Yesterday morning we had the best morning ever, because we went to the IRS.
I highly recommend going there, because you will have the longest quality time with your family ever!
For those who have never heard about the IRS (probably my Dutch readers), it is the same as 'de Belastingdienst' in the Netherlands. The slogan that the Dutch IRS used, was surely NOT applicable over here: 'Leuker kunnen we het niet maken, wel makkelijker'. Which means: 'We can't make it more fun, but we can make it easier'. However, I have never been to 'de Belastingdienst' in the Netherlands, you could just arrange everything online, by phone or by mail. I have to admit that I don't know what works more efficient, because the belastingdienst has made a lot of mistakes and communicating about that is very hard for them (especially when you live abroad. Well going there, while living abroad, simply would not be an option). And well, if you look at the differences in the tax that you have to pay in the Netherlands compared to the tax in the U.S., well, let's say you're much better of in the U.S. (If you have no job you're better of in the Netherlands, but hey, this blog isn't about taxes).
The office in Downers Grove opened at 8.30 am, and our kids had to be there, so we had to keep them 'home' from school. (It closed at 4.30 pm and we can't make that either).
When we signed us in at the counter, the guy sitting there told us it was better to go and wait downstairs in the lobby of the building. There were two rows of about 10 chairs I think, and they were all occupied. He told us we could come back after 30 minutes. And so we did. It was a bit strange, waiting in the lobby of what clearly was a big office building, with two children. There was nothing to do down there. We bought something to drink and to eat and then we went up again.
We were lucky, there were four chairs empty. We thought it would be our turn soon, but no we had to spent about an hour and a half waiting there, WITH TWO KIDS!
I can tell you, waiting at the IRS with two kids is quiet a challenge. There was one TV there, but the screen was broken. The subtitles came on there spelling the words mixed up. And the colors were all mixed up too. I was wondering how bad that was, because the shows that were on there, seemed not really child approriate too. I could see that the Wendy Williams Show was on there, and sometimes I could read the subtitles and it said something about 'if parents should tell their kids when they weren't talented at something'... I remember thinking 'Hell yeah! If you don't tell them that, then who will?' And I was thinking about a lot of children performing on TV while they couldn't sing or dance at all. Please spare them that by just telling them they aren't good at something. It also made me think about a conversation my sons had before, about praising in America.
You weren't allowed to use your cellphone (while a lot of people did, and the guard said nothing about that to them), you weren't allowed to drink or eat and you weren't allowed to have a gun (the guard did have one, but he was so fat that I thought I could run zigzag and avoid the bullets, oh the crazy things you think while waiting). We were seated with our back to a grey 'wall', which reminded me of the waiting room at the American Embassy in the Netherlands. I don't like being seated with my back to where it is all happening, but that is probably why they do it, to intimidate you. In the grey wall were all signs saying you could slide the door, and above the grey wall there were numbers.
In front of us was a grey (I think they loved the color grey, which I can imagine, it makes you feel so happy!) cabinet, where you could take out your, mostly grey, forms. There were a lot of them. I hope I will never have anything to do with those forms, because the topics weren't really making me happy too.
Anyway, we were sitting there with the four of us, and I decided we could play a game 'Ik zie ik zie wat jij niet ziet' (which is I spy with my little eye). How can you keep your children behaving otherwise? We had some fun together, and the color grey of course was very often used. When my youngest was having too much fun, he was laughing, the guard SHUSHED him. Even I was a bit intimidated by him. So we stopped that game, and talked to the kids about all kinds of topics. Well, I do know now how their schooldays look like from minute to minute. So the IRS really brought us closer as a family.
There were more children, even toddlers. I was really feeling sorry for them. I suggest that the IRS hires a nanny instead of the guard to entertain the children. A corner with some childrens books, some toys and a television with child appropriate programs would be welcome too. That would make the very long wait so much easier. Or maybe they shouldn't oblige people to take their children along?
My oldest was asking me why they needed a guard at the IRS? Where they afraid that someone would steal all those grey forms? I can imagine that people would get mad, waiting there, and maybe the guard would have to sit on top of them to make them calm again. But I had no answer to his question. My son also asked what this W-7 (form to get a tax identification no.) meant? He asked me if it meant 'Waiting for 7 hours?'
There was a sign up there, stating you could call a given number if you had an idea to make the IRS better, but I wasn't allowed to have a Phone, so I couldn't call. They also gave us a form stating 'Your opinion counts!' but I forgot a pen and there wasn't a pen there I could use. If I would have filled that form out, it wouldn't have been pretty!
I have to admit that Obama's face on the wall made the wait a bit more comforting.
After a while a lady came helping at the front desk. She said, very loud, that it was really busy today and that they were short handed. It had something to do with all the truckers that came in last minute to file their taxes. (After getting home I looked up all the jobs that I thought must be available at the IRS in Downers Grove, but there were none!)
There was a poster hanging there, that stated that the people working at the IRS could speak your language. I was very much looking forward to that. Finally some one that spoke Dutch! What a bummer when it finally (after 2 hours of waiting!) was our turn and the man that helped us spoke English to us.
When our number showed up at the board, my youngest son was shouting 'Yes!' and jumped up. At least that made the people sitting there laugh and they really needed that.
We were in the 'office' (or whatever you call a grey sliding wall, with behind that a table with 2 chairs on one side and one chair on the other. The man did have a nice view though, but he was sitting with his back to that) for about 3 minutes. My husband had all the forms ready and all we needed to do was give him our sons passports. He didn't even need mine, I was a bit sad about that. Then he told us he was going to make a copy of their passports and needed to verify them. That would take him about 20 minutes, he said. My husband asked if he still needed the kids to wait for that, but that wasn't necessary. Yeah!!!
So I finally, after being at the IRS for more than 2 hours, left the building to bring my two sons to school. We were so late, that it wasn't even sure if they would still be able to eat lunch at school. I was very proud of my two boys, who had behaved so well!
My husband was still waiting there, for 30 minutes, instead of the 20 minutes the man had said. No clue why verifying two passports took him 30 minutes?!
Here are some tips if you have to go to the IRS (especially with kids!):
- Don't go on the last Friday before the Truckers have to file their highway use tax return!
- Take some books along.
- Make them use the bathroom before you enter the waiting room, because you never know when it is your turn.
- Give them something to eat and drink before you enter the waiting room, but not too much, because then they might have to use the bathroom.
- Take along some toys that don't make any sound, otherwise the guard will 'shush' you too.
- Look at this website before you go! (I don't know if the guard would Shush you while playing those games, it can get a bit too much fun and I think you are not supposed to laugh / have fun at the IRS)
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