Wednesday, November 30, 2016

a trip to the tax office

I owe. I owe big. Last week, a multi-page tax document arrived at the office for me, and it declared that I owe Uncle Jang about W1.7 million (about $1500, US). Luckily, with my budget as strong as it is, I can absorb this hit and still forge ahead on schedule. So while it's a bad feeling to know I owe so much damn tax (the document apparently covers tax for more than one of my jobs, which makes me think that the people at my previous jobs didn't take care of my tax as they were supposed to), it's good to know I can absorb this hit with minimal damage. This is above the waterline.

The Gangnam Tax Office is located on the big, famous Teheran Street. As you might imagine, the building is essentially a giant, pulsating gizzard of bureaucracy, full of functionaries and grinding, soulless, paper-pushing activity. Stepping into the building was like stepping into the inner workings of a colossal machine. I felt puny.

Not knowing where I needed to go, I told the front-desk guy that I had come to pay my taxes; he pointed behind him, to a hallway with an elevator bank, and said, "Past the elevators." Sure enough, a huge sign on the wall said, in giant font, "TAX PAYMENTS." I found the door, went in, and stepped up to a bulletproof window. I showed the clerk my sheaf of papers and told her I had come to pay taxes. She looked over my documents, frowned, and said that I needed to wait for yet another document to arrive before I could pay: the documents I had were merely to inform me of what I owed; what I really needed was the gojiseo, i.e., the actual bill. But, the clerk added, if I wanted to talk with someone further about this, I could go to the sixth floor to meet Ms. Lee, whose name was on one page of my document pack.

So I went to the sixth floor, where I found myself in a maze of hallways, and tromped over to one promising office. Once inside, I asked the admin assistant—who had been busy texting before I showed up—where I could find Ms. Lee. She was kind enough to walk me over to the correct office (sea of cubicles again), and I found myself face to face with Ms. Lee herself. I began explaining my issue to Ms. Lee, who interrupted to exclaim how relieved she was that I could speak Korean. When I finished my explanation, Ms. Lee said the same thing that the first-floor clerk had said: I'd need to wait for the second document, the gojiseo (pronounce it "goh-jee-saw"), to arrive at my office. I thanked her, shrugged my coat back on, and lumbered out of the office; only later did I realize that I had neglected to ask how I'd have to pay the bill. Could I do it at a bank? Did I need to pay in person at the tax office? As my coworker said, the coming document will doubtless include payment instructions, so no sweat.

A bit of a wasted trip, this was, but still an interesting experience.

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