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So on the third and final day I went with the driver down town, armed with exact instructions on how to get there. We passed by Tahrir Square, the Parliament building, the Ministry of Interior, all of which brought memories of the revolution. So I was in a rather mellow, nostalgic mood when we got there, from which I was rudely awakened by the enormity of the task at hand.
It seemed that every single person with property on the North Coast or at the Red Sea was there to pay taxes! It looks like this very well kept secret about taxes had leaked out. But I must say, the general standard was pretty good so there was no pushing or jostling. Despite the large number of people, business was conducted with civility and no pushing or raised voices, well not many.
I finally got to the right room, was given a form to fill then told to go to another room. I thought I was to submit the form there, but no, it turned out so I can get a photocopy of my ID. While there I ran into a cousin and we had a cosy little chat before I had to leave to look for where to submit the form. I finally turned up at the first office and got the form to the right lady. Of course my form went to the bottom of the pile. Because the property for which I want to pay taxes is on the North Coast, and because the Tax Department is still not computerised, information about the amount of Tax had to be collected by telephone. Thank God for mobiles. So I settled in for the inevitable wait till my form reached the top of the pile.
The room was large, it had a couple of comfortable sofas, and miracle of miracles, it was air conditioned. So I sat down and relaxed, looked around and right next to me were three elderly ladies all chatting about their chalets up on the North Coast. It turned out they had never met before, but by the time their names were called they had exchanged mobile numbers with the promise to meet up there during the summer. Very typically Egyptian, if you are stuck long enough with total strangers, you make a few friends.
Finally my name was called, then I had to navigate the endless corridors to find where I should pay. The first cashier was so overcrowded I was told to go to the next one “down the corridor to the left”. But of course he wasn’t there. I had to ask several people, all employees sitting at desks in the different rooms, whose sole purpose in being there seemed to be to give directions to lost souls like me.
Eventually I reached the right cashier, submitted my form which promptly went to the bottom of the pile. Another sofa, but no air conditioning. The amounts that were being paid were horrendous! But I kept thinking, couldn’t all this have been better organised? Why do we have to go to different tax offices, each according to the location of the property? Why do we not have one file per taxpayer where all his/her properties are listed and where all taxes can be paid? My musings were interrupted when my turn came to pay. I finally paid, took the little pink receipt and with a strong feeling of accomplishment headed out. My triumphant exit was marred by getting lost and having to ask directions to the main door before ending up in a storage room. Finally I had paid my Property Tax for one out of three properties. I just have a telephone call to make in three days to find out about my next property.