“Thanks” to the Coronavirus
Today is the day that normally we’d be worrying about turning in our tax returns to the IRS, but not this time. “Thanks” to the Coronavirus, our returns aren’t due until July 15th, with no late-filing penalty, late-payment penalty, or interest due. Even we Americans who live and work abroad can wait. Isn’t that cool?
In case you don’t realize it, every American citizen must file an annual tax return, regardless of where you live, where you work, where you earn your income, etc. So, don’t think you’re off the hook just because you don’t think you have a relationship to the U.S. other than citizenship. The U.S. is one of two countries with citizenship-based taxation. The other one is Eritrea. Ever hear of it? It’s a small African country on the Red Sea with a population of a bit more than three million.
With the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) of an over $2 trillion economic relief package that will deliver $1,200 to each American adult whose income was less than $99,000, I’ll bet right about now the IRS was wishing those of us expats who are non-residents/non-earners didn’t exist, or that they didn’t have citizenship-based taxation. I wonder how much they will dole out to us, regardless of whether we’ve paid into the system or not?
Being tax resident in another country is normally defined by the 183-day tax rule — residents in that place 183 days a year or more, but there are lots of people who don’t spend 183 days anywhere in particular. In that case, the IRS constitutes a “tax home” in a foreign country to “the general area of your main place of business, employment, or post of duty, regardless of where you maintain your family home.” Just because you keep a home in the U.S., but spend less than 183 days there, doesn’t mean you can declare it as your tax home.
Nonetheless, this can be a complicated subject for those of us who don’t reside full-time Stateside, so I recommend you speak to a tax professional who understands an international perspective. I’m certainly not the expert, although I’ve had plenty of by-the-seat-of-my-pants personal experience on both sides of the Atlantic (two years in a tax audit by both France and the U.S. at the same time will make an expert out of anyone!).
The funny thing is that this year may be the one year people have the time to organize their affairs better than any time in previous years “thanks” to the Coronavirus and confinement, or “lockdown.” If we’re “imprisoned” in our own homes, without a pile of work to do, it might have been the most advantageous time to sort out the papers and file the returns. But, I’m not complaining. I always enjoy the benefits of being an expat with a normal filing date of June 15th or an extension until October 15th, anyway.
I’m sure there are a few people out there who are financially benefitting “thanks” to the Coronavirus, but not many. Most people are trying to figure out how they’re going to make up for two months of earnings lost (if not more) not to mention how to recover our lost savings if invested in the market. This is a time when those who have real estate holdings can be pleased their investments are sitting in something “real,” particularly if their holdings continue to generate revenues (rents). If you’re holding vacation properties that are vacant during this time, then that’s another story entirely…just ask Airbnb how they are dealing with the crisis.
Thanking the Coronavirus is kind of like thanking Donald Trump. We can appreciate the “silver linings” of what is considered a bad situation. Every cloud has one, meaning the worst situation can have some positive aspects. While the pandemic is wreaking havoc with our lives, our financial resources, our careers, and our mental and physical stability, this is just the kind of a shock to the system that will reawaken us and reset us in a more positive way.
Monday evening, French President Emmanuel Macron made a beautiful speech about our situation and announced that our lockdown will continue until May 11th. That’s another four weeks of Groundhog Day, double what we’ve already done.
Meanwhile, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo is offering up a plan for a certificate of immunity to give only Parisians immunized against Covid-19 to have the right to go out. She wants residents to be tested en masse before setting up such a bold act of freedom. Will she make that work? Her track record for making things work well doesn’t give me confidence.
Truth is that the last four weeks seem to have gone by very quickly. Having a routine and a real purpose helps. Every day I take a long walk to get air and exercise. Paris has never been more beautiful, nor have I appreciated it more. Without cars, it is noiseless and pollutionless. The skies have never been bluer. The sun has never been brighter. The birds have never been chirpier. The trees popping out their fresh leaves have never been greener. Truth is, I’ve never appreciated Spring more than I am right now, “thanks” to the Coronavirus.
“Thanks” to the cafés and restaurants being shut tight, I’ve never eaten healthier. “Thanks” to the shops being closed, I’ve never saved so much money. “Thanks” to having fewer clients, I have less stress and more time to get our new website completed (a very overdue 4.5 year-long project). “Thanks” for having so much time at the computer, I am writing more, reflecting more, and wasting less time. “Thanks” to all the new communication outlets, I’m more in touch with friends and family than ever before, too.
The list goes on and on of all the positives. Oh my. How will I cope when we have the freedom of movement again!? Will I be thankful then, too?
A la prochaine…
Adrian Leeds Group
P.S. For those of you at home and dreaming of a move to France, or even a property purchase, I’m at home, too, and happy to connect with you on Skype or by phone. As a special offering during this time of self-quarantining and anxiety over our futures, economic or otherwise I am offering special one-hour consultations at the reduced price of 150€ (normally a two-hour minimum for 350€) during our mandatory lockdown. We can talk about a strategy to change and enrich your life by living or investing here. To schedule your time, please contact me here.