ACA's Voice in the News -- previous quotes
ACA is frequently called on for on-air media interviews and quoted in leading publications such as The Hill, Bloomberg, The Wall Street Journal. Below are some previous articles where ACA was quoted.
This page is an archive, for current items, click here
Wall Street Journal Blog (website, December 13, 2015)
"Tips For U.S. Expats Coping With New FAST Law Affecting Passports"
"...Here’s the view of Charles M. Bruce, an American lawyer with Bonnard Lawson in Lausanne, Switzerland, who advises American Citizens Abroad, an expat group: 'The revocation or denial of passport provision in this bill is exactly the kind of tax legislation that drives Americans overseas crazy. It’s attached to a huge bill mainly dealing with a subject totally unrelated to the one affecting them. There were never any hearings at which they could present their views. No one seems to know who pushed for this legislation.'
"He added, 'No one seemed willing to take into account the fact that communications from the IRS to taxpayers living abroad sometimes go astray. Also, the ability for these taxpayers to resolve a collections matter, which has never been easy, has been made harder by the closure of IRS foreign offices.'"
My International Adventure (website, December 1, 2015)
"Why are Americans Renouncing their Citizenship?"
"...Serrato said that to alleviate the lock-out that still exists by many foreign financial institutions, ACA has proposed a “Same Country Exemption,” which would remove from FATCA reporting, for both individuals and banks, financial accounts located in the country where the U.S. citizen is a legal resident.
"The ACA proposal has been reviewed with key staff at the IRS and the U.S. Treasury department and has been well-received, according to Serrato."
Forbes (Dec. 2, 2015)
"IRS Poised to veto passports"
Within days, the IRS will be able to revoke your passport for unpaid taxes. This bad idea has been kicking around for several years. This time, it is buried within 1300 pages of highway legislation. The government will surely see it as a nice complement to FATCA, the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act. That massive law penalizes foreign banks that don’t hand over American account holders.
Not everyone is happy about giving the IRS power over passports. A group called American Citizens Abroad ACA has urged Congress to reject tying tax collection to passports. Their press release is worth reading. But Congress is poised to pass H.R.22, which has already passed both the House and the Senate. It is in conference, but is not expected to change. So, get ready for new section 7345 of the tax code, called “Revocation or Denial of Passport in Case of Certain Tax Delinquencies.”
Wall Street Journal (Nov. 20, 2015)
"Americans: Pay Your Taxes--Or Lose Your Passport"
The Wall Street Journal has an article dated 20 Nov. 2015 about ACA's objection to a new law expected to take effect in January 2016 (as part of the new "Highway Bill") which would block Americans with "seriously delinquent" tax debts from receiving new passports and which would also rescind existing passports. Revoking passports of Americans living abroad would cause serious problems as often it's their only means of identity in a foreign country.
http://www.wsj.com/articles/americans-pay-your-taxes-or-lose-your-passport-1447971424 (subscription may be required)
Financial Times (October 9, 2015)
"Banks give up US expats’ data in tax evasion crackdown"
ACA Director Marylouise Serrato was quoted in this article about new FATCA reporting requirements:
"Bank details belonging to hundreds of thousands of American expats have been passed to Washington, marking the start of a new era of data exchange by governments intent on cracking down on tax cheats.
"Many US expats who have failed to file US tax returns will be eligible for a partial amnesty, known as the 'streamlined' programme which does not impose penalties on people who can say they had not wilfully failed to comply with their obligations to file returns.
"Marylouise Serrato, executive director of American Citizens Abroad, which publishes a directory of tax return preparers, said: 'It doesn’t necessarily follow you have to find a preparer in the country where you live. We are hoping there will be competitive pricing that will help alleviate the high cost of compliance.'"
http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/0f18a506-6e91-11e5-aca9-d87542bf8673.html#axzz3oMFc4Vg2 (subscription may be required)
Tax Notes (Sept. 14, 2015)
"Theories for Expatriation Numbers Abound, but Answers Are Elusive"
Two directors of ACA, Inc. were quoted in a Tax Notes article (Sept. 14, 2015) on the growing number of renunciations:
"...Charles Bruce of Bonnard Lawson, who is also legal counsel for American Citizens Abroad [said] 'Before FATCA, one of the things that drove a big spike years ago were news stories [involving renunciations] being written up in Forbes magazine.' He added that recently, FATCA had also led to renunciations, not so much because of a desire to save on taxes, given high foreign tax rates, but more to avoid the compliance burden. 'People are getting a paper blizzard,' he said, also citing the complexities in reporting foreign bank and financial accounts and completing Form 8938 'Statement of Specified Foreign Financial Assets.'
