US Expats FACE FATCA Tax Filing Dilemma

American expats fear a crackdown by the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) if they fail to declare their offshore cash and investments under the controversial FATCA laws.

The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) was backed by former President Barack Obama and required banks to tell the IRS about the offshore holdings of US expats.

But few expats bothered to make a filing and the IRS offered an amnesty under the streamlined filing process, which allowed expats to backdate filings.

The IRS would accept three years of filings and tax payments while writing off previous undeclared years and promising no legal action.

No decision on repeal from Trump

However, with new President Donald Trump in The White House, expats and their advisers are unsure how to complete this year’s tax filings which were due on April 18.

Although the Republicans had pledged to repeal FATCA, Trump has yet to mention the tax act and has not included any changes in his tax policy.

Expats tax advisers are also unsure if the streamlined amnesty is still in force.

As a result, thousands of the estimated 8 million US expats worldwide have decided to make extra filings this year.

In the UK, one adviser, Alastair Bambridge, says the number of US expats seeking a settlement under the streamlined process was up 400% compared with last year.

Expats worried about tax bills

“Despite the generosity of the amnesty it offers, for years the uptake of the Streamlined Filing Process among Britain’s 200,000 US expats was relatively modest. Yet in the first three months of 2017 we handled an average of four applications a day from UK-based Americans keen to use it to settle with the US tax authorities. By contrast, in the first quarter of 2016 we saw an average of just one a day,” he said

The law is currently the target of a ‘Repeal FATCA’ campaign in Washington led by Nigel Green, CEO of one of the world’s leading financial advice companies for expats, deVere Group.

The campaign is lobbying politicians and the Trump administration to confirm FATCA will be scrapped.

The IRS says FATCA has seen $10 billion of lost tax recovered from more than 100,000 taxpayers.

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  1. Re: “The IRS says FATCA has seen $10 billion of lost tax recovered from more than 100,000 taxpayers.”

    What IRS “says” and what “is” are two very different things. The amount of “lost tax recovered” is nowhere near $10B. The large majority of what IRS has pulled in are penalties for the sort of filing deficiencies discussed in Lisa’s article. FATCA has little to do with it except as one more complication for filers that can result in getting hammered if they get it wrong.

    FATCA just is not a valid tax enforcement tool. In fact, it’s inaccurate even to call it a “tax law” since it says not one word about taxes, much less about tax evasion. Enforcement resources would be much better devoted to targeting actual tax evaders. See:

  2. A small correction. The IRS claims that FATCA has brought in just under $10bn, but of that around 80% is not lost tax, but rather penalties for prior non-filing, and worse, hugely skewed towards taxpayers of modest to low means. As these folk will now either comply fully or renounce US citizenship entirely, FATCA will bring in nothing like that amount in future.

    It is also worth nothing that while streamlined “amnesty” applications may be up by 400%, US citizenship renunciation is up around 600% since FATCA was passed. (And for what it’s worth, the term “amnesty” is itself inaccurate, since it implies acknowledgement of wilful wrongdoing, yet in many cases if not most, non-compliance with reporting regimes was entirely non-wilful and loss of tax generally non-existent).

  3. Think first BEFORE you enter the US tax system as an American overseas. There are many instances when you should not. If you are an Accidental American, you should NOT enter the US tax system, full stop! Do NOT let the US tax compliance professionals scaremonger you. Remember they are not your friend! You are cash cows.


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