8 Oktober. 2020

Taxes and mt pilatus

I had an interesting experience with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) last night. This is kind of a cautionary tale to anyone contemplating living as an ExPat for a time. Make sure you have thought about the tax implications of your move, and that you have a CPA, or other tax expert, work with you on your taxes. The first year was really rough. We went round and around with the tax preparer over the effective dates that we moved. This literally took a couple of weeks to get ironed out. What made ours seemingly a little more complicated was that even after Julie moved, she continued to get paid from the US for a couple of months. Then I threw in a complication, because I added two more important dates in the mix. The day I quit work in Wisconsin, and the day I moved to Switzerland. Anyway, the taxes took a long time to prepare, but that isn’t the story!

I had been making some “estimated” tax payments beginning the month Julie moved. I made two estimated payments in 2019, and then a larger estimated payment in February. Once the taxes were completed I made (what I thought was the final payment) a larger payment. Then two weeks later the accountant messaged us saying they were not quite done, because now they got the FINAL number for the Swiss taxes. So I made a fifth and ultimately final payment to the IRS. All of this is done online through the IRS website. Really nice and I thought it was an easy system to use.

Yesterday we got one of those nasty surprise letters from the IRS claiming that I had underpaid the taxes to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars so not only did we owe that, we also owe almost a thousand in penalties and interest. After the initial panic, I looked through the letter again, and saw they had not counted the last three payments I had made to the IRS. So girding myself for a fight, I dug up all the documentation I had stating the payments had been made. Even got the transfer numbers from the bank with the amounts and dates of the payments. So I called the number on the letter. I was only on hold for about 10 minutes and then got the best service I have ever gotten from any Government! After about another 10 minutes of proving my identification, and tax situation. The lady on the other end said, “OH, I see what happened.” Long story made short. The estimated taxes I made earlier got applied. The last two payments did not, because I made the last online payments using MY SSN. The tax forms the IRS got had Julie’s number as the primary tax person; so even though I was on the tax form, the IRS didn’t apply the payments.

I think that is kind of weird, but at least I was able to get straightened out with one 30 minute phone call, and we don’t owe any penalties or interest!! Now to the real reason you follow this blog: get to our last weekend trip, and the pictures!

Julie on the Terrace

There are a few different legends as how Pilatus was named. The first legend is that Pontius Pilate was buried on the mountain. The second is that when you look at the “range” from Luzern the mountain looks like a fat man (Pontius Pilate) laying on his back looking at the clouds. (See the picture below and look for the head on the left and then the belly.) Third and most likely is that it is a derivative of the word pileatus or cloud topped! Unfortunately, the most boring explanation is probably the true one. There is also a very old legend about a dragon on the mountain. I’m not going to recap the whole story here, but if you would like to know more here is the Link.

Picture from Wikipedia

We lucked out with the weather. It was predicted to rain the entire time we were there. The rain held off on Friday; so we were able to get up the mountain, check into the hotel, and them enjoy the views from the one peak visitors have access. I truly believe the view from this peak is one of the most beautiful views in Switzerland. You look out over the valley, and see Luzern and Lake Luzern (Vierwaldstättersee). Turn around and you see this beautiful skyline of the snowcovered Alps. See the next two pictures!

Looking over Lake Luzern

I am really glad we were able to stay at the top. It was something we will remember fondly about our time here. The staff in the hotel was fabulous. The hotel price included the trip up and down the mountain, as well as two meals per day. I thought the food was outstanding, Julie unfortunately was underwhelmed. I have to admit, my venison dinner on Saturday was MUCH better than her seafood concoction. Unfortunately Julie is not a big fan of venison. 🙂

If you saw my last post, the videos show what we woke up to Saturday morning. The weather reminded me of January and early February in Wisconsin. The snow was blowing so hard that it actually hurt your face. We went outside for a while, but then went to the bar, and had drinks and read. The sun started to come out, so we decided we were going to go partway down the mountain, and spend a couple of hours at Fräkmüntegg. There is hiking, and other activities down there. Julie was going to ride the Dragon Glider with me (really long zip line) and I was also going to take the summer bobsled run. Unfortunately, the wind did not cooperate. We went to get our ticket, and we were informed, that the wind was predicted to get stronger, so the gondola was going to close for safety reasons. Oh well, another reason to go back. I really like Luzern, so we will head back there for a long weekend, and take a day and go back up the mountain!

We went up the mountain on the gondolas, so we decided to go back down the mountain via the train. (Look at my last blog post for the train video.) The train was amazing. The entire ride down the mountain my heart was racing like a kid on Christmas morning. The views were breathtaking, and the thought that the train was basically going straight down the mountain kept the anxiety level high. I knew this train had been running for over 100 years, but I still had a hard time understanding what kept the train from running down the tracks completely out of control. The average grade on the tracks is 35%. At one point, however, the grade gets to 48%. The train advertises as the steepest train track in the world. I believe it. To get an idea of how steep the train is; the image below is of a 48 degree angle. One of these weekends, Julie and I will have to head back and try hiking up the mountain!

48 degree angle

One final plug before I get to the pictures: I keep running almost every day to stay in shape for the St Jude Marathon Weekend. This year the race will be virtual (which works out very well since Julie and I won’t be getting back). I have signed up for the 10K and the 1/2 Marathon. I run this race to support two of my old friends from Indiana (Paul and Julie Barlow). They lost their youngest to cancer, and now sponsor a team to raise money giving back to St Judes Hospital. If you can find it in your heart, please click the link and donate to Team David. The money goes to a fantastic cause. Thanks!!

Link to the Team David web page.

I hope you have a wonderful week. Talk to you soon. Enjoy the pictures.