New Brunswick

Campobello Island man told he's dead by Canada Revenue Agency

As the saying goes, nothing in life is certain except death and taxes, but New Brunswick resident Peter Harwerth just didn't expect to experience the former while he was still alive.

Peter Harwerth, 64, wasn’t expecting to be sent a posthumous bill before his death

Peter Harwerth says he received a letter from Canada Revenue Agency on Wednesday, which was addressed to his estate. (Submitted by Peter Harwerth)

As the saying goes, nothing in life is certain except death and taxes, but New Brunswick resident Peter Harwerth just didn't expect to experience the former while he was still alive.

The Campobello Island man learned he was considered dead after receiving a letter from Canada Revenue Agency addressed to, "The Estate of the late Peter Harwerth."

"Well, that was a shock," said the 64-year-old over the phone, pausing for emphasis.

"I didn't understand that."

He said the tax returns his accountant sent in June showed refunds for approximately $1,100 for himself and $440 for his wife.

He expected those returns but "never received any mail" after that. He was then sent the letter addressed to his estate rather than him.

It was a posthumous reassessment asking for a payment of $520, he said, assuming he had received the original $1,100. The letter said nothing of his wife's returns.

How can this letter be addressed to the estate when I'm absolutely alive here?- Peter Harwerth, Campobello Island resident

He then called a representative at the Canada Revenue Agency to tell her the money never came and that he wasn't dead.

"I asked, 'How can this letter be addressed to the estate when I'm absolutely alive here?" He said.

"Well, I tell you what, she couldn't really give me any sort of good explanation of that."

Cheques were cashed

He learned after investigating his tax account that the $1,100 cheque was apparently cashed only a few days after being issued in July.

Peter Harwerth, 64, wasn’t expecting to be posted a posthumous bill before his death. He also says he has no plans on dying soon. (Submitted by Peter Harwerth)
He began investigating his wife's missing returns as well, which showed her cheque was also cashed a few days after being issued.

"Well it certainly hasn't been cashed by us," he said Friday. "Because the mail takes at least five or six days before it would reach out here on Campobello Island."

He said the idea someone cashed their cheques makes him suspicious about it being isolated incidents and concerned other victims might be out there.

"I really have trouble believing it was a coincidence, that only two cheques disappear, and on top of that a married couple at the same address," he said.

"What else is going on there?"

Luckily, he said, his death was limited to the Canada Revenue Agency and not other parts of government.

Harwerth said the agency is sending him a copy of the cheque cashed in his name so he can deny it's his signature. He'll then receive a new cheque.

CRA cites confidentiality

Mayya Assouad, communications manager for the Canada Revenue Agency in Atlantic Canada, said, "whenever there is any indication the information we have is incorrect, immediate steps are taken to correct our records."

"The CRA takes the protection of Canadians' tax information very seriously and continuously reviews its procedures and processes to ensure appropriate and secure handling of taxpayer information. The confidentiality provisions of the Income Tax Act prevent the CRA from commenting on specific cases."

She said when a taxpayer notifies the agency their cheque is lost, destroyed, misplaced or stolen, "the CRA will do a verification, which may include sending forms to fill out. A replacement cheque will be issued, if warranted."

For Harwerth, it's just a relief to be alive again. He says the agency has promised to fix the mistake.

He said his accountant tried fixing it but found it difficult to convince civil servants his client was not a collection of money and property rather than a living, breathing person.

A note was eventually discovered on his file clarifying that it was a mistake.

"I hope this is a single case only," he said.

"[That it's] not the rule that Revenue Canada makes people deceased."


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