Despite the arrival of some glorious weather, it’s been a bit of an unsettled period for us here in the Algarve.
Unsurprisingly, this jittery period has corresponded with the need to deal with more bureaucracy. This time the issues are dealing with tax returns and attempting to get finance for a car. It seems like the lead time for any accountant, tax department or financial institution to answer an email or return a call is somewhere between 3 weeks and never, and at least twice a week at the moment we are brought to the point of wanting to scream with frustration.
This all culminated in us feeling homesick for England for the first time in months last week. The car was the first thing that started us off. Cars here in Portugal are extremely expensive, and you don’t have the option of getting something perfectly decent for a few grand like you do in the UK. Sure, there ARE cars for a few grand, but you are looking at the same kind of selection you would get for £500 in the back of the Autotrader. As a result, various firms who offer car hire in Portugal have been doing rather well from us since we moved here, as we have deliberated about what to do.
We were of the impression that we wouldn’t be able to get finance here until we complete our first tax return, but our bank said it should be OK, as they can get our income certified in the UK. Obviously this was exciting news, and we went straight off and found a perfect little car, just a year old with 9000kms on the clock.
This was three weeks ago. We were promised the paperwork would be done in two days. After calling every day for a week and being told “amanha” (tomorrow,) we were then told it could be 3 more weeks. “And then will we know about the car finance?” we asked. “Oh no, the 3 weeks is for the paperwork from the UK.” Oh, brilliant. “So how much longer for the finance?” says my wife, exasperation and rage filling the apartment. “Oh, it could be 3 days, perhaps a week or two….”
I have no doubt that a few miles down the road, in our bank, the lady on the telephone was performing what we call “the Portuguese shrug,” – widely practiced in Portuguese banks and government departments, and often accompanied with a shake of the head, a glance at the computer and the uttering of “it’s not normal..”
Needless to say, shortly afterwards the lady from Toyota phoned to say someone else has come and purchased “our” car. Approximately ten more working days have elapsed since all of this. Have we heard a word from the bank? What do you think?
Tax returns are similarly frustrating, and I’m going to refrain from going into too much detail, as I fear that if I have to relive it all again, people in the Tavira area will end up hearing a crazed English person screaming “WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT FROM ME?!” from a sunny roof terrace. Suffice to say, even having persuaded UK HMRC successfully not to tax us, it seems Portugal still want forms from England that DON’T EXIST to prove what we’ve earned, before they will let us give them thousands and thousands of euros.
When we first moved here, we were really surprised by the fact that all the expats we met said things like, “ooh no, don’t get residencia, just stay under the radar,” and “paying tax here? why would you want to do that?”
Our answer was, and always will be, that we want to live here long term, and want to do right by the country we live in. I also want the peace of mind of knowing we are doing things the correct way–even if that does mean our tax liability is a little more than it would have been in England. Trying to explain this to accountants here results in looks of bafflement. It seems we are the first expats with this desire to go “legit.”
So, there’s a (very much abridged) summary of why we have had that “fish out of water” feeling a bit recently. It’s not helped by the fact we both have a huge amount of work on and are often finding ourselves still typing away at 8pm, then grabbing a late takeaway and eating unhealthy food we don’t really want. That’s rather too much like what we moved from London to get away from. We need to regroup and reprioritize and, most importantly, we need a holiday—we have found out recently that living in a holiday destination doesn’t change that occasional desperate need to get away. On the bright side though, it’s taken 18 months for us to feel that way – in London it used to take six weeks.
Back next week, with (hopefully) a more cheery outlook
Image credit: Niklas