According to newspaper Le Figaro the IRS tracks down accidental Americans in Europe.
In 1964, a young European couple moved to the United States. The husband had taken a job at IBM and his wife was expecting their first child. They spent two years in New York, together with their little Renaud, who came into the world just a few months after they’d settled. Then, following a transfer, the family returned to France.
Renaud knew that being born in the United States, he had dual-citizenship. As a teenager he used to show off a little to his friends, even if he didn’t know the country. But coming of age, he assumed he’d lost his American citizenship. Then, one day in 2013, his bank, HSBC, told him they’d found a “trace of Americanization” in his file.
At first, he didn’t worry too much about it. But a few months later he discovered an astonishing transaction on an account he had with a French bank, Caisse d’Epargne. “At that time I had almost 5,000 euros of Home Depot shares that my father had given me. In September 2013, I decided to sell them and earned only about 4,100 euros. In November, I was astonished to see that the bank had canceled the entry and only re-credited 2,900 euros to my account. The difference was the $1,500 deducted at the source without my consent from the IRS- the U.S. tax authorities. I was livid.”
IRS and Accidental Americans
There are several thousands of people like Renaud, who are European but also “accidental Americans”. He never took the necessary steps to renounce his U.S. citizenship, so technically, he’s still a US citizen. But because he doesn’t want to file a tax return in a foreign country to which he has no ties, he’s also an outlaw — at least from the U.S. perspective. And as a result, he lives with the permanent threat of an IRS tax penalty.
In the United States, taxpayer status is based on nationality, not on residence. And being a U.S. taxpayer means having to declare your income to the IRS every year, regardless of where you live or work. In 2010, Washington passed the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), a piece of legislation designed to fight against tax evasion that requires banks around the world to disclose information (income, account details, etc.) on any of their U.S. clients. Failure to do so may result in penalties.
That’s because every American — “accidental” or not — is subject to the same tax rules. As such, thousands of accidental Americans have received bank letters in recent years obliging them to become compliant with the IRS- the U.S. tax authorities.
Most accidental Americans have decided to bury their heads in the sand — even if it means one day having to pay back taxes or penalty fees. Others make an effort to get their paperwork in order and assess payments to IRS. Usually no taxes are owed.
As for those who want to relinquish their nationality, they must first file the past five tax years for the IRS. It can become complicated quite quickly. The tax bases differ between the US and Europe, notably on things like life insurance and the sale of principal residences.
More questions on the IRS and accidental Americans in Europe?
We, the founders of Americans Overseas, were born in the Netherlands and obtained our American nationality through our (American) mother. When we heard about this for the first time around 2013, we were in total disbelief (it can’t be true!), anger (how can they do this?), fear (am I going to get fines or pick up other problems?), and panic (what should I do?). It is (unfortunately) true that there is an additional American tax levy. But there’s no information from local government, and when approached, the consulate referred us to the IRS, and the IRS was impenetrable.
That’s why we started this initiative to help people from all over the world by providing proper information to avoid unnecessary panic, and offering help free of obligation and free of charge. If needed, we have a network of affordable professionals (accountants) who can help you with your tax obligations.
If you have more questions about the IRS and USA tax you can contact us at Americans Overseas.
Source: Le Figaro