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About Gentleman.Jack.Darby

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  1. Well, my personal viewpoint is that when it comes to taxes, the alternatives are "better" and "poor". It's better because, in the final analysis regarding Obamacare "shared responsibility payments", by Congress limiting the IRS ability to actively collect them using liens and levies as they can do with income taxes, Congress gave individuals a method to not pay them by not having a federal income tax refund. It may not be perfect but, as is always the case with taxes, it's "better" than what could have happened and, in my book, isn't "poor", so it's a win for the little guys. There are some people who deliberately have their employers withhold too much federal income tax from their pay because they like to get a large income tax refund after filing their annual income tax return to, for example, make a large purchase, in essence making an interest-free loan to the U.S. government because they are unable or unwilling to save on their own. I understand why people do it but, in the end, whether it boils down to an unwillingness to periodically review their taxes to ensure that their withholding approximates their tax liability or the lack of discipline to save on their own, it's still poor tax planning. And governments and businesses routinely take advantage of those who make poor decisions. And if the rumoured "overhaul" of Obamacare actually happens, I hope that those implementing the overhaul ensures that those with unpaid "shared responsibility payments" prior to the effective date of the overhaul are totally relieved of them.
  2. earthdome, I'm not picking on you and I'm not trying to split hairs, but under "ObamaCare" which is also known as the Affordable Care Act, there is no "penalty" if one does not have a U.S. health insurance policy and one fails to make the laughably PC named "shared responsibility payment" that some folks refer to as the "health care tax" or "penalty". The IRS is specifically barred from using liens or levies, their usual fearsome and powerful tools for collecting taxes that are legally enforceable, to collect unpaid "shared responsibility payments". However, the IRS CAN withhold any tax refunds and, presumably, any refundable credits, such as the Earned Income Credit, to which a taxpayer may be entitled to satisfy any unpaid "shared responsibility payments". See the following FAQ, Item 29, on the IRS website that states, in pertinent part, "...The law prohibits the IRS from using liens or levies to collect any individual shared responsibility payment. However, if you owe a shared responsibility payment, the IRS may offset that liability against any tax refund that may be due to you." at the following URL: As well, if a person meets the rather stringent requirements to qualify as a bond-fide resident of a foreign country for, essentially, an entire tax year, as laid out in IRS Publication 54, he is also exempt from the provisions of the Affordable Care Act.
  3. I'd be a little hesitant to make the blanket statement that there are tax savings simply from living outside the U.S. While the U.S. does grant a foreign earned income exclusion for income earned outside the U.S., there are tests that must be met in order to do so: 1. One's tax home must be in a foreign country and; 2. One must meet EITHER the bona fide residence test OR the physical presence test, neither of which is necessarily a slam-dunk; 3. There are also tests for the type of income - some income that one might try to classify as earned income won't meet the IRS test for earned income. And, assuming one's income qualifies as foreign earned income and is granted the exclusion, the reason for the exclusion from U.S. tax is because, presumably, the income is taxed by the foreign country in which one earned it and of which one is a tax resident. It is surprising how much higher effective (the rates one actually pay after adjustments, exclusions, credits, etc.) tax rates are in foreign countries when compared to the U.S. - there are a lot of stories, editorials, etc. that are written about how "high" U.S. rates are but the writers generally have only a rudimentary understanding of the U.S. tax code and none about foreign tax codes. Same goes for "a guy in the bar", "my uncles who's filed his returns for 40 years", "the guy that works next to me in the shop", etc. And, if one's tax home is in a foreign country, it is possible that other income, such as a U.S. pension which, in places offering retirement "visas", such as Thailand, Malaysia, the PI, etc., is normally exempt from taxation, might become taxable. A while back I was considering Indonesia since it offers a retirement visa and, as part of my due diligence, I took a look at the tax treaty between it and the U.S. since it appeared that taxation of foreign income, such as pension and interest income, was somewhat "cloudy" in the sources one runs across when looking at their retirement visa scheme. I was a bit surprised and that, coupled with one or two other undesirable requirements of their scheme, made me put Indonesia on the back burner.
