I have a dream, an American dream.
I live in Sweden, which is hardly a tax haven. I am a citizen of that country as well as a US citizen. I have lived outside of the US for close to 25 years and thought I led a normal law abiding life. Unfortunately, the overzealous and poorly thought out attempts to catch US resident tax evaders have cast me and other overseas residents as criminals.
I am one of the few overseas residents who actually knew that I had to file taxes and did so. Last year, I needed to amend my US taxes due to a reporting error made by my overseas employer and I learned that as I had failed to file a form reporting my overseas bank accounts (the FBAR), the only option I had was to enter a so-called amnesty program, in which I have been told for this omission, I need to pay the US government 25% of my life savings, retirement plans, house, and car, all of which have been earned by legitimate employment overseas.
The “bank accounts” that I must report to the US government include life insurance policies, telephone prepaid cards, my customer card at the supermarket and my lunch card at work. The latter three must be reported, along with their highest balance (try to calculate that on a supermarket rebate card) all because they fit the definition of a debit card. All of this under threat of a penalty of USD 10,000 per account if I make a mistake in reporting. I think the most my lunch card has ever had on it was USD 60.
To add insult to the injury I described above, during 2011, FATCA began to be implemented in Sweden and my Swedish bank informed me that I would no longer be allowed to have any investment accounts because of my American citizenship.
FATCA also requires that for my 2011 taxes, I will need to file another form that repeats a lot of the information on the FBAR form and will cost me at least another three hours of accountant time. The much loved number of USD 10,000 in penalties is again threatened if I make a mistake on this form.
American information reporting requirements have become so demanding that I have made all kinds of new friends in my Swedish bank and tax authority. I get to challenge them to provide documentation that makes no sense in Sweden, but helps me to meet the US requirements. Without these wonderful FATCA requirements, I might have just led an unobtrusive life and like most other residents here, had very little to do with these people. Now I stick out like a sore thumb. FATCA has afforded me with the opportunity to prove to Swedes that Americans are different, demanding and difficult.
I have spent less than a year in the US in the last 25 years. Where you spend your childhood stays with you and I have a strong emotional tie to the US. So even though indications are that it would be in my best interest to renounce my citizenship, I plod stubbornly along in the face of all the abuse and try to believe in the American “truth and justice” I was taught about as a child.
That is why I appreciate your article. It will help to make public the unfortunate consequences of the poorly conceived FATCA legislation. Maybe it will help me and other overseas US citizens to be able to return to leading a normal life. That is all I desire in my American dream.
(Written a year ago* in response to an article in a local paper)
*this comment plus the following 2 facts suggest this letter was written sometime in the first half 2012. I have not been able to locate the article it refers to. The date on the Word file is 20 October 2013-I cannot be sure who saved this Word File (i.e., J or his Dad)but given his comments about the 2011 taxes and form 8938, I believe this letter was written in the first half 2012, prior to the June 30 deadline for the filing of taxes.
It is very clear J is aware of the 2011 OVDI program.