The US is one of two countries in the world that make their citizens pay taxes even if they aren’t residents. The other country that does this is Eritrea. I’ve provided a link so those of you that don’t know where Eritrea is (probably all of you – I also had to look it up) can learn something else today.
This means that even if I live out the rest of my days in Italy, if I only make money while working Italian jobs, and if I never even return to the US, I still have to file and pay US taxes on my income if it surpasses $10,000. The land of the free controls my bank accounts here – I wasn’t even allowed to open one until I provided my physical social security card. They even wanted Rami’s accounts – and because we’re still in legal immigration battles, I have to file separately, meaning I’m punished by not getting any refunds on the interest I pay on my student loans.
So I pay my taxes, and because Rami doesn’t have a tax ID or a SSN, I have to print them out and file them by mail. When I felt that this was silly and surely there was another way, I spent long afternoons attempting to reach someone at the IRS through the phone. When I finally did, they told me they couldn’t help me because of budget cuts and they don’t deal with problems like mine. “Hire someone,” they said and hung up. I refuse to pay more money for this ridiculousness. If they want to audit me, jokes on them. I’ve got next to nothing and nothing to hide. I wish I could say I was storing away precious riches from Rami’s old Florentine family, but that’s certainly not true, nor am I making millions. So I dutifully print out my stupid taxes and write a check for what I owe when I do, and I go to send it through UPS or FedEx because I’m absolutely certain it’ll get lost in the Italian mail system, just like a set of immigration papers did a few years back.
There are a few offices that house the common US company Mailboxes Etc, and the one right down behind the train station on Via Della Scala is my lifesaver, even if I only visit them once or twice a year.
The first time I walked in, I had the PO Box that I was instructed to use written out on the envelope already, and just thought I’d need to hand over the envelope. The blonde women who I’ve grown extremely fond of over the years clucked her tongue and looked up at me sympathetically.
“Oh sweetie, no – UPS and FedEx don’t ship to PO Boxes.” But the angels in this office had figured out the additional addresses for multiple IRS offices in the US and laminated it. She pulled it out and put it down on the desk in front of me. Italians 1 – IRS 0. Since then, I’ve headed to that office because I know they sympathize with me and my terrible tax issues.
Today I jumped on the back of Rami’s scooter with Luna (tucked in her carry bag) and caught a ride to the office that’s conveniently on his way to work. As I turned the corner and walked through the front door, I called out my normal “Buonasera,” but was met with a demand rather than a greeting.
“Ah! Good! Come drink with us!” One of the women called out like they were expecting me.
I looked up to see the staff of the office in the midst of a “brindisi” or “toast.” (Why is it toast in English?? Everyone asks me. Always. I still haven’t looked it up.)
I uttered a polite no grazie, which was unacceptable.
“Daiiii” Come onn! She urged in Italian. “What do you have to do today that you can’t?”
I told them I had to file my American taxes and they all groaned in unison. The woman rounded the counter with a full champagne glass and pushed it into my hand.
“Then you need it more than me! It’s my 50th birthday. Salute!” Everyone hoisted their glasses and I joined the circle, toasting to fifty years and the dread of the US financial system. This tradition of celebration is common here and I’ve been a part of many in my old office and other locales around the city. A quick celebration in the middle of the day to recognize a birthday or a graduation. A bottle of champagne or prosecco is always present, and people come together to make a little toast and give their wishes over a few sips of something bubbly. Then it’s back to work.
The group dispersed around the office and the woman that was celebrating disappeared into the back room and reemerged with bags of gifts and a brilliant bouquet of golden sunflowers. Her shift was ending, and she was off to her birthday dinner, calling thank you’s to everyone and stopping to pet Luna on the way out. The blonde woman that first saved my IRS problems years ago handed me the forms to fill out over the counter and another asked if she could give Luna a treat from their stash they had on their shelf (of course). I sipped champagne while filling out the addresses, and another woman in the office already knew the IRS had changed some shipping issue (lost in translation to me – my Italian vocab isn’t there yet) and was on the computer finding the right code that’d make sure my envelope would reach the right office (thank you so much!).
We chatted about the concert one of them was going to tonight, (70’s 80’s and 90’s music orchestra) and how many tricks Luna can do. We mutually complained about the ridiculous process for me to send my taxes, and that it was ridiculous I had to send them anyway. They gave me a discount on the shipping because I “waited too long.” I downed the last drops in my glass and placed it back on the silver platter still resting on the counter.
I thanked everyone and exchanged promises to visit soon again with Luna, and I walked out into the afternoon sun blazing down onto the Santa Maria Novella church. This year, it may have been hell doing them, but sending my taxes was a surprising highlight.