care, I’ll come down and help you move furniture if you need it.”

3. Tell others you’re not at your best

Communication gets even more challenging when you are worn out and tired but then it gets even more critical to let clients, vendors and others you work with know that you are facing setbacks, you may not be at your best and find a workable solution.

4. Continue to exercise and practice self-care

There just weren’t enough hours in the day when I was trying to help clients meet quarterly filing deadlines while managing a computer on the fritz and the restoration project. I gave up walking—the one thing that helps me clear away stress and foggy thinking. If I were in this situation again, I would force myself to talk those half-hour walks to help take care of myself and boost my productivity.  

5. The CRA still expects you to file, even if your business or personal life is experiencing chaos

You certainly don’t want to get hit with interest by creating a tax liability either, so if you can lean on supports to meet compliance, that’s ideal. But the ideal isn’t always possible. Canada Revenue Agency does offer the Taxpayer Relief Provision that is legislated to help people who have:

  • tax compliance issues resulting from out of the ordinary hardships and/or natural disasters
  • financial hardships that make settling tax liability next to impossible
  • and other circumstances 

 There is a 10-year time limit to make the application and CRA asks for information to be provided to support the taxpayer’s request (ie a doctor’s note or a death certificate). The CRA should also consider the burden of proving why you are applying for relief! In the end, there’s no guarantee that the CRA will grant it.


Thank you so very much to all of you for your patience and understanding during these months. I am so grateful for the ways you showed your support. I am also so glad we’ve remained a boutique firm so that we could maintain our service standards through these ups and downs!

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