I have, on occasion, taken a plunge into social media to see where our beloved topic of FATCA is being discussed and/or used. There is a considerable amount of posting being done on the topic, and I think it’s important to realize that, despite the plight of U.S. persons living abroad, enforcing FATCA is actually part of the job description for those who administer the violation of our rights on a 9-to-5 basis.
Often, during my seemingly endless scrolling on sites like Twitter and Instagram, I encounter posts by individuals who live overseas and work for foreign financial institutions.
Some of these posts are simply group selfies – taken to commemorate the conclusion of FATCA trainings that are intended to help staff understand the ins and outs of reporting. Some posts are flat-out advertising for financial services to help those caught up in the FATCA dragnet.
But I came across one post recently that really caught my attention.
It was an Instagram photo – a small, black and white poster that, apparently, makes its home on the wall of a Russian bank employee’s office. (Based on what I saw of the user’s profile.)
Aside from the obvious “W8” and “W9,” the poster’s text is Russian, and the image is borrowed from a famous World War II Russian propaganda poster.
The original WWII poster, entitled “Motherland is calling!” was created by socialist realism artist Irakli Toidze. According to history, Toidze’s wife had burst into his studio to announce that the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany were at war. Her face and posture in that moment were used by Toidze in the poster, and the original text is the Soviet military oath used between 1939 and 1947.
From what I’ve read, the poster was among Stalin’s favorites (he was personally approving every propaganda poster at the time). Stalin was so moved by the poster that he ordered 5,000 copies printed upon seeing it.
Since then, the poster has been re-purposed as propaganda for many causes – including the cause of one particular Russian bank to whimsically ensure FATCA compliance.
The literal translation on the Russian bank version of the poster is “FATCA form can’t wait!”
Below, on the paper being held by the woman, the text translates to “W 8 or W 9?”
I reached out to the owner of the Instagram account to verify the context of the poster and they responded with: “actually it’s a joke, re soviet motivation poster) the direct translation is: “FATCA for [sic] does not wait! Form W8 or W9?”
That’s some joke.
The fact that a Russian bank has a “motivational” poster hanging in an office to envourage staff to get a W8 or W9 from suspected U.S. persons is interesting, to say the least. More like painfully ironic, given the context of the original poster.
Despite the overtones and irony of the original World War II poster, I think it shows a perspective of FATCA that we don’t always see – that of everyday people who are simply doing a job they aren’t in a position to question – much like the job of those whom the original poster was meant to “call,” I suppose.