Democrats Abroad urgently requests “expat tax stories” for May 15th IRS hearing

Just received another update on the activities of Democrats Abroad’s FBAR/FATCA Task Force. Previous posts can be found here and here.


From: demcan@sympatico.ca
Subject: FBAR/FATCA Relief Efforts Underway: Tell Your Story Now!
Date: May 3, 2012 1:11:52 AM GMT-04:00

Dear Democrats Abroad member,

Your FBAR/FATCA Task Force has created two instruments to drive home our efforts seeking relief from potentially draconian fines and penalties in relation to new tax filing requirements. We are gathering data from overseas Americans to use in advocating for amendments and reforms to FATCA. We need your urgent participation in this effort!

1. Take our survey to record your circumstance as an overseas citizen and taxpayer. It is completely anonymous and can be found at http://www.surveymonkey.com/FATCA_FBAR

2. Tell us your story of managing your tax affairs as an expat American. If you have a tale of woe and frustration to tell then please go to http://www.ExpatTaxStory.us where you can post your story on a completely anonymous basis.
The Task Force has received an invitation to appear at an IRS hearing on May 15 in Washington. Having results from the survey as well as the website will strengthen our position at the hearing. So please complete at least the survey by May 9.

QUICK UPDATES ON OUR ADVOCACY EFFORTS:
Since our last update a few weeks ago:

Meeting with IRS and Treasury: Your FBAR/FATCA Task Force has continued to work with senior staff at both the IRS and the Treasury Department. Indeed, thanks to Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney’s efforts, Task Force member Joe Smallhoover attended a meeting in Washington DC to accommodate the presentation by various groups representing Americans Abroad to IRS and Treasury officials of our concerns about the tax filing and compliance requirements. A summary of that meeting is expected shortly.

Submission to IRS on FATCA Proposed Regulations: We have made a formal submission to the IRS in response to that agency’s request for responses to its February 8 release of proposed FATCA regulations, and we have asked to be invited to speak at the May 15 hearing on those proposed regulations.

Meeting with National Taxpayer Advocate: We are arranging a meeting with Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson; whose 2011 report to Congress is highly critical of IRS handling of overseas tax filers.

DPCA Resolution on FBAR and FATCA: We have submitted a formal resolution to the DPCA Resolutions Committee for discussion at the May global meeting in Mexico. If passed, Democrats Abroad will then submit that resolution to be considered for inclusion in the Democratic Party 2012 Platform.

BUT WE STILL NEED YOU!

Please click here to take our anonymous survey and here to post your anonymous expat tax story.

Your DPCA FBAR/FATCA Task Force,
Joe Green (Canada) Chair (demcan@sympatico.ca), Stanley Grossman (UK), Maureen Harwood (Canada), Carmelan Polce (Australia), Maya Samara (Switzerland) and Joe Smallhoover (France)

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31 thoughts on “Democrats Abroad urgently requests “expat tax stories” for May 15th IRS hearing

  1. Alright, I took the survey. I made special emphasis of the fact that I have had bank accounts closed, new accounts refused and investment banks refusing to touch me at all, being dropped as a signer on a registered charity’s bank account for stocking office supplies due to the illegality of them sharing financial details with any foreign government and that future spouse refuses to have any joint bank accounts with me or to send any financial details to the US government.

  2. I have a former work colleague in the United States that I have discussed this issue with. After further discussion last evening he is willing to take this up on our behalf. I am hoping to have a letter shortly he is sending to several elected officials in the area he lives in requesting immediate assistance and clarification.

  3. I did the survey, too . Thanks for making it anonymous or I wouldn’t have, since the situation makes me paranoid. Hope they listen and that some changes are made! The new guidelines for expats, promised in Feb, never did materialize, which I guess I should also have mentioned.

  4. My American friend is very close to dumping a truckload of FATCA related documentation on the doorsteps of Congresswoman Tsongas, Senator John Kerry, and Senator Scott Brown. Included will be all NDP letters to Flaherty and commentary, responses from Flaherty, sessional papers etc. I will try to get the lengthy letter he is sending shortly. Everything should be on their doorsteps in the next or two. For Kerry and Brown my friend is going to have drive into Boston so that might not be as immediate. In total there about 30 pages of information he is sending to them.

  5. I took the survey too and send a long article entitled “Falling through the cracks”.

  6. Joe Green, et al,

    Thank you for providing the opportunity for input. All the best in representing US expats, US persons, Accidental Americans on May 15th. I hope you can convince someone to stop the absurdity, the insanity, the injustice of all this.

