This blog post features the research of Laura Snyder. It is (I believe) the single and most comprehensive study of (1) the U.S. legislation that is understood to apply to Americans abroad and (2) the disastrous impact this legislation has on them. To put it simply, Congress is forcing Americans Abroad to renounce their U.S. citizenship.
The bottom line is that for Americans Abroad:
“All Roads Lead To Renunciation!”
And now over to Laura Snyder with thanks.
“I Feel Threatened by My Very Identity:”
US Taxation and FATCA Survey
In autumn 2018 I worked with a France-based association of Americans living overseas to organize an online survey addressing the topics of FATCA and US taxation. The survey was open for participation for a period of about six weeks, from late September to early November. The survey was conducted using the open source software LimeSurvey.
Approach and Methodology
The survey was open to all US citizens and green card holders living overseas. It was also open to former US citizens living overseas, a category that is often overlooked. The survey was publicized via social media (principally Facebook and Twitter) and email.
The survey began with questions verifying both that the participant was a current or former US citizen or green card holder and that he/she currently resided outside the United States. Participants that did not confirm both were immediately taken to the end of the survey. Neither their limited participation nor their responses are reflected in this report.
After establishing that the participant met the necessary criteria as to citizenship (or green card) status and current residency, the survey then asked a serious of questions regarding the participant’s country of birth, current country of residence, the principal reason the participant left the United States to live overseas, the length of time the participant had lived overseas, the participant’s intentions to return to live in the United States, and the participant’s status (student, employed, unemployed, retired, etc.). The survey also requested certain additional demographic information, notably the participant’s gender, individual and household incomes, and membership in organizations that defend the rights of US citizens living overseas.
The core of the survey was in two parts. The first part was a series of questions intended to expose the extent to which participants are aware of and understand their obligations with respect to US non-resident taxation and FATCA and to obtain an understanding of the additional information and other types of help they would like to have with respect to both.
The second core part of the survey was a series of questions intended to expose the extent to which participants have experienced problems as a result of US banking and non-resident taxations policies and precisely what kinds of problems they have experienced. These questions had a more general and outwardly-focused purpose of helping the wider public to better understand the serious challenges US citizens living overseas face as a result of US banking and taxation policies.
The survey contained a total of 30 questions. Conditional logic was applied such that certain questions were shown or hidden depending upon the participant’s responses to prior questions. In that manner, no participant was asked more than 21 questions in total. Most of the questions were closed-ended, asking the participant to respond in the affirmative or negative or to select responses from a fixed list of options. In the event that none of the pre-determined options were appropriate, in most cases participants could select “other” and then describe their alternative response. A very small number of open-ended questions were asked; those questions allowed participants to express themselves in any manner they chose. Notably, the last question invited participants to make any comment they saw fit to make with respect to US banking and taxation policies. Another open question was reserved for those who had renounced US citizenship: this question invited those participants to describe the circumstances under which they renounced and how they felt going through the process.
Only the preliminary questions verifying citizenship status and residence were required; all other questions were optional and some participants did skip or otherwise fail to answer certain questions.
There are questions that could have been included in the survey but were not. For example, the survey could have included questions about participant age or US-citizen children. In most cases, these questions were excluded because they did not seem essential and a lengthy survey might have discouraged participation. However, there is one line of questioning that was avoided for a different reason: the survey did not inquire as to whether or not participants actually are or at least try to be in compliance with US banking and tax obligations. For example, participants were not asked if they meet the filing thresholds and, if so, whether they actually do file US tax returns. Nor did were participants with dual nationality asked if they had attempted to hide their US citizenship from foreign banks and, if so, whether they had been successful in doing so. Such questions were potentially too sensitive and their inclusion could have discouraged participation, or, at least, honest participation, in the survey. Nevertheless, as can be seen in Part 2 a number of participants volunteered this kind of information.
The survey was conducted on an entirely anonymous basis. No records identifying those who completed the survey were kept. Participants had the option but not the obligation to provide an email address for possible follow up and to receive updates about the survey.
The survey results complement and corroborate the results of other surveys demonstrating that US citizens and green card holders living outside the United States experience a wide range of hardships as a result of US non-resident taxation and banking policies. The results also confirm that these hardships are experienced by persons of all backgrounds and walks of life. While not all are affected in the same manner and some are affected more severely than others, no one kind of person (man or woman, employed or unemployed, high income or low) is spared. Finally, the results show that many Americans living overseas experience acute emotions in connection with US taxation and banking policies.
Part 1 presents the survey data. It begins with demographic information about the participants and then dissects participant responses in order to expose what percentages of what kinds of citizens and green card holders report having which kinds of experiences. Notably Part 1 shows the extent to which participant experiences differ (or not) based upon gender, citizenship (singular or dual), country of residence, length of time living outside the United States, intent to return to the United States, employment status, and income. Part 1 finishes with demographic information about former US citizens together with their reasons for taking the irreversible step of renouncing US citizenship.
Click here for Part 1.
Part 2 contains the words of the survey participants, explaining firsthand their experiences with US non-resident taxation and banking policies. With these words we can better understand in a personal manner the wide variety and range of experiences and the effects the policies have had on the participants and their families.
Click here for Part 2.
Part 3 contains a case study examining in detail one participant’s extended comment explaining the multitude of issues that she faces as a military spouse and new mother.
Click here for Part 3.
Part 4 contains a focused examination of the emotions that the survey participants report as a result of their experiences with US taxation and banking policies: (1) fear, worry and anxiety, (2) stress, frustration and confusion, (3) vulnerability, (4) anger and sadness, (5) feeling like a criminal, (6) marital problems, (7) concern for US citizen children, (8) feeling like a second-class citizen, (9) persecution and betrayal by the United States, and (10) having changed their opinion of the United States.
Click here for Part 4.
For background information explaining US non-resident taxation and banking policies and the political and legislative context in which the policies were adopted, see these links: