Quote of the moment

"I have to tell it again and again: I have no doctrine. I only point out something. I point out reality, I point out something in reality which has not or too little been seen. I take him who listens to me at his hand and lead him to the window. I push open the window and point outside. I have no doctrine, I carry on a dialogue." Martin Buber

Monday, April 26, 2010

Is It Worth the Move? International Cost of Living Ranking

Trying to decide if it's economically feasible and worth the effort to live abroad has just gotten easier.  Here is a great site for those of you thinking of becoming an expat but not sure of the cost of living for the country you plan to move to:

http://www.xpatulator.com/index.cfm




International Cost of Living Ranking This report provides you with the rank of cost of living indexes as at April 2010 for each of our 282 global locations. The indexes are calculated using the prices for specific quantities of the same goods and services in each location, based on expatriate spending patterns across 13 broad categories (Basket Groups). Our calculators make use of the cost of living indexes, based on your input and Xpatulator's data, to create reports online which you can save, e-mail or convert to a pdf file.

The April 2010 overall international cost of living rank, together with the previous Quarter's rank, and the change in rank is as follows:

April 2010 Rank Country, City (Jan 2010 Rank)[Change in Rank]
1 Japan, Tokyo (1) [0]
2 Switzerland, Geneva (2) [0]
3 Brazil, Brasilia (3) [0]
4 Switzerland, Zurich (4) [0]
5 Norway, Oslo (6) [-1]
6 Denmark, Copenhagen (7) [-1]
7 Venezuela, Caracas (8) [-1]
8 China, Hong Kong (5) [3]
9 Liechtenstein, Vaduz (9) [0]
10 Australia, Sydney (15) [-5]
11 Central African Republic, Bangui (10) [1]
12 Kiribati, South Tarawa (24) [-12]
13 New Caledonia, Noumea (13) [0]
14 Greenland, Nuuk (14) [0]
15 Germany, Munich (16) [-1]
16 France, Paris (17) [-1]
17 Solomon Islands, Honiara (20) [-3]
18 Cameroon, Douala (12) [6]
19 Bermuda, Hamilton (25) [-6]
20 Monaco, Monaco (23) [-3]
21 San Marino, San Marino (22) [-1]
22 Italy, Milan (21) [1]
23 Vanuatu, Port Vila (28) [-5]
24 Chad, N'Djamena (11) [13]
25 Papua New Guinea, Port Moresby (27) [-2]
26 United Arab Emirates, Dubai (18) [8]
27 Germany, Frankfurt (29) [-2]
28 Korea Republic of, Seoul (26) [2]
29 Gabon, Libreville (33) [-4]
30 United Kingdom, London (37) [-7]
31 Austria, Vienna (30) [1]
32 Finland, Helsinki (31) [1]
33 Italy, Rome (35) [-2]
34 Germany, Cologne (36) [-2]
35 Russia, Moscow (38) [-3]
36 Croatia, Zagreb (32) [4]
37 Australia, Melbourne (43) [-6]
38 Australia, Canberra (44) [-6]
39 Ireland, Dublin (39) [0]
40 Comores, Moroni (42) [-2]
41 Qatar, Doha (34) [7]
42 Angola, Luanda (19) [23]
43 Isle of Man, Douglas (52) [-9]
44 Belgium, Brussels (45) [-1]
45 Netherlands, Amsterdam (50) [-5]
46 Australia, Perth (59) [-13]
47 Micronesia, Palikir (49) [-2]
48 Mali, Bamako (40) [8]
49 Germany, Hamburg (47) [2]
50 Germany, Bonn (48) [2]
51 Slovakia, Bratislava (53) [-2]
52 Cameroon, Yaounde (46) [6]
53 Taiwan, Taipei (41) [12]
54 Guernsey, St Peter Port (61) [-7]
55 Spain, Madrid (62) [-7]
56 Congo Democratic Republic, Kinshasa (63) [-7]
57 Canada, Toronto (60) [-3]
58 Iceland, Reykjavik (64) [-6]
59 Togo, Lome (51) [8]
60 Singapore, Singapore (65) [-5]
61 Turkey, Ankara (56) [5]
62 Germany, Berlin (66) [-4]
63 USA, New York NY (54) [9]
64 Nigeria, Lagos (58) [6]
65 Bahamas, Nassau (55) [10]
66 Bahrain, Manama (57) [9]
67 Tuvalu, Funafuti (72) [-5]
68 Jersey, Saint Helier (74) [-6]
69 USA, Boston Mass (67) [2]
70 Vatican City, Vatican City (73) [-3]
71 Spain, Barcelona (76) [-5]
72 USA, San Jose Calif (70) [2]
73 Nauru, Yaren (75) [-2]
74 United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi (71) [3]
75 Senegal, Dakar (80) [-5]
76 Canada, Vancouver (78) [-2]
77 USA, San Francisco Calif (68) [9]
78 Luxembourg, Luxembourg (79) [-1]
79 Czech Republic, Prague (69) [10]
80 Hungary, Budapest (83) [-3]
81 United Kingdom, Glasgow (89) [-8]
82 Estonia, Tallinn (82) [0]
83 Palau, Melekeok (81) [2]
84 Falkland Islands, Stanley (93) [-9]
85 Sweden, Stockholm (84) [1]
86 Australia, Brisbane (102) [-16]
87 Portugal, Lisbon (91) [-4]
88 Canada, Calgary (95) [-7]
89 Guinea-Bissau, Bissau (85) [4]
90 Burkina Faso, Ouagadougou (96) [-6]
91 Colombia, Bogota (77) [14]
92 Gibraltar, Gibraltar (186) [-94]
93 Malta, Velletta (90) [3]
94 USA, Anchorage AK (94) [0]
95 Djibouti, Djibouti (86) [9]
96 Cote D'Ivoire, Abidjan (97) [-1]
97 United Kingdom, Birmingham (108) [-11]
98 New Zealand, Auckland (113) [-15]
99 Azerbaijan, Baku (99) [0]
100 Haiti, Port-au-Prince (92) [8]
101 USA, Philadelphia Pa (103) [-2]
102 USA, Los Angeles Calif (101) [1]
103 Andorra, Andorra la Vella (109) [-6]
104 Benin, Cotonou (104) [0]
105 United Kingdom, Leeds (117) [-12]
106 Greece, Athens (115) [-9]
107 USA, Washington DC (112) [-5]
108 Trinidad and Tobago, Port-of-Spain (100) [8]
109 Samoa, Apia (107) [2]
110 China, Beijing (121) [-11]
111 Sudan, Khartoum (130) [-19]
112 Cayman Islands, George Town (111) [1]
113 Serbia, Belgrade (106) [7]
114 Montenegro, Podgorica (128) [-14]
115 Canada, Montreal (120) [-5]
116 Lebanon, Beirut (105) [11]
117 Cape Verde, Praia (118) [-1]
118 Saint Helena, Jamestown (125) [-7]
119 USA, Baltimore Md (116) [3]
120 India, Mumbai (122) [-2]
121 Sao Tome and Principe, Sao Tome (87) [34]
122 Seychelles, Victoria (88) [34]
123 USA, San Diego Calif (119) [4]