  4. I've been looking into that recently and there are a couple of things to keep in mind about residency outside the U.S. and brokerages such as Fidelity: One thing that gets overlooked, especially when folks are thinking about Fidelity and Charles Schwab as "banks" is that they aren't banks in the conventional sense as are, for example, Citibank or Bank of America - they are really brokerages and their so called "bank" accounts are really cash management accounts designed to park one's excess cash until executing a brokerage transaction or moving it into a retirement vehicle such as an IRA. in everyday practice, they work just like conventional bank accounts but better because the fees are low or non-existent and they reimburse "foreign" (other bank) ATM surcharges, but at the end of the day, it's part of a brokerage account. Because of strict financial regulations regarding brokerages, non-residents including U.S. citizens who are resident outside the U.S., are restricted in their ability to execute brokerage transaction such as buying individual shares of stock, mutual funds, etc. It's my opinion that one should maintain a U.S. legal domicile and some sort of a U.S. physical presence, such as a mailing address with a trusted friend or family member or mail forwarding service and ensure that it is updated with one's brokerage.
  5. The first login screen will be the same one that you've always seen. Once you enter your userID and password (the first step of two-factor authentication) then, assuming they're correct, you'll be sent to another screen where you'll enter the Symantec VIP Access OTP (the second step of two-factor authentication). Most financial institutions will log you out after a certain period of inactivity and if that happens, you'll need to log in again with a new OTP. Financial institutions don't set cookies that allow one to stay logged in and come back later to where one left off. The inactivity periods are pretty generous for the sites I use, so that's rarely a problem. FYI - Once you've installed Symantec VIP Access on your phone and linked it to your Fidelity account, if you're not familiar with these sorts of devices, I would suggest bringing it up on your phone and watch it for a minute or two to see how it works. These OTP generators work by generating a new OTP every so often, maybe every 30 seconds or one minute or so and once a new OTP is showing on the screen, the old OTP will no longer work. They do not generate OTPs nearly as fast as the tokens given out by banks to their business customers but every now and then if I try "beat the clock" instead of waiting a few seconds for a new OTP, I'll find that I am too late and the old OTP expired. Not a big deal, but when I was new to using these devices, there was a momentary panic thinking something was wrong.
  6. Symantec VIP Access is a Symantec app, not a Fidelity app and is used solely to generate random OTPs (One-Time PINS) used in two-factor authentication for access to one's Fidelity (or other) account. Symantec is a computer software security company most widely known to most people as the maker of the Norton suite of security tools which includes Norton Antivirus, although they also make a lot of security tools aimed at larger corporations. OTP generators such as Symantec VIP Access are simply one part of a two-factor authentication scheme. TFA simply means that for one to access, for example, a website, one must have two things: something one KNOWS, such as a userID and password and something one HAS, such as an OTP generated from a device in one's possession (Symantec VIP Access, Google Authenticator, Bank of America SafePass, etc.). The beauty of TFA is that even if a bad guy gets one's userID and password, he can't log into one's account without one's physical device to generate the OTP. And, conversely, if the bad guy gets one's physical device, he can certainly generate an OTP, but that OTP is worthless without one's userID and password. Authentication apps of this type from third-party providers, such as Google Authenticator for example, can be used to generate the OTP for more than one website or other application from different companies. For example, the Google Authenticator app generates the OTP for both the Google ecosystem (GMail, Google Voice, Google Drive, etc) AND for LastPass (Password management system) - two totally separate companies and totally different applications. GA is probably used to generate OTP for other companies' applications, but those are the two for which I use it. As well, I would expect that Symantec VIP Access is probably used by some other companies to generate OTPs for their sites or applications as well, although I'm not aware of which or use it for anything other than my Fidelity account. OTP generators such as Symantec VIP Access don't use (or need) an internet connection (wi-fi or cellular) to function and generate the OTP - they simply run as a process (program) on the device in which they are installed, so Fidelity would have no idea where one is located simply by virtue of using the app installed on one's phone to generate an OTP. So if one is somewhat paranoid (and there's nothing wrong with that these days), one would use a desktop browser (using a VPN to ensure that Fidelity's system "sees" one as being in the U.S.) to enter one's userID and password and Symantec VIP Access on one's phone (in airplane mode to ensure that wi-fi and cellular connections are disabled) to generate the OTP.
