Wednesday, February 17, 2010


I’ve used TurboTax to file my taxes every year since moving to France. And every year I run into the same problem: after spending hours entering my information online, I’m barred from finalizing the transaction because its system will not accept an American credit card associated with a foreign address. In the end, I pay with my mom’s card which is fine -- despite us not having the same name or address or proof that she’s agreed. Every year my complaint is met with the promise that the glitch will be resolved by next tax season and, in return, I vow to never again use their services.

As I sit here today, preparing to file my 2009 taxes via TurboTax and checking the hour to make sure my mom will be awake when it comes time to pay, I recalled a conversation I had with one of their representatives a year ago while sitting on the phone begging her to take my money. Here is what she told me:

I’m Mexican and American Indian. Well, my grandfather was Irish. My parents divorced when I was a baby. I lived with my Mexican father in Florida. Later my mother came to get me and brought me to Georgia. I didn’t talk until I was 4. Now I can understand Spanish, but I can’t speak it. I have some Italian friends. Sometimes their friends talk about me in Italian and I just listen. I know they’re talking about me, but I don’t tell them. Well sometimes I do.

I’ve been dating online. I’ve gotten some “flirts” and “winks” but that’s all for now.

I saw the "Lake House". I wasn’t going to watch it because I hate love stories. I prefer horror movies. But then I saw Sandra Bullock was in it and I love her so I decided to watch it.
This conversation reminded me of something I often hear here about Americans. It is perceived that we will share details about our lives within the first 5 minutes of meeting someone. In general, I agree. And, in general, I don’t mind. I’d prefer that people be warm and open from the get-go, opposed to cold clams that require a sharp knife and gloves to pry open. I’ve attempted friendship with a few Françaises and in most cases it’s been difficult to get past their lukewarm receptions. By the time they finally decide to open up, I’m bitter from having had to work so hard and usually don't follow through. I'm sure they don't care, or even notice.

But as with many things French and American, somewhere in between would be nice. I acknowledge there are limits. For example, it wouldn't be wise to divulge too much personal information to a disgruntled customer who might be crazy enough to open a account as a strapping University of Florida graduate with a degree in Spanish, who has a soft spot for slow learners and southern belles, who wants to name his first born Rob "Red Cloud at Sunset" Zombie and describes his ideal mate as Sandra Bullock.


Sara Louise said...

I hate that glitch! Last year I had my taxes done by an accountant in NY. I was supposed to be able to pay for the services online, same freaking problem as when you do them with Turbo Tax. So I phoned and explained the problem, the woman on the phone said no problem, we can take your card over the phone, great, started giving her the details and then she asked for the zip code - DUH! I ended up having to get a cashiers check and posting it. You would think that with all the Americans living all around the world that get the problem sorted by now.
Anyway, thanks for the post because you just reminded me to do my taxes =)

Amy75 said...

Oh, Sara, I did the same thing! Called in by credit card number and had the same problem w/the zip code. Then they said I could do an e-check or something w/my US bank account but there was a problem there too. I agree, there's so many expats you'd think they'd fix it by now. In the TurboTax chat room this question comes up all the time.

Andi said...

Found you through A Taste of Garlic, so glad I did. My French husband is continually baffled by our (American) tendency to spill personal information so quickly, it is something he struggles with living back in the U.S. I definitely had to restrict my output when I was living in France in order not to scare off the natives! I used Turbo tax too and it drove me insane!

Leesa said...

Hey Amy!

I stopped using Turbo tax because of the "foreign income" - I couldn't figure out how to add my wages as foreign income so I gave up and just switched over to the regular 1040 forms.... Oh well.. It's still pretty easy and FREE!!!

I don't pay anything in taxes b/c I don't make enough here .... but I DO have to declare, as all expats do..

Just wondering why you file with turbo tax if you have to pay for the service.. I'm guessing it's b/c you get some kind of refund??? If not, it may be more interesting for you to file with the 1040 forms... And, you DO know that living in France gives you the allowance to file your U.S. taxes by June... right? Just an FYI in case you didn't know.

Take care and have a great weekend!

Amy75 said...

Hi Leesa! To be honest, I have no idea why I just don't file them myself. I started using TurboTax back in SF and was really pleased with it. I think I just like clicking the buttons, it seems easier, but in reality it's not. I think I'll follow your lead next year and just do it myself. For free :) Thanks for the advice.

Anonymous said...

love this post, particularly the end. a funny thing with the overshare is how varied my own reaction can be. some days i want to scream about how much i don't care, other days i am disarmed by empathy

Amy75 said...

Thanks, Chad! I feel the same way. I was taking these notes while she was talking because I was so annoyed and was going to use them when I complained about her later, but then when I got off the phone I felt bad and couldn’t do it.

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