Letter to Congressman Vern Buchanan

Dear Congressman Vern Buchanan,

I’m a voter in your district, a US veteran and middle class American living abroad.  Some of my ancestry came to America on the Mayflower and were pioneers to the West, helping to build America, creating great cities such as Dallas.  Over a decade ago, I became unemployed and went to work in Europe instead of collecting unemployment checks or economy stimulus handouts from the US government.

In the last few weeks, I’ve been learning that banks have been refusing to provide me with services simply because I’m identified as being a “US person”.  This is unreal.  It is shocking.  Today, I walked from one bank to the next, only to be told that I cannot bank with them simply because I am a “US Person”.  I called the US embassy and they told me that they could do nothing because their hands were tied.  This is like living in a fantasy.  I’ve never experienced anything like this before.  Years ago, when I was a child living abroad, I was loved for being an American.  I was respected and I proudly told them that “I’m an American”.  Today, they are telling me to go away because of US policy.  I was advised to write to my representative and, well, that’s you.

I honestly don’t believe that you will take notice of this letter.  I’m one of 6 million Americans living abroad whose vote is diluted among the 50 states.  There are not enough Americans abroad voting in any one location to influence an election or catch the interest of a political representative.  I’m probably the only American abroad in your district and thus my voice is lost in the popular vote.  Nevertheless, I’m told that you represent me and that you are the only person who can make a difference in American politics as far as my situation is concerned.

Thus, I must ask you, are you willing to listen to Americans abroad?  Can you hear our issues and concerns?  Could you join the American Abroad Caucus?  Or, could you at least modify your contact page so that Americans abroad with a foreign address can contact you?

I realize that your time and resources are limited, that your priority is the interests of those residing in your district and that you may have little or no ability to influence America’s foreign policies.  Yet, if you could at least indicate that you heard an American abroad, you would do more for Americans abroad than many American politicians are willing to do.

 Sincerely,

[ExpatAmi]

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Received a generic response not addressed to me, and with no mention of anything that I wrote, but that’s more than nothing.

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US Bank Denying Americans Services for being “US Persons”

I called GE Money Bank AG today and was informed that they do not provide banking services to Swiss citizens in Switzerland who are considered to be “US Persons”.  GE Money Bank is a division of GE Capital which is a unit of General Electric, “an American multinational conglomerate corporation incorporated in Schenectady, New York and headquartered in Fairfield, Connecticut, United States”.[1]

You are hereby confirming that you are a non-US person, i.e. that you are not a US citizen (sole, double or multiple nationality), that you do not possess resident alien status (for example because you are in possession of a Green Card or because you have regularly resided in the USA in the current year and the previous two years) and that in accordance with the provisions of US tax law you are the beneficial owner of the assets held by you and of the income generated by those assets. Insofar as a double taxation treaty exists between the USA and your country of domicile as a client, the bank will in principle accord you, as our client, a reduction of the US withholding taxes on income from US sources. In such a case, the bank is entitled to ask you to produce additional documentation.
GE Money Bank Savings (see info button to the right of “confirm that I am a non-US person.”)

Other banks that I have called so far who refuse to provide banking services to Swiss citizens in Switzerland considered as being “US Persons” are:

  • Raiffeisen
  • Bank Coop
  • AXA Bank
  • Migros Bank (unless the minimum account balance is $250’000 or the mortgage is above $700’000)
  • NAB
  • Valiant Bank AG
  • Rothschild Bank AG (probably not, but unsure)
  • SwissLife (probably not, but unsure and also word of mouth)

Banks which provide Swiss citizens in Switzerland banking services regardless of the fact that they are considered as being “US Persons” are:

  • Basler Kantonalbank
  • Credit Suisse AG
  • Hyposwiss Privatbank AG (As long as W9 is completed)
  • UBS (Baden branch)
  • Postfinance (word of mouth)

Those denying banking services to Swiss citizens have no official statement of such.  They are acting upon recent internal instructions which they will not release to the public.  I was told that SwissLife has an official statement on the matter, and I found one on a mortgage application:

The customer is not a “US-Person”.  That means, he/she is not a US citizen (single, double or multiple citizenship), that he doesn’t have the status of being a foreign resident (“resident alien”) , has (for example the possession of a “Green Card” or any regular stay in the USA in the current year or last two years).
SwissLife Mortgage Application

Both the US embassy in Bern and the Swiss Department of Finance stated that the action taken by the banks is legal and advised one to communicate the matter with US representation.  After being informed that US politicians are not responding to Americans abroad, the US embassy in Bern recommended contacting the ACA lobby.

