Thursday, April 30, 2009

Bureaucracy

Some people might call me a procrastinator, but procrastinator's such an ugly word. We could dissect it like we did back in English class pro (prefix) cras (root word) inator (suffix) Can you see why it's so ugly? The root is cras(s) which means:
without refinement, delicacy, or sensitivity; gross; obtuse; stupid:
crass commercialism; a crass misrepresentation of the facts.

See, that's not me at all, even if some might disagree. But I propose it applies to my local county government, although I've personally used another word.

The great state of Missouri requires its residents to pay personal property tax. In the four states I've lived in, it's the only one to do so. Whatever, right? The states get their money one way or the other. Only it really became What the...? (and it wasn't even Wednesday) when I tried to get my license plate tags for my cars. Ross' car tags expired first so I took the title, proof of insurance and state inspection to the Department of Revenue. I waited in line for about 30 minutes, went up to the counter and they asked for my personal property tax receipt from the previous year. Uh oh. I don't have one 'cause I didn't live here. You can tell that from the fact that my title says Tennessee and has a Tennessee address, right? Wrong.

"All we need is a waiver from the county court house saying you lived somewhere else and weren't required to pay taxes. Here's the directions to the court house."

So off I go, ever the Pollyanna, to the courthouse to get my slip of paper. I was practically skipping along swinging my basket full of posies, only I was driving and it's hard to swing your basket outside your car window while you're parallel parking. I get to the court house, go through security and wait in line for almost an hour in the assessors line. Yet, still, I'm optimistic. Why? I dunno. Hello! I'm waiting in a county courthouse.

I got up to the counter and explained my situation, fully expecting my waiver to be printed up at any moment. "I need the receipts of your personal property taxes for the last two years." The completely disinterested woman behind the counter said.

"No, you don't understand," I replied trying to reason with her. "I lived in Tennessee the last 3 years. We don't pay personal property tax there. I don't have any receipts." Seriously. I was in a state surrounded by states that don't have personal property tax. Couldn't they keep a list or something?

"Then I need the two previous years car registrations." I seriously wondered if she was about to drop off to sleep.

"But I bought one of my cars last year. I don't have 2 years registration on it." Did I even have 2 years on the other 2 cars? Do people keep those?

"Then I need utility bills for the months of January for the previous 2 years showing that you lived in Texas..."

"Tennessee..."

She looked at me like I had grown another head.

"But my titles say Tennessee. Why would they say Tennessee if I didn't live there? One is from last April, see? That proves I didn't live here on January first. Can't you take that?"

"I'm sorry, you'll have to provided something from the approved list." She unceremoniously presented me with a very smudged, obviously over copied, list of approved documents.

I realize that Missouri is The Show Me State, but they were taking this a bit too far.

I was becoming frustrated. "I've waited in line for an hour. The Department of Revenue sent me here. I didn't even know I needed this documentation. They should really tell you that and not waste people's time."

"Ma'am, we don't have control over the Department of Revenue. Next."

So I went home, a bitter and changed woman. Shafted by the woman. I whined. I complained but ultimately, I needed some approved documentation. Easy, right?

Not when this is your filing system. (don't judge me, just come file it for me.) And because this is my filing system and it was a major pain in the booty to find what I needed (although some older stuff was filed in real files) and because I wasn't eager to stand in that line again, and because I actually had to take my van somewhere to get a state inspection, I put it all off. Until today. Well, I got the inspection last Saturday, but the rest I did today because today was April 30 and my tags expired in April. Uh oh. The problem with a filing system like this, because obviously everything else about it works, is that it's difficult to find what you need. (Really???) So I found a utility bill from February 2008 and from November, 2007. It wasn't January, 2008 but it was good enough. Right? Hahahaha! You're so gullible. We're dealing with the county bureaucracy here.

I went back to the court house more jaded than before but believing in the reasonableness of my fellow humanity. This time I got right up to the counter. I showed the man my utility bills.

"I can't accept these. I need January."

Are you friggin' serious?

"But this one is for February and the other is for November. This shows I lived there from November through to at least February, showing that I lived there on January 1st." I had a smile on my face because we all know you catch more flies with sugar.

"The problem is that people hop around. They move around to avoid having to pay."

Honestly, if someone is that determined to get out of paying $100 that they move their entire household from an area that does require personal property taxes to a state that doesn't and then moves back a month later, then they can keep their $100. Give them credit for tenacity or frugality. Obviously their going to need that $100 for their mental health bills because health insurance only covers 50%.

