Taxes, Phones, Paperwork when you ex-pat

I’ve written about these core services that come in handy when you are living elsewhere but as the tax time comes around, its time to gather the paperwork together and fulfill the requirements by April. This year is a little more complex due to ending my job in March last year, taking a 401k payout, and getting my money market account at CapitalOne setup with savings money. Each thing has some paperwork and I was quite worried about the W2 from my employer so last night I called them and they walked me through accessing ADP online to get my W2 PDF from them. I received the Social Security form in the mail at my mail service so had it scanned and turned into a PDF and I have it. One remains is for the 401k. I tried to get that last night too but for whatever reason the retirement company has the wrong birthdate for me so I cannot change or check for the 1099R form I need. I called at 1am here and talked with them and they are sending a form for me to fill out to list changes. Once I get that form, I can fill it out with a PDF editor and fax it back. 

If you need services to do basic things when you are sitting in a hotel in Kuala Lumpur with good wifi, its all possible to do remotely. You can file taxes, have mail delivered or scanned, FAX something to a US fax number. It can seem daunting but really doing it all myself was pretty easy. I’ll pay about $50 to efile my taxes this year and then about $2 to send a PDF file with an image of my passport and the form filled out back to the retirement agency. Here are the three things I use to help me along. Perhaps if you are considering an ex-pat life this may help:

Mail Services – US Global Mail. They are headquartered in Houston, Texas but deal with travelers and ex-pats all the time and understand our unique needs. You can receive packages and mail, have mail scanned into PDF, send packages along using various postal services, and also manage existing mail and have it thrown away if need be. I read about a lot of services out there but this one is the best to me. You don’t pay per piece of mail received which a lot of other mail services do. You get an email when a package or mail arrives and you click on the link and get to order up actions that normally happen the next day. You can download the PDF easily. Give them a look if you are considering relocating or moving forever. They are all set for you and provide a set of services easily used with a web browser.

Phone Services – Again this came to get me last night. You need to have a US based phone number that you can have overseas and use easily. I can receive texts, calls, voicemails to my Google Voice number quite easily. I can also make calls with a US phone number. It may be hard to get this service once you leave the states if not impossible. But… perhaps with a good VPN it’s possible. Not sure.

FAX Services – I won’t recommend any particular one yet because I have not tried them. There are services though you upload a PDF file or other files to and fax to a US based FAX number. My retirement agency provides FAX support so I can send the form back to them that way. Here is one I have not tried yet. It does both free faxing and faxing that costs a little through PayPal. 

Anyways, with these types of services you can take care of minimal business needs especially around tax season and get things done as though you were in the states. You may have to forgo some sleep if you are in Malaysia however ;-). 

Mail Forwarding Faux Pas

It may be that the W2 and 1099R forms still come to me forwarded to my mail service address by the USPS. We shall see. If that happens then the number of steps are less to finalize and file my taxes this year. I don’t really trust the USPS since they seemed to have lost track of a package I shipped to Cambodia in December and are still “investigating”.  Reminder to Self:

Ship to Cambodia with DHL, FEDex, or UPS

These three have much better tracking and discovery and delivery options. In Phnom Penh before, FEDex delivered right to the hotel lobby and called me to let me know a package was waiting for me. Same with something I had shipped to Siem Reap.

If you find yourself in long term travel or retirement in some friendly place like Cambodia, don’t forget the basic service needs that still tie you to the US. You may have to get creative or find services and products that work like a good bank and it debit and credit cards. I have a few suggestions for those too. Always have two accounts and tie them together so you can do fund transfers between them using ACH transfers. Bear in mind it will take 3 days or so to get the transfer. Consider either Schwab or CapitalOne for your banking. Both are very nice services. Schwab will reimburse ATM fees. CapitalOne has great interest bearing accounts for money market accounts.

Now go forth and enjoy! I am gonna be leaving soon for a day exploring again here in KL.