Thursday, July 4, 2013

Adventures in administration, la suite…

Because when you are dealing with French administration there is always a suite.

Disclaimer:  This is going to be another long, horrible rant against French bureaucracy, displaying far less control than my last post.  Read on with care.*

So after speaking to someone with URSSAF on the phone on Tuesday who guaranteed me that everything was fine with my file and told me that I should have my SIRET in about two weeks (and I know she looked up my file because she was able to give me information from it that I hadn’t told her), imagine my surprise when on Wednesday morning I found a letter in the mail from URSSAF.  I secretly hoped that it would be my SIRET, or at the very least a document assuring me that they had received my file and they were working on it, but I had a sneaking suspicion that it would in fact be bad news.  And boy was I right.

URSSAF had decided that the activity that I declared, what I was specifically told to write by the second conseillère after she herself had spoken to URSSAF, was not an activity according to l’INSEE.  So I needed to contact them by email to provide more information on my activity, and preferably the INSEE code for my activity.  Back to square one.  Not to mention, instead of writing this letter on June 28, posting it on July 1, and having it arrive in my mailbox on July 3, complete with a hand-written note informing me that I could provide them the information by email, why didn’t they just  A.) pick up the phone and call the number I had provided in my file or  B.) send me an email at the email address in my file on June 28, which would have made the entire thing go faster.

But anyway, I’m past that conundrum.  Since I didn’t see the letter until yesterday evening, I emailed them first thing this morning, telling them exactly what I have told all of the other people I have spoken to.  I provided a detailed list of all the different activities I perform, in order of importance, starting with customer service (which is apparently just not an activity according to INSEE), and I asked them for their advice in determining exactly what activity I should declare seeing as I had no idea, and apparently no one I’ve spoken to, with any organization including URSSAF, can really tell me.

Surprisingly I got a response back this morning giving me three different options of activities that might apply to my case (none of which have anything to do with what I really do which is primarily bilingual customer service).  One of the options was an activité commerciale, one was an activité artisanale and one was an activité liberale.  Of course, being three entirely different groups of activities, they each have slightly different formalities that are needed (artisanale being the worst) and different tax rates for your cotisations sociales.  Naturally, I was tempted to pick the cheapest (liberale), but as I really didn’t think it fit my case, I felt guilty doing that and feared that somehow that would just cause me more problems down the road.  The commerciale choice scared me for potential legal reasons, so I resigned myself to artisanale and the additional paperwork necessary.  Though, as a sidebar, can I just ask how bilingual customer service by phone and email, billing, bilingual mailings, financial documents and transactions, translation/interpretation, preparing reports, filing, collections and various other business and administrative tasks can possibly fit into activité artisanale which is normally for bakers, pastry chefs, plumbers, electricians, designers, etc!?!?! But, apparently, according to the dreaded website lautoentrepreneur.fr, it does.  The logic seems to escape me though.

Pour faire fructifier votre talent (to grow your talent), what a lie...more like to kill your talent!  Not to mention that the little auto-entrepreneur guy looks like a...

So, once I had settled on the dreaded activité artisanale I looked back at the email which instructed me to redo my déclaration en ligne and instead of sending it in online, to save it and email it to the person with URSSAF along with my ID, which would save me time in the processing of my file.  Wait, what!?!?! I have to REDO my déclaration!?!  Because you can’t just take all the information off of my original form and enter it into your system and then put in the correct activity?  Not to mention, what have you done with the photocopies of my ID that I sent in with my file?  I resigned myself to having to fill out the form again, and, hoping that maybe they had since updated their site, that maybe I would be able to get past the part where I was getting stuck with my titre de séjour information.  Well, as it turns out I never even got that far because, now that I’m declaring an activité artisanale the website automatically redirected me to the website of the CFE, cfe-metiers.com (of course, because I originally sent my déclaration to the CFE who decided it wasn’t their problem and sent it on to URSSAF) to fill out the form on their website which automatically included the other formalities necessary for an activité artisanale (which is l’immatriculation au Répertoire des Métiers).** 

I filled everything out and saved it rather than sending it in, then emailed it back to the person at URSSAF who quickly responded saying that he couldn’t process it, and that, in order for URSSAF to process my file I had to fill out the online form on lautoentrepreneur.fr, validate it at the end and send it to him with the appropriate numbers.  Ummmm….ok, except that your website automatically redirected me to the other website to fill out the form.  And what does it matter.  It’s all the same damn information anyway!  Not to mention that, even if your website didn’t redirect me, it won’t let me get past the box for my titre de séjour information!  So I emailed him back asking if I should print out the same damn one-page paper form, fill it out by hand, scan it, and email it to him or if I should just send in the other form to the CFE on their website. No response yet. 

My fear with sending it in to the CFE is that I will start all over again with a one month wait for my SIRET, and at some point my company in the US is going to start to get really angry that this is taking so long and I don’t want to lose my job because these stupid organizations can’t figure their shit out and don’t even know how their own damn websites work.  If I send it by email to this guy with URSSAF, maybe, just maybe, since he said it would speed the whole process up, I won’t lose any more time and I will still be able to get my SIRET in about two more weeks (I know, wishful thinking Michele).

So, I’m back to square one and as far as I can figure they just threw my other déclaration away or something stupid which means that at this point I have no déclaration being processed anywhere and I’m no closer to goal than I was when I started a month and a half ago!  Ugh!!!  This country can be soooo incredibly frustrating sometimes!  It makes me wonder why I even bother to do anything legally here…I mean I could just travailler au black and make more money that way AND not have to put up with this hassle!