The US government writes that it is a federal crime to deny a US person a mortgage because of their national origin, and yet the US government is forcing this federal crime upon US citizens as a result of citizenship-based taxation.

Response from Swiss Department of Finance on Housing Discrimination

I was informed by the Swiss Department of Finance that the relation between banks and their customers is a private matter and that banks have the right to deny customers services if the risk is too great.  As for the cause for the situation, I was informed that this is a US problem between US citizens and the US government that the Swiss government is not responsible for and cannot do anything about.  US Persons who are denied banking services in response to US policy in Switzerland must file a complaint with the US government.

Letter to the Swiss Commission Against Racism

Sehr geehrte Kommission gegen Rassismus

Ich bin Schweiz-US Doppelbürger wohnhaft in der Schweiz und wurde informiert das einige Banken sich weigern mein Schweizer Hypothek zu finanzieren, wegen drück die von Amerika ausgeübt wird. In Amerika ist es kriminell Hypotheken auf Grund Nationalität zu verweigern. Wie kann ich meine Familie davon am besten schützen?

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Dear Commission against Racism,

I’m a Swiss-American dual citizen who lives in Switzerland and has been informed that several banks are refusing to refinance my Swiss mortgage due to US political pressure.  In America, it is a federal crime to deny a mortage on grounds of national origin.  How can I best protect my family from this?

Letter to U.S. Senator Bill Nelson

Honorable Bill Nelson,

I’m a US veteran and middle class American citizen living abroad. I moved abroad over 10 years ago to find work and earn my own money instead of collecting unemployment checks or economy stimulus handouts from the US government.

This week, I learned that some local banks are refusing to refinance my mortgage as a direct result of US policy that you voted in favor of. The justification made by some local banks for their action is that I am a US person who is taxed by the US government. In the United States, such justifications are known as Housing Discrimination, given that they discriminate against Americans because of their national origin. Since you voted to approve US policy which led to such discrimination against American citizens, I would like to know what measures you have taken to approach the negative consequences of your action. Which US banks are now required by US law to refinance my Mortgage, under local conditions where I live abroad, when denied such for being a US person? Which US banks are required to provided me with a local checking account where I live if I am denied such services for being a US person? I’m confident that you voted on issues concerning Americans abroad with a good understanding of the consequences such would have on them, and thus I am looking forward to hearing from you about the many steps you have taken to work around the negative impact your actions are causing American citizens living abroad.

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So far, I’ve received no response.  No response means that the Senator is delighted to force Housing Discrimination upon American citizens and has taken no action to counter the negative consequences of such.

Filed a complaint with the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity on Housing Discrimination

I’m an American citizen living in Switzerland and I was told today that I cannot refinance my mortgage at a Swiss bank, Raiffeisen, due to US policy. I read on your site that housing discrimination may be based on national origin and is illegal by federal law. As such, I’m wondering what can be done to reverse this US policy which encourages or causes discrimination against US citizens. If this problem were to expand to the point where I would no longer be able to refinance in Switzerland, would it be possible to refinance my Swiss home via the US government?

HUD.gov
Housing discrimination based on your race, color, national origin, religion, sex, family status, or disability is illegal by federal law. If you have been trying to buy or rent a home or apartment and you believe your rights have been violated, you can file a fair housing complaint.

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HUD never responded.

Myth: EVERYONE is Eligible to Free File!

IRS: EVERYONE is Eligible to Free File!

Everyone?  Including Americans abroad?  Even those with foreign addresses, senior citizens, the working middle class or the wealthy?

if you are a U.S. citizen or resident alien, the rules for filing income… are generally the same whether you are living in the U.S. or abroad.
IRS: Income from Abroad is Taxable

The rules for filing income are generally the same for those living abroad?  Really?  Seems hard to believe.  Let’s put it to the test.

Well, forget Free File Fillable Forms.

Foreign Addresses – Free File Fillable Forms does not currently support foreign addresses on the Form 1040 or on income documents (W2’s or 1099’s).
IRS: Free File Fillable Forms FAQs & Limitations

That scratches the IRS, the one making the claim, from qualifying.  This is rather ironic, considering:

U.S. citizen or resident alien, you must report income from all sources within and outside of the U.S.
IRS: Income from Abroad is Taxable

Americans living abroad must report their income even though the IRS refuses to accept their foreign address with freefile, contrary to its own claims?

