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The Summer Vacation Dilemma: To Go Home or Not to Go Home

April 30, 2023

Summer vacation is the time of year all teachers are waiting for (and I suppose all students as well!).  The 1.5 to 2 months of summer break is especially important though for teachers who work at international schools because it is typically when they take their annual trip back home to their native country.  When you live in a foreign country, halfway across the world, it does indeed feel good to go home.  Even though you do create a new ‘family’ when you live abroad with the other international school teachers that you are working with, your home is where your real family lives.  Going home too can simply mean just going back to your home country, not necessarily going back to where you grew up.

There are some good reasons to go back home and maybe some things to consider first before making the decision to travel back to your home country during the summer:

• Some international school teachers make their annual trip home during their winter break. Those that do typically say that they already went home during the winter holiday and don’t plan on going back six months later during the summer months; that would be too soon to go back!

• You get to see your old friends from when you went to University maybe or people that you went to high school with.  It is important to reconnect with old friends and acquaintances; Facebook still can’t compete with real face-to-face meetings with these people from your life. Also, you can tell them all about the adventures you have been on while they have been staying-put, most likely in the same city where they went to high school in.

• Speaking of talking about your adventures.  Many family and friends from your home country actually don’t care very much about your adventures and traveling.  Very few of my friends and family even bring up the topic, and when I do, they don’t seem to be showing much interest in hearing the details.  Maybe it is not so interesting to them because traveling around the world and seeing more than 6-8 countries a year is just something they can’t relate to.  They also want to share what they have been up to, just like you, so I suppose there should be a bit of give and take to try and understand each other’s very different lives.

• If you go to your home country during the summer, you get to stock up on all your favorite products from your old life.  Many international school teachers love to go to their favorite grocery stores to stock up on all the products not available in their host country supermarkets.  Be careful though, food products weigh a lot and can easily make your suitcase go over the allowed weight on your flight back!

• You get to see your nieces and nephews in person, noticing how they are getting so much older now and all grown up.  You can do things with them like taking them to the movies or for a few games of bowling. The years past by so fast and soon they will be adults and possibly off to university!

• The price of flights and plane tickets to your home country are just unbelievably high now.  Many of us without a flight benefit just literally can’t afford to buy plane tickets home.  Sure, at some schools, the school pays for your flight home each summer.  But, not all international school teachers are as lucky.  In many international schools in Western Europe, teachers are left to pay for their annual flight home themselves.  And if you have two children in your family, your total cost has just gone from $2500 for two people to $5000 for four people.  That amount is just not a feasible amount to pay for a trip for some international school teaching couples. Even with the annual flight allowance, you might have already used that allowance for your winter break trip home.

• Some international school teachers just want to stay put in their host country during the summer.  Some feel you don’t have the time to really explore the city, the nearby cities, and the other cities in the country during the school year. And in the northern hemisphere, summer is the best time typically to explore these countries. 

• Some teachers also just simply stay put to save money!! We all need to carefully plan for our future (hopefully early) retirements!

• A month-long trip to Africa or a month-long trip to the Chicago area? A question you might be asking yourself in April. Some are faced with this international school educator’s dilemma each summer.  For many international school teachers, the price of the flight to go home is actually the same price it would take to go to more exotic places like Kenya or Costa Rica, or even Bali.  Who would want to go home (a place you have seen many times already) in place of going on an exciting adventure?  Many choose the adventure option each summer!

When some of International School Community’s members were asked the question: “To go home or not to go home?”  Here are a few responses we got:

“Choosing to go ‘home’ over the summer is always a tough decision. I usually head back to see friends and family. It feels really good to reconnect with the people you don’t see every day and your own culture. After about 10 days though, I am ready to head back to my other ‘home’ or my next adventure.”

“Absolutely go home! First of all, many schools will pay for your ticket home during the holidays, but more importantly, is the idea that one needs a “home base” when doing these international teaching assignments. There is a real feeling of refreshment when one goes home, it regenerates your sense of self, everything is familiar to you, and you regain the energy needed to face another year of the ‘unknown’.  On a side note, this year, I will not be able to ‘go home’ as I am too pregnant to travel back and forth before my second baby is born…and I’m already feeling the stress of it. Although, I know it is well worth it to stay in Brazil this time around….I feel a slight sense of panic every time I think of it.”

