THE TRANSATLANTIC MAGAZINE
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Do your own Expat Taxes!
MyExpatTaxes co-founder and California girl Nathalie Goldstein found life and love acoss the Atlantic, and stayed in Austria even after discovering that “the customer is not always right” over here. She tells us how that move led to a new business venture that could help her fellow overseas Americans.
Hello Nathalie. We’ll begin with our traditional starter question; where in the States are you from?
San Jose, California - the heart of Silicon Valley, and a much warmer place than Vienna, Austria (where I’m based) during this time of the year!
How did you find yourself leaving the States to travel and live overseas?
It’s either for work or love right? That’s usually the reasons why Americans are living abroad! For me it was love, but my career plans actually fit inline as well: I met my (now-) husband in California, who happens to be Austrian. A few years later, the company I worked for, Cisco, transferred me to Vienna, where I then got more exposure with International Finance, met Markus and Joachim (MyExpatTaxes co-founders), and of course struggled with the obligatory duty of filing US taxes as an expat (which inspired the creation of the MyExpatTaxes software).
What is life like as an American living overseas?
Amazing, but difficult. You are completely out of your comfort zone, however that also means that you have the opportunity to create an entirely new life for yourself. Coming from the States, you’re normally used to a higher level of convenience and service. Then you venture out and quickly realize that, no - stores aren’t open 24/7, the customer is not always right and most tools and services no longer work for you (especially in the realm of personal finances).
You’re also an American running a business overseas, is it difficult to set up a company overseas as US citizen?
Starting a company in a foreign country also adds a lot of intensity to the already challenging situation! Networking already can be a bit uncomfortable for me at times (I’m an interesting mix of intro and extrovert) and now forcing me to do it in German can definitely make me feel frustrated at times. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, actually incorporating a company abroad absolutely requires having local partners who you trust. You will most likely be signing contracts that you can barely read that adhere to laws you’re not familiar with.
Your company is called MyExpatTaxes, what led to you founding the company?
When tax season came around my first year living abroad, I decided to pay a tax professional over $500 to take care of my US taxes. It ended up being a catastrophic experience: I had to fill out so many forms that I felt like I was doing my own taxes already, they put me last on their priority list since I was an expat and caused me to file late, and to top it off ... they reported the wrong country I was living in to the IRS - Australia, not Austria! I decided to take matters into my own hands, become a federally-licensed tax practitioner (Enrolled Agent Certification from the IRS), and develop my ideal expat tax software with Markus Finster and Joachim Niederreiter that could also help my fellow 9 million Americans abroad. MyExpatTaxes was born out of a desperate need for US expats to file their US taxes in a stress-free and simple way.
How does it work compared with what some Americans may be used to?
Those who had their trusted tax consultants in the US have probably been asked to find a new consultant, since expat tax returns are not necessarily a speciality for US based firms. Specialty firms that do exist typically leave expats with a bill of about $500 to prepare the paperwork. While Americans who were used to other popular tax software solutions have probably quickly encountered their shortfalls when it comes to preparing US Expat Tax Returns. They just weren’t made for our situations, which makes them quite awful to use. Thus, we created MyExpatTaxes - super simple software that is designed specifically for US expats to help us prepare our taxes completely online in about 30 minutes with a 149 euro price tag (already including sales tax).
Do significant international events like Brexit / US Politics have an impact on how you run your company?
The beauty of MyExpatTaxes is that it caters to a niche and very specific market, US Citizens living overseas - no matter where we live we still need to file. Brexit may trigger some US citizens to move back to the States ... However, they might very well move to Ireland or even to different parts of Europe as well, which means they may need support with local taxation if English is not the main language anymore. This actually helps MyExpatTaxes because we’re looking to expand and partner up with local tax firms to ensure that our fellow expats have a smooth process filing both sides of their taxes.
In terms of US Taxes, what would you like to see the IRS / US Government do different for Americans living overseas?
Two small things would tremendously help us as expats:
1. Direct deposit of our tax refunds (yes, many expats get refunds!) to international bank accounts instead of sending us paper checks, which foreign banks don’t always accept.
2. Allowing more tax returns to be accepted with e-filing, currently many expats still have to paper mail in their returns due to non-US spouses or those filing with the streamlined filing compliance procedure.
Personally, what do you miss most and least about living in the US?
I miss my family the most, so I try to visit them a few times a year. My family and I are Vietnamese-American and I always look forward to good Vietnamese food when I’m back in San Jose, which houses the largest Vietnamese population in the States! I definitely do not miss the lack of life-work balance that is so deeply entrenched into the working culture in Silicon Valley. Here in Vienna (and largely most of western Europe), there is a lot more respect for employees’ private lives.
What are your favorite places outside of the US?
Of course Austria, but when it’s below freezing then I’m definitely dreaming of the Mediterranean Coast or South East Asia, especially Vietnam. I really prefer warmer climates and being by the water so Austria is a bit tough during Winter. Luckily with MyExpatTaxes, I’m not bound to one location. It would actually help the business if I relocated and met other American Expats in different corners of the globe!
Finally, what’s the best thing about being an overseas American?
The strength, perspective and curisority you naturally get from being out of your comfort zone. I’m always trying new things and adapting to how life works in other countries. I would like to think I’m almost a local here in Vienna and can’t wait to start waltzing the nights away as the Viennese Ball season continues into March.
You can find out more about Nathalie's company and her expat tax software, MyExpatTaxes, by going to www.MyExpatTaxes.com