Tuesday, March 27, 2012

My March Madness

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. Speaking of that, this post is really a gripe, complaint or a kick and I should have put it on my new website, Kicks and Kudos , but it is way too long. While I was dealing with the stress of my taxes, I wasn't dealing with the stress of promoting Kicks and Kudos and trying to get people to visit and post. I invite all of my readers to visit my new site and make a comment. Thanks,

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Don't Eat This. Don't Eat That.

I like to read the news on the Internet every day and this includes the health news. But I am really getting sick of headlines such as "Eating Red Meat Increases Risk of Early Death". In the past couple of days this headline has been on the Internet, on TV and in the newspapers. Of course they meant you have to eat red meat every single day of your life. It's really amazing that there are human beings alive today, because all of our prehistoric ancestors ate read meat! They were all hunters and gatherers.

I don't know how many times in my lifetime scientists have concluded that drinking coffee was extremely bad for you. Probably just about the same number of times scientists have concluded that drinking coffee is good for your health. I can remember when eating chocolate was bad for you, but now eating it is good for you. And how about the warnings about drinking alcohol? At first drinking any alcohol was bad for your health, but now scientists have found that drinking red wine is actually very good for your heart. Drinking a moderate amount of alcohol has been found to be beneficial to your health in many ways. For years eating any kind of fat was bad for you, but now we know that certain fats are actually good for us. Coconut oil had been very bad for your health until just recently when it was discovered that is can be good for you.

Nowadays whenever I read such headlines I take them with a grain of salt. I really doubt the science of the research that generates such headlines. Research is expensive and someone has to pay for it. I suspect that much of this research is paid for by both pro and con self interest groups. Whenever new research is announced, the people or organizations paying for the research are always kept secret. I have lost a lot of respect for many researchers and I pay little or at least less attention to the results of research projects, which generate tabloid type headlines.

If we all pay attention to these periodic headline regarding eating or not eating certain foods, we will all become paranoid hypochondriacs. If we strictly follow the guidelines of these researchers we might live a few extra years. A few hungry, miserable, lonely, unhappy and stressful years. A longer life of little quality. As in all aspects of life, when it comes to eating and drinking, the smart thing to do is to eat and drink in moderation. This is something that researchers know nothing about. Enjoy life, don't be afraid of it.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The birth of "Kicks and Kudos".

Well I finally did it. I started another website. A while back I posted an article called, I Think I Am Becoming Addicted to Blogging. In this post I stated that I had come up with a brand new idea for a website and I was doing research on it before starting it. Well after much thought and research I finally found a cheap webhosting site that seemed to come highly recommended and was supposed to be easy to use. This blog is hosted by Blogger and is free. The site I chose, FatCow, costs $3.67 a month, which was cheap compared to many others. Two days ago I signed up and began designing my new website. This was a big step for me as I do not want to spend a lot of money on a site and I am not that tech savy.

As I previously stated I had a new idea. I wanted to start a website with both a blog and a forum. I had thought of putting a forum on this site but after doing many searches I found nothing. I assumed that it was impossible to put a forum on a Blogger site. I tried for hours to find out how to put a forum on my new site, but finally gave up and contacted FatCow customer support. They did it for me in a few minutes. I was relieved.

I next wanted to add some other elements to my site, which are very easy to do on Blogger, but not as easy or available on FatCow.  My site is now alive and breathing, as I have published it 2 days ago. I am now trying to monetize it with Google AdSense, which I use on this site and my other blogs. This is where I am becoming very irritated. Apparently FatCow will offer AdSense in the near future, but not now. I contacted support once again and was told they could do it for $3.95. I agreed, but am still waiting for it to be added. It appears they don't know how to do it easily either. There are many other services that are offered by FatCow, but there is a slight charge. I refuse to be nickled and dimed to death, so I am getting as much for free as possible.

As I said before, my new site is a combination of a blog and a forum. I wanted a blog where people could not only post a comment on a blog post, but make comments in several areas. So I added a forum. I named my blog/forum Kicks and Kudos, because I wanted a site where people could blow off some steam and voice their complaints, gripes or "kicks" about anybody or anything that irritated them and at the same time give compliments or "kudos" to anyone that brightened their day. The easy part is done. Now I have to publish and promote it and also monetize it, so I can make enough money to pay for the expense of setting it up and maintaining it. The bottom line, however, is that I enjoy doing this and I wanted to have fun and have other people have fun too.

It has been a learning experience setting up my new site and I hope I have not made a mistake and spent money foolishly. Only time will tell. I do hope anyone visiting this blog will also support my new endeavor and visit Kicks and Kudos. Please join the forum and blow off some steam or give someone a compliment.

Ablog about liberal politics andsocial issues