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Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Flophouse Gets FATCAed

It's just a few short hours before I get on a plane for Japan to go apartment-hunting but I simply had to share this with because it is too damn funny and I think we all need a good laugh right now.

The Flophouse has been FATCAed.

Last week we received a snail mail from the French bank where our little Franco-American family has been banking for years - the one where we deposit our paychecks, pay our rent and utilities and all that jazz.  The envelope was packed full with a fancy glossy note in French explaining what it was all about and two nearly incomprehensible forms in American English.  (I tried to do my duty as a translator because there was much about them that my French spouse found puzzling but there were sections that even I, the only native speaker in the household, couldn't figure out.)

Now this part wasn't particularly funny.  On the contrary my spouse and I were definitely unamused by the note that said that if the forms weren't returned then the bank could send the information to the US IRS anyway (which made me wonder why we were doing this dance at all).  I also noted that there was no privacy waiver to be found in this pile of paperasses and I'd be very interested in knowing if that is in fact consistent with EU law.

My French spouse was appalled to read some of the search criteria they used for putting an account under suspicion:  US address attached to the account, US person attached to the account, and wire transfers from France to the US.  (Good thing we didn't send our daughters to university in the US, right?  And I guess if my relatives in the US ever need money from us, it's not going to happen.)

But, hey, none if it was a huge surprise either.  We've been expecting some sort of paperwork ever since the French parliament passed the law implementing FATCA.  In fact, I felt a sort of vindication because I've been talking about FATCA and what it meant for our family for years now and had the sense that I wasn't being taken seriously. "It will never happen" and "France wouldn't do such a thing to French citizens and residents living in France" and so on and so forth.  Well, sweetheart, you may be a Frenchman living in France but your American wife called it and she was right. A feeling that I savored for about two seconds and then let go because, yes, I'm an old women a trying to get into heaven now and being that petty and small sure won't get me there.

No, the funny part was not what happened but to whom.  Who in our little Franco-American household gets first prize in the Smack the Gopher FATCA Sweepstakes?

My 19 year old daughter - the younger Frenchling.

Yep, you heard me.  A kid who is in college, does not work, and has almost no money.  In fact, she has, to the best of my knowledge, a little local checking and savings account here in France which, if they exceed 500 Euros combined, I would be amazed.

And I'm sorry, folks, but this is pretty damn funny.  Congratulations, America, on the outing of my daughter, a French citizen with accounts in France who, even if you did find some way to tax her and you asked for say 10% of her "ill-gotten hidden assets" abroad,  might net you a grand total of  50 USD.

And if you think that you will somehow manage to balance the US budget on that kind of take? Well, I guess magical thinking abounds these days.

Allow me to propose a new motto for the US government:

"Winning the War on Tax Evasion, One College Student at a Time."

Bon weekend, everyone.


P. Moore said...

Well Victoria, that is a funny story. Now I suppose you should break the bad news to your 19 year old daughter in Montreal...that being she needs to hire some compliance experts to handle her tax affairs and such and get them to deal with the bank and the IRS! Maybe you can tell her that she is on her own with this because you and the rest of the family don't want to be 'tainted' with her problem and besides you are very busy relocating to Japan and don't have the time or energy to join her in facing the French authorities and the IRS!! I hope she has a sense of humour.

Good luck finding a place in Osaka.

Victoria FERAUGE said...

@P. Moore, WE do in fact have a problem in that she is in school in Montreal right now and so we will have to scan everything and send it to her to sign and then she will have to find a scanner on her side and so on and so forth... What a pain in the neck!

On the other hand consider that her info (which is frankly USELESS for the "war on tax evasion") is costing the French bank, the French gov and the US government time and money to process for which none of the above will get 1 dime in return. That's not funny at all, it's sad.

Ellen Lebelle said...

