Paying Taxes

I’m trying to be a good citizen or resident or businesswoman or whatever you want to call me.

I figure I use the things that tax money buys. I use the roads and the street lights at night. I use the parks and the heavily subsidized public transportation.

So I figure it’s only right that I ought to pay taxes.

My tax rate really isn’t all that high.

In fact, my accountant’s monthly fee to file my taxes is more than my taxes are most months. And that’s before the accountant plays around with numbers on forms so that I can be billed less.

Point of fact, however, avoiding paying my taxes is significantly easier than paying my taxes.

The first time I needed proof that taxes had been paid, I was still under the limit for minimum monthly income for a foreigner. It took me and my translator d’jour visits to three different offices before I could find anyone who knew anything about providing the proof let alone that I was proving payment in full on a net nothing.

The first time I had an employer who paid me pre-tax instead of after, attempts to find out how to pay my taxes were all but ignored by the government bureaux I talked to. They didn’t exactly say “go away” or “it’s not necessary” because saying that would be wrong. They just looked at me oddly and said things like “why do you want to know?” and “it’s not that important.”

The first time my business had a really large sum of eminently taxable income the tax bureau employee at the counter actually told me she had no idea how to do the paperwork on earnings that weren’t in renminbi and if the client didn’t want a receipt, I really shouldn’t bother.

In the end, I didn’t bother.

Only some of the forms were in triplicate.

I tried to sign up for the easy online tax payment system for issuing tax receipts when clients paid me but it was so complicated and poorly designed that the person in charge of the training class had problems figuring out how to undo the mistake he deliberately made in front of the class with the specific intent of showing us how to undo it.

Disregarding the fact that this was the instructor who teaches the class twice a day every day, if a native speaker of the language is having that kind of trouble with the “easy” system, I don’t need easy I can tolerate going downtown, standing in line, and going to the counter to get my official receipts. And if I did it that way, I also wouldn’t need to buy a dot matrix printer.

I did my tax receipts at the counter twice without any real problem. My foreignness made the employees a little more generous with regards to helping me fill out forms than they might have done for a Chinese person but as long as the forms got filled in correctly, I was happy.

Last Wednesday, I went to do tax receipts for the third time.

And I couldn’t.

I could go into all the details of explaining how the first counter I was at wanted to see a receipt book I’d never been given, how the leader on the fifth floor tried to explain that the easy online payment system was now mandatory for businesses, and how I eventually got special dispensation to be a counter customer despite having a tax license for businesses.

I don’t need to go into all those details.

I just need to explain that as I left the counter, with my taxes still unpaid because I didn’t have the newly-required-since-September-21st photocopy of the contract between me and my client, I snapped at the woman “I’m trying to do what’s right here. I’m trying to pay my taxes. I live in this country and I use public facilities that are paid for with taxes. Clearly, you don’t want me to pay them and would prefer that I go out of my way not to. I will get the contract and come back but, in the future, I will be telling every client of mine that doesn’t absolutely require a tax receipt that I don’t normally issue tax receipts and I don’t pay my taxes because the tax bureau prefers to make not paying taxes easier than paying them.”

She didn’t have an answer for me.