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Archive for Helen Burggraf

Dutch Tax Minister: U.S. Won’t Take Immediate Action Against Banks Over FATCA Info Shortcomings

Dutch Tax Minister, FATCA

Dutch tax minister Menno Snel has said that his country’s banks and financial institutions should not feel a need to panic over those of their so-called “Accidental American” account-holders who lack U.S. Social Security numbers and other key data soon to be required by the U.S. tax authorities, as he has been assured that any repercussions for failing to comply with the regulations in question could be delayed by as long as several years.

Snel’s comments came in a 16-page update to fellow Dutch lawmakers, written in Dutch, on various tax matters. He also made similar comments in recent briefing of Dutch MPs, according to, an English language news website based in the Netherlands.

Snel’s reading of the situation is likely to be viewed with interest and in some cases, relief by expat “accidentals” who lack Social Security numbers and who have been warned that they stand to lose their bank accounts by Dec. 31, or earlier, because of this. That’s the date when a “grace period,” during which non-U.S. banks and financial institutions have not had to report to the U.S. internal Revenue Services the Tax Information Numbers (TINs) of all of their American citizen account holders, ends.

U.S. authorities have not been forthcoming on the matter, nor have most non-U.S. financial institutions, beyond telling their clients that they need to get a Social Security number as soon as possible if they are not to lose their accounts. As many as 300,000 accidental Americans are believed to live in the European Union alone, according to European Parliament estimates, of which around 1,000 have been estimated to live in the Netherlands.

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Three Experts Scrutinize IRS’s New Relief Procedures For Certain Former Citizens

Accidental American Nightmare

Much has been written and spoken about the Internal Revenue Service’s new “Relief Procedures for Certain Former Citizens” regime since it was unveiled earlier this month – apparently to enable mostly “accidental Americans” who have relinquished their U.S. citizenship, or are hoping to, the chance to easily and cheaply enter into U.S. tax compliance.

The general consensus seems to be that only a relatively small and select number of individuals will be eligible to participate in the new program, and that the participants will also tend not to be wealthy, since they must have net assets of less than US$2 million if they are to be accepted.

The fact that those participating in the program may not need to get a Social Security Number, if they don’t already have one, has been highlighted by some observers as a potential attraction for many would-be program participants.

On Thursday, Anthony Parent of Wallingford, Connecticut-based Parent & Parent LLP, also known as IRS Medic; John Richardson of Toronto-based Citizenship Solutions; and Keith Redmond, of Paris-based American Overseas Global Advocate, an American expat advocacy group, discussed in detail the IRS’s new Relief Procedures program, how it compares with previous IRS programs, and who is likely to benefit most from it.

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U.S. And Switzerland Tax Deal Ratified After Congress Finally Approves It

US And Switzerland Tax Treaty

The U.S. Treasury Department on Friday announced that a long-in-the-works tax treaty with Switzerland has at last been signed and has entered into force, alongside a tax deal with Luxembourg.

The tax treaty had originally been approved by the Swiss Parliament in June, 2010, but had been held up on the U.S. side over concerns that it potentially violated the privacy of individuals whose information, under the agreement, will now be freely exchanged.

The deal means that Washington will now be in a position to request information from the Swiss authorities on American accounts going back ten years.

In a statement on Friday, the Treasury Department said the two protocols would bring the existing tax treaties that the U.S. already has with Luxembourg and Switzerland “into closer conformity with current U.S. tax treaty policy, to allow for greater tax information exchange that will enhance efforts to bolster tax compliance and combat tax evasion.”

The protocols with Luxembourg and Switzerland – in addition to protocols with Japan and Spain that were also signed recently – are the first updates to to the U.S.’s income tax treaty regime in nearly 10 years.

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From The Front Line: How A Routine Form 3520 Filing Can Easily Go (Eye-Watering Expensively) Wrong – And Did


It is perhaps not surprising to hear that non-U.S. (or “foreign”) trusts with U.S. owners can be tricky…

Individual U.S. citizens who hold such foreign trusts, for example, are expected to file a Form 3520, “Annual Return to Report Transactions With Foreign Trusts and Receipt of Certain Foreign Gifts,” and the trusts themselves are required to file a Form 3520-A, “Annual Information Return of Foreign Trust With a U.S. Owner,” every year. If the trust doesn’t file a Form 3520-A, the U.S. owner of the trust is required to file a “substitute” Form 3520-A with their Form 3520. Definitely not for beginners.