124 Barbados, Bridgetown (129) [-5]
125 Marshall Islands, Majuro (131) [-6]
126 Israel, Jerusalem (110) [16]
127 Lithuania, Vilnius (126) [1]
128 Australia, Adelaide (145) [-17]
129 Poland, Warsaw (136) [-7]
130 Saudi Arabia, Riyadh (124) [6]
131 Zambia, Lusaka (123) [8]
132 Indonesia, Jakarta (127) [5]
133 USA, Seattle Wash (133) [0]
134 Kuwait, Kuwait City (140) [-6]
135 Chile, Santiago (172) [-37]
136 China, Shanghai (173) [-37]
137 Martinique, Fort-de-France (139) [-2]
138 Niger, Niamey (135) [3]
139 USA, Miami Fla (134) [5]
140 USA, Portland Ore (138) [2]
141 USA, Chicago Ill (143) [-2]
142 Kazakhstan, Almaty (137) [5]
143 Canada, Ottawa (151) [-8]
144 Mauritius, Port Louis (144) [0]
145 Guinea, Conakry (114) [31]
146 India, New Delhi (153) [-7]
147 Latvia, Riga (148) [-1]
148 Puerto Rico, San Juan (146) [2]
149 Jordan, Amman (142) [7]
150 India, Chennai (159) [-9]
151 Tanzania, Dar es Salaam (132) [19]
152 Cyprus, Nicosia (163) [-11]
153 Georgia Republic of, Tbilisi (147) [6]
154 Guam, Hagatna (152) [2]
155 Slovenia, Ljubljana (162) [-7]
156 Malawi, Lilongwe (158) [-2]
157 Ukraine, Kiev (160) [-3]
158 Uruguay, Montevideo (176) [-18]
159 Grenada, Saint George's (161) [-2]
160 Jamaica, Kingston (149) [11]
161 Botswana, Gaborone (150) [11]
162 India, Calcutta (166) [-4]
163 Turkmenistan, Ashgabat (257) [-94]
164 India, Hyderabad (171) [-7]
165 Liberia, Monrovia (154) [11]
166 Rwanda, Kigali (156) [10]
167 Maldives, Male (155) [12]
168 USA, Jacksonville Fla (164) [4]
169 USA, Cleveland Ohio (169) [0]
170 Moldova, Chisinau (167) [3]
171 Equatorial Guinea, Malabo (174) [-3]
172 USA, Tampa Fla (168) [4]
173 USA, Dallas Tex (165) [8]
174 USA, Atlanta GA (170) [4]
175 USA, Phoenix Ariz (177) [-2]
176 Fiji, Suva (192) [-16]
177 Sierra Leone, Freetown (141) [36]
178 USA, Milwaukee Wis (181) [-3]
179 USA, Denver Colo (175) [4]
180 Ghana, Accra (98) [82]
181 South Africa, Johannesburg (217) [-36]
182 USA, Charlotte NC (182) [0]
183 Macedonia, Skopje (183) [0]
184 USA, Detroit Mich (195) [-11]
185 USA, Pittsburgh Penn (185) [0]
186 Timor-Leste, Dili (178) [8]
187 Korea Democratic Republic of, Pyongyang (205) [-18]
188 Romania, Bucharest (179) [9]
189 Somalia, Mogadishu (194) [-5]
190 Mexico, Mexico City (193) [-3]
191 USA, Austin Tex (196) [-5]
192 Algeria, Algiers (180) [12]
193 South Africa, Cape Town (246) [-53]
194 USA, Columbus Ohio (198) [-4]
195 Gambia, Banjul (184) [11]
196 Honduras, Tegucigalpa (189) [7]
197 India, Bangalore (209) [-12]
198 Philippines, Manila (190) [8]
199 Antigua and Barbuda, Saint John's (187) [12]
200 Bulgaria, Sofia (211) [-11]
201 Afghanistan, Kabul (191) [10]
202 Syria, Damascus (203) [-1]
203 Kosovo, Pristina (206) [-3]
204 Morocco, Rabat (197) [7]
205 USA, Fort Worth Tex (200) [5]
206 USA, Las Vegas Nev (204) [2]
207 Mozambique, Maputo (157) [50]
208 Myanmar, Yangon (218) [-10]
209 Iran, Tehran (188) [21]
210 South Africa, Pretoria (233) [-23]
211 Saint Kitts and Nevis, Basseterre (201) [10]
212 Kenya, Nairobi (210) [2]
213 USA, San Antonio Tex (216) [-3]
214 Belarus, Minsk (244) [-30]
215 Brunei, Bandar Seri Begawan (208) [7]
216 Egypt, Cairo (230) [-14]
217 Cuba, Havana (202) [15]
218 Namibia, Windhoek (199) [19]
219 South Africa, Durban (252) [-33]
220 Peru, Lima (207) [13]
221 Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Kingstown (212) [9]
222 USA, Houston Tex (213) [9]
223 Guyana, Georgetown (221) [2]
224 Thailand, Bangkok (215) [9]
225 USA, Indianapolis Ind (219) [6]
226 Vietnam, Hanoi (222) [4]
227 Dominica, Roseau (226) [1]
228 Guatemala, Guatemala City (245) [-17]
229 Albania, Tirana (223) [6]
230 Ethiopia, Addis Ababa (231) [-1]
231 USA, St Louis MO (224) [7]
232 USA, Memphis Tenn (229) [3]
233 Lesotho, Maseru (220) [13]
234 Costa Rica, San Jose (235) [-1]
235 Madagascar, Antananarivo (227) [8]
236 USA, El Paso Tex (228) [8]
237 Armenia, Yerevan (225) [12]
238 Eritrea, Asmara (254) [-16]
239 Congo, Brazzaville (214) [25]
240 Dominican Republic, Santo Domingo (232) [8]
241 Oman, Muscat (237) [4]
242 Mauritania, Nouakchott (234) [8]
243 Belize, Belmopan (236) [7]
244 Uganda, Kampala (242) [2]
245 Panama, Panama City (240) [5]
246 El Salvador, San Salvador (239) [7]
247 Nicaragua, Managua (238) [9]
248 Burundi, Bujumbura (241) [7]
249 China, Shenzhen (253) [-4]
250 China, Wuhan (260) [-10]
251 Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur (247) [4]
252 Laos, Vientiane (243) [9]
253 Bangladesh, Dhaka (248) [5]
254 China, Dalian (272) [-18]
255 Tunisia, Tunis (250) [5]
256 Saint Lucia, Castries (249) [7]
257 China, Macao (255) [2]
258 Swaziland, Mbabane (251) [7]
259 Kyrgyzstan, Bishkek (274) [-15]
260 Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sarajevo (256) [4]
261 Uzbekistan, Tashkent (275) [-14]
262 Nepal, Kathmandu (263) [-1]
263 Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar (280) [-17]
264 Paraguay, Asuncion (268) [-4]
265 Tonga, Nuku'Alofa (264) [1]
266 Iraq, Baghdad (258) [8]
267 Suriname, Paramaribo (259) [8]
268 Libya, Tripoli (265) [3]
269 Pakistan, Lahore (261) [8]
270 Bolivia, La Paz (262) [8]
271 Pakistan, Islamabad (266) [5]
272 China, Guangzhou (278) [-6]
273 Pakistan, Karachi (267) [6]
274 Ecuador, Quito (269) [5]
275 Cambodia, Phnom Penh (270) [5]
276 Sri Lanka, Colombo (271) [5]
277 Tajikistan, Dushanbe (273) [4]
278 Bhutan, Thimphu (276) [2]
279 Argentina, Buenos Aires (277) [2]
280 Yemen, Sanaa (279) [1]
281 China, Tianjin (281) [0]
282 Zimbabwe, Harare (282) [0]