But that didn't help me right then. And the whole logic fell through anyway since I wouldn't have moved to avoid the personal property tax since I didn't have to pay it anyway. Too bad the county assessor couldn't reason like that too. I had three choices. I could go home and look for January. I could get mad and throw a fit. Or I could beg. I'm not above begging. Or is it below? I'm not sure because my eyes were closed.

"Please." I begged, careful that I sounded needy but not overly desperate. "I promise I didn't move. I was there. Really, I moved in June, June 1st. Please don't make me go find January. This is my second time here and I had to wait over an hour that time before I even got the counter."

"Well," I could see he was softening. "I'm really not supposed to. I'm supposed to have January."

"But that one's for February. I didn't move. I was really there."

"I'm really not supposed to but I can see that you've got a good sense of humor and a nice smile so I'm going to go ahead and accept it."

What have I been doing wasting my time on eHarmony? All needed to do was go to the county courthouse, do a little begging and I got me a man.

He processed my paperwork and printed out my waiver. As he handed it to me he hesitated holding it out to my like one of Willy Wonka's golden tickets. "Now don't you lose that smile."

I was smiling all right, because I finally got my waiver and subsequently my tags. And maybe a man. At least he has a job right? That's already a step up from some of those eHarmony bozos.

19 comments:

Lindsey's mom said...

Oh My! You HAVE to move to Alaska..we have taxes on our house..but heck nothing like this!!! WOW!!! I would have been nuts and probably been arrested.

Beth said...

MN is looking better and better!

Megryansmom said...

WTF! I would have lost and been serving time, at least you kept your cool.

Sandy Toes said...

You go girl! You have to use your smile when you can.
sandy toe

Angel said...

T beaurecracy: the only constant in the universe

Anita said...

Oh my stars!!! You sometimes just have to wonder why people and bureaucracies are so dense!!! Glad you got your tags, or they would find a way to make you pay for that!

Carey-Life in the Carpool Lane said...

Oh, I hate dealing with government offices! I guess my smile isn't as nice as yours!

When you got to the eHarmony line I busted out laughing...too funny!

Glad it all worked out in the end!

(Hey...I just realized you never responded to my last TAR email...did you watch?)

Bren said...

Holy cow! We had the same type of issues when we moved to WI and needed new drivers licenses (mine expired days after we moved). They needed utility bills etc. showing we lived there. I brought in the paperwork showing I BOUGHT THE HOUSE. Luckily on try 2 - they let us get new licenses. I went to a totally different office when I had to change my name - didn't want to deal with the old grump who ran ours!

Christina said...

I think all governement personel is trained to be annoying, irritating, and difficult. It's a job requirement.

Angela said...

I'm sorry but that was hilarious to me simply because I have that EXACT SAME FILING SYSTEM! SERIOUSLY! Laundry basket full of papers to be filed....overflowing in the corner of my bedroom!!! I am not sure if I could have kept a smile through all of that.....you go girl!

Kristin said...

Oh my gosh. Are they insane? Having to pull out bills from a year or more before? I'd be hosed.

Yeah for you for fighting the system and winning. Good grief.

Brandy said...

Ah yes. The infamous red tape within our government. Isn't it lovely?

What I'm really shocked about is that all states don't charge you pp taxes. O.M.G. The Commonwealth of VA SUCKS!

Party of Seven said...

That is insane!! So glad we dont have to do that here!

Hey what is up with the blog meet?? Is it still on, should we think about plane tickets yet??

Candace said...

We do have the personal property taxes in Arkansas, so I am familiar with the hassle. So annoying....I try to avoid the revenue office if at all possible. Glad you finally got it sorted out!

mommy4life said...

The problem is that everything is taken so literally by all government workers and all elected officials want to cover every possible situation to squeeze every last penny.....Blah, Blah, Blah

anyway, glad you caught a break your second time around!

Crystal said...

Read this post days ago but I was sneaking at work (as usual!) and couldn't comment! I love the wrap up! You go girl!

Ronnica said...

Things like that are so frusterating! I don't think I would have been able to provide the necessary proof, because I'm definitely a minimalist when it comes to paperwork!

I once was told that I wasn't going to be able to get out of jury duty in Kansas, though I was a student in North Carolina. I told the lady I understood fulfilling one's civic responsibility, but there was no way I was spending my own money to fly halfway across the country, but they were welcome to buy me a plane ticket, though.

The Royal Family said...

I would love if you would add the buzz to your blogroll.

www.bzzagentroyalty.blogspot.com

:) Can't wait to see your tidy tues.

Anonymous said...

OMG I've seen them boys just don't need law at all. This things just prejudices and it's badly planned. LOL