The Receiver of Revenue is a lot like Iimagine being stuck in Escher’s House of Stairs. Endless. Confusing. Pointless.
The Receiver of Revenue, despite allevidence to the contrary, has a sense of humour. Its twisted and macabre, butits there. I managed to navigate my way through the centre of town, found arundown parking lot and made my way to their offices. Only they aren’t thereanymore. There’s a post-it note stuck on the door saying they’ve moved.
I was not about to be deterred. I had takena day off and I was going to make it count. I got back in my car, bailed it outfor a substantial amount of money and entered the maze of city streets allgoing in the wrong direction. I found the new offices, which weirdly enough arewhere the old offices used to be. I bribed my way into a secure parking lot.
Guard: “Where are you going?”
Me: “The tax man.”
Guard sympathetically: “This is a privateparking lot. I help you, you help me?”
Me: “How much does help cost?”
Guard: “Twenty bucks.”
Me: “Eight bucks.”
Guard: “Ten bucks.”
Done. This is why I love Africa. You canalways negotiate, except with the Receiver.
Off I traipse to the entry, only for somereason they’ve decided to play switcheroo today and swop them around, so Itraipse around some more to yesterday’s exit. I stand in a queue.
Guard: “Wadda ya want?”
Me: “I have a dispute.”
He handed me a neon yellow laminated cardwith GENERAL on it.
Me: “Where do I go?”
Guard: “Follow them.”
I followed the people in front of me. Wewent up a corridor and down a corridor, up a corridor and down a corridorfollowing the signs to the exit. After about twenty minutes I was convincedwe’d just be ushered out the other side none the wiser.
About 5 meters from theexit we were suddenly routed into a large empty room filled with steel chairs.It was surreal. I felt like I was in an episode of Lost or wandered onto theset of Beetlejuice. I kept expecting to see Michael Keaton sitting next to me.
In silence we sat and stared at the screenwaiting for our number to be called. I was 4001. Lost ticket numbers circulatedon the bottom of the screen. I reckon number 722 had either given up and gonehome, or was the man slumped over his seat at the back who may have actuallyhave died there. Over the next half hour we shuffled along seat by seat.
Ilogged onto Foursquare and became the Mayor of the Receiver of Revenue. Notthat it entitled me to anything.
Finally, the computerised voice assembledfrom accents of all South African cultures into a bizarre audio intonationcalled my number. It took me another twenty minutes to find my counter. Istated my case. I pleaded. I begged. I showed the evidence in my favour.Eventually, my impassioned tones reached the ears of a Receiver of RevenueLifer. She shuffled over to me and I resorted to reading her name tag anddeferring to her in my rusty Afrikaans as “Mevrou Mybergh, asseblief kan u myhelp?”
Three hours after I entered the back doorI exited through the front one with… a form. A form! A bloody form! Which Ihave to complete in triplicate! For every year since 1999! And yes it deservesa lot of exclamation points. A form! I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
I think some people get lost in thatbuilding and never find their way out. I think it is place out of time stuck ina void between worlds in a timeless loop. You could walk out the door clutchingyour rebate and find that thirty years have passed while you’ve been inside.
There is a difference between tax evasionand tax avoidance. I don’t evade it, I avoid it because I have learnt that the road to hell ispaved with good intentions.