Category: Money

After Years Of Coming Close, Granada, Spain, Finally Wins The Best City To Visit Tournament

best city 2017 final

The Best City to Visit Travel Tournament is often unpredictable in predictable ways. A Romanian city advancing deep into the tournament is certainly no anomaly (they’ve been in the Championship for the past 5 consecutive years) but like in 2016, the Iberian Peninsula has stopped them one shy of the win. Granada, Spain, which has been to the Final Four in 2013 and 2015, finally got the momentum it needed from your votes to win The 2017 Best City To Visit Travel Tournament.


For the first time in 8 years when I began the best city contest, a city I’ve been to previously has won the tournament. I’m looking forward to returning to one of my favorite cities in the world, seeing how both it and I have changed since the last time. Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting my plans for visiting Granada this year, as well as catch you up on the non-profit efforts in Lisbon, Portugal, the 2016 Best City.

Congratulations also to Tianna, a newsletter subscriber of mine who nominated Granada and wins a $600 gift card to one of several online stores. Damian, who nominated Campina, has $50 coming his way, and everyone who made it to the Final Four, $25 toward your next travel gear. (You’ll be receiving emails before the end of today and need to respond by April 25th to claim your prizes.)

Thank you everyone who participated in this year’s tournament, either by nominating a city or voting. I’m going extend those thanks by expanding the prizes quite a bit for the 2018 tournament. For those of you unhappy with the selection of cities this year (there are always some haters) follow foXnoMad on Facebook so you don’t miss picking your favorite city for the 2018 tournament beginning next February.

How American Expats Can Lower (Or Eliminate) Their Taxes Back Home

This is a guest post by Olivier Wagner, a Certified Public Accountant, U.S. immigrant, expat, and perpetual traveler who preaches the philosophy of being a worldly American. In his new book, U.S. Taxes for Worldly Americans, he uses his expertise to show you how to use 100% legal strategies (beyond traditionally maligned “tax havens”) to keep your income and assets safe from the IRS. Oliver has also written recently what you need to know about taxes if you’re an American who moves abroad.

us passport money

Most Americans living abroad today know about the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion (FEIE) (Form 2555). The FEIE lets you remove up to $101,300 of foreign income from your taxable income when filing taxes back home. This is great news for U.S. citizens who stay outside the country all year and don’t make six figures annually; as it legally allows you to avoid paying any taxes to the United States. However, to take advantage of it, you must be careful to claim things the right way on your tax return.

Choosing Between The FTC And FEIE

You can also claim a credit for any taxes you have paid to foreign governments through the Foreign Tax Credit (FTC) (Form 1116). This is very useful if you are a resident or worker in another country. However, you have to choose between using either the FTC or the FEIE to lower your taxes – you can’t take advantage of both.

  • Generally, if your foreign tax rate is greater than your U.S. tax rate, the FTC will save you more.

If you have children who are also American citizens, you can get a refundable tax credit of $1,000 per year per child with the Additional Child Tax credit. To qualify, you must have at least $3,000 of income and not use the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion.

U.S. Taxes for Worldly Americans U.S. Taxes for Worldly Americans

amazon buy now

My friend Laura from Ohio used to work as a self-employed English teacher in Milan. Because she would spend the entire tax year in Italy (and made much less than the $101,300 FEIE limit), she qualified for the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion each year when she filed her American taxes.

However, there is one other requirement you must meet in order to use the FEIE. You must pass either the Bona Fide Residence Test or the Physical Presence Test. Although you only need to qualify using one of the two, having both provides a safety net. If you are ever audited and you fail one test, you can simply provide another Form 2555 using the other test.

How To Pass The Bona Fide Residence Test

This is a somewhat fancy phrase that explained Laura’s situation perfectly. A bona fide resident is someone who has legitimately established residency in a foreign country. Although she was abroad in Italy for an undetermined, potentially indefinite period of time, Ohio still saw her as a resident for tax purposes until she proved otherwise.

In order to use this test to qualify for the FEIE, she just had to remain a tax resident of Italy for an uninterrupted tax year. Even if a country doesn’t have an income tax system, so long as they would otherwise have authority to tax you, you qualify as a “tax resident”. She also must not have submitted a statement to Italy that she was a non-resident there. She could not be living in Italy as a tourist.

lisbon portugal

Every other tie to the country counts and the Bona Fide Residence test is inherently subjective. If you are unsure, I would not recommend claiming it. I advise that you use the Physical Presence test or the Foreign Tax Credit instead.

How To Pass The Physical Presence Test

Alternatively, Laura also could have qualified for the FEIE using the Physical Presence Test. To pass this test, a person must spend at least 330 days outside the US in any 12-month period.