"'It’s hard to know from these figures what is really behind renunciations,' said Marylouise Serrato, executive director of American Citizens Abroad. 'Clearly in the last couple of years, with the increase in compliance, it’s obvious that there was a huge community of Americans overseas who had no real understanding of how they were supposed to file or that they were supposed to file.' She added that the recent media attention given to overseas compliance resulting in increased awareness of duties may have played into increased renunciations."
Full article (pdf reproduced by permission)
Bloomberg BNA (August 26, 2015)
"Plaintiffs Fire Back at Justice Department in Case Over FATCA"
"Battle lines have been drawn in a case seeking to get the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act and its accompanying intergovernmental agreements declared unconstitutional...The case highlights the fact that while many overseas Americans agree FATCA is causing financial havoc and other problems, U.S. citizens abroad don't agree on how to fix the problems...'We think a same country safe harbor is highly achievable,' ACA spokeswoman Marylouise Serrato said Aug. 25, noting that her group was one of the first to support that approach. 'It's the most doable, the most practical, we stand by that.'"
(Reproduced with permission from Daily Tax Report 166 DTR K-3 (Aug. 27, 2015). Copyright 2015 by The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. (800-372-1033) <http://www.bna.com>)
Migrationpolicy.org (July 29, 2015)
"Americans Abroad: A Disillusioned Diaspora?"
Academic researcher Dr. Amanda Klekowski von Koppenfels, Lecturer in Migration and Politics at the Brussels School of International Studies, recently published an article entitled “Americans Abroad: A Disillusioned Diaspora.” Dr. Klekowski highlights some of ACA’s work. Dr. Klekowski speaks to the frustrations and problems of the Americans overseas community and the opportunity for productive engagement by the United States with the community.
ExpatForum.com (June 8, 2015)
"Foreign tax rules may be unfairly targeting US expats"
"An organisation that represents American expats has called on the United States Treasury to amend tax regulations to exempt those living abroad from the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA).
"Where a US person truly resides in a foreign country and has a normal financial account at a bank or similar institution in the same country, ACA is recommending the FFI should treat it as if it belonged to someone who is not a US taxpayer, and the latter would not have to list the account when reporting a Statement of Specified Foreign Financial Assets.
"‘If the account in question is a garden variety bank account and it sits in a bank down the street in the same country, it’s realistic to assume that this account is used for normal, everyday purposes such as to buy groceries, to pay the rent, to pay for vacation travel, and so forth,’ said Marylouise Serrato, executive director of ACA.
"‘This type of account should not be affected by FATCA. With this exemption, foreign bankers could relax a bit when dealing with their American customers. And Americans living outside the US would not need to feel that they are being unfairly targeted,’ she added."
The Wall Steet Journal (June 5, 2015)
"The New Rules of Offshore Accounts"
"For expatriates, the annual income-tax filing deadline is normally June 15, , instead of April 15. In addition, all U.S. taxpayers with offshore accounts totaling more than $10,000 in 2014—regardless of where they live—have until June 30 to file FinCen Form 114, known as Fbar, a report giving details of the accounts.
"But new issues are cropping up. Bills with support in the House and Senate could allow the revocation or denial of passports to people with unpaid taxes of more than $50,000, says Marylouise Serrato, executive director of American Citizens Abroad. The group worries that if the provisions become law, expats could suffer. Some could owe taxes they are unaware of and lose their passport, even though the debt might later be reduced or eliminated by the IRS. 'For Americans living overseas, a U.S. passport is the only official document proving they’re American,' Ms. Serrato says, so being without one can make living abroad not only difficult but risky."
Reuters Press Release (May 26, 2015)
"New survey finds US expat voting could impact 2016 Presidential Election"
"Greenback Expat Tax Services conducted this survey with over 1,800 US expats in cooperation with the American Citizens Abroad Global Foundation (ACAGF), a section 501(c)(3) charitable organization focusing principally on educational matters to promote the interests of Americans abroad.
