Friday 12 October 2012

Review of Greenback Tax Services

Updated 21 June 2015

About My Tax Situation
I'd like to think that I know a decent amount about expat taxes. At least my tax situation. I wrote a tax guide for overseas Americans and am often emailed to answer questions about taxes as well as getting PMs from users on Dave's Korean board. With that being said last year I decided to treat myself. Most teachers have straightforward tax situations. They simply file the 2555EZ along with the 1040 long form and maybe the FBAR (now FinCen Report 114). My situation was a bit more complicated so I decided to get an accountant.

I'd spent years looking for tax accountants. Type in expat tax accountants and you'll find plenty who will charge you expat fees. As a TEFL teacher, I couldn't afford to pay $1000 and up for my taxes to be done. I found one for teachers, but their waiting list is years long and I still haven't gotten on it.

I had income from three different continents: one from my job, one from self employment income that I earned online, and one from rental income. I had also closed my paltry retirement accounts in order to pay for school, and had a baby. I'd had enough with spending hours and hours researching new tax laws, like the lovely FBAR one. To make things harder, I never learnt any of this in school. To me it would be like turning 16 and being handed a driver's license with no practice, theory, or experience driving and then being fined for breaking the rules. That's a bit like taxes in the US. You're never told about them in school, but when you start earning money you'd better file and file correctly or you could be fined or thrown in jail. Lovely.

About Greenback Tax Services
I heard about Greenback Tax Services through a friend here in Korea who I gave advice to about getting an F visa in Korea without getting married to a Korean. He has a business here in Korea and raved about them, so I decided to check them out. They were started by a couple who had lived all over and couldn't find good, affordable expat tax accountants. They are both accountants and now make their living from their business they started and blog about their lives abroad. I got in touch with them at the end of 2011 and they sent me lots of paperwork to be filled out and I was on my way. You can find out about expats who use Greenback at their Expat Opinion Survey. Below you can find my review of their services. I was not paid or compensated in any way for this review. I gave them a score between 0-5, with 5 being the highest. I used Greenback Tax Services for my 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014 tax returns.

Speed: 4
Since I had emailed them at the end of the year, I didn't have all the docs I needed to submit since those often come out in February. I filled in as much as I could and told them that I would send them the docs once I got them.

Communication: 4
I emailed them and was put in touch with Kevin who was my personal accountant. Kevin answered emails very quickly, often within the same day I sent them. I'm a bit over-anxious and would press send too soon and realise that I found out the answer to my question and would email Kevin again. Despite this, Kevin never complained and always answered my questions.

Price: 5
$349 (now $374 in 2013) for my federal taxes which were 18 pages long, used a couple forms I had never heard of because I had never had rental income before. It was a flat fee which is great, because there are so many places that charge you by the form. Many of the forms are included in their flat fee, however, if you need additional forms, here is their price list. Ok, I know that back home you can probably get taxes done for about $50, but I went to two tax accountants in the US when I first started living abroad and was told that I didn't even have to file. Incidentally I didn't listen to them, you have to file. Even if you die, someone has to file on your behalf. You may not have to pay, but you still have to file. Period.

Quality: 5
I found out about a little known loophole that allows me to claim Head of Household status that you can see on the IRS website. Kevin was also able to e-file on my behalf, something that I was never able to do on my own since I was living abroad and the IRS wouldn't allow me to e-file. If you're going to be audited, they will also help you, I'm not sure if they charge extra for this or not. And they also offer a refer-a-friend programme: A $25 Amazon gift certificate or $50 off your next return.

Professionalism: 5
They always treated me well and with respect. They were very cordial. 

Overall Review: 4.6
I'd use them again in a heartbeat. I recommended them on Dave's as well as Raoul's China Saloon. I'm glad I found a good, affordable expat tax service and would recommend them to others. My only complaint, if you could call it that, is that they don't seem to offer lower fees for returning customers or for customers who recommend them to a friend. Maybe they could do that :)

EDIT: They have started offering an early bird special and a discount for returning customers. I got both when I filed in 2014.


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