with Mir Kamin
I'm a freelance writer and mother of two working from home, which theoretically means I can set my own schedule so as to best accommodate my family. In reality, "flexible hours" often equals "working too much." Yes, I'm my own boss; no, that doesn't mean life is easy. It's hard to leave the office when you live there. But I love what I do and feel very lucky. And not just because I get paid to work in my pajamas.
To learn more about Mir, check out her profile on Work It, Mom! or visit her blog at http://www.wouldashoulda.com/
Ordinarily, I have nothing but good things to say about the ease with which one can set up a freelancing business and manage it in a fairly straightforward way. Heck, I’m the first to admit that I had no clue what I was doing when I started, years ago, but with the help of a competent accountant and a few other patient souls, it all worked out.
At this point, I have a registered LLC for my business, my business banking is squared away, and I even fill out the paperwork for my Occupational Tax Certificate every year just like I’m supposed to. It’s truly the yellow piece of paper that hangs on the wall of my office, stating that my county has given my permission to work here, that makes it all feel official… even though I’ve now been doing this for about seven years.
Anyway, all is generally well, but for whatever reason, Q1 this year has yielded multiple paperwork annoyances. I’m not saying that my particular state is worse than anywhere else, but lately it does kind of feel like Georgia is, shall we say, not the friendliest state towards small businesses. Ahem.
Allow me to demonstrate:
First of all, I’ve been using the Federal Government’s online tax center for years to make my required tax payments. It’s a straightforward, easy-to-use interface, and I’ve never had any problems with it. When I go to see my accountant to do payroll, I usually bring my laptop and make those payments while I’m sitting in his office, just so that we both know it’s done. That’s all fine.
Beginning this year, Georgia is now requiring small businesses to use their online system for these tax payments. For years I filed via paper, because you need some special assigned number and a magic wand, it seems, to get into the online system… and I applied for one several times to no avail. (But at least they kept sending me threatening letters about my failure to apply, until finally my accountant sent them copies of everything and they magically figured it out.) I gained access just a few months ago, and have been astonished at how poorly their system operates, particularly compared to the Federal one. The interface is weird and non-intuitive, the site is frequently inaccessible, and I’m pretty sure the whole thing exists just to force you to look at all of the “important messages” and penalties my local government wants to make sure I’m aware of.
Right now, I’m trying to convince the Georgia government that no, I do not owe them a payment from 2009, and furthermore, I don’t owe them almost $1,000 in penalties on said phantom payment. True, I was fighting this battle with them before I was given access to the online payment system, but now every time I log on to (dutifully! cheerfully!) pay my quarterly taxes, there are flashing red messages about the money I supposedly still owe them, because they have not yet bothered to process the appeal we sent in three months ago.
To cap off that entertainment, this year when my Occupational Tax Certificate renewal form came, things ’round here were in chaos, and I tossed it on my desk and forgot about it for a while. Once I finally remembered it, I started filling it out and remembered that Oh yeah, my county now requires—even on renewals, even though it seems like proving your citizenship once should be sufficient—that you get the page stating that either you’re a legal citizen or presented proof of legal alien status notarized. As someone who works from home, I find this kind of a pain in the rear. But furthermore, this year they added the requirement that you get that page notarized, yes, but also submit a copy of your driver’s license, and—I hope you’re sitting down, because this is the very best part—that copy of your driver’s license cannot be mailed to the county office. It has to be faxed or delivered in person.
Can anyone tell me why this would be? How does mailing that form somehow make it… less official?
So. I got the form notarized. I made a copy of my driver’s license. I don’t own a fax machine, because who does, anymore? And by now, I had just a couple of days left before the deadline, and as I was putting all of this paperwork into my purse, I realized that the renewal paperwork has a new, third page now—one where you have to verify the size of your business. Okay… check one box for 500+ employees, one for 499 or fewer. I did that, signed it… and realized that that page also needed to be notarized.
[Sidebar: The truth is that I don't understand notarization on stuff like this, at all. The person with the stamp has no idea how big my business is, or whether I'm a citizen. She just takes my money and stamps the paper. Wow, that seems important.]
Back to the notary I went, and then across town to hand-deliver my documents to my county office. All for the privilege of that yellow piece of paper that entitles me to
scream obscenities at the Georgia Tax Center website tap away at the computer here in my home office.
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