TL; DR: MyExpatTaxes is an online tax prep service designed for American taxpayers living abroad. The platform was founded by four former Cisco employees who wanted to simplify the filing process and serve the unique tax needs of expats. Ultimately, the cloud-hosted service aims to make tax preparation a more positive, streamlined experience for its customers.
Tax season is complicated enough for most people living in the United States. But expats have an entirely different experience trying to keep up with the changing tax rules and regulations for Americans living abroad.
Many Americans view living overseas as an adventure, but unforeseen tax problems can take away from the fun — even once they’ve returned.
Nathalie Goldstein was one of those Americans who left her job in Silicon Valley and moved to Austria for love and fresh job opportunities. When she found a job in Vienna, she knew she’d still have to pay U.S. taxes, but had no idea how complicated her situation would get.
“One day, she comes back into the office, and she was very upset. She owed taxes, but the accountant was U.S.-based and entered her address as Australia, not Austria. The letter took months to finally reach her,” said Markus Finster, Co-Founder of MyExpatTaxes.
Nathalie and three former Cisco employees founded MyExpatTaxes to make tax filing easier for expats and help others avoid her terrible tax experience.
While working together, the four founders casually shared their future career plans and talked about the work they found meaningful. Managing global teams felt too distant from the customer experience, Markus remembered saying.
“And it was very Excel-spreadsheet based, and reliant on PowerPoint,” he said. “It was interesting, rewarding work, but the stuff that we did was more removed from the end customer.”
So they began developing MyExpatTaxes in their spare time, and eventually grew it into a business that helps bring peace of mind to American expats living around the world.
Helping Clients File Basic and Sophisticated Returns
Although the team didn’t immediately leave Cisco, their initial conversations over a few months formed the basis of MyExpatTaxes. As they sought a specific problem the platform could solve for customers, Nathalie again brought up her tax experience in Austria.
Once they had that focus, the team met at one of their homes and spent an afternoon drawing a database model and user experience interface on paper across the living room floor.
Six months later, they launched a version of MyExpatTaxes to help people with basic U.S. tax issues. When they started accepting applications from users who could serve as beta testers in exchange for free access. The team hoped to find 10 people for the trial, but they heard from 35 people after the first week.
“‘Let’s see if we can charge people. Maybe they will pay us for it,’” Markus said the team thought before taking the site public.
MyExpatTaxes exceeded its first-year revenue goal of $1,000 by bringing in $10,000. When that first tax season ended, the four turned their efforts to building out the product for the next season.
Many tax preparation companies essentially capture information online through a form and hand that directly to tax preparers. Then, those preparers simply add the data to other tax software to run calculations instead of using a proprietary system. Others require that all taxpayers speak with an accountant, and not every expat needs a personal consultation. That can add complexity and create barriers to successful tax filing, according to Markus.
Filers often don’t want to hire an accountant and prefer the privacy of filing their taxes on their own. During a crisis, including the COVID-19 pandemic, reaching an accountant quickly may also be challenging. MyExpatTaxes is cloud-hosted and provides a high-quality online filing experience. That offers a significant advantage in a market where many companies don’t reduce tax filing complexity.
Cloud-Hosted Software Makes Tax Accounting More Accessible
By the time the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, Markus said that MyExpatTaxes was well-positioned to help affected users. That’s because taxpayers who wanted to receive stimulus payments had to file their taxes to be eligible.
Businesses and individuals needed their tax information to apply for pandemic relief — regardless of where in the world they lived or worked. Arguably, many Americans living overseas now had an incentive and motivation to file. They often turned to the cloud-hosted MyExpatTaxes platform to simplify and expedite the process.
“A lot of people couldn’t get in touch with their accountants. Almost every country in the world had these health programs where you had to apply to get business loans,” Markus said. “And in most countries, these are done through tax accountants.”
According to Markus, many tax preparation websites and services received a notable bump during the pandemic as a significant number of new customers who had never filed tax returns reached out for help.
MyExpatTaxes continued to expand the range of tax situations its service covers in response to that increase in demand. Markus said that, with that additional coverage, the platform can now cover approximately 95% of all tax situations. In addition, the MyExpatTaxes customer service team often recommends a conversation with a tax accountant for the remaining 5% of customers.
Markus also said that providing authentic customer service means connecting to everyday people’s problems and providing genuine solutions. And MyExpatTaxes values those interactions.
MyExpatTaxes: Transparency Enhances Customer Experience
MyExpatTaxes customers receive reassurance and professionalism along with tax services. Markus said he still responds to many customer service requests himself, and he loves taking the opportunity to reassure concerned customers about their tax situations.
“The best moments are when people come in and say, ‘I’m so scared about doing taxes. I’m scared of the IRS and that they’ll seize what little assets I have.’ And I get to tell them, ‘You’ll be fine. We’re here to help you. It’s going to be okay,’” Markus said.
MyExpatTaxes can also add a new form in a couple of days, allowing the company to add coverage for emerging tax situations quickly.
Employees are also trained not to push MyExpatTaxes using high-pressure sales. Markus said that approach makes the initial conversation easier and can make tax filing a more positive experience for customers.
“We try to make filing taxes enjoyable. And for us, the U.S. tax space is the first of many that we want to explore. When it comes to taxes, the borders are still very much a very hard place.”
And MyExpatTaxes aims to make living and working in those places a little easier for its customers through its transparent, cloud-hosted tax platform.