I don’t know why, but the Internal Revenue Service strikes fear into my heart. It’s weird. I mean, hell, I’m Canadian. I have a justifiable wariness toward the Canada Revenue Agency, but the IRS shouldn’t even be on my radar, right?
Maybe it’s because of my innate problem with authority figures. Maybe it’s just from watching too much U.S. television during my misspent youth, or maybe it’s the fact that the eagle in their logo issues a subliminal promise to cheerfully rip out my entrails and snack on them. For whatever reason, the IRS scares me worse than the CRA.
This wouldn’t be a problem if, like most Canadians, I never had to deal with the IRS. But when I published my books, I began to receive royalties from none other than the U. S. of A. Which meant I had to creep out of my comfort zone and confront The Eagle.
Navigating the government forms didn’t bother me – after years of dealing with legal contracts and business documents, the red tape felt comfortingly familiar. But then, completed forms in hand, I had to actually phone the dreaded IRS.
Knees knocking, mouth dry, I dialled with a trembling hand.
When the agent answered I nearly hung up in a funk. Unlike CRA agents who answer with their first names, IRS agents identify themselves with intimidating formality as ‘Ms./Mr. LastNameOnly’, and then they spew out a big scary-sounding number.
When I managed to summon my voice and explain what I needed, Miss Weebles turned out to be efficient, friendly, and helpful despite her long scary number. My questions were answered, my account was quickly set up, and I hung up thinking, “It can’t be that easy.”
But apparently it was. Several years passed without incident and I gradually overcame the fear that the IRS was lurking around the corner waiting to swoop down and gut me.
Then last week I had a terrifying thought: I’ve never filed a US tax return. I don’t owe anything since I pay income tax on my royalties to the Canadian government, but here in Canada you still have to file a return every year even if you don’t owe anything. What if the IRS required that, too?
Ohmigod. The IRS was finally going to get me.
Cue up the telephone scene again, with me looking even more scared than before.
I got a male agent this time, which somehow seemed more ominous. Mr. Hartman snapped out his name and his long scary number and I nearly fainted before managing to stammer out my question.
And everything was fine. Miss Weebles had done a bang-up job, everything was in order, and I don’t need to file US tax returns. Mr. Hartman was pleasant and friendly. He even joked a bit and was kind enough to ask about my books.
I hung up the phone with a feeling of unreality. Has my fear been completely unwarranted all these years? Or is the IRS just lulling me into a false sense of security before they unleash The Eagle?
Or am I just a paranoid freak? (Never mind; don’t answer that.)
* * *
P.S. The new cover art is ready for Book 1! At first glance it looks the same, which is what I wanted… but it’s all in the details. Now it’s a middle-aged woman, the gun is actually a Glock (though not the correct Glock 26 because it’s prohibited in Canada), and I own the images. No more stock photos, woohoo! It’s a slow process, but I hope the cover art will be updated for all the books within the next couple of months. Here’s the new Never Say Spy cover: