Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Cheerfully avoiding starting on my taxes

Reading: The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins
Listening to: "2 Hours of Relaxing Music" on Youtube
Outside: Off and on sun. Like vitamin D with an off-and-on switch

One of the many skills you learn as a new parent is transferring a sleeping child from bouncy seat to crib. I consider myself no less remarkable than Penn & Teller in my magical craft. Now that she's asleep - and may *may* stay that way with the help of this Celtic music - I limber up, crack my knuckles (not really) and begin my weekly blog post.

Today, I join thousands of American ex-pats in England when I look at those H&R Block junk emails that have been clogging up my inbox since February 1st and utter that annual groan of dread.

Yes, my friends. Oh yes. Once again I must waste my time, paper, printer ink and postage and tell the IRS just how much (non-American) money I have made. I also have to file another report to say just how much (non-American) money I have saved in my savings accounts.

Apparently the US is one of the few (or perhaps the only) developed nations that still expects its ex-pats to file their tax returns.

On the outside, it may not look like a big deal. You find the form online, you sift through the legalese of the instructions feeling like you're going through the SATs again, mind-numbingly bored but also feeling your blood pressure rising when you think about skipping reading the instructions, for fear that the IRS might have added some insipid change to the whole stupid thing, a change that might mean that you go to jail or get fined thousands of dollars, because, at the end of the day, ignorance is not patriotic. Then you find your latest payslip, which of course I'll need to wait for, because the End of Year Certificate doesn't arrive in my hands until literally just before the American Tax Deadline.

And then the fun begins!

You write the amount you made (translated into US dollars, of course), fill in Schedule B, subtract the amount you made (translated into US dollars, of course), add a zero to pretty much every other blank on the form, painstakingly check it for any glaring errors whatsoever, adding a - slightly obsessive - Post-It note to explain to the clerk that this is all as per the End of Year Certificate, because there is no such thing as a W-2 in England, then pop it in the post, and then voila, another pointless exercise completed for another year!


But really, America. Come on. I mean really. Do you really have to be that annoying kid in the playground that has to get everything right? Do you have to be the dipshit that won't just let things go? Is it a grudge held over from the olden days? When you were still finding your feet as a brand new country? Did the Founding Fathers actually vote on this? Is it because you're a control freak? Do you like that movie Sleeping with the Enemy? I bet you do. Because you can't be one of those human-style, user-friendly Pay-as-you-earn countries, can you? You know, the kind of countries that automatically take taxes out with each paycheck, causing no stress or grief or hassle? Or, better yet, you can't be one of those countries that wish their ex-pats fare-the-well, and don't tax their foreign earnings? You can't make things easy for your citizens, can you? Ohhh no. I could be on the moon and you'd still want me to tell you how much inter-stellar money I'd earned. Because you still think it's your business. You're like a stalker. An ego-maniacal, mustached, bathroom-towel-straightening stalker.

It's no wonder ex-pat Tina Turner renounced her American citizenship. She was sick of being taxed on foreign earnings. But then you charged her to renounce too, didn't you? America, how can you sleep at night?

I know that America's supposed to be the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, yes yes yes I get all that. I know I am lucky. I am very lucky. I grew up with Cracker Barrel and X-103 and suntans and orthodontic treatment. And summertime. I could drive at age fifteen and have Taco Bell pretty much whenever I wanted. I enjoyed my share of Snow Days. I had an endless supply of Mt. Dew. I know this. However.

I think it's wrong to expect your citizens, no matter where they live, but especially if they live abroad, to be their own tax experts. It's just a booming business for you, isn't it? So people at H&R Block can wear a tie and have a job. Because normal people don't have the time or the energy to root through every last little crinkled up gas receipt on the floor of their car, all crushed and crusty with spilled Snapple, and every last bank statement and wage slip so that they can get a few measly dollars of THEIR OWN MONEY back, like it's a surprise or a gift or something, if they are lucky. And of course, if they are like me, they get a whole zero back, because that's what my US tax forms reflect - zero American dollars in, zero American dollars out. Or worse, like Tina Turner and other big-earners, many ex-pats find their foreign savings dwindling to feed the endless grinding IRS tax machine.

(And what are you spending that money on, anyway? Certainly no roads, schools or municipal buildings that Tina Turner, or I, or any other ex-pat use on any kind of basis. Certainly no hospitals or libraries or sidewalks.)

America, you got all uptight about the whole Boston Tea Party thing - let's throw it overboard, PG Tips and all! - rightfully getting your knickers in a twist about the "no taxation without representation" thing. But isn't that exactly what you do to today's ex-pats?

Image from here.

Time for tea, my friends.

And happy Wednesday, everybody!


  1. Filing our taxes is definitely not something to look forward to, although the tax refund we receive takes the cake. Hahaha! In any case, I totally understand why it's so difficult to get started on doing your taxes. It's hard work, and there are so many other things worth doing, but it's a responsibility and we all have to answer to it, sooner or later. In any case, thanks for sharing that, VL! All the best to you! :)

    Wanda Hanson @ Tax Tiger

    1. Hi Wanda! I'm glad to know I'm not alone in the hard slog of tax-doings, and the requisite (but short-lived) cheerful avoidance! I've gotten them done for this year - and celebrated with a little vino.

      Thank you so much for reading, and enjoy a wander around my blog when you get a chance!