I received a call from the tax department one day. They wanted me to submit my tax returns for the preceding four years. Now anyone who has ever gotten a call from the tax man knows what a panic attack feels like. While I can’t solve the panic attack problem – I can tell you that I have figured out how to deal with most government agencies successfully. Or at least make them go away.
The key is to be polite, be cooperative AND ask them one simple question that has only two possible answers – yes or no. You see, bureaucrats have strength in their anonymity – they are a collective force. No single bureaucrat wants to be the fall guy. A definitive answer from any single bureaucrat has the potential to come back and bite them in the ass. I called the tax department and after making sure I got the name of the person I was speaking to and then asked if they wanted me to Xerox my past returns. See – my question required a “yes” or “no” answer. I waited twenty minutes for my question to be passed from department to department to department. Finally I was told to forget the entire thing. Unfortunately this method does not work with Arts Councils or politicians who are the greatest experts in the non-answer answer.