Sunday, 27 June 2010

US Expats must keep the IRS informed

One of the many joys of being a US citizen is that you get to file yearly tax returns to the IRS for the rest of your life no matter where you live!  Most people know that little tidbit, and obviously heaps of people decide to move overseas regardless.  So April 15 continues to be a day of reckoning for us expats.

Less known is that there is another date to mark on your calendar as a US expat: June 30.  This is the date that your TD F 90-22.1 is due.  Now, not all US expats have to file this form, but if you happen to open any bank accounts in your new country of residence, and at any point in the year your combined balance goes over $10,000 (US), then the IRS wants to know about it.  And you use the TD F 90-22.1 to tell them.  Here is the IRS website's handy page on the matter:,,id=218835,00.html

And if this is the first you're hearing about it and you meet the requirements for 2009, then you better get on it quick, because the due date is Wednesday.

Due June 30
The annual due date for filing Form TD F 90-22.1, Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR), is June 30. The FBAR must be received by the IRS on or before June 30. Unlike tax returns, the FBAR is considered filed on the day it is received by the IRS. Postmarks are not considered evidence of timely filing.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Flippin' Frost!

In New England (the region in the north-east of the United States composed of 6 states: Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Connecticut, Rhode Island and my home state - Massachusetts) there's a saying attributed to Mark Twain...  "If you don't like the weather in New England, just wait a few minutes."

I knew this to be true of New England, but I didn't think it would be the case in New Zealand as well.  But it is!  Though not to the same extremes.  We don't have sunny shorts and t-shirt days devolving into snowshoe days, but we do have sunny shorts and t-shirt days that devolve into huddle around the radiator nights.

Which leads to this in the morning:
(The grass in normally green, even in the winter.)

Which wouldn't be such a problem, but in January, the middle of our summer, we took a gamble and planted a tamarillo tree seedling.  I knew that here in Napier we get a frost or 2 a year, and that tamarillo trees are subtropical and can't handle frosts, but I figured I'd be able to protect it on the rare occasions.

Well, this winter frosts are not such a rare event.  We had 1 or 2 early frosts and I could feel the chill in the air as night descended, so I covered the tree with an old bed sheet.  And it did fine.  As recently as last week I took photos of my thriving tamarillo tree to show my mom back home.

And then we had the frost to end all frosts, which struck quite unawares, bringing to mind the Mark Twain quote above.  I didn't cover the tree since it had been so warm during the day.  And then last night we had another surprise attack.  When I went to bed it was raining, and everyone knows it can't frost when it's raining.  But apparently it can frost when it stops raining in the middle of the night and a cold front moves through. This is our tree now.


Monday, 7 June 2010

Surcharge, Yeah Right!

Wandering around town centres in New Zealand today, a recent expat might wonder what's with all the "No surcharge" signs outside eating establishments.
Let me clear up the confusion.  A New Zealand national labour law requires employers to pay employees time and a half for working on public holidays.  Today is Queen's Birthday, one such holiday.  Unlike the States where waitstaff are frequently paid a pittance and make most of their money in tips, all restaurant and cafe staff here must be paid at least minimum wage, currently $12.75 per hour.  So on a public holiday they're paid at least $19.12 per hour.  Some places of business claim this is a reason to charge their patrons an extra fee on public holidays, saying they wouldn't be able to otherwise pay their staff the extra wages.

Commonly, you'll see food shops trying to differentiate themselves by posting that they don't charge a holiday surcharge.  See a few examples of signs that were out today in Napier.

And as another cultural note, note the Heaven's Bakery sign.  Kiwis use sarcasm as humour way more than Americans in my experience.