Two Things Ireland Does Better Than The US
I recently did a blog post about things I took for granted in the US before moving to Ireland, I have also posted on the Irish banking system, and how difficult it is to find an apartment. So, in fairness, I should point out a few things that Ireland does better than the United States.
Anyone who has worked in the US knows what a pain the tax system is. Ask any American when tax day is and they can answer the question. The thing most Americans don’t understand, until moving to another country is that the US is the only country like that. Ask someone who lives in Europe when tax day is and they might not know the answer. I have lived in Ireland for 5 years, and when I was working for Microsoft, I had no idea when the Irish tax day was. I asked a friend and he was like, “I don’t know.” Because he never needed to know. Now I own a small business in Ireland, so I know it is in October.
The reason most people don’t know when tax day is, is that everything is done automatically. In the US we fill out a W2 form when we get hired at a company. That form takes out a percentage from our paychecks based upon what we enter on the form. Then after January and before April 15th, we get different versions of the 1099 form from any place we made money. We then have to take those and complete a complicated series of paperwork or fields on a website adding deductions for various things such as business expenses, children, school, etc. Then, based on the results we either get money back or we pay money.
In Ireland, there are no complicated forms to fill out or expensive software programs to do it for us. In Ireland, if you want to be sure you are paying the right amount you can go to a website and fill out a form and your tax amount is checked and adjusted. There is no stress, no H&R Block, TurboTax, or other pricy services for individuals. Yes, if a person owns a business where the process is more complicated they can hire an accountant. But for the standard employee, like I was for my first few years here I didn’t need to put any thought into my Irish taxes. Yet, I did and still need to file taxes in the US, because I’m a US citizen. This year, I didn’t get money back because the only money I make in the US is some dividend income and interest money from stocks and savings. But, I did still pay TurboTax so I could complete my taxes online and make sure everything was correct.
A post note to this: The amount of taxes paid in Ireland is much higher than the US. This could be a flaw in the setup of allowing people to pay without thinking about it. If people spent more time paying attention to the amount they pay in taxes, they might be more inclined to contact representatives in protest.
Anyone who has gone to the post office in the US has had this experience. You walk in, and there is a massive line of people waiting. As you stand to wait, you can see that there are eight counters available yet only one of those eight has someone working at it. That person is slow and angry and couldn’t care less about the world at large.
The US Postal Service (USPS) in the US loses money for the government. In 2017 the postal service lost $2.7 billion dollars and in 2018 lost just under $4 billion. They say this is because people are not using stamped mail as much. Which I’m sure is true but stamps have also gotten price prohibitive, so people might not be using them because they are expensive. People can also ship and receive packages at a USPS but why would they do that when they could go to a UPS or FedEx store and not have to deal with the long waits in line. Another flaw with USPS is that they deliver mail 6 days a week instead of 5. The government is paying employees for a full day of the week that is unnecessary. Do you really care if you get mail on a Saturday? I never have. To be clear here, I’m talking about mail delivery not needed on Saturday. The post office itself should still be open as that is a day they could make money with customers coming in to ship and receive packages.
In Ireland, the post office does the same things that the US post office does but they also offer more services. People can go to AnPost and do more than buy stamps or ship and receive a package. In Ireland at a post office people can exchange currency, they can pay bills, including the TV license (don’t get me started on how annoying a TV license is) people can get pre-paid phones, and there are multiple smaller offices versus the few larger office in the US. The smaller offices in Ireland will usually only have a couple of windows but both those windows will often be staffed during busy hours. Yes, the number of post offices is dropping. For the obvious reasons such as the ability to pay bills online, and the high cost of shipping and stamps. In 2017 AnPost made €8.4 million according to thejournal.ie. Part of this is because of closing the unprofitable offices and other cuts, like the US, should do. But I would argue that a reason they make over 8 million instead of losing over 2 billion is due to the additional services they offer and not forcing people to wait in line an hour to ship a package. Oh, and I should say they run it as a separate business with oversight by the government. Not a division of the government like the US that is allowed to suck from the unlimited cash tit of the United States growing debt.
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