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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Shooting Themselves in the Foot

I got this link through Just Me's excellent Twitter feed and I just have to pass it along right away with a few comments and a rant of my own.

It is a very angry letter from an American in Switzerland who has decided to pack it up and move back to Vermont.  In it you get a good feel for the collateral damage due to FATCA and what the U.S. is losing when they use a hacksaw instead of a scalpel in the war against tax evasion.

This fellow is an entrepreneur and has been in business abroad for 25 years "busting open nitch markets for American products, contributing to lowering the trade deficit, developing new markets for US producers, creating employment for my brethren back home, increasing the tax base where they live."

I'd say on the face of it this fellow is a true patriot who has done well by and for his country.

So why is he packing it in?  Well, rock shake hands with hard place.  FATCA has put him out of business.  His local bank has informed him that he can no longer make money transfer to the U.S.  They don't want the hassle of dealing with someone who has a U.S. connection - too much bureaucracy, too much paperwork, too much hassle.  This issue with his bank (local to him but one of those evil "foreign' banks according to the U.S.) means he can no longer pay his suppliers and that means that the fat lady has sung for him.

Not only is he shutting down his business but he's not exactly relocating it back to the U.S.  He plans to get out of the business entirely and do some farming back there in Vermont.  Good for him.  Hard to see how this is good for the U.S. though.  Just how many more gentlemen farmers does the U.S. really need right now?  Well, guess homelanders will be getting another one whether they like it or not.

I respect his decision to move back.  I would not make the same decision though every so often I have this fantasy of simply showing up back home and saying, "You want me home?  OK, here I am, folks."  Let's see, I have no job or health insurance in the U.S. and I'm undergoing treatment for cancer.  I'm sure the local county hospital (not to mention the good taxpayers of King County) would be thrilled to welcome  just one more indigent American in need of care who can't work right now.

Instead I am in France where I have been paying into the social security system for years.  The care is outstanding and I've been here long enough so that this is definitely "home" and I don't ever want to leave.   But now I find myself paying taxes to two countries (France and the U.S.) The former (France) I understand completely because this is where I live and work but the latter?  Makes no sense unless of course 1.  I decide tomorrow to go back and throw myself on the mercy of the American taxpayers and their social services network (such as it is and it ain't much compared to where I am) or 2.  I ask the French to send a partial bill to the U.S. for the cost of my care here.  I am a U.S. citizen after all and, damn it, I pay U.S. taxes so if you all are going to claim me for a share of my revenue earned entirely abroad (to the detriment of my host country's revenue base) than I'd say you all have an obligation to provide me with some benefits.  Covering a small percentage of the current bill which includes surgery, chemotherapy, radiation treatment and daily medication would be a good start.

As I said, it's a fantasy. :-)  

To all the homelanders who refuse to listen, to every American politician who won't even give us the time of day, to the Obama administration which appears to be the regime of the clueless, the situation is untenable, the unintended consequences of your laws are leading to all kinds of injustice, and you are doing yourselves enormous damage by turning loyal Americans abroad (who were doing a lot of quiet good on your behalf) into people who throw up their hands in utter disgust and write things like this:
These absolute black boot fools in DC are shooting themselves in the foot and biting the hand that feeds them.
Sure there were those evading taxes and there were many greedy bankers stumbling over themselves to help those evaders, but the numb nuts in Washington are ruining the lives of hundreds of thousands of innocent American citizens, and just spitting in the face of our allies, by strong arming them (Remember the Nazis?) to enforce US tax law, when they have nothing to do with the US tax system.
Gee, folks, is this really what you had in mind?


Rosy the Riveter said...

Well written, as usual, Victoria. I'm sure the "Fools on the Hill" (see the trailor on YouTube, it says a lot about how much the nincumpoops in D.C. read what they vote on) wouldn't like to get your medical bills in the mail. As for me, I'm still waiting to hear what my "collateral damage" will be. It's been a month and a half but with 56 pages, they've got their work cut out for them. As I said in a previous post, we could all send in as much as is requested, accurate or not, then watch happily as the thing collapses under its own weight. The estimated cost, as I've read elsewhere, of implementing FATCA should be far more than what it will actually reap in "forgotten" taxes. Not to mention the lousey image the US is sending out all over the world, and the unreimbursed cost to foreign banks of implementing this disaster.

Blaze said...

The American businessman says he is 100% American down to his marrow. Look what his patriotism got him!

The article does not mention if his Swiss wife is heading to the Vermont farm or if there are Swiss children. I would imagine this decision would stain the marriage and family.

Victoria FERAUGE said...

Good point. These are the uncomfortable conversations that bi-national couples are facing right now.

As I said before my husband is very smug these days because he did not become a US citizen and does not have a Green Card. I used to want to punch him when he said that but today I reluctantly agree that he did the right thing.

And what a shocker for me - something I was very proud of has lost a lot of its perceived value. Nothing like the look of pity (so sorry for you to have had the poor luck to be born an American). It really hurts.

Ah well the path to humility is a hard one. :-)

Just me said...

I hope the designers of FATCA, those of the JCT that said this would end tax cheating, Once and for all, read this and weep!

Well written, yet again...

BTW, everyone remember these names...

Baucus, Levin, Kerry, Rangel, Neal, Doggett

and this link.

These are the ones most directly to blame for FATCA.

BTW, my wife is like your husband. She was on a track to get U.S. Citizenship, and then this IRS offshore jihad, and Woote (War on Offshore evasion) started with its FATCA shock and awe, and she changed her mind.

Blaze said...

Victoria: Based on what I've heard from some Americans married to non-Americans, you are very fortunate to have a husband who is smug.

I have heard of everything from rage to divorce to threats to take the American spouse off all joint accounts.

Of course, this is all supported by all those pro-family folks in Congress. Why shouldn't the non-American spouse share the pain?

Victoria FERAUGE said...

@blaze, I've been hearing the same thing. Lot of pushing by non-American spouses to renounce. I'm not there yet. The US tax and reporting requirements have been revealed to us incrementally. He still has some optimism about it - surely it can't be that awful? Surely the US will change the law? I find that I am more pessimistic.

I think he truly does not understand that by marrying him some Americans truly think that I would deserve everything I get up to an including getting my citizenship pulled.