"Both organizations intended for the survey to gather the opinions of overseas Americans on the issues that impact them most. One clear message the data reflected was the growing frustration with US tax laws, such as Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), a major US initiative to uncover US taxpayers hiding money overseas to avoid paying American taxes. FATCA requires individuals to report their offshore assets if they exceed certain thresholds and foreign financial institutions are now required to report information about the accounts of their American clients to the US. [...]
"The respondents who answered said that they didn't vote were for the following reasons: 15% didn't know how to vote while living abroad, 9% didn't feel their vote would make a difference and 10% didn't feel that voting as an expat was important. [...]
" 'The results of the survey are very important to the work that ACAGF and American Citizens Abroad, Inc. are doing on behalf of Americans living and working overseas. Identifying the problem areas and the concerns of this community helps our organizations better formulate policy and supports ACA, Inc.'s advocacy efforts with the legislature,' said Marylouise Serrato, Executive Director, American Citizens Abroad (ACA, Inc.), a sister section 501(c)(4) organization to American Citizens Abroad Global Foundation (ACAGF), a publicly-supported charity under section 501(c)(3).
" 'ACA Global Foundation understands the importance of identifying the issues facing the community of Americans living and working overseas. Better understanding of our members' and supporters' issues helps us educate everyone, including Congress, as to the real needs of Americans living and working overseas,' said Charles Bruce, Chairman of ACAGF."
Expatbriefing.com (May 8, 2015)
"FATCA: No Respite For US Expats-Yet"
Following another call from US expat pressure group Americans Citizens Abroad (ACA) that the United States Treasury amend tax regulations to exempt Americans residing in a foreign country from the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), this feature provides an overview of this controversial tax reporting law and recent FATCA developments.
Commenting on the problem, Marylouise Serrato, Executive Director of ACA said: "If the account in question is a garden-variety bank account and it sits in a bank down the street in the same country, it's realistic to assume that this account is used for normal, everyday purposes: To buy groceries, to pay the rent, to pay for vacation travel, and so forth. This type of account should not be affected by FATCA. With this exemption, foreign bankers could relax a bit when dealing with their American customers. And Americans living outside the US would not need to feel that they are being unfairly targeted."
"All these reporting requirements, and the threat of penalties if the reporting is not complete and accurate, are causing some foreign banks and other financial institutions to cut off access by Americans overseas to foreign financial tools, such as mortgages, bank accounts, insurance policies, and pension funds, all of which are essential financial tools for survival overseas," ACA observes.
Tax-News.com (April 23, 2015)
"Residence-Based Taxation Proposed For Americans Abroad"
"American Citizens Abroad (ACA) has submitted a proposal to the US Senate Finance Committee individual and international tax reform working groups for the enactment of residence-based taxation (RBT) for American expatriates. It said lawmakers should enact RBT instead of the present citizenship-based taxation (CBT) because it would reduce compliance burdens for expatriates, provide more efficient taxation, and improve competitiveness...."
Accounting Today (April 21, 2015)
"Taxpayer Advocate Recommends Merging FATCA and FBAR Reporting Rules"
The National Taxpayer Advocate has recommended that the reporting rules under the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act and for foreign bank account reports in effect be merged to simplify the duplicative disclosure requirements that make it difficult for American expatriates to have bank accounts in the foreign countries where they live.
The expatriate advocacy group Americans Living Abroad [ACA, Inc.] has been pushing for relief from the onerous requirements of FATCA, which was included as part of the HIRE Act of 2010. FATCA requires foreign financial institutions to report on the holdings of U.S. taxpayers to the Internal Revenue Service, or else face stiff penalties of up to 30 percent on their U.S. source income. The older rules for foreign bank account reports, or FBARs, require taxpayers themselves to report on their holdings in overseas bank accounts. Both sets of requirements are aimed at discouraging taxpayers from hiding their assets in secret bank accounts abroad, but have also led many U.S-born expatriates to face difficulties in maintaining bank accounts, even if they haven't lived in the U.S. for years.
ABC News (Oct 28, 2014)
"Record Number of Americans Renouncing Citizenship Because of Overseas Tax Burdens"
Experts say this growing number of ex-Americans is a side effect of new tax regulations within the last few years intended to crack down on tax evasion but that also make it harder for all citizens abroad to conduct even routine financial transactions. Chief among them is the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, or FATCA, passed by Congress in 2010 and in effect since July 2014. FATCA aimed to cut down on the use of secret offshore accounts by requiring foreign banks to report all Americans with accounts over $50,000 or face a 30 percent surcharge on the accounts.