*I apologize for the anger and frustration displayed in this post.  I currently have no one to vent to as I have no friends in Bordeaux, Lionel just does the Gallic shrug and tells me to deal with it and all of my friends in the US are busy (it is the 4th of July after all) or don’t understand.  I had to take my frustration out somewhere, and since this is MY blog, I figured I have every right to do it here, so I am sorry if any of you, my dear readers, are offended.

**It actually gets much more confusing and complicated than this because some sites say that an activité artisanale has to pay one amount in cotisations sociales and other sites give a different amount for this group so at this point I have no idea how much I will have to pay.  Also, some sites say I have to do l'immatriculation au répertoire des métiers for my particular activité artisanale while others say that I don't.  Not to mention that some sites say that for ANY activité artisanale they will have to verify your qualifications (i.e. diplomas in the relevant field or at least three years experience working in the relevant field, at which point I guess I'm screwed because I don't have a stupid BTS assistante administrative or any other diploma for my "field" and I also don't have three years experience in this "field").  So I have to admit that at this point I am lost, confused, angry, frustrated and fucking pissed and all I want to do is throw my hands up in the air, drink a bottle or two of wine and then go punch a few idiots in the face.

13 comments:

  1. I just wanted to let you know that you don't have to apologize for ranting-- I actually am grateful for it! I am also an American in France and going through these kinds of feelings related to administration, so it helps to read this. It is frustrating, and after the circles you've had to go around in, it's understandable that you are going crazy (I know I am, complete with tears and hysteria). Keep up the good fight-- I believe your persistence will be rewarded!

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    1. Thanks! It's nice to know that not everyone is offended by my ranting, and that some people might even actually appreciate it! I know the feeling of tears and hysteria when dealing with French administration. That's the point I was at this past week, on multiple occasions. At one point I got off the phone and could feel my eyes stinging with tears, and then at another point I was just screaming and yelling like a crazy person while my husband sat there telling me to get over it. The bureaucracy really is what makes living in this country so hard! But I knew that before we decided to come back... Anyway, you keep up the good fight as well, at some point all of our persistence has to pay off!

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  2. I declared myself as a traductrice/expert linguistique en activité libérale and I had no problems. I have heard, however, that they are getting stricter with the activity you declare so don't worry, it's not you that's the problem!

    Maybe you should try to declare yourself as travaux de secrétariat en activité libérale ? Something tells me that should work.

    Yes, I know what it's like to be lonely in Bordeaux. Don't worry about ranting, that's what we are hear for, to lend a helping ear.

    I'll be back the first week of August!

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    1. Well, I'm glad to hear that it might not be me! Sometimes I wonder to myself if it is like this for everyone or if it is just me and I'm some sort of anomaly with the worst luck ever when it comes to French administration. But then I read expat blogs and I usually feel better...

      At this point, I've sent in a new déclaration en activité artisanale and I'm hoping that sometime in the next month I'll have my SIRET and everything will be OK...3rd time's the charm right? And if not, then I might just go crazy!

      I definitely appreciate having readers who don't mind my ranting and are even supportive of it, but I'm also looking forward to your return to Bordeaux in August so I might be able to rant to a physical person from time to time as well!

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  4. Sorry about the last comment. I discovered some errors after I had published it.

    Just wait until I tell you the hoops I had to jump through to be able to pay tax on my last teaching job. Yes, it involved working black for a very official school. I had to force myself through in order to pay the government tax! I can't even pay taxes in France without a fight. Can you believe that?

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    1. I want to say I can't believe it, but somehow it just doesn't surprise me! That's what is truly sad...I can't wait to hear about it though, I'm sure it will be worth a few laughs!

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  5. Hello, I just wanted to tell you that I have no idea why you would put yourself in the artisanat categorie... Trust me I know a few translators, people dealing with languages just like you and the are ALL en liberal. It's actually quite broad and not just limited to doctors or lawyers.

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    1. Trust me, I don't know why I would put myself in the artisanat category either, but unfortunately, if the shoe seems to fit....

      At this point, it's looking like I don't really have much of a choice because it really is the category that describes my overall activities the best. I wish I were en liberal though.

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  6. Haha (shouldn't laugh) but listen to this extract from the French radio show 'on va s'gener'. The context is slightly different but it also shows how absurd French administration works. One guy from the show was sure that the town cathedral was made of red bricks and so to confirm this they decided to phone the town hall... The least one can say it wasn't easy to get this oh so easy piece of information... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GyWzIvwE5hk

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    1. Thanks for the link! I listened to it and it was great. It's so true and a great example of the ineffectiveness of French administration. I almost died when the one woman said she couldn't answer the question because she didn't have a window in her office. Seriously!?!

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  7. Oh man, how frustrating!! This is exactly why I am willing to pay a small percentage of my salary to a portage company each month - I just don't have the patience anymore to deal with such incompetence.

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    1. Yes, it's very frustrating. And I'm STILL waiting, though I'm taking their silence as a good sign that there aren't any more problems. I did a lot of research into portage companies, but as much as I would like to, I just couldn't justify paying any of my salary at the moment, especially since Lionel doesn't have a job. Oh well, I'm just going to have to keep putting up with the incompetence for now, but at least it provides me with plenty of things to blog about!

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