I received a regular email from Logos Bible Software offering a sweepstakes for a Doctor of Ministry scholarship worth several thousands of dollars. However, on the rule page it states:
Logos Sweepstakes (the “Sweepstakes”) is open only to legal residents of the fifty (50) United States and the District of Columbia over the age of 18 with access to the Internet at all times during the Sweepstakes and subsequent prize-award period unless otherwise specified by Logos.
It seems to me that if the United States expects it citizens abroad to pay their “fair share” of taxes, that there should be laws against discriminating against them in this manner. If they want our money, we should have rights.
I wonder if anyone else has seen rules like this in other sweepstakes or contests.
*Petros, This is not too uncommon. I have seen things like this before. This is for residents of the US, regardless of citizenship. It is not uncommon to exclude persons who are US citizens but who are residents of Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, Guam and other US territories, even though they are qualified to vote in US elections.
US citizens who are residents of Puerto Rico, by the way, are not qualified to vote in US elections. This is a result of a Congressional Act from shortly after Puerto Rico was ceeded to the US by Spain by the 1898 Treaty of Paris. US citizens who are bona-fide residents of Puerto Rico are also not subject to US income tax on Puerto Rico source income.
There are also scholarships offered by institutions in the US for which only persons of foreign citizenship qualify. You have GOTto be a foreigner in order to qualify. Are there any like that in Canada excluively available to persons with non-Canadian citizenship?
Most of these “foreign” scholarships forget that there are some foreign citizens who are also US citizens. We had a friend in Brazil who had dual US – Brazilian citizenship who discovered this loophole and took advantage of it to obtain a scholarship to earn a Masters degree at University of Chicago that was available to foreign students.
Almost every sweepstake or commercial contest I’ve seen in the US has this rule. Sometimes they also include Canada or US territories like Puerto Rico. I think that the sweepstakes have to satisfy the laws of the place of residence of the people who enter them, and it’s not practical to try to satisfy the laws of many jurisdictions. I understand your frustration, but I don’t really think that this policy is discriminatory to expats as it is not a government service. Banks, credit card companies, insurance companies and even online stores in the US often require a US address too.
Let me rephrase what I wrote above. I don’t think it would be right for individuals or private companies to discriminate based on various aspects of a person, such as involuntary physical characteristics, and this is prohibited by law in many situations. However, in many cases I don’t think it’s wrong for companies to discriminate based on place of residence, but the US government should not do that if it wants to tax its citizens abroad.
This is only sort of related (but I don’t know where else to put it). I was looking at Amazon’s Mechanical Turk – a sort of online marketplace where you can earn miniscule amounts of money for performing repetitive tasks. It’s open to people around the word — except U.S. citizens living outside of the U.S. As their FAQ states: “Unfortunately, US citizens living outside the United States are not allowed to work on Mechanical Turk.”
A lot of these rules also only apply to citizen only and also discriminate againt legal foreign residents.
I received frequently junk mail from the Award Verification Center (timeshare business), that claim that you have won a prize, and to receive it, you have to attend a timeshare presentation. But the fine print says that it is for US citizen only.
When it suits Americans to ignore local laws it’s ok. I.e., FATCA.
@TooMuchCoffee, This is very strange. My guess is that Mechanical Turk’s system has a technical limitation that does not allow a person to fill in the required US taxpayer information with a foreign address. Another example of the problems of citizenship-based taxation.
@Christophe, As far as I know, in the US only the government (or a company under a government contract in some cases) can discriminate between US citizens and legal US residents who are citizens of other countries. When companies say they restrict something to “US citizens only”, they are often incorrectly using that term to include US permanent residents as well, or the person who mentions it is not knowledgeable about the situation. I’ve seen both. I doubt that the timeshare business is under a government contract that would restrict them to sell only to US citizens.
@Petros, Good catch.
Governments really have to accept the fact that their laws are not valid outside their own borders. That’s why treaties exist.
@ Shadow Raider
“My guess is that Mechanical Turk’s system has a technical limitation that does not allow a person to fill in the required US taxpayer information with a foreign address. Another example of the problems of citizenship-based taxation.”
I can vouch for inadequate computer systems in the USA regarding Canadian postal codes — some just can’t input them. We had a year long battle with a major health insurance company trying to get them to send all their correspondence (including bills) regarding his mother to my husband here in Canada. (My husband has Power of Attorney.) We lost the battle and the best they could do was to mail everything to his uncle in a different state who then bundles it all up and sends it along to Canada for us. Needless to say this causes serious delays in this company getting paid. I have told them just exactly what I think of their inadequate computer system — I get cranky after an hour on the phone.
I mentioned this on Congressman John Tierney’s facebook page and he responded by deleting my comment and blocking me from making further comments. So much for his thought of being “fair” to the middle working class.
@swisspinoy What exactly did you mention? The exclusion of US citizens abroad from Sweepstakes?
Yes, I mentioned the exclusion of US citizens abroad from sweepstakes, Barns & Noble, Amazon services, from State Farm investment services, the differences with Schwabs, getting a drivers license/id card, issues of residency, first/second/investment property, foreign pension funds…. I’m just beginning to learn about all of the differences myself and starting to document them. When an American abroad applies for a loan to get their first and only home in the US, they are told by some lenders that it can only be an investment property, while other lenders allow 2nd home rates, but all probably make Americans abroad file similar to aliens and nobody accepts an American’s US home as their US home if they work abroad. Americans abroad are denied the Homestead exclusion on property taxes. I posted about 1 issue per day to Tierney’s facebook page for about a week until I got banned. He didn’t seem to like it that I’m simply a middle class American who is being honest about the given situation and is not some wealthy dude in Singapore.
Personally, I think that it is totally acceptable for American services to treat Americans as non-US citizens, as long as the government does the same.
Here is a post I wrote up on my blog, asking where the Toronto office for US welfare, foodstamps and unemployment is.
It is a good question, because Canada where I pay my taxes may not provide all the services that I need, such as help with prescription drugs.
@Petros, the unemployment exclusion for Americans abroad is a strong issue. I left the US because I was unemployed and could not live from the unemployment benefits. California double the unemployment benefits after I left: http://www.nytimes.com/2001/10/01/national/01CALI.html Since Americans abroad are denied US unemployment benefits if they lose their job oversees, one would think that the government would take into consideration that they have to set money aside to be able to finance their job hunting in the US (which could take years).
@swiss Thanks. The Americans abroad who pay tax, pay for someone else’s benefits not their own. The Americans abroad who vote, vote for someone else’s representatives, not their own. They will pick you up in the black helicopters and then send you a bill.