I’ve been getting better recently at coping with the French bureaucratic system. I no longer sit seething (well not as often anyway) at the fact that everything has to be photocopied, printed out, saved in paper folders – even when the process is all done online. I’m getting used to the fact that so many organisations insist on sending you a pass code in the post for an online service – even though they have asked for your email and mobile number. But the tax authorities have their own special little foibles.
As part of the process of getting our car and van imported and re-registered in France we had to get something called a ‘Quitus fiscal‘, a certificate to certify that all necessary taxes had been paid on the vehicle. I’d found the recommended list of documentation required, filled in forms, made photocopies and organised everything in folders to take to the tax office. Our first visit to this office when we first moved over permanently had been a bit of an education and our experience hasn’t changed over the many visits we have had to make since.
Our local town with its surrounding communes has a population of around 30,000. The large ugly 1960’s concrete block, sporting the words ‘Centre des Finances Publiques’ looks built to cope with a town this size, but when you walk through the sliding glass door you find yourself in a small room about 4m x 4m with a single glass window at one end and 4 plastic chairs arranged around the walls. As you can only pack about 8 people into this space there is often a line tailing back into the car park outside. Once inside, the experienced taxpayer makes a mental note of who is already there and who comes in behind, so that you can leap forward when your ‘turn’ comes. There’s no privacy so during your extremely long wait you are entertained with everyone’s financial situations and family circumstances, as they try to get some sense from the miserable and taciturn chap whose job it is to sit sideways-on at his computer behind the screen, rarely looking up as he deals with queries. (Mind you, if I had his job, I’d be miserable and taciturn!)
Our joy at only finding 4 people in the waiting area when we arrived quickly evaporated when, having reached Monsieur Services Clients behind the screen, we were told ‘We don’t deal with that – you’ll have to go to La Flèche’.
La Flèche is 40km away and as it was 11.30am and everywhere closes from midday until 2pm, we would have to go home and try the tax office in La Flèche after lunch. Monsieur was in quite a jolly mood today so he (still not making eye contact) volunteered the address of the afore-mentioned tax office without being prompted. I thanked him, saying I had been before, and refrained from mentioning that my previous visit had been a fool’s errand after he had sent me there on another matter and I was redirected back to him with a “What’s the matter with those guys? You’re the 3rd person this week they’ve sent over when it’s their job to handle this”
So, we weren’t terribly confident of success when we arrived at La Flèche Centre des Finances Publiques. This office at least has a ribbon-barrier queuing area for the Accueil, Reception desk, and two people working on it. Having shuffled very slowly to the front of the queue we were told that we actually needed the office on the first floor. (Just a suggestion here guys – why not just have a sign that points visitors to the relevant office as they come in?)
This time there was no one in front of us! A very friendly young man listened as I explained what we needed then disappeared off to photocopy my photocopies and fill in all the necessary forms (which he then photocopied and filed) before finally presenting us with the prized Quitus Fiscal for each vehicle. Yay!
Next, the actual application on the ANTS website.