Tax office terrors

In France taxes are dealt with locally. However, I have found that you can never get anyone on the telephone nor do they respond to email, your only real recourse is to attend in person. The office’s opening hours are 08:30 to 12:30, weekdays only. I had previously written to them about this matter but had not received any response. My accountant had then written to them and it had similarly fallen on deaf ears. There was nothing else for it, I would have to attend in person.

Unfortunately the tax office, along with that of the main post office, is close to the beach and surrounded by that holy grail, free car parking! So, of course, it’s absolutely impossible to park within a kilometre of either when the weather’s fine. By the time I’d found a parking spot and walked back, it was 08:16 and I was already 19th in the queue!

Everyone is dealt with in turn by the receptionist but it’s a frankly long-winded affair. Most of the issues arise from the elderly, and you understand I’m not including myself in this group, being unable to make their declarations and payments on line or advise of their change of address.

Having finally reached the head of the queue I explain the purpose of my visit to the receptionist, I’m filtered upstairs for yet another wait. This time there are just three people in front of me. However, these are weightier discussions, and I’ve a) no way of knowing how long they’ll take and b) how many people are actually available to deal with these matters. After a while, it becomes apparent there’s only one person available. I’m just hoping I get in and out before my parking ticket runs out!

Finally, it’s my turn. I’m ushered into an office with yet another gate-keeper. I once again explain the purpose of my visit and hand over the relevant forms, in duplicate. One in English, on which I require a signature and tampon, and the other in French for their records. The gatekeeper explains he can’t sign the form, I need that of the Controller who is seated behind the door, out of view but within earshot. He appears to be taking a rather long-winded telephone call. So they do respond to calls, just not mine!

Resigning myself to a lengthier wait or even having to return another day to collect the signed form, I’m taken aback when the gatekeeper quickly gets the Controller’s signature on the form and applies the tampon – nothing is official in France without a tampon! Absolutely nothing on the form has been checked and I’m in and out within 5 minutes! Okay, I had an hour’s wait to get into the Holy Grail, but once inside…….

I’m thinking I’m going to follow the same procedure, ie visit in person, for my French driving licence, our French residency and French passport applications down at the Prefecture, once I’ve concluded the great paper chase.