Friday, March 28, 2008

Downtown


I went to the Federal Office building in San Francisco to pick up tax forms from the IRS as I decided to do our taxes myself for the first time in years.

The outing required two buses each way as there is no parking downtown. I know because I tried to get there the other day in my car. It couldn't be done.

At one bus stop, the wind was whipping at my wet hair as I huddled against the plastic wind shield, holding the collar of my light jacket over my throat. A half hour later, an elderly couple joined me, speaking a Slavic language I didn't understand.

The man beckoned to me. I thought he needed directions so I walked to the other side of the shelter where he took me firmly by the shoulders. I backed away. He reached out without speaking and tightened his grip. He seemed to be pressing me against him. I pulled away again but suddenly realized that he was placing me behind the wind barrier that he deemed more effective. Then he rejoined his wife on the collapsible seats and we all waited for the bus.

As I entered the huge, grandiose Federal building, two guards ran to my side so fast they nearly tripped themselves.

"How nice," I thought. "So helpful."

Uh, no. They thought that I might be a terrorist and were eager to relieve me of my purse and a small camera I was carrying. My purse was passed through an airport-type X-ray machine and I had to leave my camera with a large bouncer-like man who gave me a check stub.

They did not, I am pleased to report, require a check of my body cavities. They did not draw blood. But they wouldn't have thought twice about doing so, especially the really big guy.

They inspected my shoes. Pumas. Plum kitten brown & powder blue with asymmetrical lacing system. Size 6 1/2.

It seemed more than a little unfair to go through all that without boarding a plane for someplace exotic, or even just different.

I took several forms, reclaimed my camera and walked across the street to the California State Office Building where I had been told I could obtain the state forms. There was another long Customs line to go through, at the end of which I was informed that "they moved out 6 or 7 years ago."

La-La Land. No kidding.

It will require another bus ride to get to the area where allegedly the State now has its tax office. They have no parking either.

I am so close to just sending everything to our CPA in Los Angeles, as we have for the last several years. His fee is unjustified by the amount of return we can expect, if any. Last year we paid him $275 and got a refund of $40, which is why I decided to do it myself. His rate has probably gone up and our return has likely gone down.

But they don't make it easy. For the legwork alone, as it turns out, I am willing to pay someone.

As long as I was downtown, I decided to walk around with my camera. There was a rally for Tibet in front of City Hall. People with megaphones were chanting, "Olympics in China, Murder in Tibet, Olympics in China, Murder in Tibet."

Like a drum.

Two teenagers jived to the beat as they passed the protesters in Tibetan clothing carrying flags.

On April 9th, the Olympic torch will come to San Francisco, its only North American stop. The protesters want the city to refuse to support "the egregious and ongoing human rights abuses in China and occupied Tibet." Team Tibet, comprised of Bay Area Tibetans and their supporters, is not anti-Chinese but pro-freedom and justice for all.

They are calling on our Mayor and all Americans to revoke the welcome of China's propaganda torch and take a stand for freedom and human rights.

After nearly 50 years of Chinese rule, the Tibetans are sending out a global cry for change. Violence is spreading across Tibet and neighboring regions, and the Chinese regime must now choose between increasing brutality or dialog that could determine the future of Tibet and China.

We can affect this historic choice. China cares about its international reputation and is eager to make the Olympics in Beijing this summer a celebration of a new China that is a respected world power. Its economy is totally dependent on "Made in China" exports that we all buy.

President Hu needs to hear that 'Brand China' and the Olympics can succeed only if he makes the right choice. It will take an avalanche of concerned and vocal people around the globe to get his attention.

Click below to sign a petition to President Hu calling for restraint in Tibet and dialog with the Dalai Lama, and please tell everyone you know.

The petition was organized by Avaaz, and it is urgent that one million signatures be delivered directly to Chinese officials.

(Avaaz is a not-for-profit organization that works to ensure that the views and values of the world's people inform global decision-making. Avaaz means "voice" in many languages.)

Thank you for helping with this important campaign.

PETITION

28 comments:

Nick said...

Why do they make it so difficult to pay your taxes? Don't they want any taxes? In the UK you can do all your tax returns online, easy peasy.

I hope the pro-Tibet protests gather more and more momentum and seriously embarrass China and tarnish the Olympics. As you say, Heart, the violence is spreading all the time. There's a lot of industrial unrest in China itself as well. I wish the spineless UK government would take a more critical attitude to China and all its human rights abuses.

RED MOJO said...

They should send the forms to everyone, or at the very least have them all available for download on the computer. Duh!!!
I love the part about the shoes LOL. They are really cute!
Thank you for taking an active interest in this. I will, of course, sign the petition.

furiousBall said...

You can do them online here in the US too actually and the IRS has the forms online too.

That said, I still use an accountant. :)

Maria said...

Ah...already signed the petition, but thanks for spreading the word.

And, taxes...ugh. We did ours for the first time this year instead of paying someone and it was so much easier than we thought it would be. We used Turbo Tax....

And no whopping refund...Does ANYONE get those anymore???

meno said...

We (and by we i mean my husband) use Turbo Tax. All the forms are in there.

I love San Francisco, but not the government.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Nick,

You can pay them online here, too, but not having done them myself for 16 or 17 years, I wanted to get the forms for a trial run before copying them online.

Mojo,

They do send the forms to people who did their own taxes the year before. Since we've used an accountant for many years, they assumed we would do so again.

Van,

Thank you for the links.

What server do you use that allows you to use fonts and create links in comments?

I have Firefox and Safari, neither of which does that.

