Saturday, February 02, 2008

Got My Taxes Done, Thank You Turbotax

I had started off my tax preparations this year by going to H&R Block and having a tax preparer assigned to me. I've always had somebody else prepare my taxes because I've always been convinced that the vagaries and mysteries of living overseas and claiming the Overseas Tax Credit are best left to a professional.

However, after my H&R Block highly-qualified and official Assigned Tax Preparer proceeded to blow me off for an entire week while I sent e-mails asking "Did you get this?" "Can you do that?" "Do you need this?" "Did I mention I'm in a hurry?" I decided to go look at Turbotax online.

Man, I feel dumb: Doing my taxes by myself was easy. Turbotax asks, and you answer. The site has been programmed for every contingency, and together, Turbotax and I skipped blihely through the Overseas Tax Credit, the Physical Presence Test, and the accompanying forms. Forms? Actually, I didn't see any forms at all... just little boxes to type in and buttons to make selections.

So anyway, after completing my forms (to see if I could), I went ahead and fired H&R Block and sent my taxes via Turbotax. (Total cost, $65 for state and federal taxes.)

My tax forms were instantly rejected by the IRS and New York State: In order to "e-file" your taxes, you have to have an "e-signature", which is simply typing in the amount of money you made in 2006, after deductions... called the "Adjusted Gross Income". Since I didn't make more than $82,500 in 2006 (the value of the Overseas Tax Credit), my Adjusted Gross Income was zero. The IRS and New York State tax computers can't have you submitting an e-signature of "0" apparently.

Anyway, Turbotax notified me by e-mail, I went to the site, the Turbotax computer explained the problem, automatically adjusted my tax papers, filled out an extra little form for me to sign and drop in the mail, and then filed my taxes again.

Sorry. I'm sure that most of you reading have been doing this for 4 or 5 years now. You'll have to excuse my wide-eyed enthusiasm... I'm new here.

Well, in the past 3 years when other people have filed my taxes for me, something has always gone wrong and my tax refund has always been waylaid in one form or another by one party or another. If anything goes wrong this year... and it probably will... at least (or unfortunately) it will be my fault.


jk said...

You cant live this quality of life on less than 82k. You must have some other form of income. whether you admit it or not ;)

Jil In Pattaya said...

Hmm... not sure how to respond to that. You don't think I can live this well on 160,000 baht per month(after taxes)? Well, I do manage.

Besides: That "less than 82K" was for the year 2006. For 2007, I was a bit higher... but not much.

Anonymous said...

I have been using Turbo Tax for the last three years now and never have had any problems. Its definetly user friendly.

From Jakal

jd said...

I strongly recommend you stop filing state taxes. Seems like a complete waste of money paying to live in a state you don't live in.

jd said...

I had a think about it, and maybe you can't stop filing NY taxes because of your work situation. I can avoid state taxes because I receive all my working income from my job here. I do receive income in the states, but that's capital gains.

Still, if I were you I'd do everything possible to verify that paying state taxes is necessary.

Jil In Pattaya said...


I'm not going to stop filing state taxes because (among a few other minor reasons) I don't want to do something "odd" with my taxes that might make my employer take notice.

My company knows I work overseas, and I think the best description that I can give for their opinion about that is that they "haven't found anything to complain about." Do you get my meaning?

I don't want to become a topic of conversation... or the source of any extra work, consideration, adjustment, or even thought at my company's personnel department... or heaven forbid, at the executive level.

Jil In Pattaya said...

By the way, that's the primary reason why I never changed my visa status from "tourist" in Thailand, for those of you who wondered:

When my company first realized I was in Thailand, they were quite trepidatious about my visa status. They didn't want any liabilities, and most importantly they didn't want any foreign liabilities, or getting involved with a forein tax system or employment system.

It was only when I told them that I was on a tourist visa... and assured them that I would remain on a tourist visa, and not be getting involved with the Thai income tax system or anything like that... that they seemed to relax about the whole situation.

I'm sure I could change my visa status and keep my mouth shut to my company about it, but (up until now... and even now) there has been no reason to change the type of visa I have in my passport.

Gunny said...

I think you're doing all the right things. Stay under the radar...

Chairman said...

I cant believe you get that much money for what is basically data input, working in an idylic place of your choosing when you feel like it

There are lots of people out there who would be capable given a bit of training to do your job for a tenth of the money

Anonymous said...

You got that right chairman. No wonder our medical costs are so high.
No disrespect ment to you Jil, just an observation. Im over here risking my life for not much more.
Well Im not risking it too much anymore but did in the past, on a daily basis.

Jil In Pattaya said...


That's true, but only to a degree.

There are two points to make:

First, I make substantially more money than the average transcriptionist because I am substantially faster and work substantially harder. Most transcriptionsts are able to type out 250 lines per hour for 5 hours per day, 5 days per week, which works out to about $25,000 per year after taxes. (I type at 400 lines per hour for 6 hours per day, 6½ days per week.)

Second, several transcription companies have tried to outsource their work to India and The Philippines with varying levels of success... but never perfectly.

The language of medicine is incredibly vast, and even after 5 years, I hear at least one word per day that I have never heard before. Add to that doctors mumbling, doctors talking too fast, doctors with foreign accents, background noise, and it really takes a person who is a native speaker of English to be able to be efficient enough at sussing things out.

So: Yes, Indians can and do perform my job for much less money, but they aren't a perfect replacement. (More worrying is the introduction of voice recognition systems which produce "rough drafts" of dictations, which are then proofed by qualified medical transcriptionists.)

I believe that medical transcription is a profession that only has another 5 years or so before it "peaks", and then begins to be exported to India more regularly, and technology begins to replace us.

Jil In Pattaya said...

Heh, just a thought Chairman:

Any time you want to try your hand at my "data input", you can stop by and try typing out some of Dr. Kanakamadala's brain cancer genetic studies spoken in barely comprehensible English, or come listen to those fiends from the University of Texas who dictate 20 or 30 mitral heart valve replacement surgery dictations per day as fast as they can rattle them off, all spoken over a 1950's era static-filled phone line.

Jil In Pattaya said...

Harris Black (the J.I.P. Wannabe) still hasn't read the post about no insulting comments.

Anonymous said...

@jk taking 82k a year might not get you very far in the US, but it sure will ensure you a very decent lifestyle in Thailand, believe me.

Issarat said...

Good you switched from H&R block; they are the McDonald's of tax preparation.
They do the bare minumum and charge a premiuim price for dismal returns.
TurboTax blows them away.
Nice on Jilly!

Contractor said...

all this time, I never knew those 20 spams per day for offers of being a medical transcriptionist were real. And I sure as heck didnt know they got paid that much.