Over the past half-year, tens of thousands of words have swirled around the current situation of extraterritorial citizens of the United States.
In all that flood of comment, one piece stands out for treatment of an important but little-considered facet. Early on, financial planner (fee-for-service) David Christianson squarely addressed the topic of personality in Long arm of American tax law. It is good to see that his perceptive take at Winnipeg Free Press still remains available, just a click away.
A column that Christianson had written the previous week attracted “more emails and phone calls … than any in the last 16 years” of publishing his column. He found it “fascinating to observe the incredible range of reactions.”
Christianson encountered types ranging from rampant deniers to angry defiers to “borderline pathological rule followers … prone to panic.”
At the end the columnist offers a final counsel: “Try to objectively evaluate your reaction to all of this and what it reveals about your money personality.”
Those words resonate. Back in 1988 Katherine Gurney published a memorable book titled with that same phrase: Your Money Personality.
Commonalities can be perceived among the individual personalities that have gravitated into the orbit of Isaac Brock Society. Those commonalities also coalesce to produce a Brocker group personality.
At the same time, we can see big differences among Petros and Blaze and geeez and Mona and Tim and Victoria and Arrow and tiger and Eric and nobledreamer and schubert1975 and Calgary411 and ij and rivka88 and the rest of the numerous crew. Almost 200 of us have names now. (Lots of lurkers out there wondering if/how to transition past pure denial?)
This mess is not just about money. It is about fairness and honesty and justice and freedom. And lots of other things too.
Your Citizenship Personality. Isn’t criticizing and countering and vanquishing the hubris and insensitivity and overreach of United States authorities the most American thing you can do?
Yes, Esther is one of the Grandma’s US Ambassador to Canada talked about, perhaps the very one…
“My message on this one is to sit tight. We are not unreasonable. We are not unsympathetic. We are not irresponsible,” David Jacobson said during a speech to the Canadian Club in Ottawa.” … “The U.S. is not interested in going after 70-year-old grandmothers living on their retirement income in this country, David Jacobson said in a speech to the Canadian Club of Ottawa. “Nonetheless,” he added, “grandma could be theoretically subject to serious penalties.”
Just why have we not heard further from Ambassador David Jacobson?
Esther Thompson, 70, and her sister Betty, 69, both married to retired farmers living near Prince Albert, Sask., are among those who have come unhappily forward to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service under a voluntary disclosure program.
Esther first heard about the IRS campaign when she read a media report in August. She told her sister and the two, who were born in Minnesota but are long-time Canadian citizens, consulted with an international accountant and decided to “come clean” even though neither owes taxes in the United States.
The sisters have struggled with anxiety over the situation — Betty says she lost five pounds since hearing of the policy — and worry that they will owe tens of thousands of dollars in penalties for failing to disclose their bank accounts sooner.
“When you’re our age and you’ve saved money for your old age and you wanted to be self-supporting, it’s a lot of money. To us it is, maybe to them it’s not, but we think it is. And it’s our money,” Esther says.
Both Thompson sisters share joint accounts with their husbands and worry that penalties will be assessed on the days in which the accounts held significant sums after a big grain sale, for example, despite the fact that they were quickly drained to pay bills.
… notes that Canada has a tax treaty with the United States to avoid double taxation and with foreign tax credits, most of those who file returns will not end up owing tax money.
But they’re still spending thousands on accounting and legal fees. The Thompsons have racked up $6,000 each so far. Other estimates have put the total cost of compliance at $10,000 to $15,000.
Accusing the United States of scaring “honest and law-abiding” people including many senior citizens, Mr. Flaherty said the crackdown, “would turn Canadian banks into extensions of the IRS and would raise significant privacy concerns for Canadians.”
The “threat of prohibitive fines for simply failing to file a return they were unaware they had to file is a frightening prospect that is causing unnecessary stress and fear,” he said. “These are not high rollers with offshore bank accounts.”
The Thompsons have written to their Member of Parliament.
For now though, those like Esther and Betty Thompson, who have come forward to the U.S. government are waiting to see what happens.
“I’ve kind of gotten over the fear factor and can function a bit,” Betty says. “Now I just feel like it’s in God’s hands.”
