The Saga of the Titre de Sejour, French Paperwork in 4-parts. Part V, La Fin

We are now the proud holders of unexpired 'Titre de Sejour''s.  They arrived last week, in record time (this time…actually it was probably a record last time, too see Parts I – IV) and are valid for almost 9 whole months!  That means I don't have to start the renewal process for 6 whole months! 
Now that we are proud, legal residents we get to participate in that other time-honored tradition: taxes.  In the U.S people start worrying about their taxes in December, trying to juggle stuff before the end of the year, take January off then kick into high gear in February after all the documents are in hand.  Then, they either get it done immediately, complaining and bragging all the while, or drag their feet (complaining and bragging) until April12th, at which point they panic, shut-up and get it done.  We found out in March, when we got the expired "Titre de Sejour", that, even though we didn't know we were legal residents for 2005 we are still obligated to pay taxes for 2005.  We asked for the tax forms.  Madame la Secretaire laughed and said "Not yet, in May".  The tax filing is due on May 31st so I assumed she didn't understand that I was asking about the forms, not the due date.  Once again, I am wrong.  Since the filing is due on the 31st the forms are sent out around the 15th…of May.  Why would you want them sooner?  You don't need them sooner….they don't have to be in until the 31st! Since this would be our 'first time' a friend suggested that we go to the tax office and have them 'officially' help us.  Two advantages to that: one, they're done correctly (we didn't have a clue) and two, they're done by a 'tax department official', meaning they should pass on up the chain with no problems.  We make the appointment to see the English-speaking person at the tax office – for 2:00pm on the 30th…no hurry.  Because we have an appointment we march past the other hundred people patiently waiting to get their taxes done, receiving some rather scathing looks.  Two hours later we emerge, finished, after listening to a lot of telephone calls in French and watching her do some mysterious calculating.  Apparently one cannot actually do French taxes oneself: you submit all of your documents, records, etc.; they consult the magic computer, come up with a number and you pay it…all very secretive. We were told how much we would need to pay.  In the U.S. your return can be late as long as the money is paid.  Here the return must be on time – payment comes later.  As I am reaching for the checkbook she laughs, "non, non, we will send you a bill".  A bill?  Une facture?  An invoice?  Oui!  The system is, one files on or about May 31 and are told how much you will need to pay.  The first bill, for the tax, comes in September, the second for the health insurance, etc. contribution comes in November.  Why not just send in the money with the return?  That could eliminate jobs, silly!  In our area there are 600 'tax people' – enough that (we calculated) they could go, personally, to every house, have a coffee, chat, do the taxes, collect the payment (cash, pigs, wine, whatever) and still not miss a day of their required 2 months holiday.  As with so many things here, that's just the way it is….

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