Empires first and modern states to follow have always wanted to make nomadic peoples settle. They struggled to. They used force and violence to stop them from moving around. They set borders (which are inherently violent and deadly). Power was the reason: how can you impose power to someone whose movements and lives you cannot control?
But that was history, right? Well, the intricate ways of French bureaucratic state are up to the task in 2019.
It’s a kind of a funny story, somehow, despite being very disappointing. And it’s related to how it feels to come back to “regular” life.
Mid-November, I receive an “avis d’imposition”: a notice from the financial services of the French state that tells me that I need to pay my “tax d’habitation”, a tax that’s related to the place you live in the 1st of January of the current year.
Well, I was traveling at that time, why should I pay taxes for an apartment I was not living in? When we left for our trip, we terminated the contract for the flat we rented (and we started a new one when we came back). New tenants moved in with a new contract so they should be the ones who pay.
Time to go to the tax office and talk to someone, right? At first, they just tell me that I need to prove that I wasn’t living there on January 1st. I collect the documents and go for a second visit.
And now the story needs a flashback: before leaving I go ask if I need to fill out some papers, declare something or whatever might be needed for the new situation I’ll find myself in while on the road. They smile and say “no”. Then April comes, we are in Iran and I have to declare my income for 2018. In doing that I also declare that the address they have is not my address anymore but I do not give a new one because I don’t have one. Doubts arise so I also write a message explaining my situation and asking, again, if there is some procedure I have to follow, some documents to present. They just tell me that if that address was not where I lived at (on January 1st 2019) I should not declare it as my address. I am not sure they really got the questions I was asking but I am in Iran, in the very middle of our trip. I tell myself that I’ve done all that was on me to stay on the right side. End of the flashback.
I present the documents but they are not enough: having filled out my income declaration online, nobody could check it so it ended up that having not given a new address meant they kept the old one as valid. The only way to get the tax canceled is to declare that at January 1st 2019 I was living in Turkey and give them a Turkish address. Then they’ll send everything to Paris where I’ll be considered as someone who moved out of France and they will follow international standard procedures with Turkey. Then I’ll have to declare that I am back. That will mean a lot of paperwork, time and bureaucracy that could also affect my professional status: I still result as a free-lance worker in France so I don’t know what will happen if the French administration considered that I moved to Turkey – which won’t obviously be true anyway.
The option is: I follow that complicated line and get the tax canceled or I pay the tax (a little gift to the previous tenants, indeed) and just keep things as they are to avoid any further annoyance?
“It’s stupid, I know”, the man in the office told me. I know too, and it’s also unfair: I cannot avoid to declare my income (because I earned money working as a French free-lance in 2018) and while doing that (it’s in the same document) I cannot say that I do not have an address in France.
Une impasse, bien française, n’est-ce pas?
(Yes, of course I paid: dealing with French bureaucracy is a reoccurring haunting nightmare and I avoid it as much as I can.)