Registering for council tax

08/09/2008 by Christopher Buxton

The DSK is not the only institution where satirical remarks are banned. A short narrow corridor on the second floor of a council building is filled with a crowd of patient folk. No-one is even sure who is the last in line.

Everyone is here to register ownership of land, house or apartment so that they can pay the local Amenities tax. There are just two chairs, a table to fill out the seven page form and a closed door to the office where behind just two of the nine available windows council workers serve the public.

Everyone is amazingly patient, swopping stories of queues they have known. The only grudging note of complaint is that given they are taking money off us we might have expected a slightly better environment. An available toilet might help given the long wait – but the door to the Staff toilet is locked.

The form poses interesting questions about our flat including details about the way it was built – was it panel, brick or the alarmingly named pulzyasht kofrage that in my dictionary translates as crawling falsework. An hour passes and we are at last admitted to the inner sanctum.

At window number 1 a woman checks our form and of course spots much to criticise. Corrections made we are directed to next available window.

Window number 6 has a notice informing us that the window does not work with clients. This is just as well because behind the window there is nobody. Behind Window number 7 a woman is sitting, avoiding eye contact. We take our form to her. She is angry – and rightly so! – she hasn’t invited us to her window and she is busy!

Woman number 1 points us to the untenanted window number 2. I wonder out loud whether I should offer to move the notice about not working with clients from window number 6 to window number 7. I am worried that the paper shortage in Bulgaria has resulted in there being insufficient notices for the non operative windows.

At this point woman number 1 sharply calls for silence. My comments are inconducive to the smooth working of the office. A new woman appears complaing loudly that some member of the public has managed to enter the staff toilets. Her comments pass without any reaction from woman number 1. They clearly fall into the category of constructive criticism.

Woman number 2 at last appears. She is used to dealing with imbeciles and patiently explains all the mistakes we have made in filling out the form. Finally we are registered to pay tax.

I take my hat off to the Bulgarian education system. Very few English people could have coped with a form of such detailed complexity. In the UK even a two page passport form requires posters, information campaigns and help from specially trained Post Office counsellors.