I moved back and forth to Russia two times, and each time was a little different. I continued to pack my bags lightly for the freedom and flexibility of the moment. I had no problem finding cheap yet safe apartments, saved a great deal of money, and took advantage of the tax treaty between Russia and the United States.
Many countries have such treaties, and finding out about them before making the move is a wise thing to do—40 to 50 percent of your salary can be taxed in some countries. Russia canceled its tax treaty with the United States during my stint there. Before it ended, I was able to keep almost 100 percent of the income I earned outside the United States because
(a) I earned less than the U.S. government limit of $72,000 at the time, and
(b) the U.S.–Russia tax treaty allowed nationals living in the other’s country to be exempt from local taxes.
I say almost 100 percent because, oddly enough, Washington, D.C., required me to continue paying. (And I had to pay double the amount of Social Security and Medicare taxes because as a stringer I was self-employed and had to pay as the employer and the employee.) In the middle of my years as a stringer, the tax treaty was eliminated, and I suddenly owed the Russian government approximately 40 percent of my salary. You just never know who is going to tax you and when it might change, so be prepared!