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Bizarre Bureaucrats At The German Tax Office

Posted on 5th June 2018

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I just had the most bizarre phone conversation with a man at the Munich Finanzamt (Tax Office). I don't know whether the problem is with the staff that work there, or the systems and infrastructure that they work with.

One of my colleagues has a problem with his tax. He is one of many working for my employer who arrived last year from India. Having paid tax in India, he is due to get money back from the German tax authorities. Unlike the dozens of others in this situation, he is having problems, and yesterday asked me to translate a letter he had received from the tax office.

Today he phoned the tax office to get clarification about what information and documents he should send. The bureaucrat who answered spoke very little English, so I was asked to speak to him in German.

The tax official was asking for a copy of a letter. This letter was sent to my colleague by the tax office, but apparently it is not possible for them to find this letter, and they need him to send them a copy.

My colleague, being Indian, has a surname which is unusual in Germany, and also very easy to spell. I would have thought that being able to look people up by name would be a basic function of any filing system or database, but apparently this is not the case at the Finanzamt.