Friday, March 07, 2008

Francs, Dollars, and not much sense

I just opened my mail to find out that our Swiss bank has charged us another 80 CHF (77 USD) for the privilege of having an ATM card for another year. To someone used to free everything offered by U.S. banks, it can be crazy to think about the charges Swiss banks impose on their customers. The account we have is just a general account anyhow and we get about .1% interest. No, not 1%-- but a measly Point One percent. That gets taxed. Yes, Swiss banks are not cracked up to be everything people think they are.

And for the U.S. citizens trying to do the classic thing rich people do—hide money in a Swiss account—there is a new law in effect beginning for the tax year 2007 that says that all U.S. citizens must report money in foreign bank accounts or be fined $100,000. So needless to say, even though we have a Swiss bank account merely because we live in Switzerland—and not for any other crazy money laundering purpose—we’ll be filling out that form this weekend. Thanks for the extra work, IRS.

Looking at the U.S. from abroad though, I have to say I’m a little scared of going back. Since we moved to Switzerland, the dollar has fallen over 20% against the Swiss Franc. That is scary. We’ve only been here a year and a half. If I go back and work in the U.S. making dollars, will I ever be able to afford travel to Europe again? This is a question that must be difficult for many Americans right now. So on that note, it’s time to go buy my train ticket to Milan!

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