Saturday, May 23, 2015

A massive breach of the Fourth Amendment: The vast majority of those renouncing citizenship are middle-class Americans, living overseas, fully compliant with their U.S. tax obligations

No one likes tax cheats 
acknowledges 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.

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. …
Related: An American Tax Nightmare

Boris Johnson, London Mayor and Possible Future UK PM, Hounded Into Renouncing His Dual American Citizenship

Keeping the IRS happy grew ever more time-consuming and costly, until it became intolerable

Allison Christians at Tax Analysts: Understanding the Accidental American: Tina's Story

Thursday, May 21, 2015

This whole hypocrisy shtick is a one way street; Liberals are tolerant of pretty much anything as long as you’re on their team

Congressman Alan Grayson really likes taxes when he doesn’t have to pay them
quips Benny Huang. (Instapundit, the National Journal, and Gawker have more on "the liberal populist hero Florida congressman".)
His tax shelters are entirely legal, of course, which makes Grayson more of a tax-dodger than a tax-cheater. The distinction is noted.

But if the congressman isn’t guilty of cheating on his taxes, isn’t he at least guilty of hypocrisy? This is a man who was critical of Mitt Romney’s Cayman Islands accounts and who urged the IRS to audit every Fortune 500 company because he suspected that many of them were “evading taxes through…offshore tax havens.”

Rich people really should pay their fair share; starting with Alan Grayson, whose net worth approaches $100 million. Disadvantaged children need to eat, congressman.

Grayson isn’t alone in his tax-shirking or in his hypocrisy. A list of tax cheats—real tax cheats—reads like a who’s who of the Democratic elite. Left-wing sugar daddy George Soros, without whom the Left would probably wither and die, owes the IRS an unimaginable sum of $6.7 billion dollars. Nearly the entire lineup of MSNBC owes back taxes, including the good reverend, Al Sharpton, who is delinquent to the tune of $1.5 million. Then there’s the Tim Geithner, former Secretary of the Treasury, the department under which the IRS falls, who somehow forgot to pay his taxes.

 … Another difference between liberals and conservatives is that liberals seem obsessed with the sin of hypocrisy, a common human frailty that we’re all guilt of, to a greater or lesser extent. On the surface it might seem that they really don’t care what you do—cheat on your wife, use drugs, dodge the draft—just as long as you don’t get preachy about it. From their perspective, only those who espouse standards should be held to them. If, on the other hand, you don’t pretend to be anything other than a dirt ball, welcome to the (Democratic) Party!

You can almost see the glee in their eyes whenever they find a conservative who has fallen short of his professed values. Recall Stephen Glass, the young reporter for The New Republic, a liberal magazine, who, in 1998, was embroiled in a scandal after he was caught fabricating juicy details for his stories and even creating some stories out of whole cloth. One of Glass’s more sensational pieces was “Spring Breakdown,” a story about drunken debauchery at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).

 … Despite the fact that every iota of the article sprung forth from Glass’s imagination, “Spring Breakdown” may still have some redeeming value as a case study on the liberal thought process. Glass probably believed that all of these hijinks were really going on at CPAC, so sure in fact that he didn’t even need to be there. His editors believed it too. The hypocrisy was just too delicious. 

While it may seem that liberals can’t be brought up on the same charges of hypocrisy because they aren’t a bunch of finger-wagging scolds like the rest of us, that’s not entirely true. Liberals do have an unwritten code of conduct based on a common set of principles. The fact that those principles are truly bizarre makes them no less real.

Taxes are an illustrative example of their hypocrisy. If there’s anything they hate more than a one-percenter, it’s a one-percenter who doesn’t pay his taxes. Don’t these people want roads and schools? Geez, I don’t know. If rich people just say that taxes suck, does that mean that they can cheat on them and no one can say boo? If I’ve learned anything from adultery scandals, the answer is yes. Only those who claim to have principles can be held accountable for violating them.

