Paying property tax in Egypt is an adventure. You would think that the taxes levied on your property are literally a “state held secret”! You can only get to know about your taxes if you go through all kinds of torture.
First of all, we have two property tax laws, the old one and the new one. If you have been paying your taxes as per the old law, too bad. For the “new” tax law was passed four years ago and has been applied ever since. You never heard about it? You are not alone, nobody seemed to have known about it.
So as is the case where such very important things are concerned where people are supposed to be very well informed, I heard about property taxes on Facebook when a friend said she got there by the skin of her teeth before the 15th of the month so that she does not have to pay a penalty of 17% for late payment. She was jubilant. Of course she was happy not to pay the penalty for this year’s taxes, though she did pay penalty for the last three years! But again, this is typical. We find out 5 days before the cut-off date for this last year, and are very excited to avoid the penalty for THIS year, though we know full well that we have to pay for the full four years with penalty included for the past three years! But still we scramble and run a marathon to pay on time… just three years late, but not the fourth.
The relationship between the State and the citizen in Egypt is quite unique. Most of the time when there is something that the Government wants to inform the people about, it publishes it in what is called the “Official Gazette” where all new laws and decrees are published. This seems to vie with the most seditious pamphlets and most flagrant pornography in being illusive. It must be printed in an old Government dungeon that nobody knows about. But again, if you really want to know, go to Facebook.
Having heard about the deadline – which of course happened to fall on a Saturday which is the second day in the weekend – I found out I only had three days to pay my property tax! And I had a dentist’s appointment on the second day, so virtually I had two days. So being a logical person, I opted to go look for the closest property tax office to my residence. And here my adventure begins.
I thought I should be a with-it sort of person so looked up ‘Property Tax Office’ in 6 October City on google map. And Voilá! There it was, pinpointed beautifully on the map, showing the main thoroughfare off which it was, giving me the name of that thoroughfare. So I took the car, with the driver thank God, and off we went.
First stumbling block, no street signs anywhere! Minor hitch. We asked. Four different answers ….hmmm. Challenge! Then a lightbulb moment! Why don’t I ask at the Municipal Headquarters, they should know. So off we went, and when I got there I thought it best to ask personally as my driver got it into his head we were looking for the social security office, I guess taxes don’t make sense to him. When we got there I went to Information and asked. Blank look, then, no not here. Ok yes but do you know where it is? No, sorry. But a guy standing nearby took pity on me, told me to hold on, shouted out a name and a young man came over. He asked him where the property Tax office was and he started giving me directions. The gist of it was that I should get to the police precinct then ask from there. Ok, thanks, and off we went.
The police precinct was a good way off so 30 minutes later we were there, but nobody around to ask, and here the Egyptian greyhound instinct kicked in and I told the driver to head for some new housing project look-alike buildings which probably housed government offices. Of course no street signs, so we just wondered about when suddenly there was this beautiful, huge sign General Tax Department! Eureka!
But I was premature in my celebration. Property Tax is a totally different ballgame. But a couple of young men standing in front of the building were kind enough to describe where it was. Go to the Banks area and it is across the road from the National bank of Egypt. There! Could anyone miss that? Well, yes. It seems there are two Banks areas, and of course we went to the wrong one first. But, finally we got there.
I dragged myself into the Property Tax Department and asked for the proper tax office to pay taxes for my chalet on the North Coast. Ha! Not here madam, you have to go downtown for that! What! After all that? Sorry.
So I thought to salvage something and asked if property taxes have been set for the houses in my compound, and the answer was yes! Good, not a total waste of the day. But it seemed that after trying to find my name, my house, nothing. With a bit more inquiries, it turned out there are two compounds with the same name but in different areas, and of course with my luck, mine was not there. Ok, so where should I look for the Property Tax Department to which my compound belongs? I was given the name of the next county! A kind lady took pity on me and gave me the name and mobile number of a man working there whom I should call before trying to navigate my way through uncharted areas.
One day gone, the next day the dentist, so down to the last day before penalty time.
Part 2 to follow