UPDATE February 13, 2016
This describes the reaction of a non-US Person, listening to the stories of expats at a meeting designed for them to speak freely. It starts just a bit before the speaker describes his background which speaks to the degree of fear he had seen/experienced before he came to Canada, from government oppression.
Dr. Donald Young comments on A FATCA-Related Suicide Part II
Obviously I cannot comment on this matter without knowing more facts. I can only say that the situation that many Americans abroad experience due to FACTA and the threats made by the U.S. government will clearly have negative emotional consequences for many and at times severely so. I can attest to this as I have seen and treated it clinically. The possibility of suicidal thinking and behaviour comes as no surprise to me from a psychiatric perspective. The fact of being threatened by the strongest and most aggressive nation in the world is unsettling for even the most psychologically robust individual. Those prone to anxiety, depression, physiological responses to stress and other difficulties ( and this likely involves a quarter of the population at least ) will be all the more vulnerable to the irrational threats and demands of the American government. We are being threatened with economic ruin, branded as criminals and told we will be hunted down. This situation results in a prolonged degree of stress that will have deleterious emotional and often physical stress that will certainly take its toll.The fact that there are often no clear answers as to what to do or how to do it only worsens the emotional upset and results in a form of learned helplessness. We may well have just witnessed a tragic result of what the American government is doing to people who simply want to live in peace and leave their former country behind, assuming they ever even lived in it. And from what I can see there is no solution and no save harbour in sight.
Since the last post I have had more conversations with Jonathan’s Dad. He is a lovely gentleman, very intelligent, cultured and in spite of his loss, his anger, he remains quite matter-of-fact and determined to bring this story out. We have become fast friends, not unusual I believe, when you are tied to someone due to a traumatic event. We have all experienced that here; think of how few of us have actually met each other and yet we all know who tends to what kind of ideas, how to push each others’ buttons and so on. The last section of this post describes the immediate bonding that took place at the meeting where Dr. Young and John Richardson reached out to us, to try and help with our emotional and mental states and to steer with practical advice regarding filing and so on. Interesting how all of this has happened without having to pay for it. This is truly rather an amazing feature of this miserable situation we find ourselves in. How often does one receive so much without any expectation of money?
I asked if Jonathan had ever mentioned coming across other people online, since some have suggested there is something odd about his not reaching out, etc. He never mentioned anything about any groups etc. His Dad said he was very independent and just as his work involved solving a lot of problems, his approach was that he would solve this as well. One of the most unfair things about all of this has to be that there is no way to to find clear and definite answers. It must have been extremely frustrating for one as intelligent, dedicated and isolated (expat-wise) as Jonathan.
Jonathan’s Dad has written more that he would like to share. Some may find the first part of this description upsetting.
LITVINENKO & FATCA, TRAILS of POISON
To the Editor, the Wall Street Journal
25th January 2016
On the afternoon of Saturday the 20th of June 2015 a young man was found dead, hanging from a tree in his garden. His wife had gone shopping. His young daughter, returning from school alone, saw him hanging there. She saw, she screamed. Her screams resounded throughout the neighborhood, bringing all the neighbors running. They saw the scene: it was utter, dreadful. The young girl’s father was hanging lifeless from a tree. His neighbors, who knew him well, removed him tenderly, taking him at utmost speed to the nearest hospital. But there was no breath in him: the hospital pronounced him dead. This was not a story local to the US. It happened at the young man’s home in Sweden.
Surely there’s no connection with Litvinenko? There is.
As may be remembered from his story, which is appended, Alexander Litvinenko’s freedom came after his escape from his work at the KGB while in transit through London. This was at a time after the breakup of the Soviet Union. He was given asylum in England. He found there a home as an expatriate. He became a British subject, and carefully obeyed all laws of his new country. He now lived peacefully in London with his Russian wife Marina. He felt himself comfortable enough under the redoubtable power and full protection of the Her Majesty’s Government to express his opinions freely. He also felt secure enough to write a book, even a book somewhat critical of his previous regime.