Xpatulator.com is the most comprehensive source of international cost of living index information.

Premium Content Calculators: 

Salary Purchasing Power Parity Calculator (SPPP)Download Demo SPPP Report
The SPPP report calculates how much you need to earn in another location to compensate for a higher cost of living, hardship, and the exchange rate, in order to have the same relative spending power and as a result have a similar standard of living as you have in your current location. Each new SPPP report uses 1 credit ($99). Recommended for a detailed comparison of 2 locations.

Cost of Living Allowance Calculator (COLA)Download Demo COLA Report
The COLA report calculates how much additional allowance (over and above your current salary) you need to earn in another location to compensate for a higher cost of living, hardship and the exchange rate, in order to have the same relative spending power and as a result have a similar standard of living as you have in your current location. Each new COLA report uses 1 credit ($99). Recommended for calculation of a cost of living allowance for short-term assignments.

Cost of Living Index Calculator (COLI) :  Download Demo COLI Report
The COLI report calculates cost of living indexes for the locations you select using the base location you specify.  You can select between 1 and all 276 locations. You can choose from any one of the 13 baskets or you can choose the overall cost of living index for each location. Each new COLI report uses a minimum of 1 credit ($99) allowing you to choose a Base Location and between 1 and 4 available comparator locations. Each additional set of 1 to 4 locations uses 1 additional credit. Refer to Pricing for more details. Recommended for the calculation of 2 or more cost of living indexes using your choice of base city.

1 credit costs $99. Register, buy credits online and you can run the premium content calculators and receive your reports online within minutes.

This article may be freely copied as long as reference is made to http://www.xpatulator.com/ 

VOTE- FROM ANYWHERE AND BE HEARD

For those who remain a citizen of the United States of America:

 

And from President Obama:




Need a ballot? Just click here! I have mine ready.

From VoteAbroad.org:

Welcome to the 2010 edition of VoteFromAbroad.org!

We are about to take you step-by-step through the process of registering to vote, requesting an absentee ballot, and receiving your Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot for the 2010 elections.

You will be led through several screens of customized questions. The next screen will ask for your voting state and each subsequent screen will be tailored to your individual situation.

Be sure to consult the left column of each screen for instructions, explanations, and any error messages.

This process takes just five easy steps:

  1. Answer all questions on each screen.
  2. Download the completed registration form and/or Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot, or e-mail it to yourself.
  3. Print the completed form and ballot.*
  4. Sign and date the form and vote the ballot.
  5. Mail the signed form and the ballot. You can also fax the form (optional).

If you have any questions about this process, email us at help@votefromabroad.org

Taxes and Citizenship: Questions about Choices Expats Make

A couple of weeks ago in A Tax Reprieve... Or Is It? U.S. Citizens and Resident Aliens Abroad
I wrote about taxes and expats.  Another article in yesterday's (4/25/2010)  New York Times tells about the number of expats relinquishing their citizenship and moving abroad to avoid taxes:


More American Expatriates Give Up Citizenship
By BRIAN KNOWLTON | Published: April 25, 2010


WASHINGTON — Amid mounting frustration over taxation and banking problems, small but growing numbers of overseas Americans are taking the weighty step of renouncing their citizenship.


