Letter to Canadian Tax Law Professor

Sent to NBrooks@osgoode.yorku.ca

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Neil Brooks
Osgoode Hall Law School
4700 Keele Street
Toronto, Ontario
Canada
M3J 1P3
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Dear Neil:

In the United States, it is a federal crime to discriminate against an individual based on their national origin. US law writes:

Federal laws prohibit discrimination based on a person’s national origin, race, color, religion, disability, sex, and familial status. Laws prohibiting national origin discrimination make it illegal to discriminate because of a person’s birthplace, ancestry, culture or language. This means people cannot be denied equal opportunity because they or their family are from another country, because they have a name or accent associated with a national origin group, because they participate in certain customs associated with a national origin group, or because they are married to or associate with people of a certain national origin. http://www.justice.gov/crt/legalinfo/natorigin.php

FATCA seeks for individuals to be discriminated against based on their national origin. In your book, Billionaires’ Ball, by defending FATCA you are advocating for US federal crimes to be forced upon innocent Canadian citizens who are identified as having a US national origin. Is it normal in Canada for tax law professors to advocate for their innocent fellow citizens to be criminalized with US federal law violations?

Where I live, the financial institutions where I pay my bills and save for retirement are refusing to accept US persons as new clients due to FATCA. Yet, I’m not wealthy, I don’t bank offshore (except for in the US), I don’t owe the US government any taxes and I am tax compliant. So, why do you feel that crime must be practiced against me simply because I violated no laws and did nothing wrong?

It is possible that you had no idea that FATCA is criminal and is harming innocent civilians. Yet, I hope that you will reconsider your position and focus on opposing crime instead of defending its practice.

Sincerely

[ExpatAmi]

Asked Federal Trade Commission if Americans Abroad are being excluded from Sweepstakes

Since neither the Obama nor the Romney team responded in my inquiry concerning sweepstakes and citizens abroad, I called  1-877-FTC-HELP seeking more information.  To me, it is unclear if Americans abroad are included or excluded with the following text:

PROMOTION OPEN ONLY TO INDIVIDUAL UNITED STATES CITIZENS AND LAWFUL PERMANENT U.S. RESIDENTS WHO ARE LEGAL RESIDENTS OF THE FIFTY (50) UNITED STATES, THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA AND PUERTO RICO, AND OVER THE AGE OF 18 (OR THE AGE OF MAJORITY UNDER APPLICABLE LAW
http://www.barackobama.com/last-dinner-with-barack/rules

The Federal Trade Commission is supposed to “prevent business practices that are anticompetitive or deceptive or unfair to consumers; to enhance informed consumer choice and public understanding of the competitive process; and to accomplish this without unduly burdening legitimate business activity.”

Unfortunately, the Federal Trade Commission didn’t know if American citizens living abroad are being included or excluded and advised me to continue searching for an answer.  I guess that it is acceptable in America to be deceptive or unfair to Americans living abroad.

Thus, I wrote the National Association of Consumer Advocates the following:

Are Americans abroad included or excluded from sweepstakes?  I contacted the Obama and Romney teams concerning their sweepstakes, but they did not provide an answer, nor did the FTC know if Americans living abroad are included or excluded from Sweepstakes.  How do you understand the following in relation to Americans overseas:

“PROMOTION OPEN ONLY TO INDIVIDUAL UNITED STATES CITIZENS AND LAWFUL PERMANENT U.S. RESIDENTS WHO ARE LEGAL RESIDENTS OF THE FIFTY (50) UNITED STATES, THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA AND PUERTO RICO, AND OVER THE AGE OF 18 (OR THE AGE OF MAJORITY UNDER APPLICABLE LAW)”
http://www.barackobama.com/last-dinner-with-barack/rules

Support H.R. 6263: Commission on Americans Living Abroad Act

Submitted via PopVox

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Dear Rep. Vern Buchanan:

Congress is endlessly clueless about Americans living abroad and is unknowingly passing way to many laws which are causing Americans overseas unnecessary harm. As a result of this, more Americans abroad are renouncing their US citizenship than ever before in US history. The current situation is horrible. It is disgusting. It is unacceptable. Congress can only be ashamed and disgusted with itself. Congress, you have failed Americans living abroad. Under existing conditions, if you want to do anything good for Americans living overseas, then recommend that they liberate themselves from the faults of your leadership. Sadly, that is the least that Americans living abroad can request from Congress under the existing circumstances.

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No response

Resubmitted Complaint on Housing Discrimination to HUD

Submitted to HUD.gov

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I filed a complaint on housing discrimination on the 23rd of July but never received a response and was later told that the complaint had vanished.

I’m an American citizen living in Switzerland and many banks are refusing to refinance my mortgage in response to pressure being applied against them by the US government.  According to US federal law, the US government is forcing housing discrimination upon innocent Americans who live in other countries.

It is my understanding that HUD only helps Americans in the 50 States and US territories while ignoring Americans who live overseas.  Yet, since the US government is causing Americans abroad to suffer from housing discrimination, HUD needs to help all American regardless of where they may live in the world.

Eritrea, North Korea and America are the only nations which double-tax the personal income of their citizens regardless of where they live in the world.  Yet, unlike Eritrea and North Korea, America is the only nation in the world which pressures banks to harm its citizens with housing discrimination, while turning its back on its citizens and refusing to aid them from the harm of its actions.  Since the US government insists that it must double-tax its citizens while pressuring banks to refuse to finance their homes, it certainly cannot be too much to ask for HUD to be prepared to assist Americans abroad who are suffering from housing discrimination resulting from US policy.

