by Jenny Smedra
As I mentioned in previous posts, I returned to the US last year after living overseas for more than a decade. Moving home was stressful enough. However, when you add in international travel and paperwork it becomes a nightmare. These problems are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to problems living in two time zones. I’m still partially involved in both lives, but not fully rooted either. To make the injury worse, the universe continues to throw roadblocks in my path, one after another. This week I have devoted my time to solving the problems my double life has created.
Financial difficulties working in two time zones
Problem # 1: Access to banking services
When you need to run errands, e.g. B. going to the bank, this usually only takes a few minutes. You can drive into the passage and quickly get on your way. It takes little time and even less effort. This was also the case in Taiwan. Sometimes I had to wait for a translator, but it usually took 15 minutes or less to complete banking.
Now that I’m not physically in the country, everything has become infinitely more complex. This is just the beginning of the problems of living in two time zones. First, let me explain how difficult it was to even access my accounts. I expected to be back in Taiwan now, but travel restrictions made this impossible. Even though I knew this could happen, many friends assured me that their mobile app was very easy to use. With their online banking services, you can easily check balances, transfer funds or make withdrawals.
Unfortunately, my experience was very different. First, I am not fluent in speaking or reading Mandarin. As a result, I couldn’t even navigate the site past the landing page. Nor could I easily ask a friend or colleague for help. After finding someone, making an appointment, and trying to move around the website, I realized I needed a text review sent to my Taiwanese cell phone number. Since I quit my service, my primary plan was shot down.
After a few more requests for help, I finally found a solution. By sending documents and banking information overnight, my friend was able to access my account. She then withdrew my money and sent it to me via an electronic payment service. Although effective, it cost me an anxiety attack and nearly $ 100 for express shipping. It wasn’t quick or easy.
Filing taxes in two countries
With a major financial problem, I was ready to tackle the most daunting task: filing taxes. While no one likes filing taxes, I hesitated this year as it will be particularly problematic.
In the past, I only had foreign income, so the registration process was straightforward. Just submit the correct form to the IRS and request foreign income exclusion. As long as you are below the threshold, you will not pay any tax on foreign income. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to do this this year as I have both foreign and domestic income for 2020.
Not only do I have to complete the returns for both countries, it also gets a lot more complicated. So I planned to submit an extension to buy more time. Since Taiwanese can only file taxes online in May, I thought this would ease the pressure a bit. However, the IRS announced an extension, which means I could complete both before the new filing deadline. It seemed more beneficial to do both tax returns at once than to postpone them again.
However, when I saw how complicated my return would be, I knew I needed help. I contacted an auditor who specializes in international clients. Although he charges significantly more than other tax advisors, I firmly believe that you can’t put a price on security. Knowing that I had a professional in my corner, I focused on getting my Taiwan tax documents.
After collecting my income statements, converting the amounts, and downloading the software, I was ready to get it over with. Unfortunately, when I logged into the Taiwanese e-filing system, I kept getting error messages. Once again, I had another uncomfortable problem living in two time zones.
The good news is that I’m not the only one having technical difficulties. Apparently everyone has had system problems. At least I know it wasn’t a user error. After a quick call to the UK hotline, they assured me that the problem would be fixed by the end of this week. But waiting is always the hardest part, especially when the clock is ticking. If the system issues are not resolved by the end of the week, I have reached out to a Taiwanese CPA to handle my returns. While not the most cost-effective solution, it might prevent me from paying any more fines.
The communication disorder
Looking back on this week, there were a number of obstacles to overcome. However, the biggest problem with living in two time zones is communication and the language barrier. Despite studying Chinese for two years, I am nowhere near competent enough to handle important financial matters like these on my own. When I was in the country I could usually find someone willing to help translate. Unfortunately, this has also become more difficult with distance.
The time zones have also caused more problems than I ever imagined. The 13-hour clock change makes it difficult to find overlapping call times. I also spend extra time finding someone who speaks English. And let me tell you, if you’re already tired, waiting on hold becomes a Herculean task.
At the end of the day, all of my frustrations and efforts have produced results. Even though I had spent more time and money than I had hoped, I was able to find solutions to my financial problems. As soon as this final hurdle is overcome, this battle of international finances is over. However, one thing has become perfectly clear: it is impossible to live in two worlds. For the sake of my sanity, it is time to anchor myself firmly where I am.