Maria,

I doubt if anyone gets them. When schools are being shut down or programs and teachers cut, it's pretty clear that most of the money in this country is going to Iraq. And not even to protect our military people but to kill Iraqis.

Oops, I just wrote another post (rant) here.

Meno,

SF has the same problems as anywhere else. We just have them in an uncommonly beautiful setting.

Molly said...

Hope you don't have any more problems with getting your taxes done. Wasn't that Slavic man sweet to put you out of the wind? I can vouch for them [Ukrainian counts as Slavic, I think!]--- very considerate people. I signed the petition. Thank you for giving me the option. Although I do hate to put my e-mail address out there! Hate all that spam. But for such a cause, worth the risk.

Bob said...

China has reverted to their "cultural revolution" practices in dealing with tibet - the monks have to go to classes, arresting political dissidents, etc.

Looks like they haven't learned anything in the last 30 years.

BTW - federal forms and instructions are available for download online. I don't know about state, though.

thailandchani said...

The IRS needs to go back to having boxed of forms in every single post office. They complain about people not filing. Well, make the forms available. That would be a good first step.

As for Tibet, I honestly don't know enough about the situation to take a stand. My inclination is to agree that China is following typical Maoist tactics - but I question all the information I get from the MSM. (mainstream media)

The CEO said...

I have already done the petition, thank you.

I have needed an accountant since two years after I got married. Recorded history started about then too, I believe.

seventh sister said...

What kind of forms did you need that you cannot download for the IRS site? It looks like a place as big a s SF would have them other places...libraries, the post office, etc.

meggie said...

I was glad to see our Prime Minister stand up & talk about Tibet when he met with Bush.
I have signed the petition.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Molly,

Aren't your in-laws Ukrainian?

Yes, it was very sweet of him. I felt bad that I had misunderstood his motives.

Bob,

I know they're available online. The problem is further complicated by the fact that my printer just died.

It's impossible to side with the bully instead of the underdog. China's treatment of Tibet has been disgraceful for 50 years.

Chani,

Neither the post office nor the library had the forms. I was surprised.

You are right to question the media - everyone should. But the fact that the Dali Lama has been in exile all these years speaks for itself.

Monty,

We've always used one, too, but it seems time to do it ourselves.

Sister,

Forms not available in usual places and broken printer are making all this drudgery necessary.

Meggie,

I was glad to see that, too. Now if we only had a president...

on2ndthought said...

I will definitely sign the petition. And what timing, I just bought Freedom in Exile: The Autobiograpy of the Dalai Lama at my local used bookstore.

See, this is what I mean. I need time to read and get involved with things that matter. Work is getting in my way!

citizen of the world said...

If you do taxes with a program like Turbo Tax, do you still have to deal with forms? I was thinking it all just went on-line.

Jocelyn said...

Here, when you could have ended up with a call for "easier-to-get tax forms," you turned much nobler on us! Yes.

I gotta vote for the investment in Turbo Tax. It's easy and makes tax life less of a kamakazi mission.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Lex,

It's a remarkable story. We can all learn so much from the Dalai Lama. As long as we are true to ourselves we are free, while the bars that imprison us are often the ones we place around ourselves.

Citizen,

I have no idea. This is getting more complicated than it should be.

I just want the Tax Fairy to come and do it for me.

Jocelyn,

What do you have against kamikaze missions?

Christy said...

I honestly think an entire story could be written about these events. Novel maybe, I don't know. Wow.

Me? I do my taxes, too. But I do them online, much easier. =o)

bleeding espresso said...

If you don't mind I'm going to "la la la" past all the frustrations here and focus on your adorable shoes ;)

On a limb with Claudia said...

I love your wandering around SF stories. They remind me of living there. I hate that run around for tax forms saga. Gratefully, we have an accountant who does ours....

On a limb with Claudia said...

Oh there's an award at my place for you! :)

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Christy,

I think I'm frozen in place now about the taxes, counting off days on the calendar.

Espresso,

Yes, the important issues. Shoes.

I watched closely to see if they gave my cute shoes the reverence they deserved.

Claudia,

So do we if we go that route. He's great, but since our return is quite uncomplicated now, it seems I should do it.

I'm probably making a bigger deal of this than it is.

Claudia,

If it weren't for you, I'd have a very bare sidebar. Thank you!

Angela said...

Thanks for reminding me why I don't miss living in a city! ;) Great shoes, by the way. I have some similar ones in green, but they hurt when I wear them -- so I don't. :) Hope FILING your taxes is infinitely easier for you than getting the forms. {{{{{{HUGS}}}}}}

Echomouse said...

Read in the paper here (Canada) that some peaceful Tibetan demonstrators were yelled at and harassed by Chinese in Toronto recently. I was so shocked by that. And appalled. In Toronto of all place. I still can't believe it.

Mariposa said...

what a pita to have your taxes filed!

and i did sign the petition...thanks!

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Angela,

From your lips to the tax god's ears.

I have rejected many adorable shoes in favor of comfort in my life, having learned the hard way.

Echo,

My impression of Toronto has always been that it's an extremely civilized city. I love going there. Sadly, there are violent people everywhere, though.

Mariposa,

Good on you!!

Kapuananiokalaniakea said...

Ah, one of the benefits of making VERY little money is that I can get my taxes done FOR FREE!!! In Portland, retired tax types volunteer at the libraries to do taxes for the peeps with lower incomes. Thank you for highlighting this blessing for me!
Thanks also for the Tibet link.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Puanani,

That service supposedly exists here, too, but they are impossible to find.

The libraries and Post Offices don't even have the forms in San Francisco.