Another extraordinary resource passed along by Just Me. The Life of An American Abroad is a twenty minute video that was filmed during a tax seminar earlier this year.
An actor plays the role of a very naive American who moves to the UK to study and work and who ends up falling in love, getting a permanent residency permit, buying a house, getting married, having children, saving for retirement, and ultimately passing away in his host country.
Now if this person were from any other country in the world (i.e. not the U.S.) you know what we'd call him? An emigrant/immigrant. I find it very amusing that, for the most part, we don't and I think that's a problem. As Camus once said, "Mal nommer les choses, c'est ajouter au malheur du monde." (Calling things by incorrect names is adding to the misery in the world.)
As this American tells his life story, a panel of tax advisors is there to explain to him what he has to do to stay compliant with the U.S. worldwide tax and reporting regime (citizenship-based taxation). To his horror (and mine) not one thing that he does in that life remains untouched by the IRS. Well, perhaps that is an overstatement since he is allowed to eat, breathe, and eliminate waste without the U.S. government looking over his shoulder. How generous of them.
I personally know many Americans who have experienced all the life events talked about this video and I think I'm on very firm ground here when I say that even the folks I know who think they are compliant, probably aren't.
So I strongly urge everyone to watch this video and I mean everyone.
For those of you reading this blog who are not U.S. citizens or Green Card holders and who think this does not concern them, please think again. You are indirectly concerned because many of your governments find the American system rather admirable (the French, for example). Members of other diasporas ( French, German, Mexican, Brazilians and so on) would do well to be aware of how U.S. worldwide taxation works so they can fight efforts to have something similar imposed on them. As for those of you who are married or contemplating marriage to a U.S. citizen, best to know what you're getting into (or the merde you are already in).
For Flophouse readers who live in the U.S. and who are still under the impression that Americans abroad are making a big deal out of nothing, watch the video and ask yourself: would you be willing to live like this? And what about your children who may one day wish to live and work abroad? Do you want them to be captive citizens shut out from all the goodies associated with globalization, unable to take that great job in Shanghai or London because no one will hire Americans anymore or because the cost of compliance with all the U.S. requirements is simply too high?
And finally for my fellow Americans abroad, I'd like you to do something for me before you click "start." Find a quiet place, take a deep breathe, and relax. You have options. Not all of them will make you happy and some will require effort on your part. What you do with this information is entirely up to you. I fully understand and empathize with those who are renouncing. There are others who are fighting like demons: joining American Citizens Abroad and the Association of American Residents Overseas, writing letters, putting pressure on politicians, voting this year against those lawmakers who are refusing to listen, and pestering the homeland media to get the story out. And, yes, there are folks who are doing a Deep Dive and cutting all ties to the U.S., avoiding the U.S. embassy like plague-infested territory, not renewing their passports and so on. I'm not sure the last is viable given the arrival of FATCA, and I wouldn't do it, but it's a big big world out there and surely some of them will succeed.
Wherever you are in this mess, the important thing is that you do the next right thing and I honestly think that the only wrong answer here is to kick back and pretend it isn't happening at all.
Just my .02.