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AMERICAN IDIOTS
A woman I know, who is a member of the AWC here, despite having moved up north in Sweden several years ago, emailed me yesterday to tell me about something that had just happened to her asking if anyone else in the club was having the same issue. One of her banks, where she and her (also American) husband have their savings accounts, had written to them telling them that since they were American citizens, the bank was closing their account.

Sweden recently signed the FATCA agreement with the U.S. As of July 1st, 2014, Swedish banks are obligated to report to the U.S. on the holdings of their American customers, something those customers are already obligated to do themselves with the FBAR and other bank reporting forms required by the IRS and U.S. Treasury. Sweden joins a long list of countries that have already caved in and signed the FATCA agreement with the U.S.

For those of you who don't know, American citizens who have foreign bank accounts must already report the amount of money in ALL said bank accounts if the total amount of money in them is more than $10,000 ALL TOGETHER on any given day in the year. That includes pension plans, retirement savings, IRAs, mutual funds, checking, savings and ANY account your name is on... including all such accounts for your kids, if you are a joint account holder with them.

Because I have joint accounts with both my husband and my children, that means that I am essentially reporting on my husband's money as well, to a foreign (for him) government. My kids are both American citizens, so despite having never lived in the U.S., they will also be required to complete the U.S. tax filing and bank reporting requirements when they are of age.

Despite never owing anything, I have always complied with the American tax laws and filed my reports every year. When I first learned about the FBAR requirement a couple of years ago, I immediately took steps to get into compliance there as well. Penalties for not complying run in the tens of thousands of dollars. The fact that despite all that, I could still be kicked out of my bank accounts and denied service is extremely distressing, not to mention discrimination. How are expats like me supposed to live and work in Sweden without basic banking services?

The woman that wrote to me has already contacted the Swedish Tax Authorities, who were appalled that the bank had closed her account purely on the excuse that she and her husband are American citizens, DESPITE the fact that they are ALSO Swedish citizens, AND have lived and worked in Sweden for over 30 years. Banks are obligated to do the reporting to the US, but because it is at their own expense, many banks around the world are opting to close and deny customer accounts because they don't want the hassle.

She is also threatening to go to the media and to contact a lawyer, both steps I applaud. This is the first person in my circle of acquaintances to be affected by FATCA, but I'm willing to bet she won't be the last. I was also informed by the FAWCO UN Liaison when I emailed her last night about this, that it's not just non-American banks that are closing accounts. The Association of Americans Resident Overseas (AARO) recently had their U.S.-based Wells Fargo account closed, presumably because the account owners are non-resident. Which means that even if I was forced to move all my banking to a U.S. bank I have no guarantee that they won't ALSO be closed because I am non-resident.

Isn't it already unbelievable enough that American expats are subject to citizen-based taxation (WITHOUT REPRESENTATION, I might add), instead of residence-based, meaning that we must potentially pay double taxes if we make "enough" money, but that we must also inform the U.S. government of how much money we have in our bank accounts AND that foreign banks have are essentially being bullied by Uncle Sam into doing the SAME reporting on us? Americans living IN America don't have to do this. We are not "hiding money in off-shore accounts". We live and work here. No wonder the amount of Americans officially renouncing their citizenship has skyrocketed.

If I think too much about all this, I feel like my head is going to explode.
 morose
mood: morose
music: The Beta Band—Dry the Rain


Comments

This is certainly something for me to consider, since I'm thinking of obtaining double citizenship. For the record, my Swedish bank (Swedbank) hadn't given me any problems ever, but always been helpful during my 8 or so years of being a US resident.

Neither have ours, but FATCA is starting NOW.

And also it is not Sweden demanding these requirements, it is the U.S. But if you become an American citizen, you will also be required to submit the FBAR and possibly other bank reports and be subject to FATCA, so consider all the pros and cons

Yeah, I got that, I was just comparing it from the other end. This does sound like a downside to double citizenship, for sure.

this is all kinds of fucked up. :(

Yeah, it really is. Gah...

Crap, I guess I'd better write to the embassy in London and formally renounce my citizenship BEFORE the inheritance money goes in.

By the way: " If your loss of citizenship is based on the oath of renunciation, you will be required to pay a non-refundable fee of US $450 ($2,350 from September 12, 2014. Click here for FAQs concerning the fee increase) or equivalent in British pounds." From the Embassy website.

Edited at 2014-10-24 08:14 am (UTC)

AND you have to be caught up with your tax compliance. I didn't know they were raising that cost to over $2000!!!

Well, as I said in my own post on this subject, I had NO income in Sweden, when I came here in 2007, I came as a Swedish citizen and have my bank account and have paid my taxes as a Swedish citizen, am opening a new bank account with Handelsbanken as a Swedish citizen and will return to Sweden and buy a house as a Swedish citizen. I'm going to forego the trips to the Embassy and see what happens.

I believe there are a couple of Americans Overseas groups lobbying this issue right now.

It really doesn't show good thinking skills on the part of the government, does it?

There are several including AARO, American Citizens Abroad, Democrats Abroad, and Federation of American Womens Club Overseas.

That's crazy! I know some US government agencies are a bunch of paranoid control freaks that see conspiracies where none exist, but really, people living outside of their borders ought not to be hounded like this. I know they want to catch the big money laundering fish, but they are wily enough to keep out of reach. It's just the innocent little minnows that get caught in the net.

And how typical the Swedish banks find it easier to just close the account than have to be arsed to do any extra work. Although if the US wants the info, then they ought to be prepared to pay for it rather than expect everyone else to do the running around for them.

Thankfully, while the current Australian government is an embarrassing bunch of toadying cretins (yes, I'm looking at you Tony Abbott), so far they haven't required anything from those of us living elsewhere. Not that we'd give it to them anyway. :-)

The US can still pretty much call the shots, apparently. It's crazy. They want everyone to do the same thing, too.

Are you sure this isn't the USSR?

Not that he actually knows about these things but it is just this kind of stuff that keeps G from wanting to pursue getting American citizenship.

Makes you definitely think twice. It's made me regret going to all the trouble to make sure my kids got American citizenship when they were born.

SUCKY!!

(Anonymous)

I've read about this problem here in the States- and it seems to be that the government thinks it can get lots of money from the little guys also. The USA is a BULLY! Love, Lizardmom

Except we don't HAVE a lot of money!

(Anonymous)
From Megsie

Bully indeed. Geez. Doesn't the government have ENOUGH to do without creating more problems? How asinine.

Re: From Megsie

Haa! You'd think so, but apparently, no.

That's just absolutely horrifying. How do they expect people to live?!?

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