Well, the scanner problem is easily solved with a smartphone app. I have an android phone and use "camscanner". It takes a picture of the document and lets you crop it correctly before saving it as a pdf file, which she can then send back to you -- or print and send to the bank.
That doesn't help with the bigger problem of the invasion of privacy and not even the courtesy of asking one to waive one's rights.
My two banks, for our joint accounts, have not sent me the papers, yet, but I'm expecting them any day.
Have a successful trip to Japan. I'm going to miss you when you move.

Sarah said...

Enjoyed your post!

I'm a 31-year-old Accidental American (lived there until age 13 months) in the UK who is having to deal with 'tax advisors' in spite of having only very modest assets! It's likely I'll have a tiny tax liability, but will spend $$$$s in professional fees to help me become 'compliant'.

I always thought 'tax planning' was people with significant wealth or complex assets – not under FATCA!

George said...

How did she get busted? She would have had a French Passport with a birthplace in France?

My guess, she opened an account with a birth certificate that listed her Mum.

bubblebustin said...

What would be the harm in not responding? Maybe we can gum up the works at the IRS one college student at a time.

Anonymous said...

Maybe AARO, ACA, FAWCO, etc.should write to Michelle Obama and tell her that urging young Americans to study abroad won't work if FATCA closes their home bank accounts and FBAR criminalizes the ones they would have to hold where the study and live.


Blaze said...

Unfortunately, this is not funny. The U.S. Has gone totally berserk--with the support and encouragement of governments and banks around the world.

A friend Bormann in Canada, served in Canadian Air Force for 30 years received the U.S. Person letter recently. He was the friend who first alerted me to FATCA over three years ago by sending me an article in the Financial Post.

He and I use the same branch of the same bank (TD) . I have not received anything from them, but I am in the process of terminating my 34 year relationship with them and moving my accounts to a credit union which has assured me they have no interest in where I was born.

Blaze said...

Sorry that should have been born ib Canada--not Bormann.

Anonymous said...

Which french bank sent out the FATCA mail? is it the BNP?
Would you post the letter for the benfit of the blog with all the personal information blacked out?


Pat L said...

Boy, if all the French banks do this, they will be in trouble with all the paperwork, and us too on the side.

Have a great stay in Japan, we certainly will miss you, but hope you will keep this blog up, so we can learn if FATCA is also going to get there!
*Bon voyage*

Anonymous said...

Well, classic case of government over-reach, lack of evidence-based priority setting, and risk management.


But gives you more anecdotes for your FATCA activism :)

Catherine said...

Wowzers. Ridiculous! Everyone is losing with this arrangement.

Good luck in Japan, and good luck in getting this audit over with.

Anonymous said...

we need to vote all these democrats
clowns out of government. Tell everyone to vote Republican tomorrow and tell the clowns we hate FATCA.

Anonymous said...

So what triggered her outing since she was born in France?
And what is she going to sign?
N/A. I am a French citizen?
Or is she going to admit she is a dual and sign her privacy away?
Does she even have an American passport?

DL NELSON said...

My husband was just fatcaed too. Will you be able to have a bank account in Japan?????

Anonymous said...

I can't believe this. But I do. Now, if someone HAS already done the paper work - meaning the FBARs and associated bureaucratic pains in the butt, wouldn't it suffice to show them the copies? Afterall, there is such a thing as "harcellement administratif" or bureaucratic harassment and the total uselessness of all this should fall into that category, right? (or wrong?)

Anonymous said...

BNP FATCA-ed me last month, but I have my name on two other small small acounts in two other banks and am wondering when they will FATCA me too.

Anonymous said...

A commenter at IBS noted some problems with accounts held abroad by Japanese residents.

Hope this will not add an additional problem in your temporary sojourn in Japan.


EX Clintob Supporter said...

We shall make Democratic party responsible for all the FATCA problems.
Everyone should call and tell Hillary Clinton about FATCA !
We need to tell the Republican party too how much we hate this SOB law !!

Anonymous said...

I am sorry to hear about your daughter's having been FATCA'd.

Goodness gracious! I know what you mean by people not taking the warning seriously. I feel a bit like a manic street preacher: "Have you heard the BAD news about FATCA."

It is all just so crazy and unbelievable.