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Pppffft Provident Fund Follies in India – Part 3

Everyone likes a nice story book happy ending? Right?

And guess what? Spoiler alert! I’m about to give you one…

To recap… once upon a time I had real salaried jobs in India.

With each job at each company there was a little thing known here as a “Provident Fund” i.e. something you contribute to towards your retirement.

Which is a great thing!

Except that if you are not actively contributing to your Provident Fund (PF), it goes dormant and lies there withering away with no interest accumulating.

Yeah… you got that right… it gets frozen.

Factor in inflation… rupee devaluation… and basically what could have paid rent may not even buy a cup of coffee when you try to retire. I exaggerate… somewhat… but not completely…

So what happened?

Job #1 – Zippidydoodah!!

  • Remarkably quick… merely took a few calls, getting the right forms, supporting documents in place and that was it!
  • Redeemed in weeks… that’s correct! Under a month!

Job #3 – Get smart!

  • Began with the usual “We lost the paperwork” and “Ooops! We didn’t set it up with your middle name…”
  • Re-submitted paperwork with a different ID and different bank account without my middle name. Smart lass, eh?
  • Redeemed in only a few months… that’s correct! Under a year!

Job #2 – Umm…. 

There is a reason the middle job comes last in this story…

There was more than one obstacle in this case… Like any good tale there were villains aplenty!

Villain #1 – Good old M&A

Original company merged with its global competitor… Combined company again went through a further acquisition… each change meant a further complication.

Villain #2 – Good old incompetance

Original PF registration had the wrong date of birth. Yeah, I know, how could that be when all supporting documents has the correct date of birth? Simple… someone… somewhere… wrote or typed a “0” instead of a “9” and voila! We have a problem.

Villain #3 – Good old ignorance

Once navigating a defunct PF was managed, date of birth corrected, someone got the bright idea that I was disqualified from withdrawing due to my citizenship. Seriously???

Yet like all good stories, we have heroes too!

Hero #1 – Good old boys…

Unbelievably, remarkably, astoundingly… despite all the changes, the Finance guys at my erstwhile employer remain.

Even more amazingly, they respond to my emails and til this day do not ignore my calls.

Without them nothing – and I do mean nothing – would have happened.

Hero #2 – Good old persistence

Even with the right people behind you, without consistently, persistently following up, resubmitting documentation, checking and rechecking… submitting new documentation, checking and rechecking… submitting yet new documentation, following up, checking and rechecking…

Only with pesky sometimes annoying prodding could any progress be achieved.

Hero #3 – Good old info

When ignorance reared its ugly head, more help was needed.

Even the right people, with persistence, gets nothing accomplished without the right “proof” that what someone less informed thought impossible was indeed possible and proper. Information is power. Proof of that information is even more powerful!

Documents were duly submitted dispelling ignorant assumptions that foreigners – and more specifically Canadians – have no access to their Indian Provident Fund.

So then what happened?

The heroes prevailed and defeated the evil villains and my beautiful lovely provident fund was won!

Redeemed in only a few years… that’s correct! Under a decade!

dragon-slayer

Moral of the story?

Living in India Tip #2

Remain friends with the finance and admin guys of your former employer!!! You never know when you may really really really REALLY need their help!

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Just part of living here… Indian tax rectification requests

It has been awhile since I shared an update on my latest greatest efforts to get something fixed with the Indian Income Tax Department

Over a year ago, I shared my hope that the tax tide was turning… at the time I was doing a manic happy dance as there seemed to be a tacit acknowledgement that the ‘outstanding amount’ was hokum, bunk, BS and more!

And another notice... more money!

And another notice… more money! NOT!!!

Of course, I knew that just because I was finally paid a refund vs having it adjusted against the fictitious ‘outstanding amount’, that didn’t mean the issue was actually resolved. No siree! That isn’t how we roll in this part of the world.

So I duly filed yet another rectification request… feeling rather like my CA and I are becoming experts at this… was it number 4 or was it 5????

