Sunday, August 31, 2014

Swedish People Love Taxes- YES! The Popular Skatteverket

83% of Swedes approve of their tax agency, the Skatteverket. 83%! I am not making up this statistic. Can you imagine that stat being aired on Fox News in reference to the IRS?? I can imagine hell freezing over too.

How Much?
Skatteverket offices
So Swedes must pay 5% taxes, right? Some paltry sum that they could hardly even bother over.
Not even close! Sweden has one of the highest effective tax rates in the world! In addition to paying sometimes in excess of 60% of their income in taxes, there's also a "hidden" 25% VAT (Value Added Tax) on goods sold.

So Helpful!
Like most things in Sweden, the agency runs efficiently. Letters from the Skatteverket often give the name and direct phone number of the employee dealing with your case, leading to quick and personal service. Tax returns arrive already filled out each year, all you have to do is sign your name. You can send in your return by a phone app.

Big Brother?
In addition to collecting gobs of money, the beloved Skatteverket has further powers- they choose your Swedish baby's name!
Well... okay, slight exaggeration ... but they do have the ability to veto names registered by parents who apparently have little interest in living vicariously through their children, as "Sickboy," "Metallica," "Dotcom" and "Krank" have all ended up on the Skatteverket cutting room floor.

Know thy Constituency
In a cunning political strategy, attempting to ride the wave of the Skatteverket popularity back into office, an incumbent Swedish government actually proposed tax increases as a tool to increase their popularity!
Every American voter looking positively dumbfounded
This with the Swedish public sector already making about half the overall economy!

Am I missing Something?
American: "Great, so they're highly efficient at extracting money from their population, they're Big brother and know everything about you, Swedes have the highest tax rate in the world, and the politicians propose more tax?!"
Swede: "They won."
American (bewildered): "Don't you think paying 70% in taxes is already too god damn high?"
Swede: (shrugging) "Perhaps, but I feel that I am getting something for it."

Swedes do see benefits, namely ultra cheap health care and free education, an excellent system of public transportation (though this comes with extra costs) and relatively generous subsidies to low-income households that keep the poverty rate and inequality low, helping to create a society without a lot of friction or crime, which was actually one of the great things I found about living in Sweden.

Unlike America, whose citizens don't see as visible a return on their tax dollar, in part because so much of it goes to the military (which helps protect the rest of the world mind you, and saves other countries from greater expense in the area) Swedes are generally okay with sky-high taxes because people trust the administration to use their tax money in an effective manner.
The goal has always been to create as equal conditions as possible for everyone. In fact, a  growing number of Swedes would accept even higher taxes to pay for a largely fair and well-functioning society.

So, my friends, if you're tired of the drones at the IRS, and you've fallen in love with the Skatteverket, (as you rightfully should) you can always renounce your American citizenship, move to Sweden, and empty your pockets. Hey, at least the babes are hot.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Easiest Way to Get a Visa To Russia in Prague, Czech Republic

As I am often finding myself looking for helpful information on getting visas online, I found the easiest way, and likely the cheapest way to get a visa to Russia in Prague.

I tried in Finland, and wasted GOBS of time. In Prague, it was super easy, and way cheaper. Just go to the below address, or call them. They speak English, they were helpful, you fill out a SHORT form, hand them 3,200 CZK, and bam, you are done. Pick up your passport when they tell you (mine took a week) and that was that. They came through, it was easy, nearly painless, and reliable.

CRC Consulting website -- it might be in Russian, but just call them and they speak English!
HIGHLY recommend! Now, if someone could help me get a Chinese visa here in Mongolia ... :)

CRC Consulting
+420 222 317 644
Office Center Zircon, Sokolov 131/86, 186 00 Prague - Karlin, Czech Republic

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A Taste of Lisbon Portugal via her Architecture + Buildings- Mellow Mellow

Shark Fin Towers

colorful Lisbon condo building

Cool structure downtwn

Architecture of Lisbon

cool buildings in Lisbon

the ubiquitous bakery 
I exit my hotel, and walk down the street. Immediately to my right is a castle, right smack dab in the middle of Portugal’s capital city. I look around, no one but me is giving it so much as a second look. No tourists are lined up around it to get in, just the fence and the castle walls and turrets. It seems a little surreal.
I continue down the road, and walk through the park. 
the park
Portugal, is definitely one of the mellowest capital cities on earth. This will be a short short post and just enjoy the photos and get a feel for the place.  click here to read a funny story that occurred in this mellow city, 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Budapest- One of the World's Prettiest Cities- pictorial

Budapest is one of the world's prettiest cities. I don't have too much to say about it, so enjoy the pictorial and the vid. :)
Lion bridge

check out this talented musician, relying on tourist tips. I gave :)

Hungarian parliament by the Danube river

Amongst the pretty flowers

Monday, August 4, 2014

Tivoli Amusement Park- Utterly Charming, Copenhagen's Only Must See

I walk to the park entrance, $20 to enter with no ride.
"Is it worth it?" I ask the ticket vendor behind the window.
"If I had never seen Tivoli I would certainly pay the entry fee to walk around."

I was not disappointed.
The inspiration for Disneyland, was created in 1843 when Tivoli's  founder successfully petitioned the Danish king (not Hamlet, he was dead) by arguing that, "when the people are amusing themselves, they do not think about politics." He was instantly granted 15 acres. 
You'd think that Iran would invest in better entertainment than veiled women and fiery Anti-Israeli speeches, instead of arresting people in the for dancing in the street to the song, "Happy." 

But back to Tivoli. It's absolutely impossible not to be enchanted with the place. It's cute, charming, beautiful, well kept, has a friendly joyous atmosphere, and is located right in the heart of Copenhagen. It truly was the only thing in Denmark I would describe as a "must visit," and just look at the photos and video below to get a feel of what you'll find there on a warm summer day,  

The beautiful Peacock Theater in Tivoli

Taj Mahal replica with a nicer garden area

flowers and water in Tivoli, hard to go wrong

A video tour of Tivoli! 

pretty colors + flowers

a large bumblebee gathering pollen

yeah, so pretty

Avast ye Matey!