FROM FACEBOOK: Filing My Taxes

Today, I went to file my taxes. Not my U.S. federal taxes, mind you, because I’ve never done that before. I’m actually still trying to fill out the various IRS forms I’m required to file so I can submit them for the past three years. You see, it was only in the past year that learned I still have to file U.S. taxes despite my living and working abroad. As a matter of fact, the United States is one of only two countries in the world that taxes its expatriate citizens; the other is the tiny dictatorship of Eritrea in the Horn of Africa. Strange bedfellows.

But never mind all that because it’s beside the point. The taxes I filed today were for my home of the past year, Taiwan, known officially as the Republic of China. To do so, I simply walked around the corner from my apartment to my district tax office. I walked in, was handed a number from an attendant, and took a seat. A few minutes later, my number flashed across a screen directing me to counter 9. The tax bureau representative couldn’t speak English, but there was no need for her to. All she needed was the ID number from my alien registration card (ARC), which enabled her to pull up my tax documents from a digital database on her computer, print them out, and then direct me to a computer station to file them.

The representative manning the computer also couldn’t speak English, but that wasn’t much of a problem. With a few hiccups that required translation from kind fellow tax filers, my taxes were filed and my refund to the tune of about U.S. $1,250 scheduled for automatic deposit in my bank account. Keep in mind, this was all done in the space of about 20 minutes in a country where the most I can speak in the local language is, “Hello, I am a foreigner,” which is probably the most useless thing I could possibly know how to say in Mandarin as a white man living in Taiwan.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to figure out how to fill out these stupid forms from the IRS that I will have to snail mail to the U.S. at my own expense. I’m also simultaneously wondering why on Earth a country that thinks of itself as history’s greatest gift to humanity can’t figure out how to make its bureaucracy function with better efficiency. Actually, that’s a joke; I know why the American federal bureaucracy is a constant shit-show, and it’s because the moron demographic is too easily manipulated to vote for people who actively want the federal government to fail so its services can be privatized. In any case, a great blessing of living abroad in country’s like Taiwan and Korea is being able to see government function as it should. No, neither of those countries is perfect or without its problems, but, at this point, I would take either of them over living in the U.S. any day of the week. But hey, America, keep up that refrain “We’re number 1!” if it makes you feel any better.

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