Adventures with the Swedish Tax Board

cions

My daily tax payment. Ha ha.  Photo by: Jason.Rogers (CC BY NC SA)

I have only a few posts left as the Swedish Institute has made the decision to discontinue having blogs. Ending this blog got me thinking that I want to leave those of you thinking of moving to Sweden or who are fresh off the proverbial boat with some concrete information (and maybe some more anecdotes) about life in Sweden. I thought I would revisit a subject I wrote about back when I was writing the Work Blog.

According to an article in The Local, an 87-year-old Swedish woman received a letter from the Swedish Tax Board (Skatteverket) informing her that she had died. “The letter was addressed to the “estate of the deceased” with the woman’s name on it. The letter asked for relatives to fill in the details concerning the woman’s address, to be returned to the Swedish Tax Agency.”

This, of course, resulted in her having to call the authorities and protest that she was still alive and kicking. My favorite part of the article is the woman’s description of her call to the Tax Board. “The person I spoke to said that I must be alive, as I was able to call. She promised to correct the details and write in that I was alive.” I love this story because it perfectly sums up a portion of my challenges with dealing with various authorities. Sweden is struggling mightily to improve the whole immigrant process but it’s a work in progress.

The Tax Board
I have had my share of trials and tribulations with the Tax Board. After receiving permission to continue working in Sweden for more than one year and receiving the ID card that said as much (read more here), I skipped off to the Tax Board office in Stockholm to apply for a Personal Number—the key to being recognized in all nearly all segments of Swedish Life. Sadly, I was turned away because although I had my passport and my newly won work and residence card, I did not have the letter from the Migration Board saying I could stay (strange, since that’s what the card says…) nor proof of my divorce.

Huh?

I had filled out forms that stated I was once married but now am divorced and they needed official documents saying I was divorced. You see the Tax Board administers the population registration in Sweden (Folkbokföring), the civil registration of vital events (e.g. births, deaths, and marriages) of the inhabitants of Sweden. The registry spans back several centuries that’s why it’s relatively easy to track one’s genealogy in Sweden.

The Tax Board is no doubt trying to control who you can claim is a part of your family, should you ever try to have them join you in Sweden. But it feels weird to provide all sorts of private information about a man that I am no longer married to and who is not moving to this country. Oddly, I never had to produce evidence that I was married but I did have to prove that I was divorced.

Documents in Hand
So I returned a few days later with the proper documents. I had been advised that coming right when the office opened at 10AM was the quickest. I stood shouldto- shoulder with a crowd of about 50 of us—mostly immigrants—who all wanted to get their business done as quick as possible. But luckily the Tax Board sorted us out and gave us queue numbers pretty quickly.

Alas, when my number came up, I got a woman who looked very unenthusiastic about her job. She insisted that I my divorce papers were not originals. I explained that I had never owned originals but had gotten this certified copy directly from the California courts. The documents bore the certification seal and everything. I told her that they probably never gave out the “original” because, since there are two parties to a divorce, they probably can’t decide which party should get it. She stomped off to make copies of the documents. I had already made copies for them (as well as brought the originals) but she said they had to make their own copies. At least 4 other employees initiated conversations with her at the copy machine, in full view of gotta-get-back-to-work me. I thought maybe she was a supervisor or something and they were asking how to handle complicated cases but when I asked her for a printout of something I needed from the Tax Board, she was at a loss and had to ask the woman next to her.

The Undead
Back to the story about the undead woman (hey, zombie stories play…) The article said the elderly woman also had to straighten out the problem with other Swedish governmental agencies. (Because once it gets into the system incorrectly, it then affects how all the other agencies see you.) “When the 87-year-old recently needed to get medicine from the chemist, for example, she was denied her prescription as the chemist’s records stated that she was a “non-existing person”. The woman said, “She saw that I was standing there and that I had my proof of identity with me, so after a while I was allowed to get my medicine anyway. But it dragged out a good while.”

I love the fact that even standing there in the flesh might not be proof that the report of one’s demise might be greatly exaggerated…

  • Monica-USA

    What a lovely view and picture, thank you.

  • Clas

    The swedish goverment plan to increase the “protection hunting” to hunt not only problematic individuals but whole groups. In a situation where almost half of the wolf popukation every year is killed by poachers this a  clear go-ahead to poachers. Hope the EU will be on their toes now…

    • Sara Jeswani

      Yes, it’s hard to know what an increased “protection hunt” will actually mean, and according to the Swedish Radio, a representant for the European Comission in Sweden says that it isn’t sure what the Commission’s views will be on it.

