Once again the staff at London Underground have decided to go on strike, causing misery for London’s commuters. This time it’s over the closure of ticket offices in some suburban underground stations. US expats in London that have lived here for a while will be well accustomed to periodic strikes by London Underground staff, as they tend to happens every few years.
It looks like this week we can expect that less that 40% of all trains will be running, with some Tube lines better than others. As a consequence of the strike, thousands of commuters will travel by road, bike or on foot to get to and from work.
It’s not just strikes that cripple the Underground train service. Transport for London is currently in the process of major improvement to several Tube lines. At the moment there is usually at least one Tube line closed during the weekend, which causes overcrowding on those lines that aren’t closed. Plus, night time engineering works often over run, causing delay for the morning commute. While an improved Underground system is good news for everyone, including those moving to London, using the Tube while the engineering work is underway can be tough.
This week’s industrial action on the Underground once again highlights the importance of living in an area of town with access to more than one type of public transportation. Certainly US expats in London should bear this in mind when they move to London. Being able to jump on a bus or “Overground” train that will take you into central London makes getting around town much easier for a US expat in London if there is a problem with their local Tube line.
Generally, the more centrally you live that easier it is to get around town with alternative methods of transport. People moving to London and trying to decide which area of town they should live in, should also bear in mind getting around town should the mainstay of transport in London – the Underground – be unavailable.
Of course, there is a downside to renting centrally located properties for US expats in London, and it hits you where it hurts…your expat finances. Generally, rental prices for nice neighbourhoods that are centrally located and well serviced by a range of public transportation are more expensive than property that is further out of town with limited transportation options. If you are moving to London, you’ll have to consider the importance of living more centrally and how this could affect your expat finances.
The good news – at least as far as your expat finances goes – is that as a US expat in London you may be able to take advantage of Foreign Housing Exclusion in your US taxes, depending on your personal circumstances. If you qualify, this housing exclusion could give your expat finances a real boost.
To find out more about the Foreign Housing Exclusion and how it could affect your expat finances, you may want contact an accountancy firm that specializes in US taxes for American living overseas.
Living in London is expensive, so it makes good sense to do what you can to reduce your costs, including getting tax advice from experienced experts.