And nothing… a full year of nothing… no “ITR Rectification” notice, meaning a formal response to my request.. just nothing…

At one point I even attempted to do a follow-up rectification request online – not allowed as there was already an open rectification request for the year in question.

The challenge with being in limbo is you can’t assume it is actually fixed… because it is not. Yet without a formal response, one simply has to wait… wait… wait for it… wait…

Then came the phone call.

That is correct… a phone call… asking me to again pay for tax that was already paid in 2008/09.

One year and three months after the last rectification request was filed.

For which no formal response has been received…

I want you to pay your taxes

I think he is used to people getting upset with a call from the IT Department not a gushing:

“OH! I’m so happy you called! Thank you!

Now… 

Help me out here, what can we do to get this internal system glitch fixed?

At least to get it updated for the year in question?”

You could tell he knew it was actually paid but no one is able to acknowledge that one system in the IT Department doesn’t “talk” to the other system and hence tax payers – all 1% of us – get lost in the middle.

The reply was to re-send what had already been submitted online to an official email ID. Hmm…. that is simple… suspiciously simple… Would it really work???

Did my enthusiasm to get something fixed from 2008/09 make me vulnerable to some brilliant new scam or trick?

Or has the tide actually officially really finally turned and it will indeed be smooth sailing?

Moral of the story?

Living in India Tip #1

Those of you foreigners living in India – best advice anyone can give you to surviving longer term in this country is get a good honest CA.

One you can continue to rely on even after you leave… (if you leave)….

As something you thought was done and dusted years ago can come back to haunt you!

Like a tax issue from 2008/09 still being unresolved in 2017! 

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Watch out Jakarta!!

I’m coming back!!! To say that I missed being in Jakarta is putting it rather mildly…

After a nearly two year hiatus, I finally have another project back in Indonesia. (insert image of mad happy dancing)

Can’t wait to be re-united with the guys and dig into the work!

No wasting time apartment hunting – chose a serviced apartment walking (hopefully not stumbling!) distance from the project office in Kuningan. Almost booked at my last Jakarta ‘stay-cation‘ spot, however bagged a slightly better deal nearby.

How fab is it to have a pool ALL to myself!!

Where I’m not staying this trip…

I also can’t wait to see a couple crazy friends… earlier trips resulted in an ad voice over (“Can you drop the Indian accent!“), overnight drive just for 1am dinner at a hill station, joined family time in Bandung and a slightly random road trip in Java.

I expect there will be an art amble, some Friday night fun with gal pals, malls can’t be avoided so will use these forays to stock up on a years supply of tolak angan!

And the food – OMG!! There will be feasting fit into all the focused work…

cropped-2013-08-10-jakarta-skyline.jpg

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When did it become rude to call?

Once upon a time we had land line phones… a home number and a work number. If you knew someone really well, chances are you had their number memorised. Anyone still able rattle off a number from the 1980s better than your spouse / partner / significant other / best friend’s current mobile!?

Then along came the mobile phone… instant contact anywhere, anytime.

Which is great if there is something truly urgent.

Which is not if you want to have some modicum of work / life balance and a certain degree of… ahem… privacy.

But here is the thing… somewhere along the way it became rude to just pick up the phone and call someone… like a guest landing up unannounced at your doorstep while you are still in your PJs, haven’t brushed your teeth or hair and generally growling at the world.

(more…)

New year, new microwave… and a reminder from 20 years ago

On 26 Dec, we welcomed our kitten Zoe in the evening. We also threw a rollickingly good Boxing Day brunch.

The idea was to revive a ‘tradition’ from Canada where Christmas would be devoted to family, but Boxing Day? Oh that was prime time for those near and dear friends who are like family!

Christmas feast with leftovers at our Boxing Day Brunch

A friend’s Xmas feast that we joined

Feasting, feasting feasting!!

And what is family friend time like without a feast? So I encouraged folks to ‘box’ up their Christmas leftovers and bring to our home. As the day progressed, dish upon delicious dish piled up. To the point where both our living room and kitchen tables were groaning under the weight and even the kitchen counter and stove was bursting with fabulous food. (Shame on me! I was too busy socialising to take a pic!)

