Category Archives: Economics

Continuing with the Internet Crusade

So all of a sudden during a Tuesday morning class, neither internet was actually providing internet service. I had to put in an emergency absence form for the second half of the shift. The satellite internet hadn’t been working since late afternoon on the day before, so I had gone into the class knowing I didn’t have the backup. Then the Blue Communications internet just sputtered and died.

Unraveling this mess took more than a week. Beginning with the satellite internet, our regular monthly payment day is the 26th of the month. We normally pay it a day or so beforehand, but this month one thing after another kept us from actually paying it until the 26th. When we called to see why it wasn’t working after our payment, it seems that the contract had been signed on the 24th even though it hadn’t been installed until the 26th. Thus, the company decided we were delinquent in our payment on the 25th of this month and shut down service. Whatever. We were now current and on the 27th, we had satellite internet again.

Now for the Blue Communications internet story….

After trying to log in to the company site, we received an error message stating our SIM card was not functioning. This internet service uses a modem that uses something like cell phone signals to provide us internet way out in La Yacata. So since this was a SIM card issue, we took the modem to the office in Moroleon. We explained what the problem was and they started shaking their heads. We would need to call the technical service number for assistance. They couldn’t do a thing. The installer did plug it in at the office and verified that it wasn’t working correctly, but that was all. We asked whether they had another modem in the office in case the one we had couldn’t be fixed. I was assured that they did. I should have asked them to show it to me though.

Anyway, we went home with our modem and had my son call technical support. He was to be our representative in this matter for several reasons. One is my husband hasn’t a clue on internet/computer related gadgets. Secondly, though I do, I have difficulty understanding Spanish over the phone. So our teenage son took up the gauntlet.

Tuesday afternoon, he was on the phone over an hour doing troubleshooting. You know, move the modem here, press this button, now log in and tell me what it says. Nothing, ok, now reset this and reconnect that and tell me what is happening. Anyway, after all that, the tech confirmed that there was something wrong with the SIM card. He assured us that a report would be filed and that within 1-2 days, it would be resolved.

On Wednesday, the internet was still not working. So my son called again. He spoke to another tech person who said that no report had ever been filed on Tuesday. He assured us that the issue would be resolved in 1-2 days.

On Thursday, he called again. This time we instructed my son to say that it either gets fixed or we cancel the service. After being referred to a manager and then referred to that person’s manager, the cancelation request was finalized. I’d receive an email in 1-2 days to confirm that our contract had been canceled.

Meanwhile, on Friday we went to the office in Moroleon. We requested a new modem and a new contract. Now they didn’t have a modem for us. Huh! Go figure. If we would come back in the afternoon, they should get delivery by then. Meanwhile, they had a 5 MBPS modem that they could rent us. The owner had gone to the U.S. and didn’t want to let the contract lapse.

I told them that I wasn’t interested in that modem. Our modem had 10 MBPS and while it wasn’t consistent, when it worked, it worked well.

We returned that afternoon. Nope, no modem. Try back on Monday. On Saturday, the internet was working as well as it ever did. Good for a time, then dropping, sometimes coming back, sometimes not. So my weekend classes were not a bust after all. Plus, since the satellite internet was working again, I could do the ol’ switcheroo in the event one internet lost its signal.

On Monday, my husband went to check to see if the modem had arrived. The lady in the office gave him a hard time about canceling the previous service and trying to set up another one. I don’t understand why. We have no contract with Blue Communications. It’s set up on a month-to-month plan. The modem we bought outright. However since that particular modem was tied to that particular month-to-month service, in order to get a new modem, we had to cancel the old one.

Anyway, she told my husband to try the rental 5 MBPS modem out and see how that worked. So he brought it home and I used it to teach. It worked about as well as the other one. Only I still didn’t want to “rent” the modem. What happened when the owner decided to come back to Mexico? We’d be out of a modem.

My son called the support line again. He said that the person he spoke with this time apologized for the problems we’d been having as well as for her co-workers who didn’t seem to be able to figure out what they were supposed to do to file a report. Of course, no report of the internet outage had been filed for our account, nor any cancelation request sent through. As long as we paid our monthly fee tomorrow, the service would continue uninterrupted.

So we went back to the office in Moroleon to return the modem. We requested the deposit for the new modem and monthly contract back. Of course, they didn’t have the money.  The lady suggested that she could apply the balance to our monthly fees, which would pay us 3 months and change in advance. Well, it’s not what I had planned for that money, but I guess it would do. She gave me a piece of paper with words to that effect. 

