For our US friends…Its tax day…Responsibilities continue…

The waning sun on a less cloudy evening.

This day, April 15th is the dread of many US citizens for a few reasons:

  1. They haven’t completed and submitted the complicated forms and are scrambling last minute to get them postmarked by midnight tonight to avoid penalties and fees.
  2. They owe money and may not have the funds to pay.
  3. They have yet to file an extension (Site not guaranteed. Please check for alternate options as well)) to prolong the process and don’t know how to go about doing this.
  4. They have completed the forms, but are working today, their kids have a game tonight and they have to find time to complete the forms and submit them on time.
  5. Most state tax forms (where applicable) must also be completed and submitted.
  6. How does one file a return electronically? The thought of this is frightening to some who aren’t familiar with the web or, based on recent news reports, feel unsafe putting their private information out there.
Dozens of tourists and locals flock to the overlook to catch the sunset.  This sunset of a few days ago was not to be missed.

The US federal tax code is 74,000 pages. How is the average American supposed to figure this out? We hear endless stories on recent news of how those needing tax preparation assistance are unable to get through on the phone to a representative, often on hold for hours at a time.

When this occurs, they hear a re-coding recommending that those with questions go to the IRS (Internal Revenue Service) website for answers. Not everyone has access to the Internet or would feel competent to peruse the website for answers. It’s a no-win situation for many.

The setting sun, stuck between the palm trees.

Our posts are never intended to be political. Nor will today’s post be political. I write this in frustration for all the taxpayers that are struggling today to find answers to these issues. 

Not everyone can hire an accountant to do their taxes or, has access to a chain type tax preparer. Not everyone is able to purchase a tax preparation software application and feel confident answering the endless questions.

And then, it was gone.

To avoid a political rant on these issues, I choose to turn the direction of this post to a question we’re often asked by both US citizens and citizens of other countries, “Do you have to pay taxes while living outside the US?”

I know this may seem to have an obvious answer for those who travel and are familiar with tax laws to some degree. But, many wonder why in the world would we have to file and pay taxes while living outside the US?  Why wouldn’t we file and pay in the country in which we’re living?

The colors remain for a few minutes after the sun has disappeared.

The answer is simple. All US citizens, wherever they manage to live or visit another country are required to file and pay US taxes on or before April 15th of each year unless an extension is filed. Plain and simple. 

Another question we’re asked, “If at some point, we’re considered ex-pats (people living permanently outside the country of which they are citizens), do we still have to file and pay? The answer again is “yes.”

The only way to avoid this responsibility of filing and paying US taxes is to become a citizen of another country incurring considerable taxes and fees to do so. (I won’t get into the details of dual citizenship here). Doing so may result in the loss of certain benefits.

The colors of the sea appear to change before our eyes.

For our purposes, the cliché, that one can’t avoid death and taxes is so true. For us as world travelers, we still have the same responsibilities as those firmly implanted in a home and lifestyle; balancing bank accounts, paying bills, managing money and investments, handling insurance, planning for the future.

Although there are some differences for us as we travel the world: 

  1. Balancing bank accounts: We perform an almost daily check on our bank accounts to verify all transactions and fees. If anything is off, we address it immediately to avoid waiting until a statement arrives.
  2. Bills: The only bills we have are credit cards, insurance, and taxes, keeping in mind that we charge all of our vacation rental fees, car rentals, groceries, dining out, health insurance, and tax bill on credit cards to be paid off in full each month to make way for new charges. In many cases, we’re paying three months’ rent at any given time, less the prepaid deposit. 
  3. Managing money and investments: Tom handles this area which includes planning for the future. 
  4. Managing health and personal property insurance: I handle these two items once a year close to the time of renewal, making an annual payment. Together, we assess our future needs. We have personal property insurance for the belongings we carry with us. With no storage, no other such insurance is necessary.
The coral is close enough to the shore that many snorkelers enjoy this area, once they manage to get down the steep cliffs.

Of course, regardless of which of us manages the above, we discuss all aspects of our responsibilities. Wherever we may travel, these responsibilities travel with us. Thank goodness for the Internet. Without it, our lives on the move would be have been considerably more complicated. We may have never chosen to attempt this lifestyle without it.

A sunny day such as this made taking photos of the coral easier from above the cliffs.

A lesson we learned early on in our travels; never wait until the last minute. We acknowledge the fact that stress associated with last-minute preparations and planning is entirely avoidable, no matter how painful the task. 

Our rationale is this: if we can somehow find time to accomplish a task today, we could have just as easily accomplished the task a month ago. We must remind ourselves of this frequently.

This pool created at high tide is considerably larger than it appears.

Some may ask, “Why did we wait to file our taxes yesterday, as opposed to a month ago?” We were ready a month ago. But, in the hands of an accountant, her busy schedule dictated when it would be submitted.

For our US friends, we wish you all a relatively stress-free day, responsibilities, and all, and hope you’ll have thoughts of April 15th behind you by tomorrow morning on April 16th.

                                                Photo from one year ago today, April 15, 2014:

One year ago, we had a date night in the souk dining atop a restaurant with this view. For details of that post, please click here.

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