Most dishes needed heating, so between the stove and microwave, something sure was ‘cooking’ in the kitchen. At one point, my re-heating duties were taken over by a couple of friends and my partner’s mother’s helper. Not quite sure how it happened, but to cut a long story short, we literally managed to burn out the micro!

Now this is India… which means anything can be repaired. And sure enough, my very serviceable microwave can indeed be fixed. However the cost to replace the part blown is 4 times its re-sale value and inching close to that of buying a new cheap one. After a dozen years, we decided it was time to ‘upgrade’ and get a swank new microwave come grill come convection oven, donating our old micro to our driver who will be able to get it repaired or re-sell it.

So out with the old and in with the new! (more…)

Could the tax tide be turning??

There is one thing we all love to bitch about the world over – taxes!

I want you to pay your taxes

However… I just gotta say… the taxation system in India takes a certain kind of mettle, a patient and calm acceptance of the absurd as the norm, a heaping helping of humour and more!

Some may have followed my earlier follies… for those that haven’t… I have 5 tax years of refunds ‘adjusted’ against an amount the government thinks I owe it from 2009 whereas the reality is the reverse! (more…)

Swinging BACK into Singapore!!

I’m doing a very happy dance right now as I’m about to hop on plane to Singapore!

Daily commute from the East Coast to CBD, Singapore

Daily commute from the East Coast to CBD, Singapore

I’ve shared before… over the years Singapore has become my ‘alternate’ home… It is where I based my international company, it is where I go periodically to drum up potential business, it is also my home away from my home away!

I know this trip will be chock of meetings, merriment and more. I’ve packed a lot into each day… literally from the moment I land til the moment I leave! But I’m just too greedy to finally be back!

How can I not squeeze in a Christmas tree and lighting celebration at friends? A veggie feast at a hipster joint? Some jazz? A little whisky? And mixing up some work related meetings with catching up with some favourite ex-colleagues?

So will you hear from me in the next week? Likely not!

I will simply be too busy swinging around Singapore.

Door No 2 – Bangla bound!

I’m getting back into travel times – so far all in India!

The trip to Jodhpur was delightful and I may eventually get around to sharing another post or two about our time at the palace or film set.

However right now, all attention and focus is on preparing for Door No 2 – Kolkata.

Kolkata (usf.vc)

Kolkata (usf.vc)

Good news! I did get the short assignment – yeah!

Even better news! It will take me to Kolkata for a few days – even bigger yeah!

Alas my client’s office is not exactly in the heart of the city. So scope to revisit some familiar haunts is minimal – not so yeah…

And, keeping my client needs paramount, I’ve put together a schedule that leaves nearly no room for play.

Naughty me.

I’m still hoping a friend or two can come rescue me for a small adventure on my one free evening.

No matter what – can’t wait to hear the music of Bangla in my ears, chow down on delicious Bangla food, dive into a good project and… let’s be honest… escape the Mumbai heat for a couple of days!

PS – Just in case you are wondering, skipped ‘Door No 3’ aka the Chennai trip. However have another Delhi / Gurgaon trip coming up soon!!

Related posts:

Pppffft Provident Fund Follies in India – Part 2

Yesterday set the stage for my efforts to access my Provident Fund (PF) aka retirement savings in India.

I have three PFs so I was hopeful that with those odds, there would be some progress at least with one or two – hopefully the bigger ones. I’ve been here long enough to know it wasn’t going to be easy. But I had my sense of humour girded to be amused by the follies to come… (more…)

Pppffft Provident Fund Follies in India – Part 1

Dealing with the tax authorities, government officials and more can be so painful in India that every time I’m able to take one step forward, I’m absurdly happy.

As in right now – witness me doing a manic happy jig as I managed to calculate my Service Tax charged less Service Tax paid with a gazillion little receipts to determine my Service Tax payable.

Yessir! I’ve paid it, printed my ‘challan‘ (proof of payment) and the online filing is happening as I speak.

I’m a happy camper!!

Except who knows what will go wrong next… (more…)

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