Thanks for the update. This is a story of the gravest injustice. Obviously they had very bad legal and accounting advice. Leaving aside the horrible stress, anxiety and terror, the IRS helped by the “cross border professionals” have stolen (what I expect is) a good portion of her life savings.
In spite of what Jacobson said, the “70 Year old grandmas” are really being hurt by this. It is a legally sanctioned form of “elder abuse”.
It is beyond my comprehension how Shulman can live with himself.
Anyway, thanks for following up on this.
A warm welcome to the Isaac Brock Society. It’s a great place – with a lot of great people. It’s interesting how the comments often move the intent of a post in a different direction.
What struck me about these comments is that one can feel the excruciating pain, the agony, the fear, the uncertainty, the despair, the anger, the rage, the sense of betrayal, and in some cases the unbelievably intense hatred of the U.S. government.
I do believe that many people on this board have never experienced the range and intensity of emotions they are feeling today.
As noted by Pacifica777:
“This horrible gamut of emotions and mood swings seems to be universal, and statistically, I would guess that few of us have ever had to deal with such extreme feelings before, so it’s so unfamiliar that it’s scary. I have never felt such intensity of emotions and such a bizarre range of them, nothing close to it, ever. This US mess just takes over one’s life, feeling like caught in a complex trap, that it will never end.
Though it’s not over yet, I have found as time went on, while I still feel an amazing range of emotions, they don’t seem to be so intense and overpowering. For a couple of months, it overtook all of my life — with such an overpowering complex confusing situation, it was hard to focus on anything else. Eight months on, it is still, unfortunately, a big part of my life, but slowly I’ve found more and more of my normal life, and my normal personality, returning. It’s still a big problem but not overwhelming everything else.”
“I’m hoping you are just joking in your comment about wanting to jump from a tall building, but I fear you may be serious. Another person has expressed similar disturbing thoughts. Many of us have had sleepless nights, health challenges, strained marriages and personal relationships, expensive accountants and lawyers who are draining retirement savings, difficulties at work, worry about Canadian born children, etc.”
JustMe (in his infinite wisdom) has said that it is important to not hate. It will only destroy the person doing the hating. You need to be focused, methodical, purposeful and committed to achieving whatever course of action you decide is best for you. You said that you felt “criminalized”. I understand. If you are not careful, and if you allow yourself to feel “criminalized” long enough, you may actually believe that you have done something wrong. You have done NOTHING wrong (and chances are that you have done a lot right). You are on the receiving end of a vicious assault by an unprincipled vicious debt-ridden thug – The United States of America.
I want to add one more thought to this moment of “collective psychotherapy”.
There is good news and bad news.
First, the good news. You do NOT live in the U.S. You live in Canada. You are in a situation that any sane person would dream to be in. Sure, Canada has its problems. But, lurking beneath all the problems is a basic assumption of fairness, justice and decency. I repeat you live in Canada. In addition to the good things I just mentioned, you have the benefit of the tax treaty. Canada will not collect FBAR penalties. Furthermore, (I don’t have stats on this), but I suspect that a large number of U.S. citizens here are also Canadian citizens (giving them political power).
Second, the bad news. As horrible as this situation is (and it is a nightmare for most), you must go on with your life. At least in my case (and I suspect most of you) that life is a life shared with non-U.S. citizens. This is a very important point.
The Obama/IRS/Levin assault cannot be understood by anybody unless they are a U.S. citizen living outside the U.S. To be specific, they cannot understand your rage and anger. They cannot understand your feeling of injustice. They cannot understand the intensity of your emotions. They cannot understand your sense of betrayal. They cannot possibly understand these things because they are not experiencing it (and probably will never experience anything like it). So, don’t expect the understanding from them that you really need.
My point: You need to be very careful to not allow any of this to damage the valuable relationships in your life – friends, marriage, work, extended family, etc.
We are in a situation where we are in a sense forced to protect ourselves from a repressive government. This is has gone on throughout history. Never did I believe, that government would be, (according to Margaret Thatcher) the United States –that “Great Citadel of Freedom and Justice”. But, that’s what is happening.
I once met a man who had escaped from another repressive government. He wanted his children to be well educated – commenting that, the only thing that a government couldn’t take from you was your knowledge/education. It’s not the only thing they can’t take. They can’t take your attitude, or your capacity to tell right from wrong. Unless of course you let them (and we wouldn’t let than happen, now would we)!
