18 Aug

I got audited. How many times has someone said those fateful words. It is a difficult and stressful process but we all have to go through it when our number comes up. But we who live overseas and do business in the language of the country and therefore collect all those documents needed when audit times comes around, documents also in the language of the country end up getting screwed, blued and tattooed.

I happen to live in Israel. Here the language of the country is Hebrew. When, as now, audit time comes around the IRS wants me to provide them with “Certified Translations” of all my documents (bills, checks, receipts, contracts, etc.). I deal with someone who sits in a IRS office in Puerto Rico who doesn’t have a clue what Hebrew is, how to speak Hebrew, and, most importantly, how to read Hebrew. So I have to pay someone to do the translations and then have to pay for someone to do the certification, which, by the way, they have some difficulty defining. This could run something like $50/document if notarized by the US embassy here. Not to mention the cost for transportation to get to the embassy and get back home. I live in a rather remote location of the country and have to drive 25 km (at $8.00/gallon for gasoline) to the place where I catch the train for the 2 hour ride to Tel Aviv ($10 round trip) and the a cab to the embassy (another couple of $$). And I have several kilograms of documents! No, I haven’t weighed them but there ARE a lot.

Other agencies of the US government are more humane. Take the Social Security Administration, for instance. They have a specific office in the US embassy (just moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem) they call the FBU (Federal Benefits Unit). The people who work there exist to help people cope with the SSA bureaucracy. And let me tell you this US federal government bureaucracy is no less complex than the IRS. And when they suddenly stopped paying my wife bin January 2011 because of a fictitious overpayment back in 2007/2008 this FBU in Tel Aviv, and after a seamless transition to different staff in Jerusalem, have been helping me do all the necessary steps to recover these lost funds. The matter isn’t yet settled. We respond immediately and after a couple of months, they respond. But the point is that there are people here locally, with whom I easily communicate, who help me navigate the Social Security Administration’s massive bureaucracy. AND THERE IS NO SUCH EQUIVALENT SUPPORT HERE FOR DEALING WITH THE IRS BUREAUCRACY! This is a major problem.

If the IRS wants to put me through an audit, that is their prerogative. But they should provide a platform whereby this can be done without me having to go to such extremes to provide them with documentation that they can read. Let them pay for staff in the embassy here who can look at the documents and decide what they say, what they substantiate and what they deny.

What the IRS is doing to me and other expats in similar positions is to sell us a ticket to travel somewhere but not providing us the transportation to get there. I want a means to be able to communicate with the IRS here. I want some IRS staff in the US embassy to whom I can bring my documentation and let them decide if I have been forthright in my filing of my taxes.  Is that asking too much?



  1. na November 16, 2011 at 9:42 AM #

    I agree with you 100%. This is unconstitutional. Every american should have the same service as every other american. The IRS has overseas offices in China and France and other places. I am in japan and facing the same audit problems as you. The IRS is not even giving me enough time to complete the translation and obtain the necessary documents. The cost is horrific and it will probably bankrupt me.

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