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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Doing Something about FATCA: Same Country Exception, Repeal, and Legal Action

Stephen Mopsick has reposted an article by Charles Bruce of American Citizens Abroad (ACA) proposing that the US "Treasury Department should promulgate rules permitting individuals to elect, if they wish, to have their local financial accounts, in effect, exempted from FATCA."

This proposal is not new and is known under different names: "Same Country Exception" or "Safe Harbour Exemption." Here is what the different Americans abroad organizations have to say about it:
American Citizens Abroad
"ACA, Inc. proposes a FATCA Same-Country Exception for accounts of US taxpayers resident abroad. If implemented, this would help alleviate the problem of financial services lock-out currently being experienced by Americans resident overseas. In a letter to the Treasury Department (Oct. 2013), ACA, Inc. has asked that this rule be applied for bank accounts held by American citizens in their country of residence."
Association of Americans Resident Overseas-Federation of American Women's Clubs Overseas
"Short of repeal, the same country exception, also called “safe harbor” in Washington, has been AARO’s position concerning FATCA. The idea is that we are bona fide residents of another country than the US and the accounts in that country are our domestic accounts. We would like the US to consider them as domestic accounts and not foreign accounts. To do this would require regulatory change in Washington, which, given the frigid relationship alluded to before, will not happen without congressional mandate. It would also require the banks where we live to agree to it.
Democrats Abroad:
"When a safe harbor exemption is applied to FATCA, the law would treat the financial accounts of Americans abroad in their country of residence the same way as it treats the US accounts of Americans residing in the US. In brief, foreign financial institutions would be exempt from filing FATCA reports on the accounts of US-tax compliant Americans residing legally in the same country. A FATCA safe harbor exemption would only exempt accounts held in the country in which the account holder is legally resident."
All of the Americans abroad organizations (with one exception) support it as the solution most likely to be accepted and implemented by the US government.  As much as Americans abroad would like to see FATCA disappear, these organizations argue that this is not realistic and that FATCA won't be going away any time soon.   That is the consensus and, separately or together, all of them have lobbied Washington for several years now in support of this idea.  

There is one organization that is taking a different stance and that is Republicans Overseas.  They want to repeal FATCA and the Republican National Committee passed a resolution in 2014 to that effect.  
"RESOLVED, The Republican National Committee hereby presents this Resolution to each Member of Congress and urges the U.S. Congress to repeal FATCA, to defend the livelihood and increase the competitiveness of Americans overseas, to remove inappropriate invasions of Americans citizens’ privacy, and to allow those U.S. citizens who renounced their citizenship due to FATCA to regain their U.S. citizenship..."
The Republicans have also launched a lawsuit - FATCA Legal Action - against FATCA (Flophouse post here).  They say that FATCA is not only detrimental to Americans abroad but it also violates their consitutional rights.   

US citizens living outside the United States, these are the proposals, actions, initiatives on the table right now. This is what these organizations are asking (or fighting) the US government for on your behalf and in your name -  "We represent the interests of the 7 million Americans abroad...."  That means YOU and YOUR interests.

I urge you to take a few minutes to follow the links above with an open mind - please don't let preconceived notions about "women's clubs",  "Republicans', or "Democrats" get in the way.  

Read each organization's proposal carefully so that you understand what they mean by "Same Country Exception", "Safe Harbor", "Repeal FATCA" and "FATCA Legal Action". If there is something you don't understand, ask.  If there is something you don't agree with, say so.     

And once you have done your due diligence and made up your mind, there is one last question to ask:  
What can I do to help?


Anonymous said...

Very good Victoria!

Bruce B. said...

Just speaking for myself, one of the reasons I haven't (yet?) renounced is the absurdly high cost of renouncing. I've not filed for a number of years (income too low to be taxable), so the accountant's cost for filing for the previous 5-6 years (and you don't want to screw that part up) plus the actual cost of renouncing puts it well into the thousands of $/€. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

So the Safe Harbor/Same Country exception would mean I'd (probably) keep my US nationality, and I'm sure I'm not alone.

But not if it doesn't happen in the next couple of years or so...

Tim said...


There is another group that you have forgotten and that is the Alliance for the Defense of Canadian Sovereignty(ADCS). ADCS tends to represent US expats who have become citizens of Canada and is mainly involved in lobbying the Government of Canada. However, they recently travelled to Washington DC and had some "frank" discussion with several members of Congress. Here is their submission below.

Victoria FERAUGE said...

@Bruce, Yes, the cost of coming into compliance is still pretty high if you use a tax preparer. No doubt about that. Some preparers have deals which can lower the cost. Greenback, I think.

I'm still not sure that they will succeed with Safe Harbour. If FATCA is a tax grab then maybe the US gov will go for it if they see that all the paperwork they are getting from Streamlined yields little or no tax revenue. And I think that is the case.

But if FATCA is an information grab then the amount of tax gained is irrelevant.

Why do I think this? Because someone I met at Treasury gave information, not taxes, as the reason to keep the FBAR.

@Tim, Didn't forget them (or the UN complaint). Both deserve their own posts. Including them here would have meant burying them in the middle fo this one and that just didn't seem right.

bubblebustin said...

Unfortunately, the same- country exception proposals would only exempt compliant US persons, which don't represent even 20% of the estimated number of people living abroad. Sorry to say, but these organizations lobbying for it don't really care about the majority of Americans abroad.

John Dewey said...


It might be very useful to your readers to create a similar roundup article of the different stakeholders' positions on residence-based taxation.

If all resistance efforts are focused on "same-country" provisions, this unique opportunity to change the U.S. attitude of seeing its passport holders - including long-departed and Accidentals - as chattel will have been squandered.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much Victoria.

Fatca is everything against freedom and privacy.
Fatca is Fascism.