Georgia makes you work for it

By Mir
March 26, 2013

Far be it from me to complain about the south when, in fact, there is little I detest more than snow and coldness. I mean, yes, occasionally I need to whine a little bit about the bugs. Perhaps it is true that I have compared our little patch of land to a spot on the surface of the sun, mid-summer, when it truly feels like we will never be un-sweaty again. And ideologically speaking, it maybe wasn’t the very brightest move for this pair of pro-education northerners to find ourselves in a region where our congressman believes evolution to be “lies from the pit of hell,” true, but… hang on. I’m thinking.

Okay, yes. I complain about the south quite a bit. But it’s not my fault that we have cockroaches bigger than my dog or that politics here make my head hurt.

The thing is, working from home means that it doesn’t matter all that much where I live, because my job is largely unaffected by those in my immediate vicinity. Sure, I need to venture out for other stuff, but we’ve managed to find our niches. It’s all fine. I’m just so glad my work is unaffected by the… oh.

I’m catching up on lots of stuff today, which—here in my home office—makes for a combination of work things like responding to the hundred emails I’ve had marked for reply for a month and home things like making a big batch of granola. [Sidebar: Have you met my daughter? At 100 lbs sopping wet with bricks in her pockets, I would venture to guess that at least 10 lbs of that is homemade granola. I do not know why this is a favorite food at the moment, I only know that I will keep making it as long as she’s eating it.] Anyway, I’ve spent the morning going between my computer, the kitchen, my little wire inbox basket, the pantry, etc. Typical stuff for me.

So one of the things in my basket here is my county business license renewal form. Let the record show that my county (maybe it’s different elsewhere…?) has never included a checkbox that says: EVERYTHING IS THE SAME AS IT WAS LAST YEAR, HERE IS MY CHECK FOR MY LICENSE, THANKS. That would be too logical. Why include something that would allow existing information to be seamlessly rolled forward when you can make more work for everyone involved? Also, please do not under any circumstances make this a form you can fill out online! Paper and pen! YES, OKAY, GOOD.

I may have been a little bitter from the outset, is my point. I have always found this process unforgivably dumb and tedious.

The fact that you have until April 1st to submit your application for the current year puzzles me as well. Technically I am currently operating under an expired license. Except they don’t care, as long as I reapply by April 1st. Ooookay.

Anyway. I’ve lived in Georgia for six years, now. I applied for a license when I first moved here, mid-year, which means this is my seventh application or sixth renewal, depending on how you prefer to view it. All information has been exactly the same every single time. And every year I dutifully fill it out, write my check, and mail it in. Then I put my certificate on the wall when it arrives, just in case an inspector ever comes out to verify that I am allowed to be sitting here at the computer in my robe, you know, LEGALLY.

This was but a minor annoyance until last year, when that good ol’ southern fear of FILTHY IMMIGRANTS kicked in—you know, people are sneaking into the country ALL THE TIME and posing as tax-paying freelancer writers—and in order to obtain my 2012 license, I had to not only fill out the usual paperwork, but I had to prove that I was a United States citizen. This was to be accomplished by submitting myself and my Official Documents to a notary public and swearing that I’m a citizen.

Yes, even more annoying that the previous situation, for sure. BUT! The application has always required notarization, so whatever. Except now it required two stamps instead of one. Okay, FINE. WHATEVER.

BUT! Bonus: Now the application cannot be mailed, because once you present your documents and get the notarization, said application must be hand-submitted in person down at the county office. Why? WHO THE HELL KNOWS. But I recall much grumbling about it, last year, because really, it’s all getting a little silly.

So I really don’t know why I’m even slightly surprised that this year I have to do exactly the same thing. EXACTLY THE SAME THING. Even though this is my 7th business license from the fine state of Georgia, even though I proved my citizenship to them last year, I have to do it AGAIN. Because maybe I defected while they weren’t looking. And AGAIN I have to trot my paperwork down to the notary’s office, get my two stamps, and hand-deliver my application to the county office. All for the privilege of paying taxes!

I sincerely hope this is just a “perk” of living in Georgia and this sort of nonsense isn’t happening in every state. Still, I’m seriously considering writing “I believe in science” and “Help, I’m being oppressed” in tiny letters somewhere on the application. Hopefully they’ll be too busy scrutinizing the photocopy of my driver’s license to notice.


  1. Karen.

    Move to Nebraska. The CPA said: “Self-employed? What are you calling your business?” And I said: “Uh. Well. I hadn’t thought about that.” And yet here I sit, in business.