Each of those 330 days must be an entire 24 hours. I once had a client of mine tell me, “Well, of course I can use the Physical Presence Test. I live in Canada year-round.” Then he said, “I only return to the States once a week to fill up on gas.” Oops. Those quick little trips meant he was only out of the country for 6/7ths of the year, or 312 days – not quite enough to pass the Physical Presence Test.

Additional Exceptions To The 24 Hour Rule

  • Being in the U.S. for less than 24 hours while in transit between two foreign countries.
  • Being in international waters for less than 24 hours in transit between two foreign countries. International waters do not count as a foreign country (hence, time spent there does not count toward the 330 days). Likewise, time spent in Cuba in violation of the embargo does not count toward the 330 days.

Since Laura was living in Italy for the entire year, she passed these tests as well.

Filing The FEIE On Your Tax Return

The FEIE can be claimed on either Form 2555-EZ or Form 2555. As a tax professional, I usually use Form 2555, but if you’re preparing your own return, you might enjoy the simplicity of Form 2555-EZ.

Requirements For Form 2555-EZ

  1. You must be a U.S. citizen or resident alien.
  2. You must earn wages or a salary in a foreign country.
  3. You must have a total foreign earned income of $101,300 or less.
  4. You must file a calendar year return that covers a 12-month period.
  5. You must not have self-employment income.
  6. You must not have business or moving expenses.
  7. You must not claim the foreign housing exclusion or deduction.

While the 2555-EZ is an enticing option, it is not applicable to people who receive self-employed income, claim moving expenses, or claim the foreign housing exclusion or deduction. This becomes a problematic area for many English teachers who give private courses outside of a structured work environment, and are therefore considered “self-employed.”

Another Option, The Foreign House Exclusion

My friend Laura also considered claiming the foreign housing exclusion. The foreign housing exclusion is useful for those whose earned income exceeds the limit of $101,300. (The first $44.28 per day is not deductible.) The Foreign Housing Exclusion is called the Foreign Housing Deduction for self-employed people, but the concept is the same.

american flag kansas

Many expats get extremely frustrated with the U.S. tax-filing process, with its seemingly never-ending pages of questions followed by the massive crunching of numbers. I have met many of those people, worked with them, and assured them that we would be able to comply with all the tax requirements so long as we were detailed in our approach.

As you probably already know, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), otherwise known as “Obamacare”, imposes tax penalties on American citizens without health insurance. Fortunately, anyone who qualifies for the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion is not subject to the penalties of the ACA.

In Laura’s case, we managed to successfully file her taxes and her Foreign Earned Income Exclusion. We also managed to receive a tax credit for the income taxes taken out by the Italian government.

Thank you very much Oliver for sharing some of your expertise with the many expats who may be paying taxes they don’t have to. Oliver goes further into detail in his highly rated book, U.S. Taxes for Worldly Americans. For those of you Americans living abroad, it’s probably a good idea to know how your tax situation changes – and doesn’t – which Oliver has covered previously on foXnoMad in his post, How Taxes Change When Americans Go Abroad.

How Taxes Change When Americans Go Abroad

This is a guest post by Olivier Wagner, a Certified Public Accountant, U.S. immigrant, expat, and perpetual traveler who preaches the philosophy of being a worldly American. In his new book, U.S. Taxes for Worldly Americans, he uses his expertise to show you how to use 100% legal strategies (beyond traditionally maligned “tax havens”) to keep your income and assets safe from the IRS.

washington dc plane flying

More people are renouncing their U.S. citizenship now than ever before. Each has their own reasons for doing this. Some are worried about the changing political landscape of today. Others pay attention to new rules and restrictions on freedom of travel, or (for better or worse) how the rest of the world views Americans. Mostly, they want to avoid all the complicated tax burdens that come with the territory of being a U.S. citizen. It’s not necessarily difficult to get rid of your American citizenship, but it does warrant a lot of deep thought, planning, and a bit of money to pull off properly.

U.S. Citizens Always Have Tax Obligations

Many Americans living abroad have never even filed their taxes, or else haven’t filed in many years. Some have been abroad so long that, aside from their passports and the occasional trip back home to see family, they have no real ties to the United States (not even a Social Security number). In their minds, they’ve long ago sworn off the idea of getting involved with U.S. taxes and would be completely financially unable to get caught up on them anyway.

U.S. Taxes for Worldly Americans  U.S. Taxes for Worldly Americans

amazon buy now

Some of these people have been very lucky to coast under the radar this long without any consequences. It’s very important that they get tax compliant as quickly as possible, and that they utilize every tool available to minimize their expenses. There are very large consequences to continuing to ignore this, yet so many people don’t pay any attention to it at all because it seems so overwhelming to consider. They may even take personal offense to having to pay anything at all.

