Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Freindly Tax Collector

An important part of my job is making sure my Keurig machine is used regularily.  It helps me keep my product knowledge and I have managed to pick up a taste for coffee. Every so often I send in my boss a request for 4 boxes K-Cups. I receive the customs note in our mail box. I pick it up at the local post office.  If the shipment makes it to Israel, I have never had any problems. The last time I placed my request, my boss said there was a problem.  I would now have to order 12 boxes, as it would be more economical in the long run.

On Wednesday I received a note that I had a package in the Postal Tax Office in Jerusalem.  I was a little bit concerned as it had instructions for all kinds of documents that would be required under different scenarios.  It didn't say how much tax I would need to pay.

On Thursday, I went down to the Post Office.  I brought the form to the front desk and said I had no idea what the form was about.  They told me to go to the warehouse in the back to get the package.  They pulled out a huge box and said I needed the customs agent to come back to see it.  They asked me what was inside.  I explained it was coffee.  They opened the box and saw I was right. Since I put in my request we began carrying 6 flavors of Starbucks which I need to try plus a box of Iced Coffee that I really want.  I also started a second job with a company that has 9 flavors on the market.  It has been interesting advising customers without ever trying them before.  It looks like he may have shipped me 16 boxes of coffee. That would be more than 300 cups of coffee/tea.

First I had to explain that the coffee was for personal consumption.  Then I had to explain that I didn't have an invoice because I didn't pay for it.  Finally she decided that she is going to charge me taxes based on the $160 declared value on the shipment.  She begins processing it and I pull out my credit card.  They only take cash or check.  Due to difficulties earlier in the week, I would not have access to cash until the next day.  She starts making phone calls trying to figure out what to do.

Agent #2 jumps in asking about my Hebrew skills.  Agent #1 jumps in with "He speaks some Hebrew, I speak some English.  We understand each other."  Agent #2 says "Don't you learn Gemara?"  This lead into a discussion on where I went to Yeshiva and where it was located.  I drew a blank on the neighbourhood of new location. Agent #3 asks me what street it is on. In the back of my head, I am thinking that something is not quite adding up 100% on the line of questions.

Agent #2 (who is not wearing a Kippah) goes to the cooler and gets me a cup of water.  He asks me to say Bracha that they can all answer to.  He then notices the wedding ring, which blew them all away, especially when I through in it has been 14 years and I have an 8 year old.  We made some more small talk as Agent #1 still does not know what to do.  "The computer won't let her go forward"

I told them that if I had to come back, I would come back another time. Agent #1 didn't want me to do that because I might get a different agent.  The implications was who knew what they would charge me or other problems I would have with the package.  In the end she decided to send it to my local post office.  I would pay the taxes when I picked it up.

The office could have very easily just turned me away until I had what they needed to clear my package.  Instead they thought of me as a person that they did not want to inconvenience.  It is something you expect from friends and family, not a person holding  a rubber stamp.  It is just another of many examples, of where living in Israel really feels like home.

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