Nonetheless that foreign power, Russia, still felt it had dominion over him. Irritated by his remarks, it sent out its agents to silence him. Their modus operandi was this: They knew that the English, like the Russians, like to drink tea in the afternoon, so they laid a careful trap. They invited him, a former comrade, to partake tea with them. Suspecting nothing – he was in England, why should he? – he accepted. That fateful day came. They met for sushi and tea. Surreptitiously, he clearly forgetting all his customary caution and not looking, they slipped a small amount of white powder into his teacup. This powder was Polonium-210, highly radioactive and evidently (in this instance, as it must have been) tasteless. It does its lethal work imperceptibly, not taking much substance or much time to perform. Over a period of weeks his hair fell out, he became listless, bedridden. But he still retained control of his faculties. He knew what was happening, he was being slowly murdered, and he knew by whom, and why. It was by his old boss at the KGB, Vladimir Putin, who, as aspiring dictators do everywhere, felt compelled to crush any and all purveyors of criticism. He died in his bed in hospital on the 23rd of November 2006.
What is the connection to the young man in Sweden? There cannot be? But there is.
This young man was also an émigré to a distant land, but he went there not to escape terror but
to study. Born in California, he was an aspiring student at Cal Poly. Thence he was lured to the University of Uppsala in Sweden as a scholar. He wanted the adventure, he wanted to study biochemistry, and he accepted. He duly received his PhD, and went on to work in his field (which by then for him had expanded to brain chemistry, genetics, pharmacology and statistics) first at Uppsala and then at the prestigious Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. By now he was an expatriate. He became a Swedish citizen. He had gained a wife, two beautiful children, and had saved enough money (from a meager but highly taxed research salary) to buy a house. As he himself said, he was independent, successful and “living the American dream” – albeit in Sweden. He was enjoying genetics and had already published more than fifty papers in it. He was living there peacefully.
He was at the height of his career. Nothing could possibly go wrong, could it?
Clearly, beginning at that time, there was a shadow coming over his happy existence. It could not have been suspected at that moment, but this terrible shadow, darkening every day, would eventually eclipse his life.
We would call each other. The scope of our conversations was universal, covering (besides work) art, music, religion and politics. We spoke every week or two about his life and family in Sweden. A large part of our conversations was about science and medicine. He was tremendously well-informed. I could not help it – I was so proud of his work, of what he was doing. I used to tell my friends, professors at Stanford, that he should come home and work with them.
He was also hugely compassionate, and belonged to Amnesty International.
He was artistic. He painted, sometimes he put a picture in an exhibition. He was musical, he composed. He was proud of it.
In our phone conversations we discussed (in detail) additions to his home. He said the Polish workers in Sweden were doing excellent work for him, in fact somewhat better than the Czechs
hired previously. We talked about his children, about his field-trips with them. He said he was playing soccer. He said he loved go running through the woods and across the fields at every chance he got.
We covered mathematics. He had always used statistics extensively in his work. He told me that his statistics from pharmacology could be used trade stocks. He said he was beginning to do this
quite successfully. But “the best opportunities are with American stocks. There are however problems there because of increasing restrictions on getting money into and out of the United States”. A few months later he told me it was impossible to do it anymore.
By mid-2014 he was saying: “I am having trouble with my bank. I have never had trouble before but now they are saying they don’t want my account because they have to continuously report my activities back to the United States. But since when does the IRS in the U.S.A. have anything to do with my accounts? I am a Swedish citizen. I have lived my entire productive life here – it’s been over twenty years. In Sweden I have already paid – bar none – the highest taxes in the world. I owe them nothing”.
Then it became more serious. Just four weeks before he died, he said: “I discovered today that my correspondence with my bank – only that correspondence, nothing else – has been tapped, someone is trying to either infiltrate or monitor my accounts.”
Then another phone-call, with a voice sounding utterly suicidal, he said: “I feel totally isolated. I am discovering I am not Swedish. I am mired in a situation about which I can do nothing. I have no protection under the laws of Sweden against the Government of the United States. I am trying give up my US citizenship. The Government of the United States has made that virtually impossible too. I feel absolutely sick.”
“Should I write to my congressperson?”
“No,” he said, independently: “I’ll take care of it myself.”
My son knew it – we talked about it – that the strictures of the US Government, acting through FATCA, were slowly strangling him to death. This was the very reverse of what was supposed to happen. This concerned me deeply . The Declaration of Independence stated: It is “self-evident, that all men …are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, among which are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” – that order presciently predates Maslow’s hierarchy.
The government of the United States, acting through FATCA, has reversed that exact order. In the period of a year or more FATCA steadily took away my son’s pursuit of Happiness by providing a set of incomprehensible tax instructions, with dire consequences for non-performance. FATCA then took away his Liberty by tapping his phone line: he lost the security of his home. And finally, incredibly, FATCA took away his Life because there was no escape from the dilemmas imposed upon him except by death.
FATCA is the Polonium-210 of the US Government.