  7. Thank you @Eric, Joe Green, and everyone else. It helps me to continue, to be part of trying to stop this, or at least make it a public shame for the US.

  8. I took the survey and sent my letter. I am so very strengthened and uplifted by the tireless effort all of you are putting into this. I plan to help out and do what I can once I have put behind me the nightmare of hours and hours of trying to do 1040’s, 3520’s, 3520-A’s, PFIC’s etc. in order to get compliant–all due to my whopping $10,000 RESP for my children (shame on me, what was I thinking as a Canadian citizen taking advantage of what MY government offers me?!) But thank you to you all who are already battling this injustice.

  9. OK – this is about 27 months too late and being heard is woefully inadequate. If the Democratic party is still unaware, it is only by “willful blindness”.

    I feel guilty over my pessimism, but the Democrats cannot undo the OVDI or FATCA anymore than the Republicans can uninvade Iraq.

    Unfortunately, repeal and relief will have to come from the opposition and we need to reach out to them. Our stories and woes will be a lot more powerful in the hands of the GOP this election.

  10. I know – good point. The GOP abroad has never seemed to resonate. I have no affinity toward them or their crazy platform and I am sure their base has no affinity toward us. Almost everybody US citizen abroad I know is a Dem and I don’t think it’s just the circles I swim in. I’ve only met two Republicans here in years of living abroad. This is just not rich turf for them.

    However, almost everybody I know abroad is actively wanting to put the Democrats out of power. We will probably never align to the GOP, but in the next one or two elections, we have a common enemy and the GOP would benefit from better outreach.

    …until, of course, the GOP gain power and we are back at war with Charles Grassley. But he is a petty thief in comparison to Dems’ grand larceny.

  11. @zuludogm Also I don’t see where the Republicans Abroad have submitted anything for the May 15th public hearings. I did a search on all the submissions I have seen (about 80) and their name did not come up. Maybe the list I am looking at is not a complete list, but would have thought given that it is the political silly season they would have been trying to make political and partisan capital out of this opportunity! Apparently not.

  12. @just I’m not sure the hearings are meaningful. I mean – what are they going to do?

    Even repealing FATCA (which is not going to happen), will not address the issues of double tax systems. We need the US to rationalize its tax system and use territorial taxation. That’s not on the agenda for 15 May, but it could be on the agenda for the election(s).

  13. @zuludogm,

    Point taken, but public hearings are an opportunity to score partisan points that the media might pick up, and just surprised that they haven’t put in a submission or tried to make a presentation. I am not encouraging it, because when arguments become partisan, all communication stops! Just surprised.

  14. @Deckard1138

    Just curious, does Joe Green respond to email? I saw on the survey, invitations to email him, but sending to him, is like sending to so many journalist, not even an acknowledgement comes back so you don’t know if the information he requested arrived. Guess it doesn’t matter, as I did post something on the web site too, but again, when you hit enter you see no evidence that it was received, so you just wonder. Hummm

  15. So, who is this Democrat that doesn’t get the unintended consequences of his support for FWhat?

    http://bloom.bg/IVo55S
    The government needs to be tougher on offshore tax crimes than it has been, said U.S. Representative Richard Neal, a Massachusetts Democrat and one of the original sponsors of the legislation. Fatca, introduced after Zurich-based UBS AG (UBSN) said in 2009 that it aided tax evasion by Americans and agreed to pay $780 million to avoid prosecution, is already helping to improve banking transparency, he said.

    “People should know, and the IRS should know, what money is being held offshore and for what purpose,” Neal said. “I don’t think there’s anything unreasonable about that.”

  16. “People should know, and the IRS should know, what money is being held offshore and for what purpose,” Neal said. “I don’t think there’s anything unreasonable about that.”

    Dear Representative Neal:
    And who are the ‘people’ that should know about my accounts? You mention ‘people’ as well as the IRS.

    Regarding the purpose of my ‘offshore’ funds – does the US really need to know the details of how much I am holding ‘offshore’, in my legal accounts, with all interest duly reported to, and taxed automatically by the government where I live. Will it really help you to catch pirates if ‘people’ and the IRS can see for themselves that it was expended on daycare, pizza, the vet fees for my cats, after-school activities, dental bills, etc. Would that help relieve your and the US all-consuming anxieties about our ‘offshore’ bank accounts in the entirely normal everyday towns and cities outside the US – which is where we live, work – and pay taxes in full?

