Tuesday, March 27, 2012

My March Madness

On my other blog, Steveso Thinks I posted something about filing my US income taxes and how stressful it was. After posting that I realized that I might be of interest to readers of Retired in Malaysia, so forgive me for reposting it here.

I haven't posted here in a while because of a stressful situation. My own March Madness. No, I'm not talking about basketball. I'm talking about filing my income taxes and other financial filing obligations to the ever congenial IRS. Filing income taxes for most Americans is a somewhat stressful situation, but when you live overseas, as I do, it is a royal pain in the ass.

For most people who live in the United States filing your income taxes is usually quite simple. You can purchase software at Best Buy or other computer store and file your taxes with it. Or you can purchase and download the service from TurboTax or H & R Block and file your taxes online. You can also search online for a free service to file your taxes online. If you are not comfortable with filing your taxes online you can prepare them yourself using the old fashion paper method or you can pay someone to do it for you.  There are many varied options available, as long as you file from the US.

When you are an American citizen living abroad, the ever so helpful income tax preparation companies really screw you over. And to add to this insult our own government does everything possible to make your life miserable. I have a very simple income tax return, as I do not work and don't have all kinds of financial instruments and investments. What should take about a hour or two, for Americans living in the US, ended up taking me two days. The first thing I did was to search the IRS website for any new information regarding e-filing for taxpayers living abroad. I found 3 sites that offered free e-filing. I checked these out but they had a number of ridiculous restrictions. For some odd reason only people below a certain age could free file from abroad. H & R Block has the minimum age as 52, which makes absolutely no sense. There were 3 other sites which offered the possibility of filing with a foreign address and had no age restrictions. TurboTax also offered a free file for expats, who could use a US mailing address.

    I decided to try one of these and finished entering all of my information. At the end I was notified that I did not meet the minimal adjusted gross income and so I needed to pay a small amount ($7.50). No problem I figured. Think again. They would not accept a foreign credit card. I tried TurboTax and 2 others with the same annoying results. Don't these idiots think that if a person lives abroad that they may also use a credit card issued abroad! It's strange that I can buy clothes, electronics, vitamins and just about anything else under the sun, online, from the US and pay with a foreign credit card. I did try the free TurboTax version which turned out to be not so free, when I got to the very end of the procedure. I finally did find a free site with no ridiculous restrictions and managed to file my Federal returns.

Next I had to do my state taxes. All of the sites I tried also were able to file my state taxes. The problem here was that after filling out all of the forms I was notified that my state, Massachusetts, did not accept e-filing from abroad. I had to download the forms and file the paper returns by regular mail. It was interesting to note that when I attempted to do my state taxes on-line, each of the different sites came up with completely different amounts of tax I owed. So much for accuracy.

Now that I had fulfilled my duties to the IRS and the state of Massachusetts, I then turned my attention to the US Department of the Treasury. Since I live abroad the government assumes that I am a terrorist, a terrorist group financial supporter or a money launderer and I am using my vast wealth from my social security and meager pension for illegal activities. Because of this I have to file a form (the FBAR) with the Treasury Department every year detailing all of the foreign bank accounts I own or have my signature on and telling how much money was held in these accounts at the highest point. Fortunately I do not have over $200,000 in foreign bank accounts, because if I did I would have to fill out yet another form.

It's amazing that since I live abroad the government wants to make sure that not one penny, that they could possibly get their hands on could be hidden. Yet this same government refuses to give me any of my money that I have paid into Medicare, simply because I live abroad!

Well now that this bullshit is out of the way for another year I can relax and spend more time on my blogs, which I have been neglecting lately.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Want To Retire in Malaysia? I Can Help.

A couple of days ago I received an email from an expat site I had never heard of before, offering me assistance in doing my US income taxes and getting affordable health insurance abroad. Usually I automatically delete these annoying emails, but I was a bit curious to see what they were offering.

First of all the income tax service they were promoting to US expats was offered by one of their "affiliates". I checked this out and found that if I availed myself of their services I would be paying them more for their services than what I would be paying in taxes. Not such a great deal since I file my taxes for free. In regards to the health insurance, this was also offered by another of their "affiliates" and once again was not a great deal. The costs were quite exorbitant and offered much more coverage than what is needed here.

I looked over the rest of the information on the site and saw that just about every area of the world was covered, in regards to information for expats. I did manage to find Malaysia, but it basically dealt with Kuala Lumpur and no other areas of Malaysia. When I clicked on the link to Malaysian expats  I was lead to an area where I could learn all about retiring in Malaysia, as long as I bought a book or a video to learn how.  Then there was one area where I could actually read about expats experiences in living in Malaysia. I clicked on it but was informed that I had to join the site and pay quite a bit of money to read these stories. Amazing.

When I moved to Penang I didn't have to pay for any information and I don't think anyone else should have to pay either. Instead of wasting my money by giving it to some unscrupulous so called experts on living abroad, I simply asked for information from real people who actually retired in Malaysia. If any of my readers are thinking of retiring in Malaysia please contact me. I have made a whopping $13 by offering Adsense advertising on this site, so I don't use it as a profit making site. I will give you the information or lead you to where you can get it. All for free.
 I recently wrote a guest post for a site that I find quite useful and and may be of interest to people thinking about traveling or retiring in Malaysia. As rated by Tnoos, CheaOair is one of the top five most popular online travel brands in the US, It offers discount airfare deals, hotel packages and car rental services all over the world.

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Rain in Penang Continues to Hang On.

A few weeks ago I, along with many of my friends was complaining about how hot the weather in Penang has been. Every day I would look for rain to come and cool things down a bit. Last week the rains came, and they came and they came. It seemed as one day there wasn't a drop of moisture anywhere and the next day there was a deluge.

One day last week the storm began with a beautiful afternoon thunderstorm accompanied by a short downpour. Shortly after the sun came out  the scorching heat returned. For a few days the storms appeared in the early or mid-afternoon, but did nothing to cool the temperature down. It seemed as though the storms occurred a little later every day, in the late afternoons and early evenings.But once again the heat returned before sunset. After the rain ceased, the area became like a sauna. The evenings were oppressive, with high humidity and absolutely no movement of air.

On my birthday last week my friend, Kevin,  took me to Italiannies at Gurney Paragon for a birthday dinner. As we left there was a slight mist in the air, but nothing threatening. We decided to stop at TGI Friday's for just one drink before returning home. As we were having our drinks, a strong wind began whipping through the plaza. Then a heavy drenching rain drove the patrons eating outside, into the cover of the the restaurants. As were were at the bar we could see cardboard and paper advertising banners flying by like confetti. Then tables and chairs were lifted into the air, as if they were made of paper. The staff of the nearby restaurants were trying to tie down anything that could be tied down, to save them from crashing through windows or injuring patrons and passersby. Fortunately we were trapped in a very convenient place to wait out the storm! After a couple of free drinks, the rain and wind had let up enough for us to go home. When we got home the storm was all over and the skies began to clear. That evening it was cool, but the coolness only lasted until the sun rose again the next day.

The next few days saw a storm, much calmer than the one we witnessed, come around sunset cooling off the atmosphere, The evenings were cool and pleasant and made sleep very easy. Yesterday it rained all day and the air was pleasantly cool. Last night was great. Today was a little cooler with a slight breeze, but the sun, as always was burning hot. As I am writing this post the  thick black clouds are forming and the wind is picking up, in preparation for this evening's storm. To some people the daily rain and storms may be a harassment, but to me it is just another great part of living in Penang.