Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Funny how a day can turn from dreadful to amazing with these 5 little words: "We certainly owe you money."

I've been noticing that the paper I've been working for for 5 months has been overtaxing me. Meaning, waaaaay too much of my paycheck has been going to the government. I had the feeling that I'd probably filled out my tax form -- the Israeli equivalent of the I-9 -- incorrectly, but never had time to get the paperwork together and trek to the . . . foreboding drumroll . . . INCOME TAX OFFICE.

No, that's a lie. The real reason I never went is that I'm afraid of personal finances, OK? I'm a writer, not an accountant, OK? And I was doubly afraid of having to talk about personal finances in Hebrew, OK?

Well, now two things happened: I ran out of money, and I got the freedom (read: unemployed status) to go to whatever government offices I need. So I got together all the paystubs from the paper, as well as from the billing company that has been handling my freelance stuff. I went to the INCOME TAX OFFICE and sweated buckets during the hour that I waited for my number to come up. I was thinking: I'm sure I'm missing paperwork. I'll have to come back tomorrow with more paperwork, I just know it. What is that form that everyone is filling out? Where did they get that? Do I need one too? Better fill it out. Oh, it's the I-9 thing, sort of. But if I filled it out wrong the first time, what are the chances I'll do it correctly now? If I leave spaces blank because I'm unsure, will the clerk get impatient? God, I feel so self-conscious. I bet everyone can see that I'm a stupid American. Can I request to speak with an English-speaker? What if no one speaks English? I bet all the clerks are Russian immigrants. I'm sunk. I'd better practice telling my story in Hebrew in my head. Hm, what's that sign say? I need copies of my National Identity Card? Oh, man, how was I supposed to know that? Is there a copy machine here? Yes, on floors 1 and 3. Will I miss my turn? What do those other signs say? I don't understand any of them. Oh, man . . . "

In the end I did not get copies of my identity card because both machines were broken (figures), and the clerk in fact did not speak English. But it's OK because I spoke in Hebrew, and I (mostly) understood her Hebrew! Turns out that the billing company for my freelancing had listed me as being in a much higher tax bracket than I really am, and so the paper taxed me as if I'm a bajillionaire. The clerk looked at my paystubs and called up my file in her computer, and said "you've been waaaay overtaxed, it's ridiculous. We certainly owe you money. A lot of money. Given your salary and the fact that you get hefty tax breaks for being a new immigrant, it's possible you've owed no taxes at all, and will get it all back."

So, basically, I do have to go back with more paperwork, but it's worth it because I stand to get back up to 17,000 shekels. Yes, that is seventeen thousand New Israeli Shekels. That's around, oh, 4 thousand dollars.

I'll see you in Bermuda!!!!

Anyhow, after that it was all sunny and uphill from there. In the afternoon my new cleaning girl came over! I've been without cleaning help ever since my first helper left a few months ago for summer vacation. Now I've hired one of the students at the girls' seminary around the corner, and she is great. My apartment is soooooo clean. No dust! All surfaces sparkling! Dream come true! For only 20 NIS per hour! Don't tell the INCOME TAX OFFICE!

And, to top it all off, I had a good date.

Excellent start to the new year: Money coming to me, managing in Hebrew, household help, and a good date. It doesn't get any better than that!

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