Another exciting adventure in professional writing…

Today on Writer Adventures, I made my third attempt to get a French tax form signed and stamped by the US Internal Revenue Service! I know, I know, being a professional author is such a glamorous job. 🙂
The form is basically a treaty document that certifies I’m a US taxpayer, so the French authorities won’t deduct French income tax from the amount I’m owed by a French publisher that bought the rights to some of my books. My previous attempts included asking my accountant what to do (he had no clue), and trying to contact the I.R.S. to ask them by phone and also by searching their website. Having turned up no helpful information and also having failed to get a human being on the phone, today I turned to my last resort, going to the I.R.S. offices in Boston’s Government Center.
I arrived at 3:30 pm. The website said the office was open until 4:30. After going through security, the metal detector, etc. I went up to the 7th floor looking for the I.R.S. office. I walked into a room with a waiting area of well over 100 chairs. They were all empty, though, and the office was completely silent. Behind the reception desk I could see a few dozen cubicles, but no people were visible from where I was. At the reception desk a man was standing talking to a women taxpayer who was trying to get something from him and he was explaining to her four different ways that he couldn’t help her. Something about her kid going to college and her needing something for a transcript? It didn’t sound like she needed the I.R.S. and I think that might have been what the guy was very patiently trying to tell her. He eventually said he would get a manager and disappeared. Meanwhile I began to wonder if the office was just plain closed.
Another guy came out then and asked if I was being helped. Before the other woman could latch onto him (and she tried), I tried to explain to him what I needed. “Oh, I’ll get you a number,” he said, and he handed me a ticket with the number 923 printed on it. I went and sat down with the 99 empty chairs and looked up at the board, much like the one they have at the RMV, which I hoped would show my number soon.
I sat there for about five minutes, wondering what was going to happen. Then the board lit up with a big red 923 and a flashing arrow to the left, and an announcement said that customer 923 should proceed to cubicle number 2.
I went to cubicle number 2. Inside it was a guy who really looked like an accountant. I mean, like if you were going to cast a movie with a kind of nebbishy pencil-pusher, you would cast this guy.
“How can I help you today?” he asked.
“I have a form that I need stamped and signed by the I.R.S. so that my French publisher doesn’t have to withhold French income tax when they pay me.”
“Oh. You need the office of International Services,” he said. “I’ll get you their number and their fax number.”
“Awesome. I tried to find out the information on who to talk to myself and could neither get it out of the phone tree or the website.”
“Really? It should be easy to find on IRS.gov,” he said. He was clicking his mouse and looking at a computer screen I could not see. In fact, what I think he was doing was searching IRS.gov for the information so that he could give it to me.
A good two full minutes went by while he clicked and clicked and clicked. I stopped counting after forty clicks. I began to feel vindicated that I had not found the information myself.
Eventually he did pull it up, though. Judging from the area code, it’s in Philadelphia.
Here’s the number to call in case any of you ever need to get certification for International revenue of your US taxpayer status: (267) 941-1000. Warning: I haven’t actually called the number yet, so who knows, maybe a fourth round of jumping through government hoops may ensue, but here’s hoping I finally found the right place.
UPDATE: That’s International Services, all right. They gave me the address to which I must mail US IRS Form 8802 (Application for US Residency Certification) along with my copies of the French tax forms that I need to have signed. So now I have some paperwork to send in… and with any luck they’ll mail me back the forms with proper signatures, stamps, and seals? Fascinating.

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