“What we have seen is a substantial change in mentality among the overseas community in the past two years,” said Jackie Bugnion, director of American Citizens Abroad, an advocacy group based in Geneva. “Before, no one would dare mention to other Americans that they were even thinking of renouncing their U.S. nationality. Now, it is an openly discussed issue.”


The Federal Register, the government publication that records such decisions, shows that 502 expatriates gave up their U.S. citizenship or permanent residency status in the last quarter of 2009. That is a tiny portion of the 5.2 million Americans estimated by the State Department to be living abroad.


Still, 502 was the largest quarterly figure in years, more than twice the total for all of 2008, and it looms larger, given how agonizing the decision can be. There were 235 renunciations in 2008 and 743 last year. Waiting periods to meet with consular officers to formalize renunciations have grown.


Anecdotally, frustrations over tax and banking questions, not political considerations, appear to be the main drivers of the surge. Expat advocates say that as it becomes more difficult for Americans to live and work abroad, it will become harder for American companies to compete.

Becoming American and More

My husband  born in Mexico, DF, had his birth registered in the Spanish consulate by his parents who felt very connected to their home country. Years later the family moved to the USA where he and his siblings grew up. Thirty-some years later, when we lived in Colombia, my husband became a naturalized American citizen, renouncing his Mexican citizenship. Our concern while working for an American company during the explosive Narco-Trafico expulsion years, was trying to find a Mexican Consult for my husband if we needed support to leave Colombia rapidly. My children and I could use the USA Consult, not my husband.  About ten years earlier, his parents did the same with their Spanish citizenship while working overseas for another American company. 

However, it appears that Spain all these years still claims Jorge as one of their own. Today, as we look towards living a little bit longer as expats Jorge is debating about the prospect of securing a Spanish passport as well. In my short time here I've meet a few people who have a drawer of passports, including an American one. I've not yet met someone who has "gone native" yet relinquishing their American citizenship for another country's. 

The NYTimes article continues:

American expats have long complained that the United States is the only industrialized country to tax citizens on income earned abroad, even when they are taxed in their country of residence, though they are allowed to exclude their first $91,400 in foreign-earned income. 




This is often what draws people (ok us) to living and working out of country.  And we are careful to make sure we do not return for more than our allotted time of 30 days per year before we are nailed for taxes. I plan to vote using an absentee ballot on the upcoming federal elections,  but we are careful not to have any connection with our home state to avoid paying taxes there.

This whole phenomenon of giving up your American passport to live in a foreign country is something that bears watching and learning from.

The American Citizens Abroad, started in 2007 by Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Congressman Joe Wilson (R-SC), formed the first bipartisan Americans Abroad Caucus to address the concerns of several million US citizens living outside the United States. The caucus has rapidly grown in membership. Banking problems for Americans living overseas has finally received notice in Washington.  As a result of meetings during the 2010 Overeseas Americans week, which ended 23 April 2010, congressional hearings on this subject have been requested by the two co-chairs of the Americans Abroad Caucus. Now, perhaps, is the time to contact your Congressman rather than bailing on the country.   My Congressman, Gerry Connolly is a member. Is yours?

If anyone is pausing to visit this post, I'd love to hear from you about your choices for citizenship and how they relate to taxes, politics, and your life in general. Are you still an American at heart or have you absorbed the cultural identity of your new homeland? I look forward to your sharing your thoughts.

For more information visit:

What Happens to My Pension/Retirement Plan When I Expatriate?







Sunday, April 25, 2010

A Double Mystery: Death is a Cabernet ol' Chum

It was an evening of wine and cheese at the Melee Vineyards in the Nippy Valley, celebrating the winery's tenth anniversary. Owner Malcolm Melee took great pride in pouring his world-famous Melee Cabernet, the wine that tickles the palates of wine connoisseurs around the globe. Over the past decade, his small operation has built a record of supplying a quality product, even though Melee's surly personality had produced more adversaries than advocates. 
The celebration was open to the public and the assemblage included both his supporters and detractors, some of whom openly expressed their opinions about his business practices. Melee simply laughed off all negative words, even dismissing the notion that someone was determined to end his reign as Cabernet king.

As the gathering broke up about midnight, Melee bade "farewell" to everyone and said he would stay around to turn out the lights. But this morning, it became deadly obvious that someone had planned lights out for Malcolm Melee, for his body was found at the bottom of the staircase that leads to the oak casks in the wine cellar. Someone had put the cork on Melee and taken action that would squeeze the winery's reputation.


And 70 members of the International Association of Chile gathered  in the home of one of our members to figure out who done it! Murder was the main course of the evening with dinner and fun the side dishes.  Jorge, Andy and I attended the event with price of our tickets donated to support the charities of the IAC. The activities hostesses did an outstanding job using Host A Murder Mystery Party's plan. Tickets for the event were 10,000 pesos (about $20. USD) 1 bottle of wine and a side dish.

However, the mystery began even earlier as we attempted to locate the house where the party was held. Originally set to be hosted in a member's apartment near ours in Las Condes, the venue needed to be switch to the house of another's farther out in the burbs of Lo Barnechea. The area is filled with lovely homes in one of the more exclusive communities of Santiago nestled in the foothills of the Andes  and is the home of the largest international school in Santiago, International School Nido de Aguilas. The area is very reminiscent of Embassy row along Massachusetts Avenue, NW, DC though modern stylish structures replace the stately Victorians. 

Knowing we'd be venturing in the dark into unknown territory for us that, by Google Maps reckoning, would take us 30 minutes, we allowed ourselves an hour to arrive to assure us plenty of time to visit and mingle. This time we not only had our Google Map directions and map, we also had the Santiago City map. And still we ended up completely lost! We knew the house was near Los Trapenses Mall (Paseo Los Trapenses) and that we needed to go towards the hills. As long as we were heading UP we were fine.  Undaunted by this mystery Jorge was slowly able to put the clues together using the maps.  Working his way in and out of the one way streets we made it just in the nick of time to discover that Malcolm Melee had been MURDERED!!

