Friday, February 23, 2007

The only sane person in the room . . .

I recently spent the better part of the day trying desperately to pay a fine which I feel is unjust. I work freelance here in Portugal and must pay VAT (Value Added Tax - Called IVA in Portuguese)quarterly. In the 3rd quarter of 2006, I had no income so I didn't file my quarterly VAT. It seemed reasonable to me. I can NOT find on the Finance site (here in Portugal) WHERE it says that I must file even if I have NO income. When I was enrolled in this system I was not given any kind of a pamphlet explaining the rules for filing.

My complaint is this. I believe that it is fair and just and reasonable to give participants/taxpayers a "list of rules" to follow. If the government tells people what is expected of them and they don't follow the rules, then I agree that a fine is justified. When I mentioned this at the Finance Office, the workers said that the rules WERE written down and brought out a law book of about 800 pages(legal code written in Portuguese). They said that it was MY responsiblity to know the rules and regulations pertaining to the VAT payment and it was not the responsibilty of the state of Portugal to automatically provide me with this information. They said that if I had a question that I could always come into their office and ask.

The fact that I had to pay a fine of more than 100Euros for a tax period when I had no income did not seem unreasonable to them. They shrugged their shoulders. This scenario was further complicated by the fact that their computer system had not been updated and although I had recently filed a late tax form (with 0's because I had no income) they did not want to accept my check to pay the fine which I felt I didn't owe to begin with but what the heck I gotta pay it so I will. They said that I should have brought proof that I had filed late. I reminded them that their system should have been updated and got more shruggs. They said that the burden of proof was mine. I argued that I'm not trying to NOT pay the damn fine but trying TO pay the fine and why the hell would I lie about filing out the tax form if I'm there to pay. More shruggs. I began to feel like I was the only sane person in the room.

When YOU begin to feel like you are the only sane person in the room, take a deep breath, smile, and look for the exit . . .

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