Running a French Holiday Gite in Rural Brittany

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Still worrying about my tax evasion

A week's gone by since I found out I was a french tax evader and I've still not written a cheque for the tax office yet. I've been very busy at work helping to put in a proposal to HM Revenue and Customs (including working all last weekend 8-(, but at least it's all in and delivered now).

Now that I'm "back up for air" I decided to actually properly read the Lettre De Rappel.

Whenever I get a French letter (hmm, given that today's Valentine's day of all days I'll not say that as a French letter has a different connotation), better make that, whenever I receive a letter from France that I can't fully comprehend I translate it courtesy of Google.

Firstly I use a really great piece of OCR software, Abbyy FineReader 5.0 Pro to scan in the document and convert the scanned image into editable text. Abbyy does a much better job than other packages I've tried, it has a French language dictionary, you can export the document straight into Microsoft Word (and it does a pretty good job of the formatting, column layout, etc), and best of all it was free on a Computer magazine cover I had a couple of years ago.
The latest version of Abbyy is version 8.0 so is doubtless better than the one I have, and at £89 or €139 is good value - I heartily recommend it.

Anyway, after I've got a French editable version of the letter in Microsoft Word I then copy and paste the bits I want into Google's translation engine, tell it to convert French to English, then voila, a pigeon-english version of the original letter.

The only limitation of this approach is Google will only translate about the first 1000 words or so of the text you submit. If I've a long document then I have to either do the translation in pieces (or else save the document from Word to HTML format, upload the page onto the internet and tell Google to translate the appropriate URL).

I've used this technique with a lot of success for a number of documents, including the original deeds and contract for our Brittany holiday home.

Back to the Lettre de Rappel ... well courtesy of Google I've confirmed what I originally read in the letter. I've also discovered that I've got 30 days to appeal the 10% surcharge otherwise it will become final. Methinks I definitely need to go and ask a friend to write a french begging letter of apology.

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