Bringing your dog to Germany? Here are a few vital tips for when you arrive…

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Since COVID-19 is ramping up again, the weather is icky, and we’re not really seeing the sights right now due to those factors and our new pooch, I thought today I’d offer a few handy tips for people who are planning to bring their dog(s) to Germany. This post isn’t about travel tips. I haven’t brought any dogs overseas to Germany since 2014, and the rules have changed since then. Even now, I look at our new family member, Noizy, and realize how huge he is. If we have to take him in an airplane, I’m pretty sure the process will be different than it was with the other four dogs we’ve flown with (three of whom are now at the Rainbow Bridge).

This post is more about encouraging Americans to do things they might not think is necessary. I’ve now spent a total of eight years living in Germany. I was here in Stuttgart from 07-09 and 14-18, and now in Wiesbaden from 18 until now. Having been in two different military communities, I’ve seen a lot of people expressing reluctance at doing things the German way. I’m here to tell you that if you’re one of those people who doesn’t think it’s necessary to get pet liability insurance or register your dog with TASSO, you may be making a big mistake.

The very first piece of advice I would offer any American moving to Germany with a dog is to get pet liability insurance. While you’re doing that, also get personal liability insurance. If your dog damages something or gets into trouble, the insurance is a great thing to have. I would highly recommend using a local broker to get the insurance, which is not very expensive at all. For two dogs, we pay about 80 euros a year. And that covers us if something awful happens, like one of the dogs runs away and causes a car accident, or the dog damages the house in some way. We got our insurance through a German broker who was hanging out in the local Facebook groups. Chances are, you can get it that way, too. Or ask around for a recommendation.

Personal liability insurance is good to have for when YOU have an accident of some sort. We have used ours. Most Germans have personal liability insurance, which also isn’t that expensive and can save you a lot of headaches, unless, of course, you’re dealing with someone who is greedy, entitled, and dishonest, which sadly, can also happen. But that’s a rant for another post. It’s good to have the insurance, though, because the insurance company will fight on your behalf if a person wants more money after an accident or mishap. Also, many Germans won’t expect you to have it.

The second piece of advice I would offer is registering your pet with TASSO.net. This organization is committed to helping you find your pet if he or she gets lost– kind of like an Amber Alert for pets. You send them photos and information about your pet(s), as well as their microchip number(s). They will send you tags to put on your pet’s collar and, should one get away from you, they’ll make flyers that can be posted and shared on social media. When our failed adoptee, Jonny, escaped his pet taxi last spring, TASSO sent us a helpful flyer with contact information. At that time, Jonny was still registered with the rescue he came from and when he was sadly found dead the day after he escaped, authorities were able to contact the rescue to let them know. Both of our dogs are now registered with TASSO, in case something should happen.

Jonny was also covered by the rescue’s pet liability insurance, because we hadn’t yet completed his adoption when he met his demise. If we had taken him in and not transferred his coverage to ours, we would have likely been on the hook for paying for the accident he caused when a driver hit him. Always make sure you have that coverage BEFORE an accident happens, especially if you’re adopting a dog while over here. Our new dog, Noizy, was on our pet insurance before we picked him up two weeks ago. That’s the way it should always be. Don’t forget to get the insurance in the excitement of adopting a new dog, especially since dogs who are new to your family might be more likely to panic and run away from home and you will be less likely to know what could trigger them to behave in unexpected ways.

Many people also look into getting pet health insurance. We haven’t done that ourselves, mainly because our original dogs, Zane and Arran, were too old for it. Veterinary care in Germany is very reasonably priced, especially compared to the United States. Some vets will even take the VAT form, which if you’re American, makes you exempt from paying German taxes on some goods and services. Not all businesses will take the VAT form and they are never required to, but the ones who cater to Americans often will. That can save you significant money, as long as the forms are filled our properly. Our former vet in Stuttgart had some issues with the VAT that resulted in money having to be paid. Fortunately for us, they were willing to pay because it was their mistake, and we didn’t even have to ask them to do it.

Arran getting a belly rub.

Be sure to familiarize yourself with Germany’s laws regarding pets, too. For example, it’s illegal to drive here with your animals loose in the car. They have to be in a crate or wearing a “seat belt”. You can purchase those items easily at any pet store.

