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Death and Taxes: But what is just as certain in an Expat’s life?

With USA tax deadline looming, I can only spin it as I know how …the expat way!

repairs abroad
Repairs Abroad – HELP ME!

Benjamin Franklin said, “The only things certain in life are death and taxes.”

Taxes Worldwide

I have lived with USA taxes since I started working back in 1972. I was one of the lucky ones to get a summer job working at the local grain elevator. We would weigh the trucks going into the area full of wheat and then weight them after they dumped off the wheat. I got to check for moisture in the wheat which required crawling up into the bed of the truck and taking a random sample of the wheat. I often had wheat in my socks and shoes the rest of the day no matter how hard I tried to clean them off.

Recently, I was at an English class for non-native speakers, and we had five different languages improving their English skills. We were asked, “How many of you have driven a truck?” I was proud to be able to stand up and respond, “I have driven a truck.” This was impressive to many of the ladies in our group.

My truck driving experiences are really not that impressive. I can just remember being yelled at by a local farmer because I grated the gears together on his big old wheat truck. When I went to pick up my dad after his long day of farming, I went to the wrong side of the field. I had to drive the truck clear around the outside of the field to arrive where he wanted to leave the tractor. It was late at night and dark. There were no lights in that part of the field. In fact, there are no nightlights in most of Northwest Kansas. I had to slowly drive the truck to the correct location.

Back to the real reason of this story. Taxes.

I paid taxes on every job I have worked and sometimes that is not easy when you are working abroad. The tax systems in each country differ. I have no sympathy for anyone who just has to just pay USA taxes. When you also have to pay Indonesia taxes, or Thailand taxes or Nigerian taxes, you are working on taxes all year long!

Some countries are very official, and you receive the correct paperwork with stated deadlines and all is good. Other countries have the expectation that you must “ask” for the paperwork, apply and pay. Sometimes this happens without a clear understanding that the taxes are going where they should be going. But just like in the USA…You must have faith in the system.

Most expat deal with taxes in a variety of ways. Extensions seem to be common. Equalizations from their main employer are also common. I get lost in the bilateral agreements, foreign source of income, residency status, compliance issues and TIEAs (Taxation Information Exchange Agreements).

“Death and taxes and childbirth. There’s never any convenient time for any of them.” — Margaret Mitchell

I agree with Ms. Mitchell but also think we should add “Expat Home Repairs”. There is never a convenient time for them.

I might get blogged down in the taxes in a foreign country, but I have mastered a few very key things all Expats should remember when they live abroad. First, you must be very comfortable with a whole household of people all looking at the same broken thing and talking in the language you only know four words to communicate with knowing full well that none of your four words will help in this situation.

  1. When the repair guy says the outlet must go - make sure it is not just because he doesn’t have a long enough extension cord to put it really where you want it.
  2. When the repair guy says he can’t fix it. Make sure to show him your own tools, especially any tall ladders and odds and ends you have in your toolbox. Chances he can fix it if he just has the right tools.
  3. Do not get you engineer spouse involved in any of the repair information,  this will just delay the actual work getting done and a long string of emails about the situation.
  4. Keep your humor because when you finally go home you will find you have some of the same issues with your own home. Expat home repairs, death and taxes – three things we all would love to not deal with.

Benjamin Franklin said, “The only things certain in life are death and taxes.”
Julia Simens said, “The only things certain in your expat life is home repairs will occur just like death and taxes.”


original photo – http://www.flickr.com/photos/numberstumper/389666281/

Matt Cline’s site is located here.  Some great songs!

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