Solving our double mystery solved was a piece of cake for Jorge. My table of 8 guests originally had the correct suspect, however, we managed to convince ourselves that perhaps it was another.  Maybe we spent a wee bit more time on  sampling the "wines of Malcolm Melee" than interviewing the suspects. Jorge on the other hand, was Sherlock Holmes reincarnate. Having spent an hour uncovering the location of the murder served as an excellent warm-up exercise for Jorge for determining the clues in the scene of the crime and uncover who done the bum in.  We hope to be doing this again... but one mystery a night is more than enough!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Global Action Week Lesson available online










The World's Biggest Lesson film is now up on the 1GOAL website (www.join1goal.org) and on youtube. Please circulate the link below to your contacts.  Those who watch it are counted as those who 'take part in the lesson'. The lesson will also be broadcast on the Learning Channel in Africa every day between now and the end of the world cup.


We will also send you an update of activities taking place around the worldduring Global Action Week and the launch of 1GOAL. Please send informationabout your activities to muleya@campaignforeducation.org

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Cartagena de Chile-Not to Be Confused with Caratagen La Original



 For nearly twenty years, my mother-in-law, Maria Teresa, has returned home to her family beach house in Los Nietos, Murcia, Spain outside of Cartagena to reconnect with her brother and sister, others in the Alsono/Martinez family, and longtime childhood friends. The little beach town is nestled in the crook of the  Mar Menor Lagoon, (the grandchildren). It is aptly named as it is here you find many abuelas (grandmothers) and abuelos (grandfathers) keeping watch over their nietos (grandchildren) as their parents are off enjoying the summer break.


View My Saved Places in a larger map

Cartagena and Los Nietos is a place where our family always reunites and summer memories are made.


 

 Usually around a large paella











Or if not at the dinner table, then lounging on the front patio watching the world saunter by in front of the house during their evening paseo, or on their way to fish, swim, or sail away in the Mar Menor.



 Maria is in Los Nietos now with Tiá Lucy keeping her company and Tió Modesto joining from Cartegena. Unfortunately, we remain here in Chile until July when we plan to once again return to the family home in Spain.

However, even though it will be a few more months before we too are baking in the sun and gorging on paella in Los Nietos,  we have managed to visit Cartagena! Cartagena, Chile that is!


View Playa Grande, Cartagena, Chile in a larger map

We took off after church on a mission to photograph this third version of  Cartagena: besides the original in Spain, there is also Cartagena de Las Indias in Colombia.

Our mission on this trip was to take many photos of this new Cartagena and send them off to the family back home.  The trip was expected to take us less than three hours to get to the beach snap our pictures and head on back home. That would have been of course if Jorge first knew how to get OUT of Santiago and onto route 68. After an hour of weaving in and out of every street that surrounded Santiago we finally found the exit and were on our way... that is after four failed attempts to actually get ONTO the exit and on our way.

Eventually we were on the road and heading in the right direction but hunger was beginning to gnaw away at us. Luckily Pomaire, known for its pottery, or greda, was on the way. We decided to stop and have lunch there ( click here to learn more about the pottery of Pomaire and pick up a recipe or two).


When we pulled into the the little village we were immediately bombarded by hawkers shouting to us the virtues of their restaurant's menus and dining entertainment, thrusting their flyers into our open window. We graciously and with a few giggles collected them all from which to make a wise and informed choice. In the end we ate at San Antonio's Restaurant because of the convenience of parking. There are two San Antonio's which is remarkable given how small the village is. Though I imagine during the height of tourist/shopping season there could be need for a mini-chain to accommodate the bus loads that make their way from Santiago. The food was marvelous, reasonably priced, and way too much for us to finish. We also decided next time we are there we will pick up a warming set to serve our paellas.





To see all my photos of Lunch at Pomaire go to my Flickr page: http://tinyurl.com/y39cs64

Fully satiated we got back on the road to Cartagena. Apparently this is not a path frequently taken by expats. When we reached the toll booth at the next leg on the autopista the agent confirmed with us we knew the way back to Santiago....and this wasn't it. We thanked her for her help and continued on to Cartagena.  In short time we saw the turn in the road and we were on our way!




To see all our pictures of the OTHER CARTAGENA click here:  http://tinyurl.com/y6cozq8









Friday, April 16, 2010

A Tax Reprieve... Or Is It? U.S. Citizens and Resident Aliens Abroad

Death and taxes-- sure to follow us where ever we go... but at least as an expat our taxes can take a two month holiday.  Expats overseas receive an automatic two month extension on filing taxes which is good since we are just now getting our documents in order to be crunched by our accountant.

 But is this all worth renouncing our USA citizenship?  

Comments made on the Facebook's Democrats Abroad by some express concern about not having submitted a tax return for years. They are discovering that U.S. citizens or residents whose balance in all foreign accounts combined exceeds $10,000 at any time during the year must file or face an increased penalty for failure to file of up to 50% of the annual account balance.

Fox News Business Blog posted on April 5 : More Americans Give Up Citizenship As IRS Gets Aggressive Overseas about the fleeing of Expats and their renouncing of citizenship to avoid the new increases in taxes. The article reports: "just over 500 people worldwide have renounced U.S. citizenship or permanent residency in the fourth quarter of 2009, the most recent period for which data are available. That is more people than have cut ties with the U.S. during all of 2007, and more than double the total expatriations in 2008." Countering that claim the IRS states, "the swelling of numbers of expatriations towards the end of 2009 occurred because the agency made a push to notify people that had already surrendered their passport, but had not completed the process by submitting the IRS form. Until that form is received by the IRS, these people are still subject to U.S. tax." So who knows what the real figure is.

 But here's the real kicker.. it seems the IRS will get you coming AND going.

