Taxes abroad

It’s that time of year again, when, with a flurry of paperwork and many cups of coffee, I (and many others) sit down to tackle the family taxes.  It’s not a task I love, but really, we have a pretty good situation here, so I can’t complain.  In fact, we’re amazingly lucky when it comes to our tax bill.  Because we’re US citizens and (I think?) because the IAEA and the UN have a special situation worked out with Austria, we pay US taxes, but not Austrian taxes.  AND, we’re exempt from large chunks of our typical US tax bill because we’re not living IN the States.  In short, we pay a fractional part of our US tax bill while enjoying so much of what the high tax bills of Austria pay for.  It’s a fantastic deal.  We get all the free preschool and clean streets we can handle, and we don’t have to pay for it.  (Of course, there are things back at home that we’re paying for but not using, but still, we’re on the winning end of this deal from a tax perspective, no question.)

But although the pain of actually PAYING our tax bill is seriously mitigated by our situation, the relative pain of FILING our taxes is generally greater here than in the States.  Not only do I have to check a remarkable number of the “this situation is not common” boxes on Turbo Tax, but there’s no handy H&R Block or anything similar down the street that I could go to for safety’s sake.  Luckily, since we sold our house in the US during our first year here, the situation is somewhat simpler than it used to be.  Still, it’s pretty darn complicated, and there are tons of paperwork and lots of calculations to be put together each year.  (Plus I have to keep track of which numbers are in Euros and which are in dollars, and if anything ends up messing me up, that’s going to be the thing.)

Fine, though.  That’s life as an American, at home or abroad.  As April 15 approaches, we panic a little, dust off our calculators and start scribbling numbers down on a little scraps of paper that will soon find a home in a shoebox.  That’s what I was doing this morning, when I realized that I’m probably not going to be done by tomorrow, thus missing the deadline.  Except, that as a US citizen living abroad, I get an automatic extension to file until June.  And I *just* found out, just today (this is the 3rd year I’ve filed while living abroad, and I’m just figuring this out) that we *also* don’t have to PAY until June 15.  No kidding.  (I thought the automatic extension was just like a regular extension, where you get extra time to file but the money is still due on April 15.  Nope.  If you’ve overseas, you don’t even have to pay until June, with no penalty.)

So, instead of spending the next 36 hours panicking about getting my taxes paid, I get to relax and get them done in a leisurely fashion between now and June.  Except that what will REALLY happen is that I’ll put it off, I won’t get it done, and on June 13 I’ll be freaking out all over again . . . and then I won’t have anyone to commiserate with.

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