ACA's Marylouise Serrato, was quoted as saying that FATCA "ended up hurting otherwise law-abiding citizens living in foreign countries, of which the most recent estimates say there are 6.32 million. Serrato cited a 2014 poll conducted by the group Democrats Abroad that found an average of 12.7 percent of applicants for various foreign financial services were denied by their banks."
The Wall Street Journal (Sept. 11, 2014)
In reference to increasing banking problems for Americans living abroad, ACA was quoted in the Wall Street Journal.
"...'Can it really be that expats are facing such massive obstacles in basic financial matters?'
"Today, the answer is often 'yes,' say advocates for the estimated 7.6 million U.S. citizens living outside the country. 'The reality on the ground is that overseas Americans are facing restrictions and lockouts from both U.S. and foreign financial firms,' said Marylouise Serrato, the director of American Citizens Abroad, the leading group representing U.S. expatriates.
"Experts say a broad range of U.S. expats are affected, and that the wealthy and employees of multinational firms aren't immune. 'The financial institutions weigh how lucrative the relationship is against the possible compliance risks and burdens,' said Jonathan Lachowitz, an adviser at White Lighthouse Investment Management, a firm based in Massachusetts and Switzerland. ..."
Newsweek (June 28, 2014)
ACA, Inc. was quoted in this article about tax problems of U.S. citizens living abroad: "I think U.S. legislators are unfamiliar with the concerns of Americans living overseas,” says Marylouise Serrato, executive director of ACA (American Citizens Abroad). “There’s an idea in the public mind that they are a bunch of wealthy people looking to evade taxes. But we can attest that they are a much broader demographic.”
Only about 35 percent of Americans hold a passport – a statistic that underscores how travelling, let alone living, outside of the U.S. is an unfamiliar concept to most citizens.
The United States is the only industrialized country in the world to tax the income of its citizens based on nationality rather than residency. Citizens who earn below $97,600 annually can claim an exclusion, but the complexity of the tax laws means that most expats need the help of an accountant – a yearly expense that can easily run into the thousands even when no taxes are owed.
Washington Post (May 22, 2014)
"'While the [tax] law targets people willfully concealing their assets from tax collectors, it has become onerous for some Americans working overseas who are paying their taxes,' said Marylouise Serrato, executive director of the nonprofit American Citizens Abroad [ACA, Inc.].
"'We are hearing and seeing Americans being denied mortgages, bank accounts and pension funds overseas by some foreign financial institutions that are nervous about the risks,' she said.
"Serrato also takes issue with one of the government’s most successful tax evasion initiatives, the Overseas Voluntary Disclosure Program. Since the program took effect in 2009, more than 43,000 taxpayers have told the IRS about their offshore accounts and paid more than $6 billion in back taxes, interest and penalties.
"But Serrato argues that many of those taxpayers caught by that IRS program were not deliberately evading taxes. She has received complaints from Americans living overseas who did not know they had to declare foreign pension plans and were hit with thousands of dollars in fines once they alerted the IRS."
Yahoo Finance (Feb. 7, 2014)
Marylouise Serrato, executive director of American Citizens Abroad, an advocacy group, says FATCA goes beyond targeting tax cheats — it inconveniences U.S. citizens who have simply moved abroad for work or family reasons. “Our community is made up of people who are very middle class, very average and these people are getting stuck in a difficult situation. They don’t want to have these really onerous penalties (for making a mistake on their tax return) but they can’t afford to pay some professional to do it either.”
Time (Dec. 20, 2013)
"...in October ACA’s executive director Marylouise Serrato wrote a letter to Robert Stack, IRS’ Deputy Assistant Secretary, noting that while the organization supports the government’s efforts to combat tax evasion, banking services would be more accessible to US nationals abroad if financial accounts located – and taxed – in the country of residence would not be subject to FATCA reporting."
International Business Times (Dec. 20, 2013)
" 'What we're seeing is that many banks, regardless of the inter-governmental agreements, just seem to be taking a decision that it's just easier not to provide services to American clients,' the ACA Executive Director told International Business Times, 'Definitely in the last year and a half we've seen an escalation of banking denial.' "
CNN (November 14, 2013)
The rule, which goes into effect July 2014 [FATCA], requires foreign banks to identify and scrutinize Americans with accounts containing at least $50,000 and either report those accounts to U.S. tax authorities or withhold 30% of dividends, interest, and other payments and send that money to the U.S. Treasury. The law, widely hated by Americans living and working abroad, has made it tough to do simple financial things abroad.
