According to American Expat Finance, problems of Dutch accidental Americans losing their bank accounts have been thrust back in the political and media spotlight.
A hard-line written response by Dutch Finance Minister Wopke Hoekstra to the latest in a series of questions put to him and other Dutch officials over the past two years, about the banking problems so-called “accidental Americans” have been struggling with, has thrust the issue back into the media spotlight in the Netherlands.
The issue received media and political attention earlier this year, when concerns about the possibility of Dutch citizens losing their bank accounts, as a new phase in the enforcement of the U.S. tax evasion law known as FATCA (Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act) came into force.
A meeting took place on January 22 in the Dutch House of Representatives (Tweede Kamer) between representatives from two accidental Americans organizations and around half a dozen Dutch MPs.
Since then, however, the matter has neither progressed nor appeared to be getting lawmakers’ attention.
One of the reasons Finance Minister Hoekstra’s response has seen the issue suddenly reappear, is probably because the numbers of Dutch citizens who are starting to lose their Dutch bank accounts because of their failure to obtain U.S. Tax Identification Numbers (TINs) or Social Security Numbers (SSNs) is growing.
This is what spokespeople for organizations representing Dutch “accidentals” – who are basically Dutch citizens whom the U.S. regards as being American citizens as well, and thus obliged to enter into the U.S. tax filing infrastructure, consider the reason.
But more importantly, the numbers of Dutch citizens who have been told by their banks that they must get TINs or risk losing access to their accounts within the next few weeks or months has also been growing rapidly.
In his response to the questions sent to him last month by Dutch parliamentarian Helma Lodders (VVD), the Finance Minister Hoekstra appeared to align himself on the side of the banks that are closing, and threatening to close, the bank accounts of accidental Americans who don’t have TINs, more than some other Dutch lawmakers have previously.
He also seemed to view the claims of Dutch citizens who seek to avoid getting U.S. TINs , SSNs or Certificates of Loss of U.S. Nationality (CLN) in order to maintain their Dutch bank accounts, mortgages and so on – on grounds that they don’t wish to move further in the direction of becoming American citizens than they already are – as unjustified.
NRC Handelsblad, one of the Netherlands’ most well-established mainstream media groups, reported the news of Finance Minister Hoekstra’s comments and put the problems of accidental Americans back into the spotlight:
The articles describe how dozens of Dutch citizens who are also American have heard in recent weeks that their accounts with Dutch banks are to be shut down, as they fall victim to strict U.S. tax laws and agreements that the Dutch government is helping to enforce.
Noting that such account closures had been “warned of for years”, the article ended by quoting a spokesperson for the Netherlands Association of Accidental Americans as blaming the Dutch government for doing nothing for years, noting that without bank accounts accidental Americans were “in danger of being evicted from their home, being no longer insured, unable to buy food.”
A third article, headed “EU must act together for unintentional Americans”, which quoted Helma Lodders – whose questions Finance Minister Hoekstra had been responding to – and Sophie in ‘t Veld, a member of the European Parliament, who, like Lodders, has also been a regular campaigner on behalf of the Dutch accidentals.
In the article the Nederlandse Vereniging van Banken (NVB) noted that the Dutch government had given the impression that it had failed to properly oversee the consequences of FATCA and the bilateral agreement between the U.S. and the Netherlands, which set out how the Dutch banks comply with it when these were being negotiated, and transposed into law.
Another sign that the Dutch accidentals and their problems with their bank accounts has resurfaced is that Lodders, the Dutch MP, met on Monday with the two main Dutch accidentals’ groups and some of their members, and that one of these groups, the Americans Overseas, presented her with what it’s calling its “Black Book” of research on the subject.
Daan Durlacher, the Netherlands-born, U.S.-citizen founder of Americans Overseas, said the meeting went well enough, but that one point that seems to be emerging is that even with assurances that they do not, at least for now, have a genuine reason to believe the U.S. will take action against them for having American account holders.
Dutch banks seem determined not to take any chances of being found to be in violation of FATCA, the penalties for which are significant.
Nor is the matter helped, Durlacher noted, by the fact that the questions banks are asking their clients are often misleading and unclear, resulting in statements from accidental Americans that some banks then interpret as deliberate mis-statements of the truth, which can then give banks an excuse to either close their existing accounts or refuse to open a new one.
Added Durlacher: “As we speak, we at Americans Overseas are in the process of launching an online survey of German accidental Americans, to see what the situation is like there right now.
“Our focus now is not to try to find a long-term solution to FATCA and CBT, but to find a short-term solution for the effects the combination of FATCA and CBT are having on European citizens with a coincidental U.S. background.
“In the meantime, we believe, based on the earlier statements of the Dutch Financial Ministry, that the banks need to understand better than they do that FATCA compels them to actively ask their clients for their TIN or Social Security Number, no more, no less. So as long as they do that, and are able to prove that they do, their risks of being fined by the U.S. are minimal, certainly for now.”
Helma Lodders told him when receiving the “Black Book”, she was hopeful that the case examples and petitions contained in the book would enable her to finally convince her fellow lawmakers in the Hague “to solve this nightmare that’s happening to these people”.
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 Dutch accidental Americans and their American tax obligation you can contact us at Americans Overseas.
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Source: American Expat Finance