UPDATE: This is the interview we’ve been waiting for:
Roundtable Full Interview
I wish I had time to listen to it, but I’m off to Calgary demonstration soon — almost an hour’s worth of Roundtable on this link. THANKS SO MUCH!!
James J Puplava, CFP, President, Chief Investment Strategist at PFS Group, with:
…Mark Nestmann, President of the Nestmann Group, Ltd.; Marylouise Serrato, Executive Director of American Citizens Abroad; Daniel Küttel, American expatriate living in Bremgarten, Switzerland; and Douglas Benedict, Canadian citizen and retired investment advisor. Daniel and Douglas share personal testimonials as expatriates enduring the overzealous pursuit of a government that has wrongfully identified them as tax evaders. Mark sheds light on the draconian FATCA compliance regulations that have erroneously identified law-abiding citizens as suspects, and Marylouise provides insight into the challenges of Americans who have elected to live abroad, offering help with the rigors of tax compliance and life away from the homeland.
I wanted to follow up and say thank you very much for your participation on our program for our recent expatriation roundtable discussion, and for helping to make the event a success. Jim was very pleased with the discussion, which I am sure will be very helpful and a welcome voice to expatriates in our listening audience.
Our recording of the discussion has been posted to our website, and is available for listening at http://www.financialsensenewshour.com/broadcast/insider/fsn2013-1022-expatrt-j8d3k9s.mp3.
Please accept my best wishes for your health and happiness in all your future endeavors.
I’ve been asked to recruit a panel of people who have been affected by FBAR/FATCA/Ex-PATRIOT, and to recommend an outline for a round table discussion on the FinancialSense Newshour. The purpose of this thread is to facilitate a community discussion about who would best represent the community and what topics should be discussed. Specifically, I’m hoping participants here will both volunteer to participate on the panel, and/or nominate or endorse others who they think would make good representatives of the community. Panelists need not be Brockers, but I’m hoping the Brock community will help me identify and recruit the panel.
Jim Puplava’s Financial Sense Newshour (www.financialsense.com/newshour) is the biggest investment-related podcast in existence, and is also one of the top 50 podcasts on the entire Internet, with over 250,000 regular listeners to the weekend program. There is also a weekday “premium” service offered on a paid subscription basis. The subject matter is primarily focused on markets and investing, but often extends to political and social issues.
Mr. Puplava would like to host a round-table discussion about how both American citizens living abroad and American expatriates are being treated in the “new normal”, including FBAR, FATCA, Ex-PATRIOT, etc. Specifically, a goal is to dispel the common assumption that the people involved are all greedy, rich tax-evaders, and shed some light on the reality of the situation, i.e. that most people being affected do not have a tax evasion motive, and are being unfairly targeted. I’ve been asked to help recruit the panel, and to suggest talking points for the discussion.
An obvious question is whether participants have to be willing to use their real names. Obviously there is some advantage if people are willing to do so. However, I think there is room to do some of these roles anonymously so long as we can offer a good explanation for why. A person who doesn’t want to use their own name, but is willing to explain on the air that they wish they could but they have come to fear their own government because it stopped acting reasonably toward its citizens living abroad is actually a compelling story, for example.
The panel I have in mind would comprise the following “roles”. I seek assistance identifying candidates for each role. Talk radio requires panelists who are articulate but can be succinct. Sometimes the most knowledgeable experts are not actually the best panelists because they tend to be long winded and overly verbose. We need panelists who can tell a personal story and do it succinctly. Here are the roles I need to recruit. I’d like to identify multiple candidates for each role, then talk to them to try and choose a well balanced panel.
Legal Expert – Someone who can authoritatively comment on the legal particulars of expatriation, FBAR, FATCA, etc. Mr. Puplava’s preference is to use Mark Nestmann for this role because Mr. Nestmann has been interviewed on the program several times in the past with favorable reviews. I would still like to identify alternatives, however, in case Mr. Nestmann is not available.
Middle class American citizen living abroad who feels forced to expatriate – What we’re looking for here is the human experience story of a person who is not rich, who did nothing wrong, and who has now become so burdened with compliance expense that they feel they have little choice but to expatriate, even though they have no gripe with America other than how terribly the US Government is suddenly treating them for the “crime” of moving abroad.
The more personal hardship the better, and the more they are obviously not “tax motivated” the better. This person also needs to be well spoken, and succinct – not coming across as a whiner/crybaby, but rather telling a passionate personal story about how badly this has affected their lives. Ideally they should be able to speak both from personal experience and knowledge of the experiences others have had pertaining to the personal and professional downsides of being an American citizen living abroad. That story that was discussed on this site recently about a guy who couldn’t serve on a board of directors because having a U.S. person on the board created legal issues for the firm comes to mind. We also need to cover the stuff about not being able to open a bank account, having existing accounts closed, etc. Someone who’s suffered exceptional personal hardship in these areas would be ideal.
Accidental American – Preferably someone who has never lived in the USA full-time, and ideally someone who didn’t even realize they were a U.S. citizen or required to file tax returns until the IRS began pursuing them as a “tax evader”. The idea is to tell the story of how absurd this is from a personal perspective. Someone who is not wealthy would be preferred to avoid the automatic prejudice so many have that we’re all tax evaders. An ideal candidate for this role would be a person who had no idea they were supposed to file U.S. tax returns, renounced when they learned about it, and then became a “covered expatriate” as a result of their prior non-compliance with laws they never had any way of knowing they were supposed to comply with, and now face being barred from the country for life despite never having been wealthy, and obviously not motivated by a goal of tax evasion.
Compliant covered expatriate facing lifetime exclusion if Ex-PATRIOT passes – Ideally someone who is not super-wealthy, and who can credibly describe a reason for expatriation that was not tax-motivated, but who faces lifetime exclusion despite paying all taxes due and complying with all laws, if Schumer et al are successful. A good personal story about parents with ailing health who need the expatriate to come care for them and say goodbye in their final days but may be unable to do so if Chuckie Schumer gets his way would be perfect. Someone who does NOT have high net worth but became “covered” by innocently not realizing some tax filing was due would be even better. We’re trying to show that the people who are “covered” are not really all a bunch of “rich guys avoiding taxes”.
So that’s the panel I have in mind. I’m open to suggestions for changes, though.
Jim Puplava will choose which questions to ask the panelists and determine the flow of conversation. I’ve been invited to suggest possible questions and talking points, and Mr. Puplava will consider them. Accordingly, I’ve written up a first pass at an outline, and will post it in the first reply to this thread. A principal reason for starting this thread was to invite Brockers to suggest improvements to this outline.
So I need help (1) recruiting the panel, and (2) perfecting the interview outline (list of suggested questions for Jim Puplava to ask the panelists). Again, Mr. Puplava will have the final say on what questions are asked, but welcomes our suggestions.
Thanks in advance for your help, Brockers!
Outline was going to be in the first reply but the formatting got lost here it is as an edit to the base post:
Suggested round table outline:
Today’s round table discussion considers the question of how Americans living abroad for various reasons are being affected by recent legislation which has the advertised purpose of cracking down on tax cheats. But the people most adversely affected often have no tax avoidance agenda, and many of them aren’t even wealthy enough for the question of tax evasion to be relevant.
Joining me as our panelists for today’s round table are <list of participants – possibly using pseudonyms for those who prefer to speak anonymously>.
<legal expert>, please briefly describe the laws and regulations that affect American citizens living abroad.
(legal expert very briefly outlines obligations of Americans prescribed by FBAR and FATCA)
<middle class American abroad>, may I ask what percentage of your annual disposable income is spent on compliance with these rules?
(Ideally MCAA has a story to tell about how they never new about this, got fined, spent a fortune on legal defense, etc. The worse the story, the better it makes the point)
<MCAA>, do I understand correctly that you are now actually considering giving up your U.S. citizenship – not because you don’t want to be an American, but because you literally can’t afford to cope with the time and expense burdens of complying with these laws?
(MCAA tells their personal story of what it feels like to feel forced to expatriate from one’s own country, how family and friends accuse them of being ‘traitors’, ‘unpatriotic’, etc.)
And from what I understand, it’s not just a matter of the cost of compliance. I’ve heard that Americans living abroad can no longer open local bank accounts because foreign banks want nothing to do with American citizens due to the compliance burden it creates for them, and I’m sure that makes it very difficult to live abroad if you can’t even open a bank account! What other burdens have all of you faced as Americans living abroad?
(All participants welcomed to share stories – either of their own or that they have personal knowledge of. The story of the guy who was passed over for a Board of Directors position with a foreign company because there were legal issues for the firm if a U.S. Person had authority over the firm’s bank accounts comes to mind).
I want to move on now to another subject. <Accidental American>, you’re fit the definition of what some people call an “Accidental American”. Please explain what that term means, and how you came to fit that description.
(AA explains their personal story, ideally being one of never having lived or worked in the USA)
So you’re an American Citizen purely as a technicality. Since these laws are intended for catching tax cheats living in the United States and hiding their wealth offshore, surely they don’t apply to you?
(Ideally, AA has a ‘war story’ about being criminally prosecuted for tax evasion or somesuch, for the ‘crime’ of not having realized that they were supposed to file a tax return in a country they never even lived or worked in. The more egregious the personal story, the better. Might be good for this person to come in knowing examples of what others have faced, to give other examples of what’s happened to other people.)
<legal expert>, is what these people are saying really true? Does the U.S. government really go after people who are obviously not tax cheats, including some who have never even lived in the country in their entire lives?
(LE confirms and cites other egregious examples)
<covered expatriate>, you were born an American citizen, but made the choice to renounce your citizenship. Please tell our listeners what led you to make that decision.
(CE tells their personal story which is not tax-motivated. We want to make it clear that the people being affected by this are not just rich tax avoiders).
<legal expert>, I know that the choice to give up one’s citizenship is a right that all citizens are guaranteed. After all, the fundamental premise upon which this nation was founded was the right of English colonists to expatriate from England – that’s how this country was formed. Yet three U.S. senators are working hard to pass a new law that would forever ban <CE> and people like him from ever returning to the United States, even to visit aging parents in their final days. Please explain to our listeners the history of the right of expatriation, whether in your professional opinion <CE> has violated any laws, and why these senators want to punish people like <CE> and prevent them from ever entering the United States again, even to visit.
(LE explains history on congressional confirmations of every citizen’s right to vote and other relevant citations, how no other country save for Eritrea even taxes non-resident citizens, opines that CE didn’t violate any laws, and explains how Ex-PATRIOT came about).
<CE>, you’ve complied with every law to the letter, and you’ve paid every penny of tax you owe the IRS, [if relevant: including an exit tax you paid for the privilege of leaving]. Now these three senators want to punish you as if you were a criminal, while meanwhile they are also working to grant immunity and a fast path to citizenship to illegal immigrants who violated our immigration laws and have been working in this country for decades illegally, without paying a penny of income tax. How does that make you feel, and how has the fact these senators seem hell-bent on passing this law affected your life, even before the new law passes?
(Ideally, CE has a hardship story – perhaps they have been forced to sell their real estate in the United States for fear of not being able to return to sell it, or had other personal sacrifices as a result of this pending legislation. If CE has aging parents, they should talk about how it feels to be told they will not be allowed to visit them in their last days).
<LE>, is this just three crazy senators blowing smoke or does this thing have a chance of actually passing? Do you think the U.S. Congress would really impose what is effectively a life sentence of not being able to visit aging relatives or come and do business in the U.S. on former citizens who have committed no crime whatsoever, solely for the sake of punishing them for asserting their right to expatriate?
(LE explains it didn’t pass as stand-alone, but Chucky and company clearly have a plan to slip it into a larger bill where it will probably pass because nobody has an incentive to oppose it).
As we close, I’d like to pose a final question to all the panelists living abroad. Our citizens still living state-side probably don’t even think much about what it’s like to be an American living abroad; it’s just not a topic we have a reason to think about. We also tend to assume that laws we are told are intended to crack down on tax cheats are in fact being used to target tax cheats. As Americans or former American citizens living abroad, what would you say to our listeners who probably don’t appreciate what you’ve been put through in recent years?
(Each panelist except <LE> makes a personal appeal for Americans to reign in their government).