(You should check with your accountant with any financial information gleaned from here.)
We are bemoaning our fate filling out our taxes this year. The letter combinations of FBAR, FACTA, Pfic on any funds outside of America including the apparently evil ‘mutual fund’ (the ones the bank recommends) has all come to haunt us. (If you are an American expatriate with investments in your local area- read Israel-, you should know these terms. Just saying.) The cruelest part of the American demands isn’t the declarations we need to make or even the tax they demand on each gain (and they could care less how much we lost) of every sale our mutual fund(s) make; it is the means we need to research this information.
I used to have a false notion that everyone should be able to fill out their own taxes. A Masters or Accounting degree was for businesses and various problems. We usually have gone the expensive route due to our total inadequacies in the area. However, to fill out the Pfic one must take a company to process the information with a minimum 5 hours at $250 an hour (and another 16% for VAT- for the Israeli government’s take)- though they warn you most need a minimum 15 hours. One of our accountant’s clients paid 100,000 dollars to be processed for a $7 bill! Do you get the imbalance here?
Personally, I would like to offer a deal with the IRS – can I just pay you $1000 and we’ll call it even? However, no one is interested in my generosity; they want to make sure they milked us for all the money that they think we have been squirreling away from their reach and reward all those that ‘help’ us.
Escorting our accountant out the door (yes, she came to us since she knew we might be in a little shock), she gave me a curious look when I said, “Thank G-d it is only money.” She is religious, so it wasn’t the notion that surprised her. I think she could see deeper and realize that the words were right, but doubted any deepness to my faith. I hadn’t seen the damage yet.
Like Rabbi Akiva who was sent a pauper (who didn’t have even straw to sleep on and his wife was about to give birth) to make Akiva feel richer. His comfort came from the knowledge that there are always people even in worse situations. Hashem started pointing out to us that very day others hardships.
One family friend I knew was in worse financial trouble due to the same issues (though they made more money – so G-d willing that will offset their issues.) Another friend came by just the same day and told me of the horrible situation her daughter found herself involving divorce, abuse and child custody battles being fought in the court. Another friend’s daughter has been incapable of fighting her mental illness. My neighbor lost her dear father and needs to comfort her elderly mother who seems completely at a loss. Again, on the same day, another friend told me of her granddaughter’s birth, which had complications, which may require serious intervention.
Seriously, thank G-d, He has been so kind to us. It is only money.
Nevertheless, I find it strange that we are comforted by recognizing the hardships of others. It is important to know of our friends’ troubles. I hope that it means we remember to keep them in our prayers and find ways to help in some capacity. However, isn’t there a cruelness in this method to be comforted by other’s tragedies?
Our lives though were never meant to be smooth and placid. We learn through hardships. A diamond isn’t worth more than its potential unless it has been sanded down and polished. We all face difficulties if we are living. (That is why evil people may have it easier – they aren’t truly considered living and have forfeited the right to be given opportunities for teshuva or growth.) We can suffer through financial, medical, faith-related, or marriage issues (just to touch a few), but all problems are here to teach us something, whether it is punitive, an opportunity to provide us a greater yehoshua or a test. Nevertheless, it is always for our good; it is our task to take the challenge and grow.
Recognizing there are others that are going through hard times as well, is comforting, we are not being singled out, but part of the people who G-d loves and is given steps to improve ourselves regularly. G-d willing we can face our troubles with a real belief in Hashem.
Like I said before, (and I hope to continually only need to say), Thank G-d it is only money.