Government offices often attract long queues and crowds even more than carnivals and amusement parks. As the offices are only opened on weekdays, everyone will be there to pay their bills, persuade an officer to cancel a service because they don’t want it anymore, or demand for a refund for a bill that was not supposed to be there. And then we have the office blocks where there is a maze of corridors waiting for you to get lost in.
And then, there is the risk of being turned away by a government officer if you failed to provide the necessary documents or paperwork.
Which was what happened to me yesterday. I don’t regret what I did yesterday. I just wished I had been more prepared instead of going there and hoping for the best.
The Tax Office Nightmare
By now, many of you might know that I was retrenched. The company who terminated my contract had given me my compensation package, with two thirds of the salary being withheld until it has been processed by the tax office to be eligible for tax exemption. With an official letter from the company and my EA forms, I marched over to the nearest tax office branch with the documents. Nothing much was said and my documents were accepted with grace. The officer on duty told me to call the branch back after two weeks for a status update. I went home, pleased as punch.
Two weeks later, I called. Lo and behold, and unsurprisingly, no one answered my call. Typical government office. No matter what time you called, someone on the other side may have gone for a cigarette break, or is having a second breakfast, or have gotten stuck in the toilet with massive food poisoning, or held up somewhere or other with the most trivia excuse you’ve ever heard.
Never mind, I will call back later.
Many calls and almost three weeks later, I decided to visit the branch in person, this time with a friend. Guess what? I was told that my company had filled up the wrong form needed for the process, turned away with the correct form shoved into my face, and told to return later. I did return with the correct form, complete information, and copies of my documents. I even found time to share my sob story with a different tax officer which resulted in me receiving the letter of approval from the officer himself (he said he felt sorry for the trouble I went through, so he gave me the letter on the spot), and I merrily skipped my way to my ex-company. I still have to wait for my salary to be released but at least the nightmare of facing the tax department officers is over.
A Word of Advice
Ensure that you are thoroughly prepared before you embark on any journey to any government office. Don’t give the officers a reason to turn you away. Unless you enjoy driving aroound aimlessly and having nothing urgent in particular to attend to.
Location, Location, Location
Make sure you know what is the name of the government office that you are heading to. It is pointless and a waste of time to play charades or a guessing game as to what the place or building is known as when you’re all geared up to go the next day.
Routes, and More
Make sure you know where the office is located, and what are the routes leading to the office. If you have a rough idea of where it is, full or partial address, input this into your Google Maps or Waze or what have you. That way, your smartphone can live up to its name and hopefully (and smartly) tell you how to get there. Be sure to plan for emergency routes too, because you will never know when your regular one is closed for road repairs or jammed up the wazoo.
Prepare in Advance
This is my weakness but then again it could be everyone else’s. Remember to put all the documents and paperwork together in advance, in a bag that you can easily find what you need, so you won’t have to rush the next day or panic when you can’t find something. You want to be at the office, refreshed and with a sharp mind. You don’t want to arrive, panting because you spent all morning searching high and low for something, and then driving like a mad fool on the road just to get to the office on time.
Know What You Need
Knowing what forms to fill up might require your diligence and discipline to keep yourself up to date from time to time. Government offices enjoy updating their forms almost all the time, even if the correction was one comma or one word. Visit your local government website for each type of office and go to a tab that contains all the necessary forms. It’s good to have a softcopy downloaded and saved into your computer or pen drive. But that might not be such a good idea if they keep changing and updating their forms.
It’s good to keep yourself in the loop for these things. The last thing you want is to have everything in ship-shape, only to arrive at the counter and be told that you are using the outdated form and no, they will not process your documents no matter how hard you beg them to. Unless you want to show some skin if you have a male officer.