We’re sorry, foreign mailing addresses for the main address on your tax return are not supported by our software.
FreeTaxUSA (search for foreign address)

That scratches FreeTaxUSA from the list, given that it likely figures that USA tax is for people in the USA?

You can generally use YES I-CAN!™ E-File unless you (or your spouse, if filing together) are in the military, are a church employee, are a non-resident alien, sold real estate or you or your employer have a non-US address.
YesICanEFile

Must be a typo.  NoICannotFile.org would be the correct site, yet such honesty would violate the “EVERYONE is Eligible to Free File” claim.

 OTP does not support the entry of foreign addresses
OnlineTaxPros

OffshoreTaxProhibition.com would work better in this context.  That scratches another from the list.

Not supported… foreign income (if you worked or had investments abroad)
EzTaxReturn

Well now, easy tax return is actually not so easy at all!  Try filing while being denied the ability to do so.  Such sure wasn’t easy to me.  Nonotaxreturn.com would be a better name for that site.  Another down and we are running of possibilities!

You Qualify for Free* federal filing if… Your AGI is $57000 or less and you live in AL, AR, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DC, DE, GA, HI, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MS, MT, NC, ND, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, UT, VT, WI, or WV then you are entitled to free federal tax preparation, printing & e-filing
TaxSimple

I guess that CH is not a US State, probably because it has a foreign address.  Thus, http://www.taxpain.org is scratched from the list too, unless one is under under 66 and asks the right person to manually enter the foreign address.  A similar conditions apply to 1040Now.net

You qualify for free tax preparation, printing, & e-filing if your adjusted gross income is $57,000 or less and you are age 19 through 55 years old. Offer valid in all states.
TaxActOnline

Holy smoke!  TaxACT accepts foreign addresses, as long as the foreign address is in the country of “America”, since no other country can be entered.  Yet, even if one lives at a foreign address in America, one is still denied the right to free-file if one is younger than 19, older than 55 or if one has an AGI greater than $57000. Yet, TaxACT also writes:

FREE for Everyone – No restrictions or gimmicks
TaxAct

So, if one avoids the IRS freefile and goes directly to TaxACT.com, then maybe the restrictions don’t apply as long as one lives at a foreign address in America?  I hope you are not confused, because I sure am.

Adjusted Gross Income: between $12,050 and $57,000, and
Live in any state or U.S. Citizens and resident aliens with foreign addresses
Olt

Wow, OLT strangely realized that Americans abroad do not live in America!  Now, that could seem shocking, except that an AGI between $12050 and $57,000 excludes just about everyone and anyone who lives abroad.  Similar conditions apply to FileYourTaxes.  Now, somebody has got to be able to free file, one would think…

Your age is 52 or under and your AGI is less than $57000
1040

Cool!  Another company that realizes that not all Americans live in America, and they even accept most Americans abroad with an AGI under $57000.  Yet, they exclude the wealthy and senior citizens.  Well, that’s not EVERYONE.  How rude!  Similar conditions apply to H&R Block, eSmartTax and TaxSlayer.  Oh, wait, there’s one more:

Yes. Starting on March 15, 2012, you will be able to e-file a federal tax return with a foreign or U.S. Possession mailing address… Similarly, you’ll need a U.S. bank account or credit card to pay owed taxes and product fees. TurboTax Refund Card and Refund Processing Services require a U.S. address or APO/FPO/DPO address. Free products which require registration in lieu of payment require a U.S. address or APO/FPO/DPO address.
TurboTax

You earned $31000 or less or were Active Duty Military or you qualified for the Earned Income Credit
TurboTax

That still excludes senior citizens and the wealthy from “everyone”, one can’t get a refund unless one has US address, one can’t pay taxes unless one has a bank account or credit card in another country where one doesn’t live and one can’t enjoy free products unless one has a US address.  Getting a bank account, credit card or mailing address in another country where one does not live is not always an easy task.

Thus, the “EVERYONE is Eligible to Free File” claim is false and the rules for filing income are also not the same as those living in the US.  The US government, can only be ashamed when promoting this non-functioning condition of citizenship-based taxation.