From the IRS:

The expatriation tax provisions under Section 877 and Section 877A of the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) apply to US citizens who have renounced their citizenship and long-term residents (as defined in IRC 877(e)) who have ended their US resident status for federal tax purposes.  Different rules apply according to the date upon which you expatriated.


Reasons for renouncing citizenship listed in the blog article include:
  • U.S. tax and reporting requirements make  potential business partners hesitate to do business
  • Overall regulatory environment concerns some
  • Americans living abroad face rigorous requirements for reporting information on foreign bank accounts
  • Avoidance of recent tax hikes in the U.S.
  • Stock market plunges of late 2008 and early 2009 make living elsewhere enticing
So what's the final word-- my advise get a good tax accountant very familiar with expat tax laws. Failing that here are some of the new requirements taken from the IRS website and Publication 54, Tax Guide for U.S. Citizens and Residents Abroad (PDF).

New this year is the exclusion amount. The maximum foreign earned income exclusion is now adjusted annually for inflation. For 2009, the maximum exclusion has increased to $91,400 (pg 1, Pub 54).
 
Filing Status* Amount (page 3, IRS Publication 54)
Single . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $ 9,350
65 or older . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $10,750
household . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $12,000
65 or older . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $13,400
Qualifying widow(er) . . . . . . . . . . . . . $15,050
65 or older . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $16,150
Married filing jointly . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $18,700
Not living with spouse at end of year $ 3,650
One spouse 65 or older . . . . . . . . . . $19,800
Both spouses 65 or older . . . . . . . . . $20,900
Married filing separately . . . . . . . . . . . $ 3,650

Interestingly enough I found this information under the business tab and not the individual tab:

U.S. Citizens and Resident Aliens Abroad



If you are a U.S. citizen or resident alien, the rules for filing income, estate, and gift tax returns and paying estimated tax are generally the same whether you are in the United States or abroad. Your worldwide income is subject to U.S. income tax, regardless of where you reside.

When to File

If you reside overseas, or are in the military on duty outside the U.S., you are allowed an automatic 2-month extension to file your return until June 15.  However, any tax due must be paid by the original return due date (April 15) to avoid interest charges.

If you are unable to file your return by the due date, you can request an additional extension to October 15 by filing Form 4868 before the return due date. However, any payments made after June 15 would be subject to both interest charges and failure to pay penalties.





According to the IRS website:If you expatriated after June 16, 2008, new expatriation rules apply to you if any of the following statements apply.
  • Your average annual net income tax for the 5 years ending before the date of expatriation or termination of residency is more than $139,000 (if you expatriated or terminated residency before January 1, 2009).
  • Your net worth is $2 million or more on the date of your expatriation or termination of residency.
  • You fail to certify on Form 8854 that you have complied with all U.S. federal tax obligations for the 5 years preceding the date of your expatriation or termination of residency. 
  • Note. If you expatriated before June 17, 2008, the expatriation rules in effect at that time continue to apply. See chapter 4 in Publication 519, U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens., for more information.


Thursday, April 8, 2010

Declaración Comité / CRPD: Terremoto - Maremoto en Chile y Personas con Discapacidad.

06 de abril de 2010.   El Comité sobre los Derechos de las Personas con Discapacidad de Naciones Unidas, en adelante "el Comité"; 


1.- Teniendo presente el terremoto y maremoto ocurrido en la República de Chile, con fecha 27 de febrero del 2010, y sus posteriores réplicas, que han provocado una grave situación para los habitantes de las zonas más devastadas en ese país, en cuanto a la satisfacción de sus necesidades más básicas, incluido el suministro de agua, alimento, atención en salud, vivienda, entre otras;

2.- Haciendo notar que la República de Chile es Estado Parte en la Convención sobre los derechos de las personas con discapacidad de Naciones Unidas y su Protocolo Facultativo;

3.- Teniendo en cuenta que un 12,9% de la población chilena presenta discapacidad,  es decir 2.068.072 personas según la encuesta sobre discapacidad, ENDISC 2004;

4.- Considerando que el artículo 11 de la CRPD, referido a Situaciones de riesgo y emergencias humanitarias, establece la obligación de los Estados partes de adoptar, “en virtud de las responsabilidades que les corresponden con arreglo al derecho internacional, y en concreto el derecho internacional humanitario y el derecho internacional de los derechos humanos, todas las medidas necesarias para garantizar la seguridad y la protección de las personas con discapacidad en situaciones de riesgo, incluidas situaciones de conflicto armado, emergencias humanitarias y desastres naturales”;

5.- Observando que en la referida situación de emergencia las personas con discapacidad pueden experimentar riesgos para el disfrute de sus derechos humanos, vivenciando dificultades para sus desplazamientos hacia lugares más seguros, pérdida de ayudas técnicas necesarias para su autonomía, incluidos los perros de asistencia, complicaciones para el acceso a medicamentos y tratamientos y en general, la privación de los distintos aspectos de accesibilidad en su más amplio concepto, incluida la accesibilidad a la información y comunicaciones, entre otros, en conformidad al artículo 9 de la Convención;

6.- Subrayando  que el Presidente de la Asamblea General de Naciones Unidas,  ha hecho un llamamiento a la comunidad internacional a desplegar "todos los esfuerzos posibles para asistir con urgencia a Chile después de la catástrofe"

El Comité declara que:

1.- Expresa sus más profundas condolencias a la República de Chile por la pérdida de vidas humanas y bienes materiales ocasionados por el terremoto y maremoto, de fecha 27 de febrero de 2010.

2.- Reconoce los apoyos prestados por distintos países de la comunidad internacional en la situación de Chile, con posterioridad al sismo y maremoto.   No obstante, el Comité insta a redoblar los  apoyos por  los Estados colaboradores y a iniciar estos esfuerzos por quienes no lo hayan hecho aún, con especial direccionamiento hacia las personas con discapacidad, haciendo  aplicación  del artículo 32 de la CRPD sobre cooperación internacional.