At Brent International School Manila, one ISC member said, “Many teachers leave on major holidays, most to other locations in South East Asia. During summer almost all teachers travel home.”

At theUnited World College South East Asia, another ISC member said, “Most teachers travel during school holidays. Singapore is an amazing hub from which to travel to all other Asian cities/countries. Many staff travel home during summer and for Christmas.”

At the American School of Torreon, a different ISC member said, “It is expensive to travel home for the holidays. The airport is small and prices are high. Traveling by bus is also time-consuming and long.”

So, are you planning on going home this summer? Are you the international school teacher that makes their annual trip home each summer, the one that stays in the host country, or the one that is traveling to another country on some adventure?  Share your stories and reasons for your summer plans on ISC!

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Highlighted Articles

Americans Filing Taxes From Abroad: It Can Differ Depending on Your State

March 1, 2018

While many overseas filers don’t realize it, you probably have to file a state return (unless you are from one of the seven states with no state income tax, or perhaps from one of the two that tax only investment income. When you move overseas you still have a domicile in the US, normally the last state where you lived before moving overseas. That requirement applies to forty-one of the fifty states.


Potentially you have further complications depending on what state you are from. Six states don’t allow the foreign earned income exclusion. If you are from California, Maine, Massachusetts or New Jersey you have to limit your days in those states each year or they will want state tax on your foreign earned income. If you are from Pennsylvania and don’t own a residence there you can escape their state tax; otherwise pay up. If you are from Alabama they don’t have any exceptions, but a tax professional may be able to help you escape tax even there.

We had clients from California who didn’t believe us when we told them to limit their days in California. When they reported more than 45 days in the state and we prepared the return showing California state tax due on the return, they elected for us to NOT file the return. They prepared and sent in their own return. The California Franchise Tax Board is notorious for its persistence in attempting to collect tax. As all states receive copies of federal returns that use an address in that state, when California received the federal return showing days in the US as about two and one-half months in the summer and another two weeks over the year-end holidays, they sent a tax deficiency notice taxing the foreign earned income. When the taxpayers were not able to PROVE that they were NOT in California for less than 45 days, they ended up paying state tax on all of their foreign earned income. They subsequently returned to us as clients, and now keep proof of where they are each day they are in the US.

New Jersey is another difficult state. If you maintain a residence there generally you have to pay tax on your foreign earned income, regardless of days in New Jersey during the year. If you are domiciled there, don’t maintain a permanent residence there, do maintain a permanent residence elsewhere, and spend 30 days or less there, you can file as a nonresident. We had clients for whom we prepared tax returns, including a New Jersey return showing all of their foreign earned income subject to New Jersey state tax. They maintained a home there and were stuck. They became very irate with us, and went to a CPA firm in New Jersey hoping for better results. The results were the same. They returned to us as clients and did what we recommended – put the house up for rent. They were stuck paying New Jersey tax for one year only. They remain overseas, still are domiciled in New Jersey, but no longer pay state tax there.

You may run afoul of a state’s tax law due to changes in those laws. Formerly if you were domiciled in Michigan or Oregon and you lived outside the state for an entire year, you were exempt from filing a state tax return. Both states changed their laws, and now if Michigan or Oregon is your domicile, even if you don’t spend any time in the state during a year, you are still required to file a state tax return. Because both recognize the federal foreign earned income exclusion for many of our clients that is not a problem, but for some higher earners, they now have to file, and pay, state tax in those states.

There may also be issues with whether or not your state tax return is filed in a timely manner. While some states recognize the federal automatic extension of time to file for overseas filers, not all do. And while some states recognize the federal extension to October 15th, others require that a separate state tax return extension be filed. The safest thing to do is to get a start on preparing your tax returns to see if you owe money, file both a federal and state extension, and pay any amounts due. Then you have until October 15th to file the returns. That doesn’t mean you should delay your filing until October – it is easy to forget you haven’t filed after the subject of taxes is off of your mind for several months. Pay timely, and then file as soon as you are sure the returns are complete.


If you have questions you may want to contact a tax professional. Email: info@globaltaxonline.net for more information or go to www.globaltaxonline.net.

This article was submitted by Global Tax. 


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