  7. Fidelity offers Symantec VIP Access, which is an app that runs on a smartphone and generates a 6-digit code that is used when one logs into one's Fidelity Brokerage or Cash Management ("bank") account. Fidelity's doesn't do a very good job of promoting it or explaining it on their website or by any other method, for that matter - I stumbled it across while lost on their site and I knew what it was when I saw it because I use Google Authenticator and Microsoft Authenticator routinely. Because it runs as an app on a smartphone, one does not need an SMS OTP (text message one-time PIN) and it will work anywhere in the world and does not require cellular data or wi-fi. Once the app is installed on one's phone, one simply calls Fidelity customer support and they "link" it to one's account. And, if one loses one's phone, all one need do is call Fidelity customer support and they can either "turn off" VIP access or link one's new phone and VIP app to one's account.
  8. Some things to think about if one decides to take one's home phone roaming with the intention of getting verification SMS on it: When I first started looking into the problem, using roaming was my first thought; however, sending SMS internationally isn't rock-solid because of the differences among different countries' cellular systems. The other major drawback is that if something happens to one's phone while abroad, such as the phone failing, getting lost, stolen, etc. it would be a catastrophe for an expat - maybe not such a big deal for someone just visiting. That being said, T-Mobile, because it has a worldwide presence, is probably the best carrier for roaming abroad. My specific plan offers unlimited international data and text while roaming and calls are USD 0.20 / minute. - There is fine print regarding the data, however. For folks who have Verizon, I came across something last week that might be of interest to them: Verizon Messenger. I didn't look into it in great detail because I'm sticking with T-Mobile and having a second Verizon line is just too expensive but as I understand it, with Verizon Messenger, any SMS sent to a Verizon cell number are also sent to a Verizon server that syncs the SMS with any devices one has registered to access the Verizon Messenger website. So, as I understand it, one could "see" the SMS from a web browser logged in to the Messenger site. I did not actually test it, but I did question a couple of CSRs at my local Verizon store and they were certain that is how Meesenger works. It sounds as if, so long as one pays the bill each month, the phone could be turned off sitting in a drawer and one would still get all SMS at the Messenger website.
  9. I would suggest keeping the phone plugged in to AC so that one doesn't impose too much on one's family's or trusted friend's goodwill in having to "mind" the phone. I'd also consider removing the battery, if possible, since batteries tend to fail if they're not discharged and recharged routinely. Although by leaving the battery in, one would have redundancy in the event of a power outage.
  10. I think I might need to clarify something here: One **DOES NOT** need to have PhoneLeash installed on one's "overseas" phone for the confirmation SMS forwarding scheme to work. One **DOES** need to have PhoneLeash installed on one's U.S phone to work. Phoneleash simply forwards any texts received on a phone, in this scheme a confirmation SMS phone located in the U.S., to **EITHER** another cell number **OR** an e-mail address. PhoneLeash **DOES NOT** function like, for example, PushBullet, where SMS received on a confirmation phone located in the U.S. are uploaded to a central server which then allows one to see the SMS by using a web browser and logging into the central server. This difference is something to keep in mind because, once PhoneLeash forwards the SMS, it's conceivable that one **MIGHT NOT** receive the SMS due to a variety of factors, eg; if one is forwarding to another cell number, the SMS might get lost if the "forward to" cell phone is turned off and the cell carriers "retry" time limit is reached. OnMyWay: if you have PhoneLeash installed on your PH phone because you need it there, I apologize for the additional clarification. Just want to ensure that I don't mislead or confuse anyone.
