Tax Law is About More Than Just Money

  • 12 janvier 2022
  • Matthew Boyd

Tax litigators often look at their careers compared to other lawyers and say “with tax law all that is at stake is money.” On the surface, this appears to be true because tax is about money, unlike criminal law where someone’s freedom can be at issue. However, it is important to acknowledge while tax is about money, it can be more than that to a client and we as tax lawyers need to be prepared for situations where a client’s mental health is at issue.

The importance of how a tax debt can impact a client was recently highlighted in a meeting I had.  I was assisting an older client who was of ailing health and owed a substantial amount of money to the CRA. In the meeting, the client expressed to me if the approach we were taking didn’t work out, they would take their life. In the moment, I empathized with them, outlining how I understood how they were feeling, outlined all the pressures they had and expressed how it is understandable they were feeling like they didn’t have options. I went on to share a time in my life where I was under intense pressure and how I navigated that period of my life. I asked if they have access to professional help and have utilized it given the pressures they were experiencing. Eventually, the client acknowledged they would reach out to a resource they had available, but after the conversation, I found myself unsure if I did everything I could. Where had my responsibilities begun and ceased as a lawyer? Was the approach I took in comforting the client appropriate?