Still, Gary W. Carter, a certified public accountant based in Minnesota, with decades of experience as a tax adviser, professor and revenue agent, knew all this. So he filed such forms on behalf of some of his overseas clients last year without a further thought.

Below, Carter explains, in his own words, how easily – and disastrously – things went wrong for five of his clients (“so far”, he says), and speculates that the scale of similar penalty notices could be huge: and consequently, a huge, if not a particularly tax-payer-friendly, money-maker for the IRS.

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American Citizens Abroad Unveils Online Tax Fairness Campaign To Urge Congressional Hearings


The American Citizens Abroad has unveiled a major online campaign it says is aimed at ensuring U.S. lawmakers hold hearings this fall on the “wide range of tax compliance issues” currently affecting Americans resident overseas – including the Tax Fairness for Americans Abroad Act.

The online write-in campaign, entitled “Tax Fairness for Americans Abroad: An Idea Worth Fighting For!”, is needed because hearings need to be held, the ACA explains, “so that the US House Ways & Means Committee can hear about the wide range of tax compliance issues facing the overseas Americans community from stakeholders and citizens.”

“With knowledge from hearings, the tax-writing committees and legislators will start to look at specifics of the legislation for refinement,” the ACA continues, in a statement issued on Thursday as part of its official launch of the new campaign.

“Treatment of items like Social Security income, income associated with the new “transition tax” and GILTI, and different types of PFIC income, will need more consideration, and details will need to be worked out to determine how these income streams will be taxed under a new residency-based regime.

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IRS Unveils Tax Breaks For Certain Former Citizens; Tax Experts Give Their Verdicts

Helen Burggraf

The U.S. Internal Revenue Service unveiled a set of “new procedures” on Friday that it said would enable “certain” expatriates – a sub-group of “accidental Americans” who have renounced their citizenship, or are considering doing so – to avoid key taxes normally associated with renouncing.

Tax experts said the announcement was highly significant, and would likely be welcomed by many who fit the relatively narrow category of those likely to benefit from it. One suggested the scheme might help the IRS to focus its attention on the “bigger fish” it believes to be lurking in the overseas pond. 

In a statement, the Accidental Americans Association said it welcomed the initiative, but added that it did “not go far enough”. 

The “Relief Procedures for Certain Former Citizens” only applies to individuals who have relinquished their citizenship since March 18, 2010, or have not yet done so, who have less than US$2m in net worth, and who have never filed U.S. tax returns as U.S. citizens or residents, the IRS explained in a statement. 

They also must “owe [only] a limited amount of back taxes to the United States.”

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U.S. Citizenship And Immigration Services To Close All But Seven Of Its Overseas Offices

Helen Burggraf

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has announced that it plans to close all but seven of its 23 overseas offices, including those in London, Frankfurt, Rome and Bangkok.

This represents a change from its earlier plan, announced in March, that it would close all 23 of the outposts.

In a statement, the USCIS said the “organizational changes” would “allow more effective allocation of USCIS resources to support, in part, backlog reduction efforts.”

It said the offices it plans to keep open would be those in Beijing and Guangzhou, China; Nairobi, Kenya; New Delhi, India; Guatemala City, Guatamala; Mexico City, Mexico; and San Salvador, El Salvador.

“The first planned closures are the field offices in Monterrey, Mexico, and Seoul, South Korea, at the end of September,” the USCIS statement said.

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UK MP Vows To Continue Speaking Out On Behalf Of Accidental Americans Living In Britain

Helen Burggraf

Preet Kaur Gill, a British Labour Party member of Parliament from the greater Birmingham area,  has said she plans to continue asking questions of the UK government on behalf of U.S.-born British citizens – like at least one of her constituents, who are facing unprecedented “negative financial implications” as a result of the way such individuals are pursued for tax by the U.S. authorities.

Gill’s vow to continue speaking out on behalf of such dual U.S./British citizens comes as resistance is reported to be growing on the part of European governments to continuing to accommodate the American government’s extra-territorial tax enforcement efforts, which is currently done in part through intergovernmental agreements signed in the wake of the 2010 passage of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act.

