I had a nice little post for you today on how to making your own travel journals. But then last night happened. And what, pray tell, could be so thrilling as to distract me from posting pretty pictures of paper?
Getting our German taxes done, that’s what. And, unfortunately, I have no pretty pictures of paperwork.
I know, I know, you’re thinking, sheesh, who cares about taxes? That’s stupid and boring. I’ll just get back to my Lean Cuisine microwave meal now, thankyouverymuch.
Well, hang on to your hats for just a minute more while I recap flying through three years of tax returns done in 90 minutes. Schnell! Schnell!
We’ve been told over and over that we should do our German taxes because we’d get a decent amount back. Well, I don’t know about you, but I loathe doing taxes and even more so as an expat. Doc Sci gets plenty of money taken out of his paycheck, and I was not interested in the amount of effort required to get a “decent” refund.
But one of Doc Sci’s colleagues kept bugging him about it, and she even offered the name of her tax guy who spoke English and came to your house to do the whole shebang. Finally, we broke down and called this guy – let’s name him Larry since that’s a very nice accountant-ish name – back in January and asked for an appointment. He informed us he was much too busy for poor peons like us, but we should gather all the paperwork he had listed on his website and call him back in February.
Shucks, I am always up for digging through my files and mining the depths of my archives for financial and legal documents with long names like Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious Lohnsteuerbescheinigung. Okay, no, no I’m not. So, I just made a very impressive looking pile several inches deep and then threw the binder of bank statements on top to look very, very organized. Go me.
When February came, I picked a time when Doc Sci would be home in the afternoon, and I slipped him Larry’s phone number, a smile, and a few bats of the eyelashes. Please, oh please, won’t you call Larry again and set up an appointment? Here’s my planner so you’ll know when we’re available. Aren’t I a nice wife to help you out like that?
But, Larry didn’t want to schedule an appointment for next week or the week after. No, no, tonight suited him just fine. How about four hours from now? This should’ve been a clue to me that we would’ve been better off calling him Fast & Furious.
Fast & Furious Larry showed up around 8:30pm rolling a briefcase behind him which is a corporate America move, not a German one. Doc Sci thought Larry looked like an accountant. Well, what the heck does an accountant look like? I thought he looked like a nerdy study partner, hair in the eyes, glasses, and a polo shirt. Maybe that is what an accountant looks like, but what do I know?
This guy made himself right at home, busting out the biggest laptop we had ever (EVER!) seen. It was equipped with two anti-theft devices. One was a dongle (I was informed by Doc Sci that this is the proper term, and it is neither inappropriate nor misspelled) that must be inserted in order to use the computer. The other was its sheer mass, half the size of a Brinks security truck with some computer whirlygigs and a keyboard inside.
Even better, he had a gazillion gadgets duct taped to the cover. An orange highlighter, one of those bank pens on a spiral cord, a wireless phone (internet maybe?), peanuts, pretzels, a beer, but sadly, not an apple.
We (stupidly) had not asked in advance how much Larry’s services were going to cost, so we decided a few minutes before he arrived that we’d start with that as a means of introduction. Hello, nice to meet you, are you too expensive for our poor little just-a-cut-above-a-grad-student means? But, Larry was not interested in small talk. He whisked away our questions and told us to bring on the paperwork.
Wait, what? You’re going to do three years of our taxes RIGHT NOW?! Yes, ma’am and the faster I get it done, the cheaper it is for you.
Ai, ai, Captain Larry, well then let’s not delay!
For the next 90 minutes, Mr. Fast & Furious fired questions and orders in broken English. “You have bank statement from Flugtickets when you move to Germany?” “How many kilometers your home in America from the airport?” “Kindergarten receipts!” “You have American tax papers? They not printed out? Print out!”
Remind me if I ever do this again to wear Nikes and wicking workout gear. We were dripping sweat sprinting back and forth between the printer churning out credit card statements, receipts, and summaries as far back as 1897. Every foot/cent/mile/dollar/euro/kilometer counts, as long as you’ve got the backup to prove it.
In the end, he scrawled several numbers on a paper. “That how much you get back. That how much you pay me.”
I about fell over when I saw the figures. We’re getting several thousand (yep, THOUSAND) euros back for the last three years, and homeboy here just made 436 Euros in about an hour and a half. We are to pay Mr. Fast & Furious this random amount after we receive our refund. And, of course we must do this by bank transfer. Checks are so.. American.
Needless to say, we never envisioned our evening to begin with an awkward introduction followed by a frenzy of dollars, sense, and madness to finally land our butts on a pile of gold at the end of the German rainbow. I’m quite certain that our 2012 April date with Uncle Sam will be neither as thrilling nor as profitable. But, that’s okay. If we’re lucky, we’ll get to do this all over again next year.