Opinion » Maxed Out

I've become...Canadian!


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Once again, I failed the Pique's Canada Day quiz. Miserably. With only a vague understanding of what actually passes for work down at the Pique offices, I have a vision of all the Piquesters sitting around, drinking — they are, after all, journalists — with puzzled looks, furrowed brows, their silence punctuated by occasional outbursts of maniacal laughter as one of them brightens up and says, "Got one! They'll never get the answer to this."

And so it goes. Another year, another failure.

Normally, I wouldn't care about failing to answer their sadistic trick questions. What am I saying? Normally I wouldn't even bother trying. My usual foray into answering the Canada Day quiz ends somewhere around the fifth question. "Stupid," I mutter in frustration.

This year though... it's different. Canada's all I've got. Canada Day's it for me. Screw up Canada Day and I've got nothing to fall back on. No more Fourth of July fireworks, burnt weenies, 1812 Overture, cannons a'thundering.

I am an unAmerican.

For the first time in my life, I'll view July Fourth through the singular eyes of a foreigner. No longer simply an expat, I shall be, the next time I wish to venture south of the border, an alien, a foreign national. And quite possibly, worse than that.

I have forsaken the country of my birth. Formally. I raised my hand, swore an oath and, as graciously as possible, returned my U.S. citizenship, assuring the consulate officer it wasn't anything she or the country had done. It was me, not them.

Once again, I paid a price for my hard-wired procrastination. For many, procrastination is an annoying, occasionally indulged habit, or, to their way of thinking, a momentary failing. It is something for which they gently admonished themselves, much in the way they might for not making their bed when they're hung over because they're just going to mess it up again in a few hours.

But for those of us with an abundance of procrastination twisted into our DNA, there is no way to distinguish procrastination from, well, life. I delay; therefore I am. If I wasn't supposed to procrastinate, there wouldn't be things called deadlines. If there aren't deadlines... even I'm too ashamed to admit how little gets done without deadlines.

I'd been contemplating giving up my U.S. citizenship for some time. Actually I tried selling it on Craigslist, but the generally unsavouriness of the people trying to buy it really turned me off. It wasn't much of a stretch to picture some of them as... I don't think terrorist is too strong a word. Silly me; I expected opportunists who weren't having much luck getting a Green Card.

But had I known what the State Department had in store, I might have acted earlier. Last September, someone with a keen eye and an appreciation of Moneyball statistical analysis noticed the renunciation business was booming. Record numbers of U.S. citizens were lined up requesting the service at their nearest consulate. Over 3,000 did so in 2013. By comparison, only a few hundred a year took the final exit in prior years.

Appreciating an opportunity and understanding they had a monopoly on what was becoming a hot product, they did what any red-blooded business person would do. They raised the price to process citizenship renunciation from US$450 to US$2,350. Overnight! D'uh.

Had they dug a little deeper, or if they had an appreciation of how much accountants versed in the minutiae of IRS tax regulations charge expats to prepare their U.S. tax forms, I suspect they could have tripled that ultimate fee and still not noticed an appreciable dropoff in requests.

On a strict cost-benefit basis, the increased fee will be recouped the second year I don't have to pay someone to prepare my U.S. taxes. This is, of course, absurd. I live in the Peoples' Republic of Canada. Canuckistan, as the right-wing fanatics on Fox News call it. U.S. tax form for Americans living in Canada and paying tax to the multiple levels of Canadian governments should be a simple two question form.

Do you still live in Canada?

Did you pay Canadian taxes this year?

If the answer to both questions is yes, you have our sympathy; we're sorry to have bothered you. Have a nice day.

Instead, it used to take me the better part of six hours of nail-biting, gut-wrenching, stink-making sweat to grind out the myriad forms necessary to prove the obvious: U.S. citizens don't move to Canada to avoid paying taxes! Or if they do, they are really, really stupid. But a couple of years ago, the forms got way too complicated for a guy whose education never went beyond a couple of university degrees to successfully complete. I was licked.

Oddly enough though, it wasn't even the dough I had to pay that got me to finally move. OK, it was partly the dough. But it was more the realization that after 36 years living on this side of the border I'd finally completed my journey. I'd become Canadian. Not Canadian in the sense of carrying a Canadian passport and being a Canadian citizen, governmental formalities. No. I've become Canadian. I identify as Canadian or, perhaps in a more Hegelian sense, I don't identify as a U.S. citizen anymore.

My transition is complete. Call me Caitlyn. No, actually, don't. But call me Canadian. This is where I live. It's where I've chosen to live. It feels like home. It is home. Other than my siblings in New Mexico, this is where my family is. It's where I've lived longer than anywhere else I've ever called home. I engage the world as a Canadian and I can't imagine a twist of events that would make me want to live south of the border again. I have every reason to believe I'll live the rest of my days and die in Canada, sooner rather than later if some get their wish.

So this Canada Day was a little more special than the other 35 I've celebrated. And I'm sure when Saturday rolls around, July Fourth won't feel exactly the same as it used to. Special? Sure. My holiday? Less so than before.

But like I said, America, it's not you; it's me. And I am Canadian. Cue the beer commercial.



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