  • Pim vd O

    The ‘computer-says-no’-ness of Sweden is indeed immense… just a few days ago I had to fill in a form to be lent a key for 5 minutes. Filling it out took longer than using the key what I needed it for (drive a car to the other side of a gate).

    • http://blogs.sweden.se/work/ Kristin Lund

      Oj! That sounds familiar. Sometimes you just want to reason with the human being on the other side of the desk and say, come on, really? Let’s think about this! :)

  • Janerowena

    I’m so sorry that the blogs are to come to an end, I have enjoyed them all immensely and I have loved seeing life as an immigrant through your eyes. I think patience has to be the greatest asset personality-wise!

    • http://blogs.sweden.se/work/ Kristin Lund

      Thanks, Janerowena. I replied to this earlier but it seems to have disappeared. I think you’re right. Patience is really important. Thanks for reading.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jacob-Ericsson/598648853 Jacob Ericsson

    I’ve refreshed this blog pretty much daily for the last couple of months. You are a good writer, have you considered continueing with a blog of your own?

    • http://blogs.sweden.se/work/ Kristin Lund

      Aw, Jacob, you made my day. Thank you. :) I first blogged as the Work blogger, then created my own blog, then started doing this Expat blog. My blog still exists but for the past few months each post has merely pointed to these posts. The address there is http://3menandaswede.blogspot.se/. I am not sure what I will do with that blog after this. The thing is, I like to get paid and that one does not. (I am trying the ads route but that has made me about 12 kronor in all…hmmmm.) So, please subscribe to that one and maybe it will blossom into something even better. Thanks for your support. :)

  • Christie

    please keep blogging! I love your approach to subject matter. It resonates as Real Life, quirks and all. ((hug))

    • http://blogs.sweden.se/work/ Kristin Lund

      Thanks for reading, Christie. I appreciate your support and your comments. :)

  • http://sweden.vyska.info/ Jeremy

    Signed up just to express my sadness at the demise of blogging (here) as well. I’ve also sent inquiries to the Swedish Institute, as we should not be finding this out as an aside, it should be an announcement somewhere, perhaps with an explanation.

    That said, I’ll add your direct blog to my Swedish expat blog list to keep updated!

    • http://blogs.sweden.se/work/ Kristin Lund

      Thanks for reading, Jeremy. I appreciate your support. :)

  • Jessie

    Kristin, I am so sorry that they will be ending this blog, I am moving to Sweden this year and I have followed it closely to get an idea of what living in Sweden will be like. Really sad but you have done a great job.

    • http://blogs.sweden.se/work/ Kristin Lund

      Thanks, Jessie. Good luck in your transition to a Swedish life.

  • S. Terzian-Feliz

    Kristin, the originals of your Court papers on your divorce remain with the Court. What you get is a copy, and the certification is the guarantee that it is an accurate copy. Some countries require you to go to their consulate to have the certification “authenticated”, but I think that you tack of giving a rational explanation won the day, so let sleeping dogs lie. This kind of idiocy, incidentally, is not exclusive to Sweden. It also happens all the time in the good old USA. It is a mentality that appears to be a requirement for civil servants in large bureacracies (spelling?).

    I will miss your blogs, and have enjoyed them immensely.

    • http://blogs.sweden.se/work/ Kristin Lund

      Thanks for reading, Sandra. :)

  • Monica-USA

    First off Kristin I am sorry to hear that the blogs will be ending here. I enjoy reading them on a daily basis and learning more and more about Sweden. I will follow your private blog and I wish you good luck with your future endeavors. Interesting story and glad to hear you got it all straightened out.

    • http://blogs.sweden.se/work/ Kristin Lund

      Thanks for being such a dedicated reader and participant, Monica!

  • Scandidream

    Hej Kristin,

    So sorry to hear of the end of your blogs. The Mayans were right, then, when they stopped the calendar leading us to realize that it is the end of the world as we know it. Well, the world in which we had the pleasure of following your blog entries. You are a gifted writer. I am not a car dealer, but can’t help asking, what does it take us to keep you blogging? The most important thing is that we want what is best for you, wish you all the best, and hopefully we hear from you again :)