Foreign Banks Talk To The IRS About US Citizens

Things are only getting more complicated for Americans living abroad as time goes on. Starting in 2015, a new law went into effect across the globe requiring foreign banks to identify which of their clients are American citizens and report their name, address, and account balance to the IRS back home (although litigation between the Department of Justice and Swiss banks caused the trend to start in Switzerland as early as 2012). It’s called FATCA, and it stands for Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act.

Additionally, anyone holding an equivalent balance of more than $10,000 in foreign bank accounts must file an FBAR report. When the IRS receives this data, they will try to match that to the taxpayer on record as reported by the foreign banks directly. The penalty for willfully failing to file an FBAR could be up to 50% of the account balance per year, giving serious caution to anyone interested in holding even some of their money offshore (or $10,000 per account if the failure to file was not willful, and possibly zero if the taxpayer had a reasonable cause).

Some Taxes Can Be Avoided By Expats

Some Americans living abroad today know about the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion (FEIE), which allows them to exclude up to $101,300 (as of 2016) of foreign income from their taxable income. Nomads and expatriates who don’t make a ton of money will typically use this to avoid paying taxes at all in the US, but only if they know how to claim things on their tax return correctly. One can claim the FEIE by being an actual resident of a foreign country (a “bona fide resident”). There’s also a physical presence test for people who spend at least 330 days in any 12-month period outside the U.S. This is fine for those who have truly relocated outside the states, but what about others who still return frequently to visit friends and family, or split their time equally between multiple homes?

american flags washington dc

It’s important to understand that your tax situation will never be the same once you start traveling, yet so long as you remain an American you will always have some kind of tax obligation. The IRS will always be checking up on you, no matter where you live or work. But that’s okay so long as you can keep up with the new rules that apply to you, and learn to (legally) work the system to your advantage. You may even be able to reduce your tax obligation to nothing at all.

Thank you very much Oliver for sharing some of your expertise with many who might not know they owe taxes. Oliver goes further into detail in his highly rated book, U.S. Taxes for Worldly Americans.

Win $600 By Telling Me Your Favorite City For This Year’s Best City To Visit Tournament

best city to visit 2017

The Best City To Visit Travel Tournament in an annual contest on this site where 64 cities are matched up and eliminated by weekly reader votes. You tell me what city you think is the best in the world to visit to and if it wins, I’ll give you a $600 gift card to your choice of several online stores, including Apple and Amazon.

To enter, write your favorite city in the comments section of this post before Sunday, February 26th 8:00pm US EST.

The cities will then be placed in tournament brackets sorted by geographical region, with the first round of voting beginning on March 2nd, 2017. Each week the number of cities will be halved by reader votes, until there is one left. Hopefully the winning city is the one you picked.

Tournament Rules

Cities are first come first serve and several cities have already been picked by my newsletter subscribers (who got the first picks). The Best City To Visit Travel Tournament is a round robin style competition, with voting every week during the month of March.

Important Dates

Once you enter a city, there’s nothing you have to do but keep in mind voting for yourself isn’t a bad idea. These are the Tuesdays in the coming weeks to make note of:

  • March 2, 2017: Round of 64
  • March 7, 2017: Round of 32
  • March 14, 2017: Sweet 16
  • March 21. 2017: Elite 8
  • March 28, 2017: Final 4
  • April 4, 2017: Championship

Here are some other ways you can help your city win based on how previous winners have succeeded. Please remember that many comments automatically go into moderation where they remain invisible until they’re approved. Selections are still first come, first serve, keep checking back to see if you got the city you wanted or need to pick an alternate.

Winner Announced April 11, 2017

The winner of this year’s tournament will be announced on Tuesday, April 11th and prize gift card delivered electronically to the winner by June 25, 2017. Those are quite a few dates to keep up with – the best way not to miss anything is to get my posts sent directly to your inbox.

  • The gift card can be used on the Apple, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Delta, and Southwest Airlines online stores.

More retailers may also be added; or those above modified at any time before the end of the tournament – gift cards must be for the full $600 prize amount and cannot be split among stores, transferred into cash, and will be sent to the email you use in the comments section to choose your city. Best of luck to everyone and please let me know if you have any questions.

How To Get To The Top Of Tirana, Albania’s Mount Dajti By Cable Car

dajti ekspres

Albania’s capital city Tirana doesn’t have the reputation of being the most beautiful, but I ask you to try agreeing with that from the view atop Mount Dajti overlooking the city. Something more objective however is Tirana’s ad-hoc system for pretty much everything, including public transportation.

You can get to the top of Mount Dajti, just outside of Tirana, by taking the Dajti Ekspress, the longest cable car in the Balkans. There are a lot of options for getting there but only a few that make sense. Here are the best ways to get to Mount Dajti.

