This is a post I wrote this morning and put up on the Flophouse. I know that most of you already know all this but I wanted to gather together the links and publish an argument for why FATCA concerns everyone, not just U.S. Citizens or Green Card Holders abroad. It may be obvious to us but not everyone understands what this law will mean for them. I’m still getting way too many people telling me that FATCA is justified to catch those “evil tax evaders” or that it isn’t their problem because they are not Americans (are you sure about that, folks?) This is my answer.
There is a petition up on Signon.org that is calling for the repeal of FATCA (Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act), the U.S. law which has terrible ramifications both for the U.S. and all other countries. It would require foreign banks to report the account information of all U.S. persons (U.S. citizens and Green Card holders) to the American IRS and imposes draconian fines on foreign entities for non-compliance.
Some of the Americans in the homeland I’ve talked to about this argue that this is a necessary evil and how else is the U.S. to find “tax evaders?” Well, that does kind of assume that Americans abroad are criminals and must prove that their checking, savings, retirement and children’s college funds have not been established for nefarious purposes. One would think that the burden would be on the U.S. government to prove that something criminal has indeed taken place and it is very hard to see what an American expatriate is doing wrong when he or she sets up a savings account for a minor child at a local bank.
Some of the Europeans I’ve talked to have said simply that this is an American problem and since they are not Americans it does not concern them.
I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings, my friends, but this legislation concerns everyone in all countries. Jean-Jacques Rommes, head of the Luxembourg Banking Association, explains why in this presentation given to Democrats Abroad not too long ago. Here are the different victims of this law and the impact it will have on them:
European (and all other) countries: It is an affront to national sovereignty because it by-passes local governments. It is nothing less than the application of American law to people living in other countries with all the inconvenience for local citizens and potential conflicts with local law. How would Americans feel if Canada, Mexico or France demanded that U.S. banks report directly to their tax agencies over the head and without the consent of the U.S. government?
Europeans: Europeans (and people in other countries) will have to prove to their banks that they are not American citizens or Green Card holders. Imagine that. A French person, for example, will have to prove to their local bank that they have no connection to the U.S. (not born in the U.S., no U.S. born parent and no lengthy periods of residence in the U.S.) In addition to this, all banks that comply with FATCA must update their IT systems and the costs will be very high indeed. Who do you think is going to pay for this? Certainly not the U.S. government or U.S. citizens in the homeland. No, the cost will be borne by all account holders at that bank (my French neighbor, for example, or my former colleagues) whether it is the BNP, the Caisse d’Epargne or any other non-US bank.
Americans Abroad: U.S. persons will be discriminated against. Their accounts will be closed by banks that do not wish to take on the administrative burden of having U.S. clients. Americans abroad will become “toxic liabilities” to be shed as quickly as possible. American businessmen and women in overseas companies will see their authority over company funds stripped from them. Any American wanting to start a business venture with a non-US company will be gently but firmly told to take his expertise and his money somewhere else.
Americans in the U.S.: The impact on the American economy cannot be overstated. There will be a massive disinvestment of foreign capital and assets out of the United States. FATCA gives foreign companies and investors a very good reason to avoid the U.S. entirely. This means fewer jobs for Americans. This means fewer opportunities for American business. The result of FATCA will be Americans and American companies shut out of the globalization game (which may actually be very much to the benefit of America’s competition, like China or the EU, in the global marketplace).
The Repeal Fatca petition was started by Rami S. who was kind enough to share her motivations with me for getting involved in fighting FATCA:
I am an American citizen by birth, and have had the broadening experience of living most of my life outside of the US. I have many beloved family members still in the US, and a far-flung and international clan, ever more international with each marriage it seems! My roots are deep enough to be a “daughter of the American Revolution”, and, with each generation, there has been in and out migration. To me, this is a fact of modern life — and life long before the modern era!
I value my American citizenship, I identify as an American. I passionately love the geography of my birthplace… I am as active politically as I can be, from abroad, because I think America needs and benefits from the influence of its citizens who contribute an international, global perspective as a check to isolationism and insularity. We are all connected, in every way…
FATCA and FBAR are policies that radically trespass the normal bounds of international tax law and victimize expats, who, appreciated or not, are valuable citizens…
I could not have said it better myself. I urge each and every one of you, U.S. person or not, to sign this petition and send a clear message to the U.S. Congress and President Obama. The petition is here.
Once you’ve done that head over to the American Citizens Abroad site and the Isaac Brock Society to see how you can get further involved.
If you are an EU citizen the following MEP’s and activists are challenging FATCA and trying to get a debate started in the European Parliament. Send them an email: Jan Philipp Albrecht (Germany), Rui Tavares (Portugal), Raül Romeva i Rueda (Spain), Judith Sargentini (Netherlands), Cornelia Ernst (Germany), Miguel Portas (Portugal), Marisa Matias(Portugal), Sophia in ‘t Veld (Netherlands), Sylvie Goulard (France), Sonia Alfano (Italy), Alexander Alvaro, Baroness Sarah Ludford (United Kingdom), Theodoros Skylakakis (Greece), Ramon Tremosa i Balcells (Spain), Philippe De Backer (Belgium), Jens Rohde (Denmark), Stanimir Ilchev (Bulgaria), Giommaria Uggias (Italy).
And, if you are an American citizen, register to vote!