I have filed an income tax return every year since I was 20 years old. When I was just a lad of 19, I worked my very first co-op job which happened to be the first time I made enough money for the federal government to notice.

That year and every year since then, I have received a tax refund. It was easy for me to get refunds as a student since I wasn’t making a lot of money and you get a ton of tax credits while you’re a student. Now it was also easy for me to get refunds even when I was out of school. Why? Well, to be quite honest, I didn’t have a salary that paid me more than $30K a year until I was over the age of thirty.

Now even in the last three years since I’ve left grad school I’ve been able to manage small but still appreciable tax refunds. I was kinda expecting the same thing this year but I admit I hadn’t been paying attention to how big my deductions were going to be.

So on Saturday, I fired up this year’s version of Quicktax and spent less than 15 minutes entering in numbers into boxes as I do every year. When the dust settled, I was shocked. I owed the federal government $65.

I quickly went over the numbers again but there wasn’t a whole lot of things I could change. My main deductions came from RRSP contributions and unfortunately, I knew I hadn’t misplaced a couple of RRSP receipts. The RRSP optimizer told me how close I had been to breaking even. If I had just bought $170 more in RRSPs I would have broken even. Had I bought just $500 more, I would be getting about $176 back.

Now given my RRSP contribution this year was in the thousands, $500 would have been nothing really and $176 would be miniscule in comparison. Now I understand $65 isn’t a whole lot of money but it’s the principle, to use a cliche, that matters. The government, for the first time, isn’t giving me back some of my money in the spring.

I will consider the $65 the cost of learning a lesson. I knew that my RRSP contribution was slightly lower than in previous years. I also knew I’d been making a small amount more in income that in previous years as well. Those two combined to leave me where I am now. Next year, I’ll be better prepared so that the government sends me a cheque once again.

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