From Town To Base Station

Before you do anything, it’s important to make sure you have, or withdraw, enough cash for the journey as well as cable car. The credit card machine at the base station hasn’t worked in forever – show up with only a Mastercard and you’ll have to go all the way back into town.

et'hem bey mosque tirana

  • Cash To Bring – A round-trip cable car ticket is around 800 lek ($6.30 dollars) and the bus about 65 lek (.50 cents US). There’s a good cafe and restaurant up at the top that do accept credit cards but I wouldn’t rely on them, so bring extra cash to enjoy some food as well.

Head to the Et’hem Bey Mosque in the center of town. Looking at the Et’hem Mosque (with the clock town on the left) about 50 meters to the left is a bus station. You’ll see people waiting around, possibly a bus, or neither. Look for the Linze bus and confirm with the driver he or she is headed toward Dajti.

  • Dajti Cable Car Hours – From 10am to 7pm (winter); extended hours to 10pm during the summer months. The Dajti Ekspres cable car is open everyday except Tuesdays.

The trip from the bus station to nearby the cable car station is about 25 minutes. Go to the last stop – it also helps to sit near the front so the driver can let you know you’re at the right place.

Drop Off And Ready To Walk

From this point, you’ll have to walk about 10 minutes uphill following signs that aren’t very accurate. As you walk in the direction the bus was pointing when it arrived at the station, ask every few shops to make sure you’ve not gone off track. The shop owners are very helpful, often leaving their stores to give overly detailed instructions for the deceptively winding roads.

mount dajti tirana albania

Unless you’re arriving with a bicycle, get a round-trip ticket up to the top by taking the 3.6 kilometer (2.2 mile) Dajti Ekspres cable car. A lovely 20 minute ride, unless you have serious fear of heights, take in all of the views of Tirana on the way. After arriving don’t miss the countryside on the far side of Mount Dajti.

  • Meal With A View – Although the pizza is pretty good, be sure to get a seat by the window, even if there is a wait at Ballkoni I Dajtit, the sight is spectacular.

Above it, there’s a cafe that rotates 360 degrees, like this:

Other Options To The Top

Taxi is an option but you’ll have to negotiate your way there, expect to pay about $15 USD for a one-way ride. There’s also a shuttle which connects with one of the bus stops but since there’s no set timing information available, consider it the very leisurely (possibly uncertain) way up. Up, by the way, is the direction it’s easiest to go – finding a taxi nearby, especially close to closing hour means bus is likely the only way you’ll be getting back into town.

Simple But Powerful, Currency Is An Essential App For International Travelers

currency app

For nearly as long as I’ve been traveling with a (then) iPod touch, now several mobile phones, there’s been one app so consistently useful I’ve overlooked how integral its become to my travel routine. Currency is a free app for Android and iOS that lets you convert between multiple currencies, easily and offline.

Current Conversion

Currency is a pretty simple app to set up. Once you’ve downloaded it [iOS or Android] you add the currencies (e.g. dollars, euro, pesos) you want, then pick one to convert the others to an equivalent amount. So, let’s say the U.S. dollar is your home currency, you would choose dollars, then add the other currencies you might be using the near future. Set your home currency to one dollar, to see how many euro or yuan that happens to be. You can also quickly tap on the euro to change it to 1 (or 2, 3.5, whatever) to see how much it is in all the other currencies you’ve added.

currency app

The conversions in Currency are set to update automatically, so whenever you have an Internet connection the rates are as up to date as the time of your last Internet connection. When you don’t have an Internet connection, you can see do conversions with the last rates that were synced. Most currencies don’t change enough over a short period of time to where that should cause a major concern in most cases (save for some local financial collapse).

Constantly On Hand

Currency is extremely handy when you’ve arrived at an international airport so you don’t have to walk up to an ATM with no idea how much money you’re actually withdrawing. You can also help yourself when bargaining abroad because our minds tend to evaluate costs best in our home currency.

There are two versions of Currency: one that’s free with ads – to remove them you’ll need to pay $3.99. The ads aren’t intrusive but if you want to support the developer, it shouldn’t hurt your travel budget at all to purchase a well-designed app that provides a very handy function.

Loading

About Anil Polat

foxnomad aboutI'm the blogger and computer security engineer who writes foXnoMad while on a journey to visit every country in the world. I'll show you the tips, tricks, and tech you can use to travel smarter. Read More


Facebook Twitter Instagram YouTube

Recent Articles

How To Travel With Exotic Pets Like Snakes And Tarantulas

The Best Wireless Sport Headphones For Under $100: NuForce BE Sport3 Review

Cosplay Pictures And Video From Aniventure Comic Con Bulgaria

Get my latest posts in your inbox: