For my entire “adult” life I have done my own taxes. I have dealt with marriages, a divorce, buying and selling homes, sole proprietorship and partnership business taxes, moving expenses, dependents, college expenses, owning rental properties, foreign earned income… I feel like I have become pretty adept at dealing with the IRS codes and figuring things out. I’m sure I have made mistakes along the way, but all I have ever paid for is the $10-$30 for tax filing software.
This year I used the services of H&R Block.
I used their portal for expats in India to upload my tax documents and pay records and to answer some pretty basic questions about our circumstances. I had a number of followup emails with the staff member that was working on my account — our situation with Jacob’s adoption is a little tricky since we do not yet have a Social Security Number for him.
After everything was uploaded (it was a long wait for my forms from my mortgage) I pretty much just had to wait, answer some questions, and then print, sign and send back to H&R Block the second page of my return.
Was it easier than doing my taxes on my own? Definitely.
I can make it a little easier on myself in the future by naming our payslips better and storing them in the same place… since they are emailed to us I had to search through plenty of old mail and then download the slips only to then upload them all individually. Next time I will store them all in a spot and then combine them to make one payslip file for me and one for my wife. I’ll also keep better track of any expenses for the rentals we have because trying to find them amid our credit card statements is tough. I might use a feature in Mint to label them all.
I would definitely recommend H&R Block for expat tax services.
One of the benefits that I documented in my extensive spreadsheet when we were considering moving to India was the price and quality of the medical care.
Last weekend the whole family went to the dentist for our six-month cleaning. It cost under $25 each for Pepper, Jordan and I, and under $12 for Jacob. It was under 90 USD for all four of us to have our teeth cleaned. I’m submitting the receipts to our insurance company right now. I suspect that in the US we would have paid about $90 for each of us while in the US.
This is significant. If we can save money from out of pocket for our medical bills — especially now that we have four of us — we’re better off. Unfortunately, our insurance provider (Global Benefits Group or GBG) denies coverage for pre-existing conditions for one year for adopted children. That’s been against the law in the US for many years.But in about six months, when Jacob is eligible, I’m sure we’ll be spending a bit of money on determining if we can do anything to help Jacob with his symptoms from cerebral palsy.
Pepper has had and been ignoring pain in her shoulder and back for many months. a week and a half ago she finally got in to see a doctor. Four and a half hours later, with blood work, x-ray and multiple MRIs conducted, she had created a medical bill of just under $500. In the US, that $500 might pay for half of one of the MRIs she had done. We submitted the bill for that work to our insurance carrier and they paid all of it. Every cent. The prescriptions she purchased cost a total of $12.44. It really almost isn’t worth the 20 minutes that it takes me to file a claim!
I have been pretty disillusioned with medial insurance for a long time now. I don’t know how much my employer pays for our insurance, but I suspect that I would rather have that money in my pocket rather than paid to an insurance company even with as much as we seem to be using insurance right now. I think it is probably better off that I not know how much they pay. I know that for 12 years while working for the city that I came nowhere near 1/10th of the benefit out of the fees paid by the city for the insurance. The insurance company was being paid at least two thousand dollars a month for coverage for the three of us. The policy in Mongolia was so restrictive that nothing we had done in those two years was covered.
Would I rather be uninsured? Honestly, probably not. At least, not with the insurance that we have now, it does seem to cover much of the things we need covered.
I know a woman who has lots of experience in her field. She was able to name her salary and then on top of that her employer pays for her transportation costs. She works just on weekdays and doesn’t have to bring any work home. She is largely able to work whatever hours she wants as long as the work gets done. She gets an annual bonus of about 8% of her yearly salary. For much of the summer she even works reduced hours while still paid the same.
That salary that she named is only $130 a month. We pay an additional $16.50 for her monthly bus pass. She insists on calling me “master” and her job is to clean our house and cook a few times a week. This is one of the alluring but surreal attractions to living in a place like India.
I am thankful when each evening I pull back the sheets which have been tucked in as tight as a hotel’s. We have her cook about twice a week and coming home to a meal that is ready to eat as soon as we walk in the door is just incredible. Sure we can pull that off if we order pizza, but home-cooked south Indian food from scratch is much more satisfying. (And much less expensive!) She handles our laundry from wash to ironing. We may have to search for our clothes in Jordan’s room, or put our neatly folded clothes that are set on our beds into our closets, but that’s a small hassle when traded for the rest of the laundry chore. She washes and puts away dishes. We just need to keep up with them a little on the weekends. She does floors and bathrooms. The other day I scooted the stove and fridge out and she scoured the area clean. If we set out fruit or vegetables on a cutting board in the morning then when we get home they are chopped and set in the fridge. She’s even helping to keep the ice trays in the freezer full.
Sometimes it is easy to think that we’re spending over $1700 a year that we could be saving by doing our own laundry, cleaning and a little more cooking. But I bet that once a week we’d order take out or pizza or go out to a restaurant and spend about $700 a year to have an evening where we can spend a little more time as a family and less time cooking and cleaning. Then we spend about $5 a day for the rest of the chores. How much would you pay to not do just laundry or clean the house? How much would you pay a kid to do chores like taking the trash out, cleaning the litter box, or washing the dishes?
I think that she’s happy working for us. We’re already looking at when we should increase her pay, because we’ve had a few cleaners and would really like to keep this one!