vendredi, août 14, 2009

09.08.14: Ultimate Tourist Experience (2): Asset seizure by foreign gouvernement

As interesting as was the hospital experience, I'm thinking having all my foreign assets seized by foreign gouvernement may in fact be a little more interesting. You decide.

Returned home from work Thurs evening, checked the mail as usual. I will say, the mailbox is usually empty, from time to time the electric bill, checking account statement, or a discount coupon from Speedy Rabbit pizza delivery. In other words, not normally a highlight of the day.

Opened the plain letter envelope addressed to me. What a surprise: Your checking account (i.e., all the funds I have accessible to me) has been frozen by the French government for failure to pay taxes!

If you want to see how this is exactly written in French, (in case you ever receive something similar, for example), see the image here attached:

So why does this happen?

A fun thing about being an expat is that we all sign contracts with our employers to outline our respective responsibilities, and then our employers honor those responsibilities, as they choose. In my case, my employer committed to manage the French tax situation. My role in all this is to provide certain tax preparers correct information in a timely fashion, and sign some forms attesting to the accuracy of said documents. I do not write checks to the frenchies. Apparently, my company decided not too either. After 3 years of this mis-behavior, I guess some french fonctionnaire somewhere decided that that was enough. Interesting fact supplied by my bank the following morning: the tax authority needs provide zero documentation to my bank for the veracity of their claim to seize my assets. Only an amount to seize, which in my case, was substantially beyond the amount in my account; in fact, substantially beyond the amount I have ever had in a checking account. Thus, my account was totally seized.

What to do?

Well, like always, get on the phone, send faxes, harass, repeat myself, send friends and family down to the local tax office to get clarification, have my accountant friend (who is on vacation in central France) call the tax authorities and explain to them the situation (in a language I am sure only they can understand) which puts them in a mood to be responsive if anyone would show up with a check for the right amount, and then oh yeah harass the ir-responsibles on 2 or 3 continents (is England part of Europe ?) to get my taxes paid and my account re-opened.

As sometimes happens, there is in fact someone who has authority and the right mindset to resolve a problem. I was fortunate enough to find such person by late morning Friday. She responded mightily; checks written, apologies not made; account re-opened Friday afternoon, with 15 minutes to spare before everyone shuts down for the 3-day bank week-end. I am out 102€ bank fees (to be discussed, bien sûr), but I can go to the market on Sat AM and buy a fresh rabbit for the grill, some Bleu d'Auvergne, and a little Languedoc for accompaniment.

Twenty-four hour diversion in an otherwise remarkably interesting lifestyle.