Thursday, January 20, 2011

HOW TO: A New Routine for Taxes in Korea

UPDATE:  Do you really need to use the NTS site I outline below?  It depends.  My school insisted I needed to, but I've just learned it's not necessarily so.  In my case, I use my bank card for almost everything.  So, it behooves me to use the site because I'll get some sort of deduction.

February is tax time in Korea. The important thing to remember is tax is assessed as a payroll deduction. Some employers forget to remind English-speaking employees about this deduction.  Moreover, many Americans seem to believe we get an automatic tax-free, first two years here.  They forget to fill out appropriate paperwork before arriving in Korea to receive the 2-year tax holiday they get via a US-Korea agreement.  If you never applied to receive the tax holiday or this is your third February in Korea, you will pay taxes with the rest of us next month.  If you don't make much money, you might miss the 200-400,000Won you'll be assessed.

You need to use your credit/debit card for more than 25% of your annual income to get a tax deduction. The NTS site I describe below will tell you how much you spent using your bank card. So, it's worth checking to determine whether or not you need to file for deductions.

Your employer should automatically calculate anything having to do with National Health Insurance. I don't know anyone who doesn't work here without carrying the national insurance.  In addition, your employer will calculate your pension information, if applicable.

If you spent more than 3% of your annual income on medical expenses, then you should qualify for some sort of deduction.

If you made large donations, pay mucho mortgage, or are receiving some sort of government benefit, you'll need to use the site.

As I learn more, I'll post more. It's very difficult to glean this information from the Internet; each year I learn a little more. The amount I learn is pretty much in line with the amount my ability to speak the language improves. As always, I like to remind my readers to stay off the ESL Forums. They're full of angry misinformers and lurkers who like to spread useless misinformation.  Talk to your colleagues here.  I know Chris in Korea will likely post about taxes soon.  He's reliable, and like me, he'll attempt to answer your questions.  Don't listen to foreign teacher gossip.  Well, do listen and then ignore it.  If you're with SMOE/EPIK/GEPIK, you can talk to your school's administrators directly.

Some of you may have heard about this already, but if you have not:

If you have to pay taxes in Korea, and whether you have to or not is always confusing, there's a new requirement. You must/may need to present your schools with personal financial information that's available via Korea's NTS website. Even though the website is only presented in Hangukmal, the process to obtain your financial data is relatively easy.  It takes a matter of minutes.

However, to access your information in the NTS system, you'll need a security key, a bit of script that is saved onto a USB drive, your handphone or your computer. The security key is available via your bank. If you've set up Internet banking through your Korean bank account, you no doubt already possess this key and use it each time you log into your bank account, possibly when you shop online. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, you'll need to visit your bank and ask for help acquiring the key.

This process will likely cause thousands of foreigners serious frustration because of the language barrier. We all know how communication quickly disintegrates at work and in public when our Korean colleagues must talk with us about technical details about our obligations as employees or at places like a bank. My suggestion is that you acquire your security keys, access the NTS site, print out your info, and take it to your employers without being asked. Do it. They'll really appreciate it. And you'll avoid the nasty headache that comes with doing things at the last second as is custom around here.

Moreover, if you cannot speak and read Hangukmal: get a Korean friend or co-teacher to help.  If you can't get help, you'll have to insist that your employer does the work for you.  I know my high school admin colleagues were willing to help me with everything and were super-elated this morning when we dropped off the info unannounced.  I don't think they believed we would do it on our own. (My wife helped me obtain my security key at Woori Bank.)

At any rate, obtaining the security key from your bank is going to be the most difficult part of this task because you may find it difficult without somebody to translate for you.

Sungkyunkwan University provided their English profs a very helpful, step-by-step presentation on how to use the NTS website.  I'm going to post it below with a few notes; their admin staff deserves kudos for the work, not me.  Your bank will, I'll say should, walk you through obtaining a security key.  Remember:  insist or you'll never get help.  It sounds rude to English-speaking ears, but you may have to get in somebody's face and demand help before you'll get it.  That's just Korean-style customer service.  And it doesn't sound as bad in Hangukmal as it does in English.  Trust me.  You must, must, must obtain the key.  You cannot access your financial info without it.  And you cannot properly complete your taxes without out visiting the NTS site.

First, visit the NTS home page and select "log in"/"로그인", which is a button on the left hand side of the button bar on the top of the home page, under the logo.

After you log in, follow these steps:  (click on the images to show full size^^)

The above step is where you choose how to access your security key. If you look, you have five options where from to select the key. You'll want to choose the first one, if you're using a key on your USB drive, or the fourth one, if you're using a key on your computer. Some of you may have one installed on your smart phone; you can select that option as well.  You may notice there are smart card options as well, but I don't know foreigners who possess these. Once you select the method of acquisition, you'll need to select the key itself. Then you can proceed.

Just remember, most of you will have nothing to declare. So, all you're really doing in the NTS system is accessing the info and printing it. Make a copy for your own records. I found it impossible to save using Adobe Reader on a PC (maybe FoxIt Reader would work???) but using Preview with a Mac permits you to save the info. Bring a copy to your boss at Hagwon or to your Kyojangsil/Principal's Office at your public school. Even if they haven't asked you for it yet, they will need it.

Hope this helps. If you have questions, leave them in the comments.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Wandering Korea and Europe until March.

traveling. back in March. daily writing regimen. i've even got Praise keeping a dream journal. much more interesting than my work.

it's the time of year that high school teachers get a break. no teaching until March. i'm ecstatic. full of anxiety. never fails that when i'm free of most worries, free to wander, free to write that my neuroses peak.

much in store for dagseoul, dagscreen, and dagsound come March. stay tuned.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011