Certain items that are legal in the USA are not legal here. Shock collars are not allowed, for example, and you can get in trouble for using them if you get caught. Likewise, you’re not allowed/supposed to leave your animals alone all day. This isn’t an issue for us, since I am at home most of the time, but if you’re in a dual career family with no one home during the day, you may need to hire a dog walker or use a doggy daycare. They do exist here. Germans are also very big on training dogs, so don’t be surprised if someone tells you to take your dog to the Hundschule. That happened to us a couple of times when we lived here the first time– back then, Germans weren’t as accustomed to beagles, who bay when they get on a scent. Beagles are becoming a lot more popular here now, but most German dogs are still very well trained.

If you’re here on SOFA status, make sure you register your pets with the vet on post. Otherwise, German tax collectors will expect you to license your dog(s) locally, and that can get very expensive. German dog taxes are more than what you’d expect to pay in the United States, and there are also fines for failing to register.

We don’t regret having our dogs with us in Germany. Germans love dogs and they can make great ambassadors in facilitating meeting people. It’s easier to travel with them here than at home, although we’ve found some excellent “Tierpensions” for when we can’t take them with us. I love having the dogs around for company, especially when Bill travels. There is a learning curve, though. Above all, I urge all Americans to please GET THE INSURANCE. And definitely register with TASSO! If your dog gets loose, you will want and need both of those protections.

The IRS sucks…

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Last spring, Bill did our taxes on paper.  Because he’d been doing our taxes electronically for so many years, he forgot that we needed to sign the paperwork.  Consequently, months after he mailed off our tax return, it was returned to us with the note that it needed to be signed.

We signed the paperwork, clearly delivered to us by a mysterious courier since the returned forms did not come through the German mail system.  Bill sent it off.  Today, we got a bill for $137.41.  Why?  Because thanks to our return being rejected, we filed late.  The IRS charges at least $135 for that.  They also charge interest.

The letter was dated September 28.  The money was due on October 19th, but today is the 23rd. So now, I guess we owe a few more dollars of interest.  It would have been nice if the IRS sent the bill in a timely fashion.  Had we known we owed $135, we would have paid it a long time ago.

I think next year, Bill is going to get a tax professional to handle our IRS stuff.  I usually nag him to get it done early, but he wasn’t as on the ball as he usually is.

We are planning to go out tonight… or sometime this weekend, since Bill is done with his most recent course.  He started a new one, though– his last one.  I’m ready for December.  I’ll be getting my new tooth.  I’ll be going to Italy.  And Bill will finally be done with his degree.  Of course, all too soon, it’ll be time for taxes again.

Death and taxes…

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Yesterday, I read a rather sobering article about how many expatriate Americans are renouncing their citizenship.  A lot of them are doing it because of new tax laws that target Americans living abroad.  The new laws have made it very inconvenient and unpleasant for Americans trying to file their taxes while they live out of the country.  A lot of banks in other countries are not wanting to do business with Americans anymore, because of these new laws that require them to report any accounts owned by Americans so that they can be properly taxed.

America is one of the few countries that forces people to declare income earned worldwide.  Consequently, a lot of people end up paying taxes in their host country and to the United States.  They also have to hire professional tax preparers to straighten out the convoluted paperwork for them.  That gets old, especially if you’ve made a life abroad and don’t want to go back to the United States.  So to escape the taxes and the invasion of privacy, some expats are changing their citizenship.  While some are able to do it without a second thought, others are finding the decision to be very heart wrenching.

Lest you think renouncing your citizenship is easy or inexpensive, bear in mind that ditching your US passport is not free.  You have to pay to exit America.  They get you coming and going.

I have not given any thought to renouncing my US citizenship… yet, anyway.  I am American born and bred and I try not to be ashamed of that fact.  However, I can’t help but understand why people from other countries are disgusted by some of the laws we’ve passed and actions we’ve taken that affect other countries.  The law forcing international banks to report on their American customers is especially disrespectful, particularly when it violates the host country’s own laws.  Moreover, the law, which was supposedly intended to bust wealthy people sheltering their money abroad, is affecting wealthy folks less than it does regular folks who just want to live abroad.  If you can’t find a local bank who will work with you, that makes it pretty tough to live in another country.

Bill and I would really like to live abroad again.  We enjoy the challenges of living in another country.  We also love to travel.  We’re both proud Americans, but if we end up living abroad for more than a few years, these tax laws could end up being a serious pain in the ass.  We will have to do some research as to how we can live with these laws or even if we’ll want to deal with it.

So much for the land of the free and the home of the brave, right?