Despite all of our precautions, the last day of our monthly plan, our internet service was cut off.  We learned an interesting tidbit. Once your account has been deactivated, you can not access the customer service line by entering your account number. It’s like blocked or doesn’t recognize it or something. So since we couldn’t get ahold of anyone by phone, we went back to the office in town. They said that our payment had been made and gave us a receipt. When I asked whether someone could call and find out what was wrong with our account, the service technician told me to send them an email insisting our service be fixed.

Umm, if I don’t have internet at home, how would I send an EMAIL which requires the INTERNET? Go to the Cybercafe and wait there for a response? So that was completely useless advice in my opinion.  Anyway, since the backup satellite internet was still chugging along, I had my son log on to the company website and chat with a representative. She told us that there had been no report made for service repair but there was a cancellation request. Válgame dios! (Oh my god!) She asked if we would like to reactivate our account and the next day we were back in business. Well, as much as we ever were with this internet provider.

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Filed under Economics, Employment, Teaching

Taxes for Expats

Well, the end of January brought my 1099-Misc and that huge royalties check of $12, which apparently is declarable income. So it was time to look at my tax situation.

Normally, I use a free online tax site because, well, I don’t like to pay for things I don’t have to. However, 2018 was the first year that I was classified as an independent contractor rather than an off-site employee, by the online school that I work for. The company did this because as an independent contractor, they don’t have to pay taxes on me, nor provide any sort of benefits like they do a U.S. employee.

So what this meant for me, is that this year, instead of getting a refund, I would OWE money to the federal government. Most independent contractors make quarterly payments during the year to avoid the very situation I found myself in.

Regardless, here I was. So instead of doing the free online tax filing, I opted for Taxes for Expats (TFX). It has a promising name, don’t you think? Oh, and is a women-owned company.

taxes for expats small

The tax preparer assigned to me was Dean Becker, CPA. I completed an automated tax questionnaire, to begin with. It took a bit of time to fill out. TFX also offers a VIP service which will fill this out for you after you send your personal documents.

Then Mr. Becker sent me an engagement letter outlining what services TFX provides and my costs for those services. Turn-out time is typically 15 days from when TFX receives my signed engagement letter, so you still have plenty of time to get your taxes done.

Mr. Becker had a few questions for me about my tax situation. I changed my status to self-employed which allowed me to add home office deductions. He asked for an itemized list of my deductions, which I had, so that was no problem.

He also asked if I had anything like school records that proved my son lived with me to qualify for the child tax credit. Unfortunately, my son is enrolled at UVEG, which is an online preparatory, so there aren’t any records that would indicate he lived with me in La Yacata during 2018.

After my tax return was ready, I was able to review it. Sure enough, I OWE taxes for 2018. The money that I was credited for my 2017 taxes was deducted from the total amount. Once I approved it, TFX e-filed my return for me.    

Of course, I have to make arrangements to pay the taxes owed, but other than that, I’m finished for the year. My taxes situation was all that complex in comparison to some. So if you have other tax issues here’s what you need to know about Taxes for Expats (TFX).

They offer 3 types of services:

  • US FEDERAL TAX RETURN PREPARATION – They prepare single year returns and help delinquent non-filers become complaint with the IRS through amnesty programs. For customers who need to file more than 3 years at a time, there is a 20% discount.
  • STATE TAX RETURN – They prepare a state return if one is required.
  • CONSULTATION – They offer 3 levels of tax consultations, including a free intro consultation and high-level tax planning sessions.

TFX also assists American expatriates with:

  • Alternative minimum tax foreign tax credit
  • Due dates of tax returns and payments
  • Exchange rate conversions
  • Exemption and dependency allowances
  • Foreign earned income exclusion
  • Foreign tax credit
  • Non-resident alien married to U.S. citizen
  • Reporting depreciation
  • Reporting foreign financial accounts
  • Tax treaties with foreign countries
  • Totalization agreements
  • Tax treatment of
    • Contributions to foreign charitable organizations
    • Military personnel
    • Ministers serving abroad
    • Moving expenses
    • Social security pension
    • Students studying abroad
  • Transferring property to a foreign trust
  • Treatment of controlled foreign corporations
  • Treaty-based return position disclosure
  • W-9 vs. W-8BEN filing requirements
  • Withholding rules on global investors of U.S. securities

I can’t say that I know what all of these items are, but if any of them apply to you, TFX is more than capable of handling them.

So, if you have any doubt as to your tax situation as an expat living in Mexico, you should check out what Taxes for Expats has to offer.

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disclosure

 

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Filed under Economics

Online Banking Woes

I’ve been using Capital One 360 for over a year now and have had little complaint. Then it all sort of snowballed and it took me way too much time to get everything back on track. All’s well that ends well, I suppose.

capitalone

First, I foolishly tried to log on to check my balance using the satellite internet rather than the one I had previously used. The site said that something was “different” about this log-in and I would need to get a code sent to my phone number to log in.

