I’ve been in one of my busy modes for the last few days, not taking time out to blog or play Wordtwist or even knowing what the headlines of the news are or what the weather will be. Now I’m tired after putting in some serious hours of working over the weekend, and with a lecture to give at noon tomorrow that’s not fully prepared yet. But at least this week I don’t have to travel. I’m really needing the “stay in one place” thing as it’s that time of year again: American tax return time. So for those unaware of the US’s draconian policy as concerns expats, even though I live in the UK, pay taxes in the UK and have no assets or income in the US, I have to file a US tax return and if I get to the point of making too much money here in the UK I’ll have to pay US tax on it. Last year, I was below the limit for paying US tax, but my return was 23 pages long to end with that zero balance. It’s no wonder that I hire someone to fill out the 23 or whatever pages and sign off on them–back in the US I actually did my taxes myself every single year (except when married to the ex when he did them), never needing too much complexity, too many pieces of paper, or too much fuss.
My problem at the moment is trying to sort out my income for 2008 based on a sensible US tax calendar year, which runs from January 1 to December 31. The UK year runs from April to April, which means I don’t get a single statement at the end of the calendar year with my total income, and I have to locate all pay stubs and associated documentation and add it all up in a spreadsheet for my accountant. Some combination of my being really busy and travelling too much, including the whole 3 weeks in Australia over Christmas, means that at the moment these pay stubs are located in various places around my flat, leading to what will surely be days on end of trying to get organized and sort out my 2008 income. I’m quite confident that I have them all and that they are in safe places. But some of them are in less, um, shall we say, traditional places than they could be. Remember when I had my flat all organized in December and had a little wine and cheese party for my staff? The cost of having my flat be that presentable was that several piles worth of papers and mail and, well, pay-stubs were stashed into the little cubby-holes in my IKEA book-cases to which I added little doors for this exact purpose. I now have to spend this weekend going through all of them. And oh yes, there are many random things: remember the whole “gave a talk on less than an hour’s notice dressed inappropriately” adventure back in December? The lovely people at the UK’s Institute of Physics sent me a check for £75 as an “honorarium” for the lecture. Add that to the pile of random paystubs for this year’s taxes. Or not, the check is dated 2009; I can now lose it and be digging around looking for it at this time next year. But can I just say, this is the time where the crap exchange rate actually benefits me: the sinking of the pound relative to the dollar means that I’ll have no trouble at all keeping my income below the US limit for expat taxes.