It’s been just over a week since we decided to make the move back to Orange County from Britain, and I thought I’d keep blogging about how it is all going.
So far, the big relief is that the kids are totally on board. Like they want to be there now. It’s kind of fun, that anything they don’t like at school here means that California stands out as a shining new place to go. I know that they’ll have bumps when we get there, of course — and then I’m bracing myself for the “I want to go back to Britain” demands. But I keep my fingers crossed.
Personally, I almost want to pinch myself each day to make sure I’m not dreaming. I really hadn’t realized how much it had been building up within me that I just wanted to go home. I think back to when I left Search Engine Watch to start Search Engine Land. Friends I knew well kept telling me, “We knew you weren’t happy.”
I wasn’t? I hadn’t realized it up until the end, I suppose. I often joke about that, characterizing it to friends I know who have come out to being gay. Something wasn’t quite right with them when they kept their real feelings inside. but after they came out, they were transformed, blossoming into these more whole, happy individuals.
So I guess I’ve come out of the closet, in wanting to go back home. I can’t say enough how much I mean no slam to friends in the UK who love it here. It just hasn’t been for me, ultimately.
Leaving relieves me of so much that I would have magnified out of proportion. Today in the new UK budget, Gordon Brown pulled a new £30,000 fee (out of his ass, sorry) that he wants to charge against “non-domiciled” residents.
That’s me. There are about 100,000 of us in all of Britain. It’s a quirk of the UK tax system, where if you don’t consider the UK to be your ultimate place of permanent residence, you don’t have to pay tax on overseas earnings, because you’re considered non-domiciled.
Out of his ass? Yes. Because the choice will be to report your worldwide earnings and be taxed on them (as the US does) or pay this figure that literally appears plucked out of the air at random.
It actually wouldn’t have impacted me much. That’s because I’m even more special, “resident non-domiciled.” That means I pay tax to the UK on all my earnings as a contractor or consultant, since I do that work mostly resident in the UK. But any interest income (not a big deal) or capital gains (I have none now but maybe someday!). I don’t pay tax on that money unless I physically bring it to the UK. And make sure you don’t commingle it with an account where you do bring some money in. And be sure to track all your work days here, abroad and on both a calendar year and a fiscal April 6-April 5 year.
Sigh. I’m leaving all that behind, along with really expensive tax people who are supposed to figure all this stuff out. Ryan Carson who is another American expat just to the west of me in Bath and I were just twittering about how difficult it is to find good people who can keep track of this stuff. Going home solves it, since the UK won’t care about me filing any more.
Dealing with this stuff has just built and built and poof, now it’s gone. It reminds me of when I shifted from running a web development firm to working on my own. A huge load of stuff that had built up for me to do was no longer hanging over my head. Free!
Fresh starts are great. Savor them. And even better, it’s not just me. My wife who suggested the move can’t wait to get going herself. Shippers are coming in to assess what it will take to move our stuff over. Things are being divided into what we actually want to take versus what we should sell off. A painter is in to quickly tidy up our hallway, before the house goes on the market in just a couple of weeks. So fast!
I also find myself being useful. When it comes to school here, I’ve been an absentee father. She takes them; she navigates the system; she worries if they’ll get out of sixth form or whatever and into the grammar school. These things all mysteries to me.
Suddenly, I’m checking on what grade level the kids will be going into. And explaining how yes, there’s the pledge of allegiance that really does happen each day, and that I’ll teach it too them even though I find it weird myself and how no doubt in high school, they’ll realize they don’t have to take it and might refuse as I and others did, just to prove we were good Americans with the right not to take it. Heck, the UK might be getting one itself.
And high school. Wow, my kids will be going to high school! It simply was not something I ever considered. Years and years, I’ve assumed they would grow up entirely in Britain. Suddenly they’re going to have a high school experience as I did (for better or worse!). With football games and homecomings and proms. I pinch myself again to make sure this is all real.
I realize also I might have perhaps this rare, strange gift. My kids know they’re both British and American, but they’re very British. They live here. They’ve grown up here. And they talk like little proper English children (English accents, pretty posh actually). When we go back to California, I always remark to friends on how heads turn when they address me and I talk back. Who is this man that has seized children that in no way talk like him (my accent, I’ve fought to hold on to that over all these years, pretty well I think).
I love my little British kids. But I never imagined I’d have kids like this. I don’t mean that negatively. You just don’t grow up as an American thinking that your children will speak in a different accent.
OK, maybe some people feel this. My father was from the South, and like me, he kept his accent despite years in California — and he ended up with these California-accented kids. But still, a completely different country?
But now? We think there’s a good change one or both of the boys will lose their accents. Suddenly I’ll have children who talk like me. So strange, so weird. They can talk however they want, of course, as long as they stay talking to me. But such a change – I never expected it. I pinch myself again mentally. Is it really happening? Yes, it is!