Three weeks later my son was dead. The crushing burden of isolation by American laws at his home in a distant land was too much for him. His family was momentarily away, he went outside and hung himself.
At the moment of his death, and only then, did I realize FATCA’s full implications.
to be continued
While we often seem to hear that people “write us off” as tax cheats or whiners etc, there are people who do realize, that “get it.” I know there is a description on a video describing the same impressions below but I have yet to find it. In the meantime, I think in addition to the support we are able to offer each other, perhaps we can remember that perhaps the more this problem is recognized, the more there may be support coming in the future.
I have always been under the impression that many people sacrifice their lives, families, etc. in order to get into the USA and become American citizens; and I never imagined that anyone who has this “privilege” is willing to do anything and everything to renounce their U.S. citizenship.
Recently, I met a group of people in Toronto who were claiming that they have been traumatized by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and its rules. My understanding from this rule, The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), is? IRS requires US persons to report their financial accounts outside of USA.
At first glance this issue didn’t seem to be a problem with this issue?, and the first question that popped up in my mind was, why are these so called “US citizens” having problems complying with their civic duties; after all, Canadian citizens are also required to report their income, gains, losses, and assets to Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).
Then, I realized that the IRS and some US officials are working with foreign governments and financial institutions to become a vehicle to disclose private and confidential financial information of their American citizens and clients to the IRS. Now, I am thinking, why should Canadian tax money subsidize collection costs of a foreign agency? Don’t we have enough challenges in Canada that need immediate attention?
However, the momentum of this meeting changed drastically after just a couple of minutes, when the first attendee stood up to introduce herself, giving her reasons to be there, instead of enjoying the beautiful and pleasant weather, that Saturday morning.
A mature lady from the front row stood up, and said that she left US in the sixties, and has been in Canada, her new home, ever since, and she obtained her Canadian citizenship in the early nineties. She and her husband, who passed away a couple of years ago, considered themselves as good citizens, who paid their taxes, obeyed the law of the land, and raised their children with the same values.
She seemed to be very upset, apprehensive, and afraid of her future in her retirement years. Apparently, she has been notified, some time within the last three years, that she must comply with the new US rules, and is about to lose her life savings, which by the way were earned in Canada, by her and her late Canadian husband over the last forty years to IRS, because she was born in United States of America.
The second lady introduced herself and said that she came to Canada about 35 years ago, worked here and raised her family. She emphasized that all these years, she has been in compliance with IRS and its rules and regulations. She and her Canadian husband invested in a mutual fund over years in Canada. She broke down in tears just after a minute, as she described that recently she also has learned about rather confusing FATCA rules that could drastically affect her family in her retirement years.
The rest of the attendees followed suit and one by one described their circumstances and expressed their emotions in different ways, a few cried heavily, some were very angry, and many were extremely attentive and laser focussed, grasping as much information as they could that could help their situations.
These strangers, who have never met each other in the past, started to bond with each other, engaging, sharing their experiences, describing the circumstances they were in, offering the knowledge they have obtained in the last few short years, etc. for 6 continued hours under one roof.
In my short life I witnessed many people from many walks of life who cried in public for different reasons: loss of health, loved one, home, asset, career, passion, etc. However, it was painful to observe experienced grown men and women succumb to the pressure of “what if IRS does…., what will happen to me and my family.”
Probably FATCA was originally designed for those are involved with offshore tax evasion, and recover unpaid federal taxes, however, watching these people and their suffering tells me that there has not been sufficient consideration in recognizing different scenarios, or communicating with the public. I guess when there is a fire, wet and dry burn together.
We live in a violent world, and violence manifests itself into a variety of shapes and forms. Some of us are born to survive and some are here to fight with those who abuse their power. Either way there is a hefty toll has to be paid: financially, emotionally, and socially. Those who have the privilege of designing and deciding on policies that affect a significant portion of population should consider how their actions contribute to human progress.
Then there is the question of how much value a government allocates to patriotism. All these attendees expressed their genuine devotion to the idea of America and being American patriots, However many of them seriously consider the option of renouncing their citizenship, mainly because of the shortcomings of the present US administration. Neither money, nor force can replace the value of loyalty of citizens to their land and identity. Can a government afford to lose its most valuable assets – Its citizens!
This is the third in a series ““A #FATCA Related Suicide”:
Perhaps After Reading This You Could Suggest a Title for This Post: A FATCA Related Suicide Part I
A FATCA Related Suicide Part II
A #FATCA- Related Suicide Part III – Litvinenko & #FATCA, Trails of Poison