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EXPAT GUIDE | PRESENTED BY GREENBACK

TAXES

US tax preparation in Switzerland

If you dread filing your US expat taxes each year, you aren’t alone. But Greenback Expat Tax Services can prepare your taxes efficiently, accurately and at a fair, honest price.

US tax preparation in Switzerland
Photo: Images Money/Flickr

Company name: Greenback Expat Tax Services

Name of Interviewee: David McKeegan, Co-Founder

Who is Greenback?

Greenback specializes in providing expert expat tax preparation and services for Americans living around the world. My wife, Carrie and I, started the company back in 2008. We were expats ourselves and couldn’t find an affordable, experienced expat tax provider so we decided to create the kind of company we were looking for.  We’ve grown exponentially since our inception and now serve clients in over 140 countries—it’s an exciting time for our company!

Where is Greenback located?

Greenback actually operates with a unique business structure. Our entire team works remotely, without a physical office. Like us, many of our team members are expats themselves!

We wanted to remain location independent since we really enjoy the expat lifestyle, but operating virtually also allows us to find the most experienced accountant and management professionals, no matter where the live. 

What are Greenback’s greatest strengths?

We certainly believe the expertise of our accountant team is the core of this company. Providing accurate returns is critical and we are meticulous in our hiring process. Customer service is another strength. Many clients return to us year after year for our tax expertise, but also because we are genuinely nice people to work with.  That is the ultimate compliment.

Why would a US expat choose to work with an expat tax company instead of preparing their taxes on their own?

Expats can absolutely file on their own if they are comfortable doing so! But the US expat tax filing requirements are complex and ever-changing, which makes it really difficult for expats to accurately file their taxes year-to-year. Understanding the deductions and exclusions that are available to offset US taxes can also be a challenge so it’s helpful to work with someone who knows the ins and outs of expat tax filing.

Do you file foreign bank account reports for your clients?

Yes! We prepare and file both FBAR (Foreign Bank Account Report) and FATCA (Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act) forms. We file the FBAR form (FinCEN 114) electronically with the Department of the Treasury by June 30th each year, while FATCA Form 8938 is filed along with your US Federal Tax Return. (Remember that if you file for an extension on your US return, you get an extension on FATCA, but NOT FBAR—that is always due June 30th.)

How does the tax preparation process work?

We wanted to make it as simple as possible, so everything is done online. Documents are uploaded to a secure online folder and the accountant prepares a draft return in about a week. In most cases, our accountants can even e-file on behalf of their clients.

What if someone hasn’t filed their US taxes since moving abroad?

This situation is really common, as many expats never knew they needed to file. We can help by filing back taxes, as well as prepare the necessary forms and tax returns if someone chooses to file under one of the IRS amnesty programs for delinquent filers, such as the Streamlined Filing Procedures.

Greenback Expat Tax Services

This text was sponsored by Greenback Expat Tax Services.

 

For members

MOVING TO SWITZERLAND

Seven tips to help you settle in Switzerland

Despite its many advantages - safety, education, and low taxes, to name but a few, Switzerland can be a tricky place for immigrants to navigate. Here are a few tips to help make you feel like a local rather than just a visitor.

Seven tips to help you settle in Switzerland

Learn the language
First things first: Whichever part of Switzerland you find yourself in, the way to the (notoriously reserved) Swiss people’s hearts is through language. It is no secret that immigrants who go that extra mile to fit in are more readily welcomed and accepted by the locals.

While those living in larger cities such as Zurich, Geneva or Basel may very well have an easier time finding people willing to speak to them in English, after a while, the obvious becomes inevitable: If your goal is to feel at home in Switzerland, you best learn one (or more) of its four official languages to break the cultural gap.

READ ALSO: Is your French good enough for Swiss residency and citizenship?

So whether you left your home country equipped with a basic grasp of your new local language or find yourself having to start from scratch, the easiest way to get learning is to sign up for language classes – and if you have the funds, tailored private lessons will have you speaking the lingo of your choice in no time!

Go on mini adventures
One of the easiest ways you can combat those budding feelings of loneliness and start to feel more comfortable in your host country is to step outside and explore your immediate surroundings.

Speak to locals, colleagues and classmates and make a list of a few places in your area you would like to visit. Shopping malls, local cafes, town markets, museums and historical sights make a good starting point.

Pro tip: Sometimes, the best way to get familiar with a new environment is to get lost in it first. Why not try an off-the-beaten-path stroll around your new hometown?

Get volunteering and involved in the community
Volunteering can be a very rewarding experience for immigrants looking to integrate into a community, learn new skills, contribute to their new place of residence, and meet other foreigners and locals alike. Whether you have a heart for animals, enjoy teaching English, or wish to advance your career by volunteering for a large organisation, Switzerland has opportunities for everybody!

Visit Swiss Volunteers or SCI Schweiz to find upcoming volunteer events in your area and take the first step toward closing the gap between tourists and residents.

(Photo by angela pham on Unsplash)

Take up a social hobby that aligns with your interests
Even if your goal isn’t to meet new people immediately, there are many activities you can pursue that will get you out of your house and embrace the local culture.

Join cooking classes to learn how to cook up yummy national dishes (yes, they extend beyond fondue!), attend a nearby book club event and dive into Swiss literature (again, there’s more to it than The Swiss Family Robinson), or find yourself a local hiking buddy that may very well share the odd insider tip, because if there is anyone that knows the place you have moved to – it is the people that live there.

READ ALSO: ‘Peaceful coexistence’: How one Swiss canton helps foreign citizens integrate

Break a sweat for free
Exercise not only helps you feel good about yourself and boost your endorphin levels (yay!), but it also gives you a chance to connect with like-minded people that may even live in the same neighbourhood.

Now it’s a common misconception that your natural starting point is your nearest gym or sports club, and while getting a gym membership is an excellent way of linking up with fellow sports lovers, there are countless ways to keep fit without a hefty price tag.

Switzerland is, after all, a hiker’s paradise, making it just as common to meet people while taking in the beautiful Alps – whether on a hike, while out trekking, or enjoying a casual jog, as it is breaking a sweat at your local health club.

A man stands in front of the Matterhorn in the Swiss region of Zermatt

(Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash)

Get connected
There are arguably many disadvantages that come with modern technology, but if you find yourself in a new environment, logging into social media may not be the worst idea. 

Join a local community group on Facebook to keep up with upcoming events or clubs in your area, or use Instagram to your advantage and share your favourite pastime with fellow hobby enthusiasts.

And while out and about, why not check out your local mall’s bulletin board? You never know what you might find!

READ ALSO: All you need to know about bringing your pets to Switzerland

Adopt man’s best friend
Dogs undoubtedly deserve the title of “man’s best friend”: they are loyal, intelligent, affectionate, and can boost our mental health and fitness. But besides providing their owners companionship (a big plus when moving to a new country), dogs can also help create human-to-human friendships and offer social support.

For those not in a position to get their own pup, consider picking up dog-walking, and you’ll find yourself bumping into neighbours and other dog walkers on the regular!

And lastly, give yourself time and be patient with yourself. Moving abroad is no small feat, so remember to give yourself credit for making such a giant leap!

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