3.- Hace un llamado urgente hacia los organismos especializados dentro y fuera del sistema de Naciones Unidas y otros órganos competentes, a fin de que adopten programas estratégicos y planes de acción hacia las personas con discapacidad, en Chile, en esta situación de emergencia, con especial atención hacia mujeres, niñas, niños,  adultos mayores con discapacidad y a quienes requieren de apoyos más intensos por su particular condición de vulnerabilidad. Para estos efectos, será necesario localizar a las personas con discapacidad en los lugares en que se encuentran, garantizando su seguridad y facilitando su acceso a las distintas prestaciones otorgadas durante la emergencia y en su tránsito hacia la normalización de sus vidas.

4.- La entrega de ayuda humanitaria debe considerar las necesidades urgentes de las personas con discapacidad, debiendo relevarse la importancia de la instalación y/o reanudación de los procedimientos de habilitación y rehabilitación para ellas, incluida la atención del stress post-traumático, además de la provisión de ayudas técnicas y medicamentos que necesiten.

5.- En esta particular situación de emergencia humanitaria, solicita a  las autoridades de la República de Chile,  otorguen prioritaria atención a la supervigilancia  y salvaguarda de los derechos de las personas con discapacidad que viven en el país.

6.- Es necesario brindar particular apoyo a las personas con discapacidad para la  reconstrucción de sus viviendas, sean en sectores urbanos o rurales,   como también de aquellas sedes que albergan a asociaciones de personas con discapacidad y de los Centros que las atienden, que hayan resultados destruidos o dañados. Este apoyo deberá incluir la provisión de los bienes muebles para el uso cotidiano de estas viviendas, sedes y centros.

7.-  Mientras se ejecuta la reconstrucción de las viviendas que hayan resultado destruidas o parcialmente dañadas por el terremoto y maremoto,  es urgente que se   provea, a las personas con discapacidad, de espacios habitables dignos y accesibles según las necesidades específicas, junto a los artículos personales y de uso cotidiano que necesiten. Durante este tiempo se debe  asegurar que las personas con discapacidad se reúnan con sus familias.

8.-  Exhorta a que los planes de reconstrucción en las zonas afectadas por el terremoto y maremoto en la República de Chile, en coordinación con las contribuciones de la comunidad internacional,  consideren en forma prioritaria los distintos aspectos de accesibilidad al espacio físico, a la información, a las comunicaciones, al transporte, productos y servicios, para su utilización por las personas que presentan distintos tipos de discapacidad.

9.-  Sería apropiado que la contribución que haga Naciones Unidas, para efectos de reconstrucción, de acuerdo a lo señalado por el Secretario General, con fecha 6 de marzo de 2010, especifique la importancia de la satisfacción de las necesidades de las personas con discapacidad en esta emergencia humanitaria.

10.- Se reconocen los esfuerzos realizados por el Estado de Chile para la atención de la emergencia, no obstante, se recomienda la adopción de medidas de distinta índole que consideren las particulares necesidades de las personas que presentan diversas formas de discapacidad, en los procedimientos de alerta, evacuación e información y comunicaciones.  En este último caso, los mensajes dirigidos a la población por el medio televisivo, deberán considerar prioritariamente la Lengua de Señas y la Subtitulación, para la oportuna información de las personas con sordera, en concordancia a lo prescrito en el artículo 21 de la CRPD.  Estas medidas serán indispensables para enfrentar en el futuro, situaciones análogas de emergencia que pudieren presentarse.

El Comité pide a la Oficina del Alto Comisionado para los Derechos Humanos que asegure que esta declaración se difunda lo más ampliamente posible en los idiomas oficiales de las Naciones Unidas y en formatos accesibles.





 



Statement of the Committee/CRPD: Earthquake - Tsunami in Chile and Persons with Disability.

06 April 2010.






The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disability of the United Nation, from now will be referred to as “the Committee”;


1 .- In regards to the earthquake and tsunami in the Republic of Chile, dated February 27, 2010, and its subsequent aftershocks, which have caused a grave situation for the residents of devastated areas in the country, in terms of the fulfillment of basic needs, including water, food, health care, housing, etc.;

2 .- Noting that the Republic of Chile is a State Party to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities United Nations and its Optional Protocol;

3 .- Given that 12.9% of the Chilean population has disabilities, in other words . 2,068,072 persons according to the survey on disability, ENDISC 2004;

4 .- Whereas Article 11 of the CRPD, which refers to situations of risk and humanitarian emergencies, provides the obligations of State Parties; "in accordance with their obligations under international law, including international humanitarian law and international human rights law, all necessary measures to ensure the protection and safety of persons with disabilities in situations of risk, including situations of armed conflict, humanitarian emergencies and the occurrence of natural disasters”

5 .- Noting the aforementioned emergency, persons with disabilities may experience risks in the full enjoyment of their human rights, experiencing difficulties in their movement to safer areas, loss of technical assistance necessary for autonomy, including seeing eye dogs, complications with access to medication and treatment, in general, deprivation of various aspects of accessibility in its widest sense, including accessibility to information and communications, among others in accordance with Article 9 of the Convention;

6.- Emphasizing that the President of the United Nations General Assembly, has appealed to the international community to deploy "all possible efforts to urgently attend to Chile after the disaster"

The Committee hereby declares:

1 .- Offers its deepest condolences to the Republic of Chile for the loss of human lives and material damage caused by the earthquake and tsunami of February 27th 2010.

2 .- Recognizes the support provided by different countries of the international community in the situation in Chile after the earthquake and tsunami. However, the Committee calls for increased support of cooperating States and to initiate these efforts by those not yet done so, with a special address to persons with disabilities, applying Article 32 of the CRPD on international cooperation.

3 .- Makes an urgent appeal to the specialized agencies within and outside the UN system and other relevant bodies, to adopt strategic programs and action plans towards persons with disabilities, in Chile, in this emergency situation with special attention to women, girls, children, and the elderly with disabilities and who require more intensive support provided by their particular vulnerability. For this purpose, it must locate persons with disabilities, ensuring their safety and facilitating their access to the various allowances provided during the emergency and in transit to the normalization of their lives.