This whole hypocrisy shtick is a one way street. Liberals are in fact deeply hypocritical about hypocrisy. It’s not that they’re tolerant of a few peccadillos so long as you’re not self-righteous, they’re tolerant of pretty much anything as long as you’re on their team.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Keeping the IRS happy grew ever more time-consuming and costly, until it became intolerable

LARS was born in the United States to Swedish parents
writes The Economist.
Last year he renounced his American citizenship. Not because he hates America, but because he hates dealing with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Lars (not his real name) has not lived in the land of his birth since the mid-1990s. Yet each year the IRS would require him to fill out a 65-page tax return, foreign-account declarations and an extra 30-page form because he was a director of a company (in Europe). By contrast, the paperwork in the Nordic country where he lives is just 12 pages. He was sad to give up his passport, he says, but keeping the IRS happy grew ever more time-consuming and costly, until it became intolerable.

… Filing requirements have grown stricter since 2008. The “tipping point”, says Ms Serrato, was the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) of 2010, which will take effect next year. This imposes an array of new reporting obligations, especially on foreign financial institutions that serve Americans. The sheer hassle of dealing with all this is prompting more Americans to renounce their citizenship. In 2012 around 900 gave up their passports or green cards. Twice as many did so in the first half of 2013 alone.
Among the most prominent dual nationals hounded by the IRS into renouncing their passports — with disgust — is London mayor and possible future PM Boris Johnson.

From Warren (NJ), Alec Walton testifies that the
stories you described about how Americans living abroad have been affected by the penalties and the changes in American tax laws only scratched the surface (“Overtaxed and over there”, October 12th). I am a dual Swiss-American citizen and most members of my family have been “kindly asked” to close their Swiss bank accounts. Swiss-Americans are doubly punished because they are assumed to be “guilty”. Swiss bankers are terrified of making any mistakes and getting sued again by the American justice system.

They are erring on the safe side and purging all potentially “dangerous” clients. Congress is sacrificing international Americans to catch a few thieves. They have thrown the baby out with the bathwater. There are no votes in this issue, alas, so it will only get worse for us.
Related: A massive breach of the Fourth Amendment —  The vast majority of those renouncing citizenship are middle-class Americans, living overseas, fully compliant with their U.S. tax obligations

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Left is both parasite and vulture and, one by one, the great institutions that gave meaning to Western civilization have fallen to the infection of the Left

The Left is both parasite and vulture, spreading its disease by either insinuating itself in the body of others’ works and achievements and hollowing them out, or by feasting on dragons slain by those braver than they could ever be.  It lingers at the edge of battle, watching while others build and create, waiting patiently for the moment those heroes rest for a moment’s breath.  And then it swoops back to steal the food won by the hard effort of others and either enslaves them for their efforts, as in Russia (Soviet or Putinesque) and Cuba, or simply murdering them, man, woman, child, and infant, as in Nazi Germany and the contemporary extremist Islamic world.

Thus writes Lionel Chetwynd (thanks to Instapundit).
One by one, the great institutions that gave meaning to Western civilization have fallen to their infection.  Our schools teach their false history, our universities enforce their fascist speech codes, our media coddle their thuggish political hacks, our military is seconded to serve their social rather than our national security agenda, courts are enjoined to consider “just outcomes” rather than due process,” and now even the elected president of the United States questions the logic of the First Amendment, the guarantee of free speech.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Basically, the climate alarmists are asking us to cripple our economy based on prophesies that never come to pass

Climate alarmists are notoriously bad at making predictions. … there’s the UN’s 2005 prediction that fifty million climate refugees would inundate the world by 2011, an estimate that fell short by about fifty million.
Benny Huang is back and in as good shape as ever.
The doomsday clock struck midnight this May 4th as the United Nations’ predicted point-of-no-return for action on climate change passed.

… Eight years ago, the much-maligned Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), an artifact of the UN, declared that mankind had only eight years to drastically reduce carbon emissions if it wanted to hold global temperature change to less than two degrees Celsius.

  … Dire predictions are the bread and butter of the climate alarmist community. In January of 2009, NASA scientist and climate zealot Dr. James Hansen predicted eco-doom just a little sooner. “We cannot afford to put off change any longer,” said Hansen. “We have to get on a new path within this new administration. We have only four years left for Obama to set an example to the rest of the world. America must take the lead.”
Which hasn’t happened. As an odd twist of fate, America has reduced its carbon emissions, though only as an inadvertent byproduct of economic decline and stagnation, something President Obama would rather not take credit for. Actual legislation to combat climate change appears to be way down the list of his priorities, ranking behind healthcare and repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. President Obama has failed to shepherd a carbon tax plan through Congress, mostly because he hasn’t tried very hard.
 … The greatest contribution James Hansen could possibly make toward saving the earth would be to retire from the lecture circuit.

