03 May, 2012

Are you Australian or Japanese residents? — the bureaucratic challenge

I was already nervous about speaking at chapel this afternoon, and now I've had a less than helpful (to my nerves) phone call. Centrelink* called — they were trying to ascertain whether we were still Australian residents or whether we've actually set up base in some other country and are just milking them of money. The technical definition of "resident" in this case is along the lines of whether we still have financial (and family) ties in Australia. The lady was polite, but I don't think me having the title of "missionary" was very helpful to her. She wanted to prove I wasn't eligible to receive any of their money, but she didn't manage in the end. And as usual, in conversations like this with bureaucracy or banks, I got nervous and tongue tied. 

I mean how do you explain our finances in a way that someone without a knowledge of mission organisations can understand? We work for an international organisation. People in Australia donate money towards our finances and these are managed in Australia and then sent through the system so that we're paid in Japanese yen. We also are employed in Japan. My husband works in a school that is located in Japan. We put tax returns in in both countries. We have bank accounts in both countries. However, we do have Australian citizenship. That means that to live and work in Japan, we have to have visas and passports, both of which need renewing. But sometimes we work in Australia, one year out of five. We own property in neither country (nor do we have a mortgage in either country). Seen through certain filters, this all could look pretty dodgy! And I certainly didn't help by sounding uncertain. I'd be a terrible witness in a court of law, I'm certain. I'd convict myself.

It really made me feel a little bit homeless. We aren't full residents of Japan, and an Australian bureaucrat wanting to prove that we aren't residents of Australia anymore . . . 

Thankfully I have full citizenship in heaven, I just don't have a departure date yet!

*I guess you call them Australia's social services – the ones who pay unemployment benefits, family benefits etc.

1 comment:

Karen said...

I find it very difficult having conversations with anyone at Centrelink too....and our financial situation (you'd think) would be much clearer to them...

I generally end up hanging up the phone and asking myself if I was speaking in some language they didn't understand.

Your situation must be difficult sometimes, as a passionate hater of tax return time, I'm especially sympathetic about having to do a tax return both here and in Japan :(