Operation: Devolución Is Officially a Nightmare

Back to the SAT (tax) office I went this morning with everything I needed to request my refund. I was given a number and told to watch the screen for a desk I would be called to. It took a while to understand the order in which numbers were being called, but I finally did and knew when I was next.

It was quite a long wait. I happened to notice the number on the ticket of the lady next to me and that she had just been called so I brought that to her attention and she actually waved dismissively and called me a bad name and said I had no idea what I was talking about. A few minutes later, she realised she’d missed her turn and would have to start her wait all over again. She’d been there two hours with a young child! Thankfully, everyone in her queue agreed to move one number down so she could go next. And somehow in all of that, she thought to apologise to me!

It was finally my turn and I went to speak with an agent at a desk. First thing she wanted to establish is whether I should have an RFC (tax number) — ie. do I have any reason to report income to SAT? I wasn’t stressed about that as I’d done my research (despite being told by someone who rarely knows what he’s talking about that I’d been misinformed). She looked at my bank statement and the ingresses were clearly being marked as coming from PayPal. “The PayPal payments come from clients outside Mexico and you pay income tax to Canada on those monies, correct?” I confirmed that. “Perfect. I’m pretty sure you don’t need to be reporting to us, but let me call my supervisor so he can confirm.” The supervisor came right over and confirmed the information.  So that’s both an accountant AND SAT officials who have told me I have no tax reporting duties to Mexico thanks to NAFTA.

And that’s where things fell apart. The SAT requirements are that I have to have my residency card to get the refund as that’s the only valid form of ID for the transaction I wanted to do. A different supervisor came over to see what was going on and she asked why I couldn’t simply wait until I get my card to do the refund. “It’s a lot of money,” is what I replied simply. “How much?” When I told her, she blanched. “My God!” she exclaimed. “No wonder you’re so upset, especially since it’s their fault!”

She spent a few minutes hashing out a few ideas with my agent. I had the letter from INM about my renewal and the two of them debated whether it qualified as something that is “refrendo.” I didn’t know what that word meant and the agent took a minute to Google Translate it for me (!) — endorsed or countersigned. The supervisor said that the letter had an official INM stamp on it so by her interpretation, it should suffice in lieu of the card in combination with my passport But she doesn’t make the final decisions and she said it’s possible that the request will be denied and I’ll have to start from scratch when I get my card.

So after much conferring between those two and the other supervisor who had confirmed I don’t need need the RFC, they decided that I had a very strong case since the error was on INM’s part and INM had given me a letter saying I was owed a refund. Therefore, it would be worth submitting my request. I cannot stress how absolutely amazing the three of them were — so empathetic, helpful, and kind. I felt that they were doing everything they possibly could to interpret the rules in my favour and create a solid dossier for me.

They had asked me to scan my documents onto a USB key but ended up needing more paperwork than I’d been told. They scanned everything that they were missing so I don’t have to come back — thank you! Last thing was to make a better copy of my passport and I was sent back to the waiting area until that was done, which only took a few minutes. I was there all-told about about 90 minutes.

Now, I am entering a FORTY BUSINESS DAY waiting period. If I haven’t heard anything from SAT within the first 20 business days, I can expect my refund in the next 20 business days. 20 business days takes me to the start of June, 40 to the start of July — three whole months since this whole debacle started. Again, for an error that was absolutely not my fault and could have only been avoided by the INM lady who didn’t do her job properly. So far, I’m out not only the visa fee, but also interest on credit accounts and all the time off I’ve taken from work (equivalent of two days so far).

So now, there’s nothing to do about the refund until the 20-day waiting period is done. The weekend before the INM error was discovered I came this close to buying a new computer chair (which I badly need — me duelen mucho las nalgas!). I had a niggle and didn’t buy it. I keeping going over that decision and what would have happened if I had bought the chair. I wouldn’t have been able to pay the new fee for at least a week later than I did, but I would be much, much more comfortable doing all this work overtime to compensate for the missing money…

As a side note, Croft was wondering how the poor and/or uneducated deal with how high tech Mexico is going and so many agencies requiring things to be done online or scanned. In the case of this SAT office, they have a large ACed room with dozens of workstations where people can do what they need to do for SAT and there are agents available to help those who are not very tech savvy. In front of every type of government building, you can find shops that will do copying, scanning, and printing for you (I once forgot a copy for INM and realised it only as I got there — so I popped into the shop almost right next door and had it done there for a mere 2 pesos). There are “ciber”s all over — “Internet cafés” where you can use a computer very cheaply. So in the places I’ve been, there’s a way for everyone to get done what needs done. I have no idea if this is universally true in Mexico, but I saw few barriers in Maz and here in Mérida.

I was sad that the coconut ice cream vendor wasn’t outside the SAT office today so I decided to instead pop into the Italian Coffee Shop (Mexican version of Starbucks) to see if they could make me an iced coffee. They served me a freshly pulled Americano on ice and it was exactly what I wanted — nice strong coffee and very cold. Not cheap at $29, but still better than Starbuck’s price of $36! Even with that detour, I was home, changed, cuddled to death, and sitting at my desk exactly 27 minutes from sitting down in the waiting area to get my passport. Just goes to show how close the SAT office is to me!

And with that, back to work I go. It’s going to be another very, very long day. I finished at almost 11:00 last night and it’ll be the same today.