we find these truths to be self evident

  • that insurance companies are not really as interested in your well being as they claim in their marketing

nz has national heathcare coverage for all but with all such plans sometimes you can’t get seen or treated when you would prefer – and that’s *now!*. so there is a private insurance market that provides access to speedier access to some services. with the national plan covering all acute and emergency care, and the acc system covering all accident related care, companies like southern cross can offer private insurance policies for a few bucks a week. for just me it was nz$17 fortnightly – a bit more when we added the jboss.

as expected they don’t cover pre-existing conditions and you have to complete detailed survey of your medical history when you join. but this is where the trouble begins. to quote the sales person “we can’t afford to provide coverage for conditions that members knew about before joining but chose not to treat.” sure – that’s fair. problem is that the claims adjusters don’t see it that way. the fine print of the policy says any “signs or symptom” – not diagnosis. so sprained your ankle in 3rd grade? that would be listed as “lower leg treatment” and anything lower leg related would be denied. nice.

so – since we have full coverage with the national plan and we’re not paying that much for the private insurance it is not a huge deal – except that we’re more than a bit disappointed that 1) the sales staff are clearly misrepresenting the coverage and the company’s treatment of pre-existing condition makes the policy worth much less that we expected. quite frustrating when you get stiffed by a big company and are basically told – those are the rules, take it or leave it.

  • that big american companies do the most amazing things, no matter where in the world you are

getting simple office supplies has always been a bit of a challenge at company e2 (an nz subsidiary of a big us company). on your first day you arrive at an empty desk – no pen, paper, post-its. nuttin. when you ask you are pointed to the mail room.

[scene – entering mail room through door off reception. one staff member sitting at a beat up desk reading a checkout counter magazine. buzzing fluorescent bulb over head. office supply cabinet has cast offs from former employees. no new supplies in sight. new employee enters]


[new employee] hello. excuse me. can you point me to the office supplies? i’m looking for a pen and a notebook.

[mail room employee. not looking up from magazine] there. in the cabinet.

[new employee looks in cabinet. finds a few yellow pads and a coffee cup containing some used pens, some with chewed caps] sorry to bother you but i’m looking for an a4 notebook?

[mail room employee. now looking up and pointing as supply cabinet] we don’t supply notebooks. there are notepads there for you.

[and cut]

the best was an email out last week that announced that the purchase of all office supplies – including paper – is on hold until the 30th of june.


a colleague of mine has decided to make the most of it. he has solved the problem – by photocopying (double sided) the last blank page from his existing notebook. for bonus points he has also photocopied the front and back covers of his existing notebook and attached it all together to create his new notebook. i think it’s genius. no one else seems to get the gag.

  • that antony will underestimate the effort to complete our taxes.

despite being level 7 members of the church of quicken and using turbo tax for all it’s worth, every year doing our taxes is a big stress pill / marriage test. yes – ever for the tax master. and every year i think that next year will be easier. even though i knew this year would have some new challenges (me being on the dole for a bit, selling our house, moving to nz and foreign income) i still thought it would be doable.

well – 2 long weekends of effort and we finally have got to the point where we have bought more time.

firstly some background. all us citizens and permanent residents have a lifelong obligation to file and pay their us income taxes. so from now on we get twice the fun. that said the nz systems is a very simple totally PAYE (pay as you earn) and most kiwis have no need to file a return. for us we will have to since we will be earning income outside of nz.

thus the biggest hitch – foreign income.

the us does have a tax treaty with nz, so in theory that should make things easier and allow you to avoid paying double. first problem is to qualify as someone living outside the states you need to met one of two complicated criteria – bona fide residency or physical presence. and of course the criteria for both are byzantine and and we won’t qualify for either until much later this year. *but* – and this is key – once you qualify then your qualification is backdated to the day you arrived. so they suggest that for filers in our situation that we ask for an extension until jan of 2009 when we will qualify for our bona fide foreign residency.

this is one of my favourite parts of publication 54 – tax guide for us citizens and resident aliens abroad.

“To figure the amount of your moving expense that is allocable to your excluded foreign earned income (and not deductible), you must multiply your total moving expense deduction by a fraction. The numerator (top number) of the fraction is the total of our excluded foreign earned income and housing amounts for both year and the denominator (bottom number) of the fraction is your total foreign earned income for both years.”

so after all our effort we have a rough idea of how much we will owe and have the paperwork off asking for an extension to cover us until we can file as bona fide foreign residents.

i’ve now agreed it’s time to bring in the pros. we now have to find a tax advisor who can confidently take on our return before our new deadline.

more pain awaits.

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