As I’ve said before, the EU is big on “green”.  Most political parties have some “green” agenda.  One of the big issues in this regard is the excess packaging on foods.  We have noticed this excessive packaging both here and in the US.  But the US does not make such a big stink about it.  Perhaps, now, with all the “global warming” and “climate change” talks, the US might follow suit.  Retailers are being fined for excessive packaging and most have reduced their packaging significantly.  However, the government is not fully satisfied.[ad#ad-1]

One way I’d like to suggest to reduce packaging is by making larger packages.  Many might think this is clearly greedy American thinking and would increase waste.  But that is not so.  For example, I remember going to Sam’s or even Wal-Mart and buying the large 10-lb. bags of frozen boneless, skinless chicken breasts.  It lasted us a while.  We weren’t constantly having to do a “big” shopping every week.  Here, the best you can do is a 2-kg bag of chicken quarters with skin and bones.  Now, I don’t mind skin and bones; I think it adds more flavour.  But, the problem is that you have less meat to work with, so you run out very quickly when you’re making dinners.  There is clearly less packaging in that one 10-lb. bag than in 2-3 2-kg. bags.  I don’t know how the Brits see this, especially because they do have smaller freezers.  But it should be an option for many of us.

Yes, I miss buying in bulk.  I’ve seen that many expatriates have discovered Costco.  But there are few of these around and without jobs, you can’t even be a member.  I miss being able to buy frozen foods for more than just one meal at a time.


Tax time again. Just got my W-2s, so I’ll have to get down to filing that return. Unfortunately, I’ve already run into some obstacles. The first is that we now have an international address and that may cause problems. And until we resolve those issues, we cannot file.

Yes, even though we’ve moved out of the country, we still have to file taxes. Our reason is obvious, though. We are expecting a refund. However, even if we weren’t, they recommend that we do. This is to ensure that we will be able to claim deductions in the future. Apparently, expatriates are not aware of that. However, their website does state that those expatriates who want to make up for the past should download the last 3 years of tax forms and start filing. There are no deadlines and they will not be fined. In addition, the filing deadline each year for those living abroad is automatically extended until June 16th. Nevertheless, if you owe money, it needs to be sent by April 15th. If you cannot file by June 16th, you must submit a request for extension by that date, in order to extend the deadline until October 15th. They will accept whatever date is postmarked on the envelope as the filing date.

Expatriates need to also be aware that if they live and work outside the US, their income may be liable to taxation from both the US and the foreign country. The current level of income that is excluded from US taxation is now at $85,700. Anything above that would be liable for US taxes. However, when you file, you may be able to claim foreign tax credit – that is, you may be able to deduct the taxes that you paid towards the foreign government. For more information, you should contact a tax advisor at the US embassy.

I think the real killer in this taxing business is the exchange rate. It is not based on the current exchange at all, but on the rate in 2007. For example, the UK exchange rate is currently at $2.0018 per pound sterling. That means, if I earned 40K in the UK it equals a little over 80K in the US, rather than closer to 60K, at the current exchange rate. Only a few more grand and I would be liable to double taxation. Fortunately, or unfortunately, I am currently unemployed.

Some people may be confused about which forms to fill out for filing their taxes. The simple rule is to assume your status in the US prior to living abroad. That is, if you are a US citizen or if you had been a resident alien, you should file Form 1040. If you were and are a US nonresident alien, then you use Form 1040NR. Nonresident status only applies to those who were not given full residential rights, such as temporary students.[ad#ad-1]

Finally, if you choose to file your taxes on paper (we have not done this in years), you may either turn it into the US Embassy in London, Paris, or Frankfurt (depending on where you live), or you may send it to Austin, Texas. And, if you have any questions, the US Embassy may be able to answer them. Or, if you were as lucky as I was, you will get a message stating they are understaffed and you may not have your call answered. They will instead direct you to call their Philadelphia office. I wonder what their walk-in service would be like.