Could it be that Dr. Hansen et al. are engaging in a tried and true sales technique? It’s called “creating a sense of urgency” and it can be found with astonishing regularity in automobile showrooms. The unctuous salesman tries to convince you that he’s really trying to get the best deal for you and then pressures you jump on this amazing limited time offer. If you take the weekend to consider such a large purchase the promotion will be over and you’ll miss out. So don’t think, just buy.

You must act now! Time is running out!

But James Hansen is no mere salesman, is he? In a manner of speaking, he is. He’s selling an idea, and one that comes with an enormous price tag. What the climate alarmists are suggesting goes beyond carpooling and recycling. They’re basically asking us to cripple our economy based on some pretty outlandish prophesies that never come to pass.
 … In science, predictions are really where the rubber meets the road. To have any value, theories must have predictive capability. For example, when a twenty kilogram cannonball is dropped from a height of one hundred meters, scientists can accurately predict its velocity just before hitting the ground (44.27 m/s) and, knowing a little about the hardness of the surface, how much force it will exert upon impact.
That’s the way science works. Or at least that’s how it worked until a group of political activists masquerading as scientists changed the rules of the game.

When predictions miss the mark over and over again, prudent science-loving people recheck their calculations and revisit their assumptions to see what went wrong. But climate dogmatists have too often declared the science settled to admit any gaps in the theory. Consequently, the theory of global warming, or climate change, or whatever we’re calling it this week, need not provide any valid predictions. It can churn out one overblown horror story after another for nearly three decades and we’re all supposed to believe that the science is sound.
And settled.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Yesterday I was at a French dinner where one of the cheeses seemed to be in an advanced state of putrefaction

in general, we Brits are not used to seeing food that has grown a skin since it was prepared for consumption
writes Stephen Clarke.
I’m no scientist but I suspect that vast fortunes get spent by dairy companies on making sure that cartoned foods like yoghurt and rice pudding don’t grow skins. Similarly you don’t see cheeses with their rinds on in many British supermarkets, except for the lily-white perfection of the coating on a Camembert or Brie that looks more like icing on a cake. This is probably because we think it’s a bit of a rip-off to get sold a thick layer of inedible skin on such an expensive commodity, even if it doesn’t bother us when we peel mangoes.

Here in France, though, you can still buy lots of cheeses in their rinds, and there are a surprising number of small cheeses that you buy whole. Lots of people will also dig a cheese out of their fridge and scrape off the blue-green gunge that has accumulated as cheerfully if they were removing a bruise from an apple. Yesterday I was at a dinner where one of the cheeses on the board seemed to be in an advanced state of putrefaction. It had gone almost liquid and sunk in the middle like a rotten orange. But a woman squidged into it and smeared it on her plate as though she was serving caviar. It smelt like mature sock, but she pronounced it delicious. She was, I should add, a fairly posh 40-something Parisian, and there are plenty of French people out there, especially younger ones, who eat their cheese in neat metric cubes that have forgotten they ever had a skin. So i’m not sure that putrified Saint Marcelin has a great future, even here in France.

 … All of which made me laugh when a friend sent me the link to a BBC report about American food officials declaring French cheese “filthy” and inedible. The funniest thing was that it was Mimolette, a hard Edam-like cheese that even I as a Brit find a bit bland. It’s usually sold in small semi-circular slices with a curve of rind, or the kind of rectangular rindless blocks that you would think the Americans might enjoy. It’s the last cheese you would expect to get an import ban. The US food officials apparently objected to the mites on the skin, which makes you wonder whether American cheeses are ever made with rind. Maybe they’re just poured into a metal mould. Perhaps they don’t even curdle the milk any more – after all curdling is a sort of decomposition.

The tragic thing for France is that this American hang-up about food mites probably goes back to the mid-19th century when America itself infected France with an epidemic of cute yellow bugs called Phylloxera.