Marylouise Serrato, the executive director of American Citizens Abroad, a Geneva-based lobby for expats, said recently in an email that "individuals with legitimate need of banking services will be locked out" of many foreign countries.
The New York Times (November 14, 2013)
The law [FATCA], approved in 2010, faced widespread criticism from the start. Foreign banks said it was overly broad and would be costly to implement, and some financial groups termed it a heavy-handed effort to impose American tax laws around the world.
Expat groups like American Citizens Abroad blame Fatca and other complex tax-filing requirements for a continuing uptick in the number of people renouncing their citizenship.
The Economist (October 13, 2013)
With a tax system based on citizenship rather than residence, America is the only advanced country that chases its nationals—even those who have long had no links to their homeland—for a slice of their worldwide earnings. Many of the 7.2m living abroad end up owing nothing, because they get credit for payments to foreign exchequers, which are often higher. But they still have to fill out the forms—or, more likely, pay someone to help. Even in simple cases this can cost $2,000 or more, says Marylouise Serrato of American Citizens Abroad (ACA), an advocacy group.
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. Title of article: “Overtaxed and over there”.
CNN Money (Sep. 15, 2013)
That's only a small sample of banks that are refusing to do business with Americans, who now face a "banking lockout problem," said Marylouise Serrato, executive director of American Citizens Abroad.
It's already a challenge to keep existing accounts open, and it's getting harder to open new ones. Americans are being refused financial services such as mortgages, insurance policies, and pension plans, she said.
"I mean, how do you function without a bank account or a charge card?" she said. "If you can't put your name in an account because a bank doesn't want an American, how do you even rent an apartment to live?"
Bilan (July 25, 2013)
"L'un des problèmes liés à FBAR est que la personne concernée doit également déclarer les comptes sur lesquels elle a la signature à titre professionnel", relève Jackie Bugnion, administratrice d'ACA où elle est responsable des questions de taxation au niveau mondial. Les sociétés américaines elles-même sont réticentes: "Cela leur coûte deux à trois fois plus cher de faire venir quelqu'un des Etats-Unis que d'engager un étranger sur place". Pire, Jackie Bugnion cite le cas d'un Américain établi en Allemagne et forcé de quitter son emploi.
Jusqu'à il y a une douzaine d'années, les expatriés vivaient assez bien avec une législation déjà étouffante, parce qu'ils pouvaient encore se permettre de l'ignorer, l'administration ne se donnant pas véritablement les moyens de la faire appliquer.
Le vent a tourné à partir de 2001 et surtout de 2009, "après le scandale d'UBS", précise Jackie Bugnion qui relativise l'impact des trois Voluntary disclosure programs lancés par l'IRS en 2009, 2011 et 2012. Il y aussi une Streamlined Filing Procedure instituée en septembre 2012 par l'IRS qui ajoute encore à la complexité du choix auquel sont confrontés les expatriés, car l'IRS n'offre pas une amnistie véritable, ni une garantie d'immunité. Dans le meilleur des cas, le spectre de la prison est écarté au prix de 27,5% des actifs détenus à l'étranger.
Deux-tiers des Américains à l'étranger n'ont pas rempli leurs obligations, le plus souvent par ignorance, et "ils ne savent pas comment rentrer dans le système", explique Jackie Bugnion. S'annoncer à l'IRS est une démarche qui peut mal tourner et se solder par la ruine totale, car même les comptes de 2e pilier doivent être déclarés et sont donc susceptibles d'être frappés d'une pénalité de 300%...
International Adviser (June 25, 2013)
American Citizens Abroad, a Geneva-based advocacy organisation, said it could not independently verify reports that expats had been asked to close or move retirement accounts, but said it could confirm hearing from some “who have been rejected for accounts or had limitations put on accounts held by Fidelity, Scottrade, Sharebuilder, ETrade and TD Ameritrade”.
The organisation has struggled to get much traction on the issue, it added, because American legislators “throw it back at the private banks/brokerage firms, and they in turn quote corporate policy”.