4 .- That the delivery of humanitarian aid should consider the urgent needs of persons with disabilities and should highlight the importance of installing and/or resumption of procedures for their habilitation and rehabilitation, including post-traumatic stress care, as well as providing technical assistance and medicine that they mean need.

5 .- That in this particular humanitarian emergency, the Committee calls on the authorities of the Republic of Chile, to give priority attention to the supervision and safeguarding the rights of persons with disabilities living in the country.

6 .- Deems it is necessary to provide special support to persons with disabilities to rebuild their homes, whether in urban or rural areas, as well as those sites that host associations of persons with disabilities and centers that serve them, which have been destroyed or damaged. This support must include the provision of personal furniture and goods for daily use in these homes, shelters, branches and centers.

7.-  While the reconstruction of these homes that were partially damaged or totally destroyed by the earthquake and tsunami, it is urgent that persons with disability are provided with dignified and accessible living spaces and of daily use according to their needs.  During this time, it must be made sure that persons with disability come together with their families.

8 .- Calls for the reconstruction plans in areas affected by the earthquake and tsunami in the Republic of Chile, in coordination with contributions from the international community, considered as a priority the different aspects of accessibility to physical space, to information, communications, transportation, products and services for use by persons with various disabilities.

9.- Deems appropriate that the contributions made by the United Nations, for purposes of reconstruction, according to the findings by the Secretary-General, dated 6 March 2010, specifying the importance of meeting the needs of persons with disabilities in humanitarian emergency.

10.- Recognizes the efforts of the State of Chile to the attention of the emergency, however, recommends that the adoption of measures of various kinds, need to consider the particular needs of persons with different forms of disabilities in warning procedures, evacuation and information and communications. In the latter case, messages sent to the public by television, shall be given priority Sign Language and Captioning, timely information for deaf persons, in accordance with the requirements in Article 21 of the CRPD. These measures are essential to address in future similar situations of emergency that may arise.

The Committee calls on the OHCHR to ensure that this Declaration should be spread as widely as possible in the official languages of the United Nations and in accessible formats.


Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Expat's April Fool's- Counting in the U.S. Census 2010



Happy April Fool's Day-- otherwise known this year as U.S. Census Day!
...and to think that we counted was a bit of a joke on me!   It looks like the Census Bureau has adapted an old saying to now read: A place for every person, and every person in their right place.  

According to the U.S. 2010 Census governmental website:  "the Census Bureau is committed to counting every person. Just as important, however, is the Census Bureau's commitment to counting every person in the correct place. The fundamental reason the decennial census is conducted is to fulfill the Constitutional requirement (Article I, Section 2) to apportion the seats in the U.S. House of Representatives among the states. Thus, for a fair and equitable apportionment, it is crucial that people are counted in the right place during the 2010 Census" [emphasis added].

In the 1990 and 2000 Census U.S. military and civilian employees overseas were included in the numbers used for apportioning Congress. So the question is – Do we count in this 2010 census while we are living in Chile, while claiming Virginia as our point of origin? And the answer is a resounding NOPE!   For those of us who take on the Expat life we just have to hope that someone will carry on in our stead back home. 

U.S. military families, however, do count.  And they don't even need to lift a finger to do so. The Defense Manpower Data Center  (DMDC) will provide the Census Bureau the information needed to complete this year’s 10-question form for each overseas resident. That also includes information for National Guard members on active duty deployed overseas when the census is taken. DMDC, the Department of Defense's statistical bean counter, is responsible for archiving personnel, manpower and training data, keeps statistical records, and collects Department of Defense contract information. DMDC also produces statistics on DOD purchases from educational and nonprofit institutions and from state and local governments.

So why don't WE Expats count?  

Well, we just needed a better bean counter service than what the U.S. Census Bureau designed apparently.  Based upon the failure of online survey U.S. Census Bureau's 2004 Overseas Enumeration Test  that attempted to check the feasibility to count U.S. citizens living in France, Kuwait and Mexico, Congress decided not to "divert funds" to include oversees non-military employees in this year’s census. The three countries were chosen as test sites for their geographic diversity and because they are home to different groups of U.S. citizens — e.g., professionals, students and retirees. 

The online survey questions in the 2004 Census asked the same questions as its domestic counterpart — name, relationship to others in the household, age, sex, race and Hispanic origin. Additional questions were specifically designed for U.S. citizens living abroad, such as citizenship, Social Security number and passport number. The overseas questionnaire was also used to answer many other questions including:  What kinds of logistical challenges would the Bureau face? What types of outreach would work? And, most importantly, how many U.S. citizens might participate?  Unfortunately the test suffered various methodological limitations that addressed feasibility, data quality, and cost. In the end, according to the GAO Report 2010 Census: Overseas Enumeration Test Raises Need for Clear Policy Direction the Census Bureau "overstated the test's ability to answer its key research objectives." Well, at least their heart was in the right place.

The upshot of all this is we Expats maintain our rights and obligations to federal programs and activities such as being taxed on their worldwide income and voting in federal elections, but we are generally not entitled to Medicare benefits.  It's also important to note there is no Constitution, federal law, or court decisions that require the Bureau to count overseas Americans, or for that matter NOT count us.  So I guess it means that we are neither fish nor foul, neither here nor there.

The GAO report concluded, "counting Americans abroad as part of the census would add new risks to an enterprise that already faces an array of challenges."   In order for Expats to count Congress would have needed to enact legislation to require the Bureau to include overseas Americans in the 2010 Census. It would have also required the Bureau to build a better survey with stricter rigor in its design. 
So U.S. Census Bureau has returned  back to the drawing room and continues to tweak the online survey ( http://2010.census.gov/2010census/how/interactive-form.php )
  
Moral of the story… get thee on a donkey (Luke  2:1) and go home in time for the census  or not be counted at all (Numbers 1:49)