Take the weekend off from your worry. You deserve it.
Renounce and rejoice!
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Good question. Not being a lawyer, I am not 100% sure. However, in a previous post on IBS, I told of a seminar held at University of British Columbia by Davis and Co. (a very large reputable law firm in Vancouver). At that seminar, the presenter, stated up front that anyone who had become a Canadian prior to 1986 had relinquished their U.S.citizenship and was no longer a Canadian.
I was very curious about that statement as I had become Canadian in 1972. What I found was a 1986 amendment to the Immigration and Nationality Act. In short, prior to 1986, DOS had to assume that the INTENT was to lose U.S. citizenship and therefore you did lose it. After 1986, it was not so cut and dried. They then followed up in 1990 with a Directive to all of their worldwide embassies that it was to be assumed by DOS that when an individual took out citizenship in another country, they INTENDED to retain their U.S. citizenship.
Of course, after you performed the expatriating act of citizenship in a foreign country, you could not do anything to negate the relinquishment; such as, voting in a U.S.election, applying for a U.S. passport, filing U.S tax returns, spending too many days in a year in the U.S.
As I say, I am not a lawyer, but I must presume that the lawyer presenting the seminar to faculty and retired faculty would have done her homework. What I, personally, am still unsure of, is it necessary to present oneself at a U.S.consulate and apply for the CLN. I am quite confident that should you choose to do that, and can prove your citizenship was pre 1986 and you did nothing since that date to negate the relinquishment, the CLN would be forthcoming. What I am unsure of, is whether the IRS would still expect 5+ years of tax forms.
Hope this helps.
Re-reading your post, it looks like you were one of the lucky ones having received notification from DOS that they were aware of your expatriating act. I would think you have nothing to worry about. I sure wish I had one of those letters. I have actually stayed awake at night, wondering what I possibly could do in front of the U.S.consulate, that they might think of as a “treasonous act” and I would receive a “go away” letter. However, as my youngest son said to me – “the things you are thinking of doing, will get you a cell in some prison”.
I think it’s time for the grannies to stike back and get some revenge! 🙂
The two guys in the begining were Schulman and Geithner! 🙂
Whoa! Had to go off line yesterday shortly after my 2nd post and in reading all these additional encouraging posts this morning… I’m completely overwhelmed. You guys are awesome.
At the risk of lengthening this thread to nearly the proportions of the US tax code, I wanted to poke even further out of my turtle shell and tell you all a wee bit more of my own specifics. (baby steps, y’know)
I have lived and worked in Canada for 44 yrs, retired from the work force 12 yrs ago, so I owe the US gov’t absolutely zippo in terms of straight income tax. It’s the FBAR penalties and legal fees that would wipe us out. I’ve been married for 30 blissful years to a wonderful Canadian (man, we grow ’em cute up here), who was going to retire this year, but that’s pretty much out the window now. And I never thought I’d be saying this, but thankfully we were never blessed with children so that particular disaster is avoided. My heart absolutely goes out to those of you with “Accidental American” children.
I didn’t apply for Canadian citizenship 30 years ago –(when yes, TomOn, they DID say back then that you would automatically lose your US citizenship if you took Canadian citizenship and especially if you voted in any Canadian election)– only because of some stupid sense of loyalty I thought I owed my Dad, a former US Marine living in Calif., who is rather fanatical about the Red White and Blue. My mom passed 17 years ago, but it kills me to think I might never be able to see my Dad again. We have visited every summer for the past 7 years, but it was weirdly dicey driving back across the border last November after a family reunion celebrating Dad’s 90th birthday… getting asked all kinds of strange questions at the Canadian border about a Permanent Residence card that I didn’t have. I have my original landed immigrant papers, but hadn’t bothered getting a PR card–which I’ve now applied for. That’s why I started looking into this stuff in January. Dad’s in pretty good shape for his age right now, but when he passes there will be inheritance issues which will force me into the spotlight of the IRS quite rapidly. I’ve seriously considered asking him to take me out of his will, but that will necessitate the discussion of WHY, and I really don’t want to destroy his strongly held (if mistaken) belief in “America the Beautiful” in his last days/years.
