In April 2011, First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden launched Joining Forces, a national initiative to support and honor America’s service members and their families. The initiative aims to educate, challenge, and spark action from all sectors of our society — citizens, communities, schools, non-profits, faith-based institutions, philanthropic organizations, and government — to ensure military families have the support they have earned. (from the Joining Forces website)
I would like to share a challenge that I see facing many of our Military Families who are stationed overseas.
These are my experiences I would like to share in hopes of starting a discussion to find a good solution for everyone.
Home Based Businesses are an entrepreneurial venue for Military Spouses to earn extra income while living in this transient military lifestyle of moving around the world every two to four years. In fact, Military Spouse Magazine has published several recent articles about the benefits of launching a home-based business that fit both your passions and interests.
The challenge arises, that when living in a foreign country, all of us need to comply with the Status of Forces Agreement or SOFA. This international agreement allows us as family members to live with our service member in Europe, drive our American vehicles, and establishes the rights and privileges of foreign personnel (meaning Americans) present in a host country (ie Germany) meaning OCONUS (Outside the Continental United States).
What does all of this mean?
A year ago, I started asking questions about what I needed to do in order to have this website, Household6Diva.com become a Home Based Business. I wanted permission to sell ad space, use affiliate links, and be paid for producing content for other websites. I also wanted permission to accept compensation for photographing family, maternity, and newborn sessions on site. As an ‘on post’ resident, I first contacted our Army Community Service (ACS) office which directed me to the Human Resources Department where I received two applications.
Basically, I needed to sign an agreement statement that I would not violate any SOFA regulations and provide a summary description of my proposed business. From what I could gather, the packet was then submitted to the Legal department, Family Morale Recreation & Welfare, and AAFES for their recommendations, and finally to the Garrison Commander for the final say.
My blog proposal was approved.
My photography proposal was not – the reason being I would compete with AAFES. (I’ll come back to this.)
It was months later, (my husband deployed and quite frankly, I put this project on the back burner), when I finally went to my local German Town Hall or Rathouse to ask questions as well as legally register my business in Germany. I brought along a printed explanation of what a “blog” was from de.Wikipedia to clear up any information my basic vocabulary couldn’t.
A few weeks later, my tax paperwork arrived to my German mailbox. The clerk who had been so helpful on the day I registered my business, had recommended I visit the Tax Office located across the street to help me with my paperwork when it arrived. Thankfully there was someone in their office who spoke fluent English.
As we sat down to discuss my business, she asked me “How much money are you planning to earn with this if you are planning to leave next summer?”. I responded “Honestly, less than 40 dollars a month – I am just going through the entire process that I’ve been informed I need to – in order to blaze a trail for others.” She was stunned. After more questions, she basically told me what I was doing was just a hobby that wouldn’t even pay for itself considering computer, internet, office space, let alone her fees as an Accountant/Tax advisor. She wrote down my phone number and put my paperwork in a folder and offered to call me back later that day after speaking with the regional finance office in Idar-Oberstein.
A few days later, she contacted me that in this specific case, my blog was not a business that needed to be registered.
So we met again and walked over to the Rathouse to complete backdated paperwork to end my business the day it started.
As for my proposed Photography Business, I spoke with our local AAFES manager who said the decision is made by the next higher level management. Our base had a photography studio in 2007 which closed sometime during 2008. Three or four times a year, a photography business will set up a table in our Post Exchange lobby and make appointments for a two or three day set up in the food court. These are usually themed glamour shot style, vintage style or simple classic family portraits with a backdrop. I decided not to pursue further proposals for this business but instead continue to take photos for my family and dear friends without financial compensation.
I know of only one other approved Home Based Business here in Baumholder and she is a Pampered Chef Consultant. From what I understand, this system works much like an affiliate link – customers order from a website using her consultant code thereby giving her an income. She does not use her personal APO mailbox for distributing items, but instead she is paid for giving the referral to this company.
So for my Military Spouse Readers – Have you ever lived overseas?
What has your experience been with Home Based Businesses on your installation?
Is this an issue for on post or on base residents with HBBs stateside as well? or just for overseas?
Is this an issue for Army installations or other branches as well?