Roger D. Conklin
It was with great regret that ACA announced the passing of one of its longest serving Board members Mr. Roger D. Conklin. Mr. Conklin was recently awarded the Eugene Abrams Award for Exceptional Service to Americans Abroad (see below). Roger never gave up in his quest to raise awareness of the issues affecting Americans abroad. His last email to Jackie Bugnion, our former Tax Director, was written from his hospital bed on November 16th 2014 just nine days before he passed away. Roger will be greatly missed by those of us who worked with him at ACA, Inc. and also by the community of Americans living and working overseas for whom he tirelessly advocated.
Roger D. Conklin Receives Award for Exceptional Service to Americans Abroad
ACA is proud to confer its Eugene Abrams Award for 2014 on Roger D. Conklin. The Abrams Award, (named for Eugene B. Abrams, ACA Executive Director from 1992-1994), honors Americans abroad who have contributed outstanding volunteer service to their community. This year, it is being presented to a former American abroad who has been of invaluable service to the overseas American community.
Mr. Conklin has worked tirelessly for decades to bring home the message that overseas Americans are a vital asset to the United States, and an essential component in expanding United States trade and exports. As ACA Director Jackie Bugnion wrote him recently, “I must say that your constant devotion to the cause of Americans abroad – over nearly 40 years – is absolutely exceptional. Your command of the historic details and personal experience with the arbitrary changes of the law have provided all of us with a wealth of information and inspiration.”
Mr. Conklin, currently retired in Palmetto Bay, FL, spent most of his working life promoting sales of American products overseas. He lived abroad in Peru and in Brazil, and during his career he marketed US exports in 98 foreign countries. When the US Tax Reform Act of 1976 was passed, drastically reducing the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion and making numerous other employee perks taxable, he was managing director of a Brazilian-owned company in Rio de Janeiro selling and implementing turnkey telecommunications projects in that country, using US-made telecommunications products. Faced with double taxation which totaled over 80% of his income, Mr. Conklin and his family – like thousands of other American business people abroad at the time – were forced to abandon their jobs in Brazil and return to the US in order to survive. The marketing gap left by his departure was soon filled by a French company, selling French-made products to what developed into a $1 billion a year export market.
From the time of his forced return to the United States, Roger Conklin became an activist, working to educate the American government and the American public of the imperative need to have Americans abroad “in the field” selling American products, thereby creating and maintaining jobs in the USA. He has tirelessly testified before Congress (numerous times, from 1978 to 2011), written in-depth articles and participated actively in online blogs. Mr. Conklin recently wrote:
"I believe in this cause more so today than ever. The snowball effect of citizenship-based taxation continues so needlessly to not only destroy the lives of proud and loyal Americans abroad and our relations with peoples of other countries as well as handicap the American economy by creating a truly unique un-level playing field for our citizens as well as American companies in their effort to grow our economy and create jobs at home."
ACA has benefited from his input as a Director for many years. ACA Executive Director Marylouise Serrato commented, "Roger Conklin has played an enormous role in bringing interest in the cause of Americans abroad and their effect on trade to attain a truly global level of intercourse; future generations of overseas Americans will benefit from the ball he helped get rolling."
ACA Inc. is a Washington-based non-profit, non-partisan, volunteer association with worldwide membership whose mission is to represent the interests of Americans living overseas. The organization works on behalf of its members with the Executive Branch of the US Government, the US Congress, and the Federal Judiciary. With offices in Washington DC and Geneva Switzerland, ACA Inc. draws on more than three decades of rich experience and knowledge of laws affecting Americans living overseas.
American Citizens Abroad (ACA) sadly announced the death of the founder of ACA, Andrew P. Sundberg, on August 30th 2012. Andy Sundberg, who was 71, was a brilliant, charismatic, warm and funny man of broad intellectual interests who spent his entire life working to convince the US government that Americans living abroad are assets to the country and should be treated as such.
Sundberg was born in 1941 and grew up in Japan and Germany. A graduate of the United States Naval Academy, he was a Rhodes scholar at Oxford and served in the Navy in Cuba and Vietnam before moving to Geneva in 1968. In 1977 he and others in Geneva founded the American Children’s Citizens Rights League, after they discovered that their children born abroad would not have American citizenship. Sundberg’s efforts with Congress led to a change in US legislation which made it easier for children born abroad to Americans to acquire American nationality. In 1978 he founded American Citizens Abroad to address the broad range of issues specific to Americans outside of the United States.
He devoted much of his work to encouraging the United States to change from a citizenship-based taxation system, with its highly negative impact on Americans living abroad, to a residence-based system like that of virtually every other country in the world. A history enthusiast, Sundberg compiled a complete historical review of US taxation impacting Americans abroad.
Sundberg founded local organizations of both Republicans and Democrats Abroad in Geneva, served as the worldwide chairman of Democrats Abroad from 1980 to 1985, and as a member of the Democratic National Committee from 1981 to 1988. He raised the profile of Americans abroad when he ran for President of the United States in 1988, in the worldwide overseas Democratic Party primary.
In addition to his enormous work on behalf of Americans abroad, Sundberg for many years was an international business consultant for public and private sector clients worldwide. He also founded an internet company, and worked for a number of years to develop new micro-finance projects in Africa in partnership with African diaspora groups in Europe.
All who are active in ACA appreciate enormously his tireless efforts on behalf of Americans abroad. He will be greatly missed.