Bloomberg BNA (April 16, 2013)
“We've had positive discussions with both the Ways and Means and Finance committees," Marylouise Serrato, ACA's executive director, told BNA. (...)
About 7 million Americans live and work abroad, ACA said. Serrato said as many as 1 million of those are in Canada.
In most cases, Serrato said, Americans living and working in other countries do not owe taxes to the United States because credits for foreign taxes paid and the foreign income exclusion cancel out any U.S. tax liability. About 82 percent of Americans who live abroad and file a Form 1040, U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, do not owe taxes to IRS, the group said; in most cases, foreign countries' tax rates are higher than those of the United States.
But Americans working abroad still must file a U.S. income tax return.
ACA estimated that Americans abroad contribute about $6.3 billion annually to the U.S. Treasury in taxes but noted that other estimates range from $3 billion to $4 billion.
Because filing taxes is complicated for Americans living in other countries – with currency conversions and other idiosyncrasies adding wrinkles to the process – most Americans hire tax professionals who are knowledgeable in both nations' tax systems, which is expensive and, in some places, hard to find, the group said.
In addition, Americans working abroad are subject to FATCA and FBAR and face penalties for noncompliance.
Those requirements, aimed at Americans who evade taxes through the use of foreign accounts, discourage foreign banks from doing business with ordinary Americans living and working in their countries, Serrato said.
“If you're an American, they just don't want you. They don‘t want your business,” she said.
Under the ACA proposal, Americans in foreign countries would be taxed on the same basis as nonresident aliens. They would not be subject to US. taxation on foreign source income. Nonresident Americans with U.S. source investment income, Social Security income, pension income, rents, and royalties would be subject to U.S. withholding tax.
Nonresident Americans would no longer be subject to FBAR and FATCA, the group said.
Serrato said ACA has been working on the issue for 18 months, including pressing a congressional Americans Abroad caucus chaired by Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Joe Wilson (R—S.C.).
While Serrato said meetings with congressional staff have been positive, one analyst told BNA the
issue may have a long way to go.
The Hill (April 11, 2013)
The group American Citizens Abroad, which is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, is organizing the letter-writing campaign in a bid to change how U.S. expatriates are taxed.
Marylouise Serrato, the group’s executive director, said citizens living abroad want to be heard as lawmakers on Capitol Hill debate closing loopholes and deductions to lower tax rates.
“Our experience has showed that our members get behind our causes. They want to make their Congressman listen. They want to write to Washington,” Serrato said. (...)
“We want to empower Americans who are going overseas who create economic opportunities. We are just not doing that with citizenship-based taxation,” said Serrato, who is helping run the organization out of her Maryland home after moving back from Switzerland last year. “You pay taxes in the jurisdiction where you have earned the income. ... You shouldn’t be taxed twice on the same income.” (...)
American Citizens Abroad is also pushing hard against the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), which requires foreign banks to report U.S.- citizen-held accounts to the U.S. government. The law was created to crack down on offshore tax evasion, but expatriates have complained of foreign banks denying them service due to FATCA’s strict rules.
Serrato said Americans residing in foreign countries should not be subject to the law.
“An American living in France having a French bank account is not an overseas account,” Serrato said. “Let’s exclude those in- home accounts.” (...)
Serrato said business groups are also concerned about how individuals are taxed. She pointed to a U.S. Chamber of Commerce letter to Ways and Means that said, “no other country taxes its citizens working abroad ... any transition to a territorial tax system should take this into consideration and end this damaging practice.” (...)
“There is tax reform on the table. It doesn’t come around every day. … It’s an once in a lifetime opportunity,” Serrato said. “We are telling our membership that Ways and Means has given you a platform. Take it and use it.”
New York Times (April 5, 2013)
There is also the issue of other countries’ taxes that the United States does not recognize. Marylouise Serrato, executive director of American Citizens Abroad, a lobbying group, said many wealth, social and value-added taxes in Europe were not eligible for credits or deductions on American taxes. “They could be a significant part of your foreign tax bill, but you can’t apply them to your U.S. taxes, so you just pay them,” she said. (...)
Ms. Serrato said her group had heard of many instances of Americans abroad having their accounts closed in the United States because the banks did not want to deal with the reporting requirements. On the other end, she has heard that opening accounts in different countries has become more difficult.