Well, the phone number I set up the online banking account with was no longer in service. My phone had given up the ghost a few months before and I had purchased a new phone. So I tried to update that information only to be informed that there was something wrong with the information and that I should call Capital One.

So I did. I explained my situation. Customer service was very understanding however they needed to verify that I was me. Could I please send them a picture of some official identification? A passport would do. Well, I had to search out my passport and that took some time. Then I followed the instructions and took a picture and uploaded it to the site. It was rejected. I did it again. Another rejection. A third time locked me out of the system and I had to call Capital One again.

This time the customer service representative could see my photos as I uploaded them. The system rejected them again. I think what the system wanted was a scanned version rather than a photo of my passport. Only I didn’t have a scanner on hand.

Anyway, I got transferred around to supervisor then manager then whoever was over them. Finally, this person opted to verify my identity by having me input my PIN number. So now, they could confirm that I was me.  

I wanted to change my phone number to my new cell phone number in order to receive the text messages and codes and whatnot. However, the company did not allow phones that were registered outside of the US. How long would it take me to get a phone registered in the US? I told them I would call back.

I then set about looking at options. I finally decided on Skype online phone number setup which rents me a phone number registered to any place in the US for $6.50 USD per month. I choose Tennessee. I paid the first month, got my new number, and called Capital One again.

After being verified as me, I was able to update the phone number contact information. Whew! So I signed on to my account online again. When I received the prompt for the secret, secret code to be entered, I choose the option to have the automated system call the number rather than sending a text. The call rang through via Skype on my computer and I got the code.

I thought I was in the clear until I went to HBSC to withdraw my pay from their ATM machine. Unaccountably, the machine didn’t give me any money but deducted it from my account. I totally freaked out! I marched my fanny into the bank and stood in line to see a teller who told me to see someone there in the desk section. So I waited there. The internet was down, which is probably what caused the glitch at the ATM machine, so I waited again.

Finally, the clerk asked for my identification which she entered into the computer. Of course, I’m not an HBSC client, I was just using the ATM machine, so she said she could do nothing for me. What!!!! She implied I had a hold on my account which is why the money wasn’t dispersed because of course, the ATM machine was just fine.

I came back home and called Capital One again to ask about this “hold” on my account. I explained that I had attempted to withdraw money but hadn’t received it. Again, customer service was very helpful. There was no hold on my account. The system showed the ATM transaction. I would be credited these funds temporarily while they investigated the matter. I should have access to these funds in 24 hours.

I did. I went to Santander to withdraw the funds, vowing never to return to HBSC. About 6 weeks later, I received a notification that the temporarily deposited funds were now released permanently since the investigation had been concluded satisfactorily. Thank goodness!

So despite the hassle of the US phone number requirement that I had to creatively work around, I still am pleased with my Capital One 360 account.

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Filed under Economics

The Internet Saga Part 3

That comment the satellite installation guy made about an antenna for the BlueComm modem put a bee in my bonnet. I checked the modem we had and most models came with those rabbit ear antennas–ours didn’t. They weren’t expensive, less than $20, so I thought I’d order some from Amazon.

Well, the company that sold them didn’t ship to Mexico. Ok, I’d have them shipped to my friend in the US and she could send them to us. It would be a small package, no big deal. Boy was I wrong!

She tried Fedex. She had added a few things to my care package, including makeup and a cloth quiver for my son’s arrows. She was told that anything manufactured in China cannot be sent to Mexico. Both the quiver and the antenna were manufactured in China. Then that personal items like makeup also could not be sent. She said she felt like I was in jail and unable to receive items. Sure enough, cosmetics are prohibited items along with Garbage Pail Kids Cards, you know those awful cards from the 80s with ugly drawings of children like Pikey Nose Marge. I was unable to find anything specific about imports from China being restricted although technically the antennas would fall under the electronic equipment category I expect.

My friend then tried the DHL office. This time she tried to send just the quiver and antenna, no other “personal effects.” Sure, they’d send it but it would cost $140 USD. Holy crap! (See DHL import guidelines)

The offical USPS site doesn’t list cosmetics or things made in China as prohibited, so that was her next attempt.  Success! The package with the antennas and quiver would cost $22 USD and be here in 4-6 weeks.  Well, of course, that doesn’t figure the gas shortage in large portions of Mexico. So I expect it will take longer. 

In the meantime, I’ve had to cancel my online classes. The unseasonable rains have affected both internet modems. I’m trying not to dwell on that lost income.

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Filed under Economics, Mail Service and Shipping in Mexico, Teaching