    Under FATCA, eventually the banks will have to disclose ALL our ‘offshore’ account activities – every expenditure and deposit that passes through. We already have to identify and justify the account and it’s purpose, and the highest balance on any day in the year – forever and ever, amen.

    Rep. Neal: will it help you and the IRS to sift through using your datamining and find that I spent more at the grocery store this month, and that I’m paying a shocking portion of my last pay check on gas? Do you personally share that much detail about your accounts with the IRS? And why not? ‘People and the IRS ‘ should know that level of detail about your accounts too. Especially since according to a Harvard study, some of the most excellent tax havens (by global standards) are INSIDE the US – like Delaware for example.

    Will the pirates hiding money in tax havens be as forthcoming as those of us ‘abroad’ will have to be?

  17. This is the same Richard Neal that said that “we need to use the tax code to boost retirement savings and personal savings as well.” to help Americans save for retirement – but, apparently not all Americans, only those who live INSIDE the US. All the rest of the Americans should be formed and penalize into dust – and not allowed to use registered savings where they work and live – if it is in ‘foreign’ banks anywhere else in the world – except in the US. He is also in favor of simplifying the tax code (except for us
    See :
    http://www.advisorone.com/2012/02/16/no-tax-reform-without-incentives-for-retirement-sa

    “No Tax Reform Without Incentives for Retirement Savings, Argue 2 Congressmen
    At Washington event, Republican and Democratic congressmen push resolution to retain current tax incentives

    By Melanie Waddell, AdvisorOne
    February 16, 2012

    ……..”Neal commented that the “stunning” statistic that half of Americans go to work each day and aren’t covered by a retirement plan at work is just another sign that “we need to use the tax code to boost retirement savings and personal savings as well.”

    The bipartisan resolution provides that it is the “Sense of the Congress” that:

    tax incentives for retirement savings play an important role in encouraging employers to sponsor and maintain retirement plans and encouraging participants to contribute to such plans;
    existing tax incentives have increased the number of Americans who are covered by a retirement plan; and
    a reformed and simplified Tax Code should include properly structured tax incentives to maintain and contribute to such plans and to strengthen retirement security for all Americans.”

    To be accurate, the proposal should really say ‘except for all those Americans who ‘choose’ to live outside the US. For those, the ‘Sense of Congress’ is that they be fined and form-ed into oblivion.

    One rule for those inside the US, and only more complexity, denial of the same rights, and oppressive penalty punishments for those outside. Who apparently, according to the ‘voice of Congress’, don’t have or deserve to “boost retirement savings and personal savings”. Congress’s voice doesn’t speak the same language of empathy to us if we’re born or move or live outside the US.

  18. So… What has Joe Green said about the hearings? Did anyone listen to what he had to say? I thought not! 🙂

  19. Well, the FATCA hearings came and went, and did you see a lot of US media coverage? But of course not. I was wondering if anyone would report back on what Joe Green had to say, but since I heard nothing, I went looking. Below is the transcript of his testimony….

    MS. HWA: Next we will have Mr. Green, representing Democrats Abroad.

    MR. GREEN: Hi, thanks for having me. I’m Joe Green and I feel intimidated. I’m a former dean of a university fine arts faculty and I never felt intimidated in front of 1,500 kids, all of whom thought they were better than we were as teachers, nor in front of the faculty of 150, all who knew they were better than I was. But I see in front of me a sea of corporate and association representatives in the financial world.

    I will tell you, ladies and gentlemen, that I’m here with Democrats Abroad and my colleagues on the task force that we have established who represent your clients: The people who bank with you, who insure with you, who live with you around the world. I’ve been in Canada for 42 years going up to start this fine arts operation and my bank — and I see that TD is represented here, who’s my bank — to me is a local bank. It’s not a foreign bank to me. I don’t bank in the U.S. My retirement program is solely with a Canadian institution. My wife’s retirement is solely with the teacher’s pension plan. And millions of us — hundreds of thousands of us around the world face the same problems.

    The escalation in tax filing and complexity and the associated angst that’s created is more severe than perhaps you recognize. We hear it all the time. I have, for anyone who wants it at the end of my presentation, a survey that we have done with 2,800 responses in a week from around the world with a number interesting insights.