  11. It doesn't necessarily have to be a T-Mobile phone - There are plenty of inexpensive, UNLOCKED GSM (T-Mobile or AT&T in the USA) that will work. The advantage of GSM phones is that the SIM card can be switched from phone to phone if, for example, a phone fails and there's no need to "activate" the new phone through a website or by visiting a store as one must do with a CDMA (Verizon, Sprint, etc. in the U.S) phone. A post-pay plan will work, but I think for this purpose, a pre-pay plan is a better option since, at least with T-Mobile, one can get a very cheap plan and pay for only what is used at USD 0.10 per text. Since the specific problem that this scheme is meant to solve is SMS confirmation codes, there shouldn't be many texts in any given month, so the cost should be minimal. I would recommend **AGAINST** having one's "confirmation code phone" that is located in the U.S. attempt to forward the SMS confirmation code to one's "overseas" phone simply because there are a lot of problems forwarding SMS internationally due to differences among individual countries' cellular systems, one's phone being out of load or turned off, etc. I believe that it's much simpler and more reliable to have Phone leash forward the SMS to an e-mail account, my recommendation being Google GMail because it's very reliable, which one can then see on one's "overseas" phone, laptop, etc. so long as one can get into the e-mail account. Because PhoneLeash is an app that runs on one's Android or iOS phone, the phone itself isn't a big issue, but I think cheaper is better; as well, the cell carrier isn't a big deal, as long as it's a U.S. carrier - I just suggest T-Mobile because I've been with them for a long time, they run a GSM network, they are a world-wide carrier, and they have the cheapest and simplest "pay-as-you-go" that **DOES NOT** require a data plan simply because one is using a smartphone, as do some other cell carriers. This scheme will certainly work with other carriers and other smartphones - as they say "it's up to you".
  12. Thanks for the info - I'll dig a little into the website.
  13. That made me stop and think and, based on what some other BMs have posted when they did something similar and not picking on you, in the current regulatory environment that financial institutions face, it's probably not a great idea to tell one's financial institution that one is "living" overseas. The way that I present my situation to financial folks when it comes up is that "When I retire, I'm planning to travel extensively outside the U.S. for an extended period of time." Not a lie, since I **am** planning to maintain both my permanent residence and legal domicile in the U.S. - like when I was in the Navy and PCS to Clark Matter of semantics I know - "living in the PI" versus "extended travel to and within the PI and neighboring countries" but, as has been said before, it's not what one says but how one says it.
  14. Not discounting what the branch manager said, but I have never seen an option for getting the BofA SafePass code via e-mail on the SafePass section of the BofA website, so I would think it prudent to double-check that with the SafePass folks. I use SafePass for two-factor authentication for **ALL** online transactions at BofA, ie; I have my account set up so that I must enter a SafePass code in addition to my logon credentials. it is my understanding that **most** transactions **most** of the time can be done on the website without a Safepass code, but there are certain things, such as setting up a new bill payee, executing a wire transfer, or having a higher transfer limit that require a SafePass code - and, I would think, there might be the occasional time when the BofA website doesn't "recognize" one's computer or it "sees" that one is using a "foreign" IP address and then wants one to enter a confirmation code. Offhand, I know that Chase will send a code to an e-mail address. Fidelity uses Symantec VIP Access app on a smartphone. Alliant Credit Union uses an additional security question, from a fairly long list, to which one has previously provided answers. Citi doesn't uses TFA for personal accounts. The following website seems to be up to date, based on my knowledge for accounts that I have:
  15. I just received an e-mail from the Social Security Administration in which it said that they are **TEMPORARILY** "rolling back this mandate" regarding two-factor authentication, ie; requiring an SMS when one wants to access one's online account. The e-mail said, in pertinent part: "However, multifactor authentication inconvenienced or restricted access to some of our account holders. We’re listening to your concerns and are responding by temporarily rolling back this mandate. As before July 30, you can now access your secure account using only your username and password. We highly recommend the extra security text message option, but it is not required. We’re developing an alternative authentication option, besides text messaging, that we’ll begin implementing within the next six months." I still recommend using two-factor authentication whenever possible because it does add a simple additional layer of security to one's online accounts.