original article in French HERE
reposted from Anmerican Expatriates Facebook Group
ACCIDENTAL AMERICAN’: I LIVE HELL. I HAD TO GIVE UP MY DUAL NATIONALITY (I.E. RENOUNCE MY US CITIZENSHIP)
Keith Redmond says:
Thank you Fabien Lehagre or making sure this injustice stays in the press! The homeland US press refused to report on it. I know Caroline and her story is one of millions where the US government is ruining the lives of people outside the US.
English translation below.
Caroline, 37, was born in the U.S. of French parents and lived there for two years. Franco-American, her dual nationality was unfavorable to her when she discovered that she had to pay taxes there. The U.S. is one of the only countries in the world to base the taxpayer’s status on nationality and not on place of residence. Stuck in a legal imbroglio, it tries desperately to regularize its situation.
I was born in 1979 in Los Angeles. My parents were French, but they were expatriates in the United States for professional reasons.
All my life, I had dual French-American nationality. Even though I only lived for the first two years of my life on the other side of the Atlantic, I always found it amusing to have this double status. I was the only one of my siblings to have this peculiarity.
I remember returning to the United States when I was seven, then in 2008 with my husband. Always with my French passport since I never redone my American identity papers.
A legacy blocked because of “my clue of americanity”
Since July 2014, France and Switzerland have undertaken to disclose the tax data of their US residents. For the moment, this device is not reciprocal. As a lawyer, I had heard about the Fatca (Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act), a law to combat tax evasion, but I never thought I would be directly involved.
I have always paid my taxes in France, and since I have never really lived on American soil, why should I have had to pay taxes in the United States? I was wrong. In reality, the United States is one of the only countries in the world to base the taxpayer’s status on nationality and not on place of residence.
I understood it in September 2014, a few months after the death of my father. The succession had to be settled. I thought there would be no worry, but I received a letter from my father’s bank, BNP-Paribas, to point out that I had a “clue of americanity” because of my place Of birth. So I was concerned about the famous Fatca law.
To unlock the legacy, I had to prove that I was in good standing with the US Treasury (the IRS). In the meantime, the succession would be blocked.
It was the cold shower. After cashing in, I thought I wanted to be in order. If I were to pay, no worry, I would do it to live in peace.
I needed my US tax number. I have never had
I contacted the American Embassy to inquire. I was asked what was my tax number (Individual taxpayer identification number)? I did not have any. What to do ? I had to provide them with a US Social Security number. Same, I never had one. My father never used it because he was an expatriate.
By searching the internet, I learned that to obtain my social security number, it was necessary to have an extract of birth certificate. Immediately, I thought to myself. It’s good, the situation will soon be resolved. In France, it is obtained in a few clicks, but in the United States, it is another pair of sleeves.
To obtain such a certificate, I had to go there because the American embassy in Paris did not issue the required notarized document. No power of attorney was possible. And even if I did, I had no guarantee since I no longer had any American identity papers.
At the foot of the wall, I had to give up my dual nationality
This administrative imbroglio impacted not only me but all the members of my family. It was impossible to mourn the loved one whom we had lost. The situation was totally blocked.
I was also pressed for time: my husband and I had to move to Switzerland in January 2015.
After finding out, I realized that I could never open a bank account in Switzerland – a sine qua non for working in the country – without proving that I was in good standing with the US IRS. It was the snake biting its tail.
I checked with tax lawyers. I was asked 5,000 dollars to take my case. Can not imagine. During all this time, I harassed the US embassy which was unable to give me a solution. One day I came across a woman who said to me:
“If you do not want to do anything about your American nationality, the easiest way would be to give it up.”
At the foot of the wall, that’s what I did. Out of spite, I renounced a right because I saw no other way out.
It cost me the modest sum of 2,350 dollars
The American Embassy sent me a 25-page file to complete, written entirely in English in an indecipherable technical vocabulary for a non-bilingual person. I was asked to tell my story, to explain the reasons why I had to give up my nationality before stating a list of incredible consequences.
Once the form was completed, I got an appointment at the embassy. When I arrived, I was installed in a room with protective glass. I was not allowed to drink, to eat and my laptop was confiscated.
An official entered the three-square-meter room. She spoke with a hallucinatory flow. I did not understand anything. I asked to be assisted, that was refused me. Clearly, she did not care what I could live.
She asked me a few questions. I asked her if my tax situation would be in order after this waiver. She replied that it was not her problem before I exposed all the consequences of my act: it would be much more difficult for my children to study in the United States and not sure that I could ever get A visa if I were to settle there.
She’s gone for an hour so I can think about it. When she came back, I explained to her that my decision was made. I was then asked to go to the cash to pay the processing fees: it cost me the modest sum of 2,350 dollars!
I still have this sword of Damocles above my head
I waited almost three months to get my act of renunciation. The first barrier was crossed, it was necessary from now on that I am working on my regularization with the American tax authorities.
To the extent that I was going to receive an inheritance over 50,000 euros, I risked being taxed by the IRS. No worry to pay, I just wanted to no longer live with this sword of Damocles hanging over my head.
I have contacted them many times, but as I do not have a tax number or a social security number, I have not been able to find a way out of this impasse. No one was able to tell me whether I was going to pay a fee or not. I was even advised to continue “going about my business”, waiting for a providential outcome.
Regarding my father’s inheritance, the situation did not unlock overnight. The bank asked me to complete form W8-BEN, but again, I had to provide a US tax number. My act of renunciation was not enough.
Tired, furious, and accompanied in my steps by the collective “Americans accidental”, I decided to send emails to the governor of the bank of France, various government advisers, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, etc. I do not know what happened, but one day the BNP called to tell me that the situation was going to be unblocked.
It took two years to glimpse the end of this story. But I’m still not reassured. I know that at any time, the IRS can fall back on me and ask me to pay taxes with retroactive penalties. The sword of Damocles is still there.
The feeling of being rejected on all sides
What is rather comical is that it is not the first time that I have to fight to prove my nationality. In 2008, I had a hard time renewing my French passport. Two years earlier, Nicolas Sarkozy, then Minister of the Interior, had passed a law requiring foreign-born persons of parents born abroad to provide proof that they were French.
My father was born in Morocco, my mother in the Congo, at the time of the colonies, both of them French, but that was not enough. It was necessary, although in possession of a national identity card and a French passport, that I recover the birth certificates of my family over three generations to prove that I was of French nationality!
With this new misadventure, I feel rejected. For two years I have lived a veritable calvary, and my family, too. My mother even told me that if she had known, she would have returned to France to give birth.
I am not the only one in this situation. The “accidental Americans” would be close to 50,000 people. Some have disbursed several thousand euros without getting out of business. Maybe it’s time to create a cell to regularize our situation? For, at present, no solution exists.