Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference – Robert Frost

I didn’t think I would have much else to write about during my quarantine stay because all the days are pretty much the same but last week, I was thrown another curve ball that kept things …. interesting.

It was clear from the beginning that I was treading a new path with my trip to China. I don’t think Microsoft Research Beijing has had many internal visitors for an extended stay. Nor have we had many folks with a Chinese R-visa inside of Microsoft, so our processes are not set up for that. I was reminded of that last week when my admin started asking some questions on my behalf regarding my California tax compliance issues. That’s when the tax folks realized I would be in China until September, and they instructed me to come back within 90-days. This is not what I had in mind.

Before I continue with my China adventure, permit me to briefly rant about California’s tax laws and how it impacts me as a Texan citizen. I’m not a tax lawyer and I don’t claim to understand all the details, but I’m on the receiving end of a new process where for every working day I spend in California I have to pay taxes in California. My company will reimburse me for it and keep track of it but it’s going to be a major pain to deal with this. Especially in this case, because the only reason I was in California was to take my COVID19 tests so I could continue my trip to Shanghai. I’m not sure if this was California’s intention, but I’m going to do my utmost best to avoid going to California for business in the future.

Back to my China adventure. I was told to leave China within 90-day. The initial reason I was given was that it was because of tax compliance concerns. After some clarifications it turned out that the corporate tax folks were fine with anything less than 180 days, which made sense to me. The next concern was whether China would allow me to work for more than 90-days. I challenged that concern because the validity of my visa is a 180-days, and its purpose is to collaborate with folks in China. Limiting that to 90-days made no sense to me at all. This started another clarification round.

I just got the clarification back this morning. I am allowed to stay and work in China for up to 180-days on my R-visa. This is unique to my visa, and I can only engage in the following business activities:

  • Attending internal meetings, discussions and conferences
  • Attending client meetings
  • Undertaking sales activities
  • Attending training
  • Performing urgent repairs

The first two bullets pretty much cover what I intend to do so this is exactly the outcome I was looking for.

Throughout all of this, the tax and legal folks were extremely helpful and responsive. They quickly clarified the issues and resolved them. It did have me worried a bit last week. One of the reasons why I’m staying so long is that I want to amortize my quarantine time over as many effective working days as possible. I was not looking forward to reducing that. It’s another example of how I’m doing something unique (and fun!) that pushes the limits and we all learn from that.

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