The conventional wisdom is that taxes are a domestic matter and that the U.S. State Department should not get involved in the vicious assault levied on American citizens living abroad. The conventional wisdom is wrong. The conduct of the IRS is becoming and will become more and more of a diplomatic issue for the U.S. There are two broad categories of reasons. The first pertains to the role that U.S. citizens play as ambassadors for the U.S.A. The second has to do with friction with foreign governments.
U.S. Expats As Ambassadors for the U.S.A.
- Everybody agrees that there have been a large percentage of U.S. citizens living abroad who didn’t know they were required to file a U.S. tax return.
- Of those who did know that they had to file a tax return, only a small percentage of them knew about the FBAR reporting requirements.
- Recent events have caused U.S. citizens living abroad to cower in fear that their savings and property will be confiscated. Whether true or not, that is the perception.
- The reaction of U.S. citizens abroad is anger and a feeling of betrayal. They have done nothing wrong. The most that could be said is they failed to comply with a requirement (of questionable moral validity) that they did not know about and had no reason to believe existed. (Many accountants and lawyers are just getting up to speed on this). Not only are many U.S. expats getting ready to renounce U.S. citizenship, but they are now extremely hostile to the U.S. Furthermore, many U.S. expats now understand (having been subjected to the arbitrariness, capriciousness, recklessness and irresponsibility of the U.S.) why the U.S. is so disliked throughout the world.
- These expats are now part of the world that dislikes the U.S. But there is more. Expats were (in most cases) the most loyal of American flag wavers. No more. They are now the strongest and most articulate U.S. bashers. This is not something the U.S. can afford. Imagine five million U.S. citizens who make “America Bashing” an obsession. It’s like this: You steal a person’s health, wealth and life and that is what you are going to get. Just imagine who much damage this will do to the U.S. over a long period of time. Five million U.S. expats outside the U.S. expressing their disgust with the U.S.
- The U.S. cannot afford to have five million U.S. citizens trying to renounce their citizenship and telling everybody they know why. The U.S. and Eritrea (a terrorist state) are the only two countries that tax on the basis of citizenship.
- In case you didn’t understand this from points 5 and 6, I will make it clearer. The U.S. government has turned U.S. expats against the U.S.
As was stated in a recent article in the Globe – “Washington talks about neighbourliness, then builds a higher wall”
“… consider the U.S. Internal Revenue Service’s aggressive pursuit of offshore tax evaders. The intent is to hunt wealthy tax cheats. Caught up in the sweep, however, is a much larger group of tax-paying dual Canadian-American citizens – the very people who help forge bonds between neighbouring countries.”
Friction With Foreign Governments
FATCA, the U.S. Berlin Wall and the neutron bomb of the financial system, will guarantee that foreign banks and countries will do their best and will learn how to avoid the U.S. financial system. Over the long run other countries do NOT have to “play in the sandbox” with the U.S. Of course, if they don’t want to play with the U.S., this will make it difficult for the U.S. dollar to maintain its status as the world reserve currency.
Leaving aside FATCA, the current assault on U.S. expats is going to be a problem for foreign governments of which the Canadian government is one example. The Canadian Finance Minister has made it clear how the Canadian Government views this unprincipled, immoral, vicious assault on Canadian citizens. If the IRS steals the retirement savings of Canadian citizens, this will become a long term burden on the Government of Canada. To put it another way: the IRS is stealing from the Government of Canada.
Bottom Line: In the short run, the current IRS assault on U.S. expats is an IRS tax issue. In the long run (and it won’t be too long), it is going to become a major diplomatic problem for the U.S. There is still time to change course, but the time is running out. The U.S. really can’t afford any more enemies. Hilary Clinton take note!