No one likes tax cheatsacknowledges Stu Haugen in the New York Times.
They should be pursued and punished wherever they are hiding. But recent efforts by the United States Congress to capture tax revenues on unreported revenues and assets held in foreign accounts are having disastrous effects on a growing number of Americans living abroad.Related: An American Tax Nightmare
The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, or Fatca, signed into law in March 2010 but only now coming into full effect, has been a bipartisan lesson in the law of unintended consequences. Pressure is growing to halt its pernicious impact.
Intended to crack down on people who stash taxable income abroad, the law requires foreign banks to identify American clients and report all of their financial account information, including transaction details on checking, savings, investment, pension, mortgage and insurance accounts, to the United States government. Banks and financial institutions that do not comply are subject to a 30 percent withholding tax on revenues generated in the United States, a crushing penalty in today’s cross-border financial markets.The bureaucratic burden of identifying, verifying and reporting has caused many banks to regard American clients, particularly those of moderate means, as more trouble than they are worth. Middle-class Americans living abroad are losing bank accounts and home mortgages and, in some cases, having their retirement savings exposed to debilitating taxes and penalties.
There is no recourse and no appeal process. Those impacted are left with the choice of uprooting their families (including foreign spouses and children), careers and businesses to re-establish a life in the United States; or to make the painful decision to renounce their citizenship.
Without significant and timely changes, that will only be the tip of the iceberg as foreign financial institutions continue their search for unprofitable American accounts. Remember, the vast majority of those renouncing citizenship are not wealthy tax evaders trading their passport for income tax savings; they are middle-class Americans, living overseas, fully compliant with their U.S. tax and reporting obligations.… To do nothing is a disaster scenario for Americans overseas. Middle-class taxpayers will continue to lose the financial accounts critical to their daily lives at an accelerating rate or they will, in desperation, renounce their U.S. citizenship. Either way, America’s international presence and competitiveness will be hurt.Worse yet, the law has spawned a potentially more intrusive program known as the Global Account Tax Compliance Act, or Gatca. The proposal, developed by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, calls for data from accounts opened by a foreign national to be automatically reported to that person’s homeland tax authorities. While Gatca is in an early stage of negotiation and implementation, observers believe that as many as 65 countries will ultimately be involved.Fatca, and by extension Gatca, are forming more links in the chain of global government snooping into the lives of innocent individuals under the guise of identifying criminals and tax cheats. For Americans, it is a massive breach of the Fourth Amendment, which forbids unreasonable search and seizure. …
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