    We are concerned with privacy issues and we’ve heard about that already today and we’ll probably hear more today, especially regarding assets shared with non-national spouses and partners. A woman whose husband is a non-U.S. citizen and has a joint account is required, we understand, to report that husband’s holdings to the IRS. This has led to many serious familial and relationship problems. There’s been talk of divorce.

    There’s certainly been talk about putting assets in one — in the name of the husband, in which case the wife is vulnerable. If all the assets are with the non-American husband and the marriage, which of course will never happen, goes on the rocks, where is the woman? With no support. U.S. citizens, we feel, who live stateside are not subject to this kind of scrutiny. The IRS is not asking for my brother, who lives in Fort Myers, to report on his holdings. But they’re asking me and hundreds of thousands of others around the world to report holdings that you guys have for us.

    We’ve also heard, and some of this is rumor but some of it is substantiated — and I know that the IRS and Treasury think that anonymous responses are suspect; we are not making this up — that Americans living abroad in Germany and other countries have been refused accounts in what they consider to be their local banks because they’re American citizens and because the banks don’t want to deal with them. What is the American citizen supposed to do?

    We haven’t even talked about the accidental Americans yet, and that’s the child who was born of foreign parents when they were at Cornell doing their Ph.D. They go back to their country as foreigners and take the baby home. Twenty-five years later, the baby is now a noncompliant American. He or she didn’t even know that he or she was an American. There’s a tremendous amount of anger, I would point out to you, amongst this group about being considered that.

    We know that we are supposed to be compliant. It says it in our passports. We’re aware of that, and many of us have not done it through ignorance — ignorance is no excuse, we understand — naivety, lack of English, they can’t read the passport, and it’s pretty fine print. So we are really coming to the IRS, to Treasury, and to Congress to seek redress for those of us living around the world who have to do our local banking.

    And I would point all of us to Nina Olson’s 2011 report to Congress, the taxpayer advocate who takes the IRS, with all due respect, to task for how they handle overseas citizens and the reporting requirements. I’m sure you’ve read all that and I’m sure you’ve read our submission.

    There’s also discriminatory impact on U.S. senior managers in foreign corporations. If they have signing authority, do they report the corporate holdings of that corporation? We have heard that certain corporate officers in foreign institutions who are American are being refused a promotion because it puts the company in a vulnerable position.

    There’s a weakening of entrepreneurial activities on the part of Americans abroad who represent, very frequently, American interests: Commerce and sales. The solutions that we seek are to redefine foreign or offshore accounts to reflect the needs of Americans abroad. How you do this, we don’t have solutions. I don’t have any answers as to how you do this. I’m not a lawyer. I have a Ph.D. in dramatic theory. I can’t even read your 388-page document and I only have one eye, which makes it even worse, so I read half of it.

    We request that you raise the FATCA reporting threshold. Ten thousand dollars in 1970 may have been a lot. It’s a little weird today. Anybody that doesn’t have $10,000 and is living abroad is in really deep trouble. Maybe you could index the FBAR reporting threshold, exclude those who do not owe taxes from the requirement to file that onerous 8938, which to many of us looks like the FBAR, but different.

    And when Mr. Shulman says on television that he doesn’t do his own tax forms because it’s too complex, think about us out there with the five or six forms. Now we have to pay for this. And fine, when you live abroad, there are certain responsibilities you take on yourself. Understood. But the penalties that are being proposed are really scary to Americans living abroad. We suggest that you consider merging the FBAR reporting requirements with the developing FATCA legislation so that the Americans abroad do not have to deal with two sets of legal entities.

    Finally, we suggest — in my minute and 22 seconds left — that the IRS and Treasury consider offering an amnesty, not like the Voluntary Disclosure Program, but an amnesty to invite American citizens who are naive, ignorant, unaware of the reporting requirements to come in, file their forms, pay their taxes if they owe any, which is unlikely in many, many cases, and become compliant U.S. tax filers. The only other thing you could do is start to tax on residency as every other developed country in the world does instead of on citizenship. I don’t see that happening, but that would solve a lot of problems for the Americans living abroad.

    That brings me to the end of my presentation. I do have our survey for those that are interested. I brought a bunch down with me, stopping at Staples to have it duplicated. And I thank you for the opportunity to express our woe. Thank you.

    So do you think anyone asked or cared about that survey? How many copies got handed out. Did the IRS representatives request or get any? Friends, after reading all the testimony with note one question asked, the feeling I got was this was just a passive one ear listening exercise, (kinda like my wife accuses me of listening to her) and then back to the work of making everyone comply!

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