Under FATCA, non-U.S. financial institutions around the world are required to report to the U.S. on those accounts they hold on behalf of American citizens. They do this by reporting the information to the authorities in the country in which the financial institution in question is located – which in turn, under the terms of the IGA, forwards the information to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service.

As reported here last month, a growing number of the more than 100 countries that have signed up to participate in a new, global automatic banking information exchange program modelled on FATCA, and organized over the last few years by the Brussels-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, have begun to question the fact that the U.S. has opted not to participate – and is understood to be giving as its excuse the fact that it has FATCA, and therefore has no need to.

Such countries are said to be frustrated in particular because the U.S. has failed to “reciprocate” with respect to the information it receives from them through their FATCA agreements with the same kind of information on accounts held by their taxpayers in U.S. financial institutions.

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Record Penalties Sought In California In Latest Major FBAR Case

Helen Burggraf

The U.S. Internal Revenue Service is seeking what is said to be a record US$119.6m in penalties over what it has claimed in California district court documents were violations of the FBAR regulations, which require Americans to disclose their overseas financial accounts above a certain amount each year.

Foreign Bank Account Report penalties are famously high, which is why tax experts often stress to their clients the importance of complying, particularly as the penalties for “wilful” non-compliance are that much greater.

The case (U.S. vs Burga, No. 5:19-cv-03246-EJD), emerged in the U.S. media recently, where it was noted that court documents had claimed that Francis Burga and her late husband, Margelus Burga, had some 294 foreign bank accounts between 2004 and 2009, in Liechtenstein, the British Virgin Islands, Switzerland, Singapore, Japan, Panama, China and Vietnam, for which they had failed to file the requisite FBARs.
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Accidental Americans Latest: French Banks Warn Of Potential Need To Close 40,000 Accounts

France And US

The head of the French Banking Federation has formally warned France’s finance minister that he country’s banks may be forced to close as many as 40,000 bank accounts by the end of the year, owing to problems these banks have in complying with the U.S. tax information reporting law known as FATCA.

The 40,000 bank accounts in question are understood to be those of individuals who are either Americans or dual American and French citizens. The fact of their American citizenship obliges banks in France and elsewhere around the world to provide data on these clients to a French agency that subsequently supplies it to the U.S., as the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act requires.

In his letter to French foreign minister Bruno Le Maire, dated July 17, French Banking Federation chairman Laurent Mignon noted that France’s banks say they face significant financial penalties from the U.S. if they fail to provide it with such information as the so-called Tax Information Numbers (TINs) of all of its American clients, and yet, he explained, they are unable to do this because many of these “French-speaking [French] citizens born on American soil” lack “lack any concrete link with the United States, where they no longer reside,” and therefore don’t have TINs or other documentation the U.S. is seeking.

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Canadian Court Is Latest To Reject FATCA Legal Challenge

Canada Flag

A Federal Court in Ottawa on Monday dismissed the latest legal effort by two dual Canadian/U.S. citizens to block Canada’s implementation of the U.S.’s Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, dealing a blow to thousands of Americans with dual citizenship and consequent tax obligations not just in Canada but, supporters of the plaintiffs argue, around the world.

Monday’s ruling, by Federal Court of Canada Justice Anne Mactavish, was the latest in a series of court setbacks for opponents of FATCA since the tax-information-gathering law came into force around the world in 2014, and comes some six months after a five-day trial in the matter, which took place in Vancouver in late January and early February.

The ruling also comes just three days after a French court decided in favor of allowing France’s FATCA implementation regime to stand.  As reported, that decision sparked a social media storm on the part of Americans with dual nationality in France as well as abroad.

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Seven Things That Surprise Americans About U.K. Mortgages, House-Buying

Americans Buying Home In U.K.

One of the most memorable moments of their U.K. house-buying experience, for many American expats, is when someone explains to them what the word “gazumping” means.

“Gazumping,” a word which doesn’t exist on the other side of the pond, refers to when the seller of a UK property unexpectedly accepts another, higher offer, typically just as contracts are about to be exchanged.

The term came into widespread use in the UK over the last two decades of the last century, when house prices in London were rising steadily, at times quite fast.

A related word, and one that also isn’t found in an American English dictionary, is “gazunder”, which is when a buyer reduces the amount that they are willing to pay for a property.

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