Income tax returns and I haven't been on good terms for the past ten years.
It all began in 2000 with a letter from the LHDN office in Kuala Lumpur demanding money. From statements, the letters steadily degenerated into reminders and then thinly-veiled threats. So, like any dutiful citizen, I trotted off to the LHDN office in Bandaran Berjaya (the old office) and tried to pay.
Lo and behold, the counter staff refused to accept my money. They kept insisting that I didn't owe them any money. I told them that the income tax payments were for my account when I was unmarried. However they'd deleted that account. And under my new account, I had no debts. So I went into a small room where an officer looked at my file and then told me to go home. Six months later, I got another letter from Kuala Lumpur, telling me that I still hadn't paid (no kidding???) and that I was in danger of losing my limbs. Hmm, I'm kidding about the latter. But it was no laughing matter.
So off I went to the LHDN office again, in a more aggressive mode. After some letter-waving and gesticulating, I was told to fill in a form and told me to go home (again!) so they could find out what was wrong.
Later on, I was told that they had misplaced my file and were also in the midst of moving office. But I went back again and was informed that I had four accounts! One under my old IC number, another under my new IC number,, the third under some strange series of numbers that the officers themselves didn't understand and the fourth under my husband's account. By this time, I was reduced to begging them to PLEASE solve my problem.
In the meantime, LHDN Kuala Lumpur kept sending me love letters. I was beginning to feel very wanted.
By 2007, they had moved into a building of their own and were busy converting everything into bits and bytes. So I went again. By this time, they were able to pull up my file from the database and check my account right in front of me. Lo and behold, I had three accounts now. Was that an improvement? One under the same old strange series of numbers and the other two under my husband's account. That made me sit up and feel a rush of adrenaline. As far as I knew, when a husband's account is 1234567, his wife's account is 1234567(1) and his SECOND wife's account will be 123467(2)! Seeing my eyes widen and my face turn red, the officer quickly told me,"Oh but the second account is also under your name!" And he said something like 'so his second wife also has your name..haha..'
By this time, I was extremely tired of having multiple accounts. In one account, they owed me money. In the other, I owed them. And the offices in Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu didn't seem to be linked. Imagine P demanding payment and Q refusing to accept said payment. At one point, I asked sarcastically if perhaps I was supposed to go to Kuala Lumpur to pay. If that would solve my problem, I was fine with it.
However, by 2008, everything was solved. Now I have only one income tax account and my husband doesn't have another wife.
THEN last month, I got a letter from the dears again. Telling me to pay. Again.
This time, I took leave from the office (I was sure it wouldn't be just a lunch break thing). I carried all my files and dressed official. Somehow they tend to treat you 'better' if you dress official. And what a relief... it wasn't an old megrim. No, they have just started asking the citizens to pay for NEXT YEAR's tax return. And I hadn't even submitted the current year's tax return.
What have I learned from all this?
First, I suspect they had courses on How To Intimidate Citizens Into Paying. I imagine they are told to sprinkle the letters with liberal doses of frightening words. My least favourite is Without Prejudice. As far as I'm concerned, this is rubbish. If they are truly 'without prejudice', then why mention deadlines and further action?
Second, patience doesn't solve your tax problems. They just pile penalties on top.
Third, technology may make things easier but it also expedites errors.
Fourth, citizens hardly ever win income tax battles. They will always say that citizens should know their responsibilities. So pay pay pay!