Friday, February 07, 2014

A quick note on bureaucracy

African friends, I know you all have tales of woe of your dealings of bureaucracy in your home countries, but allow me to quickly share with you my struggles to be paid for my forthcoming US publishing deal.

The US internal revenue service (IRS) requires me to get a tax number as an individual, so that I might then register my little company for tax purposes.  I had no idea what a hassle this was going to be.

To apply for my tax number, using application form W7, I have to do so by mail (and this from the people who invented the internet and online shopping).  In order to do so I need to prove my identity.  So, I need a copy of my passport and, not unreasonably, this needs to be certified.

But will the American government be satisfied with me going to a justice of the peace (as we do in Australia), or the local police station (as we do in South Arica) to have my copy certified?  No.

No, no, no, no, no.  I need to post my passport, a photocopy of it, my completed form W7, a reply express post envelope, AND a cheque for AUD $55 (that's about R550, South Africans) to the US consulate in Sydney so that they can certify my passport photocopy.  In fact, it costs even more than that as they only accept bank cheques - and that cost me another $10.  So it's more like R650 to have a photocopy certified.

Do these people have no money?

Errr.... hang on.  I think that's it.  To be fair, the American government probably has about as much money as Zimbabwe at the moment, but not even Mr Mugabe would have the hide to charge such fees.

Once I get my certified copy of my passport, my passport and my form W7 back (the consulate actually does nothing with the W7, they just want to have a look at it, because they're bored, or curious, or whatever), in five days I can then attempt step 2.

Step two requires me to send the W7 and the photocopy (certified by y'all) to Austin, Texas, where at some point some person will look at it, decide I am who I am, stamp it, and give me a number.  Said number will then be posted (not emailed or processed online) back to me in Australia.  Or perhaps Austria.

And then, I will be able to start the process of registering my company to pay tax, by mailing more forms to the US & A.

Oh, Africa, how I miss you.  At least there all I have to do is go to the counter and ask 'how much'?

1 comment :

Karen Bessey Pease said...

Ah, my friend….welcome to America!

A few years ago I had to go to the Post Office to sign for a registered letter from the IRS. Cost to American taxpayer to send this letter? FOUR DOLLARS AND SEVENTY CENTS (plus cost of envelope, paper, labor to print, produce and mail the letter, plus etc. and so on and so forth.) Of course, getting a registered letter from that noble institution was cause for worry…so I opened the letter in the lobby, wondering what on earth I’d done…my friend, the Post Master, fidgeting by my side.

The letter informed me that I’d OVERPAID my most recent quarterly taxes by approximately THREE DOLLARS and if I didn’t direct the IRS on how to rebate that OVER-PAYMENT, I would be fined. I had ‘x’ number of days to inform them of my desire to receive a check…or to have the over-payment applied to the next quarter.

Perhaps you can imagine the conversation that ensued. T’was one of those times when I practiced my vernacular and encouraged others to do the same.

Our government is a mess. And agencies like the IRS are out of control. Common sense, ‘reason’ and (sometimes) integrity are the exception rather than the rule.

Ah…but the People! By and large, my fellow Yanks are phenomenal. And we know a good book when we read one.

I hope you won’t judge your first experience with the U.S. of A. by this single entity.

Can’t wait to see Tony Park on bookshelves here in Maine!