BBC Radio 4: British woman is tax slave for life because of American citizenship

4 min
Published on: 04-11-2019 Last modified on: 01-02-2024

BBC 4 radio reports on Brits getting in financial difficulties because they didn’t realise they were American citizens

‘It’s not like I have run off and mingled with criminals and hidden my money in another country. I am a tax slave, I owe America a lot of my money,’ told Christine, a British woman who was born in the UK and who has never lived or worked in the United States.

She described her battle with the U.S. over its determination to tax her, as an “accidental American,” in powerful language on BBC Radio 4 news show. 

Tax slave for life because of accidental American citizenship

In the segment on the phenomenon of accidental Americans, the woman identified only as “Christine”, said she had been made to feel like a traitor for rejecting the U.S., even though she was born in London and never lived in or worked in America.

Because her father was American, the mother-of-five told BBC Radio 4 she is considered to be one too and was expected to file a US income tax return every year for the rest of her life, unless she renounced her American citizenship, which she apparently has just done.

“It’s very brutal, and unfair,” Christine said, adding that the US tax system made someone like her a tax slave for life.  “In their eyes, I’m a traitor, who was born an American, and rejected them as a result of living in a foreign country where I’ve made social ties, and opened bank accounts.They’re treating me like a criminal.” 

Risk of bank accounts being frozen

The issue of accidental Americans has been receiving growing publicity in part as a result of the fact that until recently non-U.S. banks and financial institutions had been telling their American clients that they needed to provide their U.S. Social Security numbers (SSN) or similar Tax Information Number if they were to avoid having their bank accounts frozen or closed at the end of the year. 

The Guardian: British citizens born in US risk having UK bank accounts frozen

The reporter of BBC4 radio noted that although many people might be pleased that, in addition to their British citizenship, they also have an automatic right to live and work in America, Christine actually seemed far from pleased, with the reason suggested by “a big pile of documents” she’d accumulated as a result of her long struggle with the American authorities over US income tax

Asked to explain why she felt like a “tax slave”, Christine said that after the U.S. said she owed a lot of money in US income tax, she became very angry and felt totally powerless.

“I can’t vote there, I’ve got no representation, and it the tax obligation is a burden, you have to go through this procedure every single year, for the rest of your life,” she said.

US income tax problems because of FATCA

After explaining how what is now known as accidental Americans never used to have problems before the 2010 U.S. law known as FATCA came into force – resulting in people like Christine slipping into a net designed to catch money launderers.

BBC4 radio interviewed another accidental American, this one also British but living in Germany.

She too had renounced her American citizenship, but in the process, ended up paying around £15,000, even though she “owed US income tax” to the U.S. – begging the question, she concluded, as to what the U.S. gains from this. 

BBC4 radio ended the report with an interview with Preet Kaur Gill, a Labour Party MP who has raised the issue of Britain’s accidental Americans with various UK government officials, most recently with Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who famously was an accidental American himself until he renounced his own citizenship in 2016.

Gill told BBC4 that the British government should absolutely be doing a lot more than it is and that the responses she’d received thus far from the government “didn’t actually say ‘we’ve written to officials in the United States and this is the response’,” but instead, had been more along the lines of “‘well, we will continue to have that conversation’”.  

Get help from Americans Overseas

We, the founders of Americans Overseas, were born in the Netherlands and obtained our American nationality through our (American) mother.

When we heard about the US tax system 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 fined 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 the 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 about the US tax system 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 Accidental Americans and US income tax, you can contact us at Americans Overseas.


Contact us for more information



Source: BBC4 radio


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Understanding the US tax system, the obligations, and all the additional terms can be difficult. Especially if one lives outside of America. Is your question not answered? Contact us.

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