  2. angela s

    Maybe this is silly but have you ever thought about making a photo copy or scanning the document before you sign/date it? Or is it a new sheet of paper each year? Seriously, gotta love how awesome government is…

    • Mir

      Oh, I scan it. It’s still annoying. ;)

  3. Brenda

    Help, help, I’m being oppressed! Now I am imagining you in a Monthy Python scene arguing with the officials. Because it really does sound like a circus.

    • Nicole

      ahahaha, then try out “well I didn’t vote for you!” and go off on a tangent about strange women lying in ponds, distributing swords…

      I mean really, if they’re going to waste your time, you could have a little fun with them!

      What gets me is that it’s the same group of politicians **AHEM** who decry big government and wasteful spending and then turn around and make things that much harder on everyone because GASP! brown people!

  4. CIndy

    I think it’s a southern thing, the great Commonwealth of Virginia has similar puzzling practices. (and no, I’m not talking Northern Virginia, didn’t you hear? It’s full of northern aggressionists and therefore practices (or residents) in that area do not qualify as true Southern.)

    Also, I’m sure any ad lib comments on the form will result in your heart being blessed many times by county officials.

  5. Tracy B

    And yet, people are still crossing our boarders illegally. I just don’t get it!

  6. bj

    I think Cindy might have something in thinking that restrictive business practices were founded in antagonism towards northern “aggressors” who came after the civil war. Interesting, actually, because the South would, in general, argue that they are economically welcoming to business in general and small business in particular, with low taxes and low regulation. But, it seems like there’s a certain kind of professional (writing freelancers? there must be other categories this type of license excludes, ’cause one wouldn’t think the freelance writers would be a huge threat) they like to regulate. Interesting fact on the ground that it would be useful to see studied in some way — the regulatory burden to different kinds of business in Georgia, say v Massachusetts v Washington state.

  7. Michele

    I don’t need a state license (or at least I don’t think I do). I do, however, need a city license, which takes the place of a county license. In my city – They send me a form with all my stuff already filled out, and I just make changes as necessary and send my check by mail. It’s not online – but I don’t have to prove my citizenship, but I do have to give my business tax info.

  8. Frank

    I had flashes of the movie Brazil.. and some of the classic MASH episodes when you spoke about forms and filing and stuff… quite the Combo there… and then add the Python on top. Tonite might be an interesting TV nite…

    BTW I love that you have finally enabled the ‘threading’ thingie on the comments. I do wonder, however, if it will screw up your standard Contest practices over on WantNot…..

  9. Therese

    Government is the same all over–they must make sure they get their proper share of the BAZILLIONS that small business owners make. Our city here in PA is pretty broke, so they come up with all kinds of stupid licenses and regulations. Each time we get our taxes done, they are always to take more than what’s their fair share. I’m sorry–when we don’t make the money in the city, the township where we are residents will get that part. My accountant usually tells me to ignore them at least once a year.

  10. Chris

    It’s not just Georgia. Georgia is my home state which requires proof of citizenship for my license renewal. However, I am also licensed in several other states across the country and have the same issue in a majority of those states, complicated by the fact that, you know, I don’t live there so showing up to renew my license is a bit of a hassle.

  11. Amy

    So basically what you’re saying is that one more year of this and you might be the violence inherent in the system?

  12. CuriousCat

    I double dog dare you to put that on your application!

    My sister was once so pissed off at the amount of her water bill, she taped a small doll’s arm and leg to her bill and hand delivered it to the city office. The city clerk said “what’s this?” and my sister innocently replied “it’s an arm and leg. that’s what it’s costing me to pay you for the SAME amount of water I used last month.” They weren’t amused, but we were.

  13. Juli Ward

    Hush yo mouth! Some higher up in South Carolina may read this and think it sounds like a good idea. If it should happen, I will blame you and your blog. It does seem that South Carolina always gets such clever ideas from Georgia.

    • JennyA

      Oh, come now. We’re perfectly capable of being regressive and illogical without Georgia’s help!

  14. Holly Gault

    It’s that humongous notary lobby at work for your bucks.

  15. suburbancorrespondent

    Well, at least now I have an excuse to tell Larry when he asks me why I’m not bringing in more money as a freelancer. I’ll just tell him that all those illegal immigrants are taking my jobs.

    Also? I believe it is easier to get (and especially to renew) a concealed-weapon permit here in the Old Dominion than it is for you to renew your business license there in Georgia. Meaning….something, I’m just not sure what.

  16. Jan in Norman, OK

    Geez…I thought Oklahoma was bad.

    Of course, we do have a governor who wants to get a concealed-weapon permit for herself.

  17. Meg

    Writer in NC, and I plan to tell anyone who’ll listen that illegal immigrants are stealing my clients. THAT MAGAZINE TOTALLY DIDN’T FOLD BECAUSE PRINT IS DYING!!! IT WAS ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS!

  18. Elizabeth

    I sent you a PM regarding your paint situation.

    • Elizabeth

      which I hope will resolve quickly.

  19. Lucinda

    Oh my goodness! God Bless Homeland Security. My husband is a fishing guide. He fishes on rivers, always inland. But some of the rivers are navigable and require a US Coast Guard license. A few years ago, Homeland Security required all Coast Guard license holders to get a TWIC card (I don’t know what the acronym is for) because my husband MIGHT transport people from out of county to in-country illegally. In his little boat. That holds 4 people. And only fishes inland. huh. It gets better.

    He was required to drop off his birth certificate, photo id, SS card (originals only), and probably a sample of blood to a seedy temporary office run by people who were clearly short-term employees, drop his stuff off, and wait for them to call him back. But he couldn’t call them because they had no public incoming phone lines. 6 weeks later we get a recorded phone call telling him he could drive back to the office that is 90 minutes away to pick up his card during shortened business hours. His original documents were returned to him too (although I do think he convinced them to let him have his driver’s license back during his first visit). So glad our rivers are secure now.

  20. kapgaf

    Somehow, I find your post reassuring. Seriously, I thought it was just France that did this kind of stuff. Now I feel less alone.
    Also, I love what @CuriousCat’s sister did.

  21. Kristin

    Not quite on the same level, but I owed the state of Oklahoma back taxes. Now, I was totally aware that I owed last year’s…I mean, I do what I can to keep the cash. So when they turned me over to a collection agency and sent a notice, I was confused…I do this every year…don’t pay my taxes until the last possible minute. So what’s different this year?

    Turns out that each year, for the past three years, I missed a penalty payment of approximately 35-70 bucks. And instead of LOGICALLY applying the next year’s money toward that, thus eliminating that, it accrued and suddenly I was 3 years delinquent.

    FINE. So I pull up the collection agency’s website to pay the full amount of 700+. Only it won’t let me. It will only let me pay 205.60. Why? So I looked for a Help button. None. I tried to pay more. Nope. So I looked at the top of the form and called the number. They couldn’t find me in the system…but I am in the system because I just pulled it up online…4 transfers later and I get someone who chuckles and agrees to take my money.

    The kicker to this whole story is…the Oklahoma Tax Commission turns its problems over to a collection agency based in Delaware. DELAWARE. And I can personally vouch for the local collection agencies around the metro OKC area…they’re dang good…but they choose Delaware. All while talking about “stimulating economic growth within our state by encouraging local businesses.”

  22. Legal immigrant

    Oh, my! I recently opened a business in Texas, and found things so easy in my county (online forms, yay!).

    I hope my county doesn’t get any “interesting ideas” from the way Georgia operates.

    Oh, by the way, I’m not even a U.S. citizen, just a legal resident, heh.

  23. Amanda

    That’s just a government thing. The Army makes us jump through similar hoops for some things. Like you know how I have to renew referrals every 6 months for specialists for CHRONIC conditions. I guess in case hands are laid on us and we’re miraculously cured? Nope. Not bitter here either.

    Oh, and you forgot to complain about the pollen.

  24. Rocky Mountain Woman

    oh, sweetie, you have no idea. I live in UTAH for hell’s sake. sigh….

  25. js

    Ha! I’m changing my name because I just recently married and I would like to smack the crap out of the person who makes these forms up. Question 2: Social Security number previously assigned to person listen in item 1. Question 11: Has the person listed in item 1 ever received a SSN before…Um, yes, because I just wrote it down in Question 2! AHHH!!!

    Also, because I am just organized-ish, I have to get a new social security card to get a new license because in the state of Michigan, I am required to show my marriage certificate, birth certificate, SSN card, voter registration card, and library card even though I have a current passport which I already had to show ALL THE THINGS to procure. Please, please, please also take all my dollahs in the form of a check or a money order.

    Check?! Well, for our golden anniversary, I hope to have some with my married name on them. Insert maniacal laughter here. Really, how important is this name change thing, anyway. I mean, we know we’re married, right?!

  26. Steph

    Oh lord, do not even GET me started. I work with international students and scholars at a university in Georgia. People who are here completely legally, doing research and/or getting an education. You would not believe the hoops they have to jump through to do pretty much anything. (Well, based on your post, you probably would.) You know the system is broken when it’s easier to just do something illegally.

  27. Steph

    Although, changing my name here after we got married was pretty cool. I don’t know how it works in other states, but here you could pick whatever you wanted for your last name. We briefly considered changing ours to “Bob” but decided against it. It still makes me sad sometimes.

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