So yes, renounceuscitizenship, this whole deal has already started to “damage the valuable relationships in my life”. This morning, I finally confessed to my husband (to whom I’d been trying to hide my insanity, but not very successfully) about my posting on this blog and my intentions to get active in letter-writing campaigns, and invited him to sit down and read through some of this web site. Surprisingly, Mr. Mellow is cool with it! So while I will try not to hate (as suggested by JustMe, not so easy to do right now) maybe, just maybe this terrapin turtle is going to morph into the true snapper she was meant to be.
@UncleTell, Very Cute!!
Every time I get that down and out feeling, this songs always pops into my head! And for some reason I start to feel better, because with or without the IRS and with or without US citizenship the earth keeps on spinning!!!
And when I get really MAD at this whole situation, like was posted here before some place that I can’t find right now 🙂
This scene from a movie comes to mind, and I picture Schulman, Geithner and the US President gettin an ear full!!!! 🙂
Sorry in advance for the faul language. 😳
Excellent “collective psychotherapy”. addition to this thread. I recommend to all readers.
@UncleTell I really love your Monty Python selections of Youtube videos. This is causing me a much needed distraction this morning! The Galaxy song is a classic!
@calgary411 Thanks for re-posting the Grandmother story. That was one of the first I read when I was becoming aware of all the fuss north of the border that is still mostly ignored in the US media, It was this along with the Margaret Wente editorial that got me looking north for hope. Sadly she has been quiet since then.
If there is anyone new that hasn’t read that one, I would recommend it to you. See @Joe Smith
MARCH 9, 2012 AT 6:01 PM post above.
@fullTurtle, many of the things you said are so very like the things in my head. Thank you for your very eloquent posts – it has helped me too. I’ve been telling my spouse about all this, and slowly, due to sharing the stories and information here, there is a much clearer picture and more understanding of the situation – and hopefully enough impetus to energize our significant others to get out there as NON-US citizens – to pull with us and pressure our respective governments – wherever we are located!
To @Petros for starting this big ball rolling and to @All – your responses, (too many to list – I can’t keep straight to detail here), you and your excellent points individually, and for those with linked blogs and tweets and conferring with lawyers, and ……. thank you again – many a day my sanity and my family relationships have been preserved by channelling my fear, anger, and sadness into reading, researching and posting here – so your comments on this thread, and welcome to fullTurtle are a comfort to me and MANY others as well. I have been sending the links and excerpts on to two others directly, and they have 5 or 6 others that they know are affected and are sharing the information … and on and on it goes….’onwards and upwards’!
@Moby and @Just Me, I just passed on the information about the TAS, and options re Opting out, and Minnows, to another UScitizen in OVDI about to consult expensive lawyers and accountants… the good you have done is immense. We are forever indebted to you.
The FBAR and FATCA threat to the privacy and joint assets of all the NON-US citizen children, spouses and relatives in sovereign countries – outside the US cannot be dismissed on the basis of toxic US status – so they must be made public – and only the non-US citizens can do that effectively – because their interests cannot be dismissed by propaganda (as ‘evaders’ and ‘cheats’). Wish CBC would do a show on that – what could be more Canadian!
There is one more video that is a must see to cheer up the OVDI dreary! . “Always look on the Bright Side of Life”
I would try embedding it, but that feature seems to be turned off on Youtube, so here is the link…
I am amazed, but it worked! 🙂
Great minds think alike 🙂
I wanted to post “The Bright Side” too, but you beat me to it. 🙂
I posted this earlier, but not sure if you have seen it. I bet this I what it must be like at one of those IRS customer service centers 🙂
I haven’t seen that one in a long time. Now you have totally ruined my productive morning, as I am wasting time clicking away entertaining myself with new(old) clips! LOL
Well enjoy then,it’s bedtime for me now.
Update for @All,
@ renouncecitizenship, @All,
I just got this email re http://business.financialpost.com/2011/09/24/u-s-campaign-to-catch-tax-cheats-snaring-canadians/
I had the pleasure of meeting and visiting with Esther Thompson yesterday. When Esther arrives home, she will be researching this site and, hopefully, we will be hearing from her (perhaps as Grandma101).
@Calagary411… Christine Dobby did a very good job writing up that story. I refer to it often, as it put such a human face on this acronym laden story. Hope we hear from a Grandma101
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