1040

A classic, by Jeff Macnelly.

Perhaps the most bewildering aspect of the expat thing, now that I have learned to make a proper cup of tea, is taxation. Because I’m an American, I’m obliged to file tax returns with the IRS no matter where I live or who’s paying me. Because I live in the UK, I owe them a cut of my income (and rightly so), for enjoying the benefits of socialized medicine and well-maintained roads and Private Eye and the BBC and all the rest. But I’m self-employed, and most of my clients are in the US, so working out which country deserves to be paid tax first is a headache.

Actually, I’ll restate that: it’s more than a headache. If filing your 1040 and the assorted schedules is unpleasant– like having a root canal, say, where the anasthetic’s wearing off, and you’re cringing because you kind of felt that last poke with the gouging thingy, and you’re not sure if the next one will be worse– then filing in the UK is like having unanesthetized heart surgery while your mother-in-law comments loudly about how she can’t believe her son would marry someone who would scream like that. It’s only a scalpel.

There are also a number of layers of stupid: you need a national insurance number and a unique taxpayer number and THEN if you want to e-file, you must register and wait one week for a username and pin to be sent to you. That’s three magic numbers to remember. Compared to this, the IRS’s system– “Do you have a social security number? Dandy!”– is  a model of elegant efficiency, and I’m speaking as someone who pays someone else to do the IRS thing for her.

So the deadline is 31 Jan, and I’m hyperventilating a little because of that. I always imagine that they are going to find some horrible error and throw me in prison for a year.  Or more.

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