Monday, March 18, 2013

That time of year

I need an accountant who is up to speed on writers'/artists' tax affairs, and in particular one who understands the intricacies of residence and/or obligation to file in more than one country.

I have been what I believe is called "domiciled" in Germany for several years but most of my income arises in the US; I am also a UK citizen which turns out to mean the Inland Revenue likes to be sent a tax return. I came over to the US last October and will probably be here through the end of May, having spent 4 months in Vermont, 1 in New Hampshire, 2 in Texas and 1 in a state yet to be determined.  I might spend the summer in the States (state to be determined) or I might return to Europe; I might go back to Germany or might go to the UK.

The agents representing Lightning Rods overseas say its foreign publishers must deduct 30% taxes at source unless I provide a certificate of tax residence in some other country.  I have been filing my primary tax return in the US all this time, but the forms relating to the relevant certificate don't seem to fit my situation.  It would help to talk to an accountant who understands these things.

I've asked for recommendations from various writers and artists I know; some say they are too poor to afford an accountant, so prepare their own tax returns; others have an accountant who is not really especially au fait with writers' affairs, or not especially au fait with expats.  It seems just possible that one of the readers of pp might know someone who could help; if you do, I'd love to know.

I have filed form 4868 for a 6-month extension, so the US return does not need to be turned around by April 17; it's more a question of getting things straightened out for the longer term and of providing correct documentation to foreign publishers. Again, if anyone has any good suggestions it would be enormously helpful if you could let me know.


languagehat said...

I've posted this to Ask MetaFilter, so check that thread once in a while; there's a large user base and hopefully someone will have a useful suggestion. If you want to add more info or respond to anything, let me know and I'll leave a comment.

Helen DeWitt said...

Thanks! I'll let you know...

The Steve said...

Found anyone yet? I may know a guy… he can handle opera singers, at least.

ffm784 said...

I lived in Frankfurt for 6 years and am now back in the States.

If you are a resident of Germany and you have income you will have to file a tax declaration with the Finanzamt, as you probably already know.

If you are a U.S. citizen living in Germany then you also, unfortunately, will also have to file a very long and complex tax return with the IRS - even if you owe the U.S. tax authorities no money!

If you are working outside of Germany for any amount of time (even 1 day) then you should be able to deduct from your German taxes a proportion of your income for the time that you were out of the country. e.g. if you work in Vermont for 4 months out of the 12 months then 4/12th of your annual income is deducted from the income that you have to declare to the German tax authorities.

I can't speak about what the tax authorities in the U.K. might be thinking about you since I have no experience with their tax system.

With that said, I'm not a tax specialist. I would suggest that you speak with a Germany based tax advisory who has specific experience with the U.S. and U.K. tax systems.

By the way, my wife is a 2nd cousin of yours. One of her grandmothers was Charlotte DeWitt Snyder. My wife just order your book "The Last Samurai" for reading while we are on vacation in Quebec this summer.


John Martlew said...

I can't advise on the tax problem, so I'm going to contribute to it. I just bought "The Last Samurai" for .25c at a second hand store. I would like to see a comparative brain scan of my brain not reading the book and another of my brain reading it. The latter would probably light up a room. I searched for your name and found your blog with the side bar on the madhouse book shuffle and the PayPal solution. I will donate. Now you have more money to worry about.
I love how you think.
John Martlew
Lund BC