“We support the crackdown on tax evasion, but there has been a lot of blanket legislation put out there that can hit the unknowing or the unwitting,” she said.
Foreign pension plans, for instance, are not considered tax-exempt under American law. Americans are required to report the plans to the I.R.S. as they would bank or investment accounts. Failure to do so carries harsh penalties.
“If you’re a person who didn’t know your pension account needed to be reported but you reported your checking and savings account,” Ms. Serrato said, “now you’re faced with criminal penalties for a filing error and you could end up paying a penalty that could wipe out 50 percent of that account.”
Time (Jan. 31, 2013)
“FATCA is the straw that broke the camel’s back,” says Jackie Bugnon, director of American Citizens Abroad (ACA), a Geneva-based expatriate advocacy group. Because this legislation forces local banks to invest in expensive new infrastructure in order to comply with the IRS rules, “access to foreign financial institutions is being shut off and Americans abroad are treated like criminals,” she adds. (...)
One way to stave off the surge in renunciations, ACA’s Bugnon points out, is to tax expatriates on the same basis as nonresident aliens, who maintain a tax home in a foreign country and benefit from the same tax laws as American citizens within U.S. territory. That’s the proposal the ACA will push during the Overseas Americans Week, to be held in Washington, D.C., the week of Feb. 11.
Huffington Post (Nov. 9, 2012)
“For the most part, it is in reaction to the complexity of the legislation and the tax situation that affects Americans,” said Marylouise Serrato, executive director of American Citizens Abroad, an advocacy group for Americans who live overseas.
International Adviser (Sep. 10, 2012)
Marylouise Serrato, executive director of ACA, said the report seeks to educate those running for office about the problems their overseas constituents, and other Americans living overseas, are facing as a result of such recent US legislation as the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, which was intended to crack down on Americans who hide assets in overseas bank accounts.
As the town hall meetings revealed, Serrato said, “many [expatriate Americans]... are finding that banks overseas are applying FATCA in a way that makes life very difficult for average, law-abiding American citizens who live and work overseas.”
She noted that marriages between Americans and non-Americans “are coming under great stress, because the non-American partner is understandably reluctant to share joint account information” with the US tax authorities.
New York Times (July 30, 2012)
Marylouise Serrato, executive director of American Citizens Abroad, welcomed the proposal.
“We’re not asking for anything but just sit down and investigate these policies,” Ms. Serrato said. “It’s a very neutral, very nonpartisan initiative.”
Bloomberg (June 26, 2012)
The IRS announcement recognizes anger building among U.S. taxpayers around the world because of the government’s enforcement efforts, said Charles Bruce, tax counsel of American Citizens Abroad, an advocacy group.
“They need to lance the boil a bit and let off some of the bad feelings, so they’re doing something,” said Bruce, who said the changes don’t go far enough. “This program, the way it exists and the way it’s slightly amended, is too scary. They’ve scared away people from getting into compliance and this is going to continue to scare people.”
Non-resident taxpayers disclosing their information to the IRS will be required to file three years of past tax returns and other paperwork showing their account holdings for six years.
The U.S., unlike most other countries, requires its citizens to pay U.S. taxes on the income they earn around the world. They can receive tax credits for payments to other governments.
The IRS news release said some taxpayers have recently become aware of their obligations. That can happen to people who didn’t realize that they became U.S. citizens because they were born in the country.
Such situations are common, said Bruce, mentioning a client who is a physicist in Switzerland and hadn’t been filing the right paperwork based on her understanding of past conversations with an embassy official.
“It’s not in their minds, nor is there an H&R Block (HRB) around the corner telling them they have to do this,” said Bruce, who practices in Washington and in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Bloomberg Businessweek (May 1, 2012)
American Citizens Abroad, a Geneva-based organization that campaigns for taxation based on residency, said the government doesn’t always distinguish between U.S.-based tax dodgers with offshore accounts and expatriates that need foreign banking services.
“The perception is that any American living overseas is there for a nefarious reason,” said Marylouise Serrato, executive director of the organization that has members in 90 countries. “There isn’t a deep understanding in the U.S. of why American citizens would move overseas.”
Taxing Americans resident overseas is a “hangover from the Civil War” and the introduction of federal income tax in 1861, according to Jackie Bugnion of American Citizens Abroad. The rules make it harder for Americans to hold foreign bank accounts and gain access to mortgages, she said.