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Received the following response:

Thank you for your HUD-903 complaint regarding your belief that your civil rights have been violated. Please be assured that the issue you have raised is very important to us. Unfortunately, the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO) does not have jurisdiction to handle complaints outside of the United States.

STATUTE – It is the policy of the United States to provide, within constitutional limitations, for fair housing throughout the United States.

Sec. 802. [42 U.S.C. 3602] Definitions

(g) “State” means any of the several States, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, or any of the territories and possessions of the United States.

FHEO administratively enforces federal statutes, executive orders and regulations designed to afford all persons an equal opportunity to live in housing of their choice and to participate in HUD-assisted programs and activities without regard to race, color, national origin, sex, religion, familial status (families with children under 18), disability, or age.

Americans abroad are prohibited from accessing 7digital.us

Sorry, but in accordance with our contractual obligations with the labels, you can only purchase from 7digital.us if you live in the United States. Please visit your local store at de-ch.7digital.com to start shopping. If you’ve accessed 7digital.us from inside the United States, please get in touch with our Customer Support Team who will resolve the problem for you. Thanks for your understanding!
Source: http://us.7digital.com

Sounds extremely anti-American of America, but America is not known for being American-friendly.

Letter to Congressman Connie Mack on H.R. 6263

Dear Congressman Connie Mack,

I’m a Florida resident working abroad in Switzerland.  In the past few weeks, I’ve been learning that Swiss banks are refusing to refinance mortgages for Americans simply because they are “US Persons”, as a result of US policy.  I’ve written Senator Bill Nelson twice on this issue and received no response.  What is your take on the matter?  Do you support H.R. 6263 to establish a commission to study how Federal laws and policies affect United States citizens living in foreign countries?

Regards,

[ExpatAmi]

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No response.

Letter to Senator Bill Nelson on H.R. 6263

Honorable Bill Nelson,

The US Embassy in Bern advised me to contact you since American citizens are being denied mortgages by banks, as a direct result of US policy, simply because they are accused of being “US Persons”.

I was informed that you represent Florida residents who live abroad and thus I wrote to you on the 26th of July on this very serious matter, but received no response. Not a single word from my representation in the Senate.

It is a federal crime to deny an American in America a mortgage simply because they are accused of being a “US person”. As such, one would think that you would be very eager to explain why you voted to approve a policy which is now causing American citizens to be denied mortgages simply because they are “US persons”. Federal laws and policies tend to have a much different meaning beyond US borders.

Yet, actions speak louder than words. Become a cosponsor of H.R. 6263 to establish a commission to study how Federal laws and policies affect United States citizens living in foreign countries. Doing so would demonstrate to Americans that you recognize that it is absolutely horrible for Americans to be denied mortgages as a result of US policy, and such would mean far more than words which were never spoken to those one is said to represent.

Sincerely

[ExpatAmi]

PS. Please update your contact page so that Americans abroad can contact you using their home address.

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No rsponse

Letter to Congressman Vern Buchanon on H.R.6263

Dear Vern Buchanan,

On the 30th of July 30, 2012, I wrote to you that banks were refusing to refinance my Mortgage simply because I’m a US person living abroad.

As you must know, it is a federal crime to refuse to finance a mortgage based on national origin. In other words, it is illegal in America to deny an American a mortgage simply because they are an American citizen.

As mentioned in my previous letter, American citizens are being denied mortgages for being Americans as a result of US policy. It is thus my assumption that US policy, which causes the mortgages of US persons to be denied, is illegal under US law.

Being my representation in America, you must certainly be aware that Rep. Carolyn Maloney sponsored H.R.6263 to establish a commission to study how Federal laws and policies affect United States citizens living in foreign countries.

Please cosponsor and support this bill since it simply cannot be that American citizens are denied mortgages simply because they are US Persons.

Sincerely,

[ExpatAmi]

PS. Please update your contact page so that Americans abroad can contact you using their home address.

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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.

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.

Did you hear the President today?

“Today the President laid out a very different vision, one where everyone—no matter who you are, where you’re from, or how big your bank account is—pitches in together to rebuild the foundations of our country and economy.”
Did you hear the President today?

While this sounds, in theory, to be a noble idea worthy of taking into consideration, it is, in practice, troubled with a number of significant hurdles which need to be overcome.

Around 6.2 million American citizens abroad already pitch in together to rebuild the foundations of the countries and economies where they reside outside of America, as explained in Taxation of Americans Abroad.  Asking them to do the same for two countries and two economies puts a greater burden on them than any other group of people, with the exception of the totalitarian nation of Eritrea.

“Congress could amend the Tax Code to end the discriminatory practice of taxing U.S. citizens with a bona-fide residence abroad. However, this appears highly unlikely—U.S. citizens living abroad have essentially zero influence in Congress.”
100 Year Legacy of Expatriation Due to Taxes

In a totalitarian regime, citizens living abroad have essentially zero influence in Congress. America is likely not defined as being a totalitarian regime, and yet Americans abroad are told that they can’t vote when they attempt to register with their address or documents where they live.  To register, they have to ask someone in the US if they can use their address for that purpose. For example, the Massachusetts Voter Registration Form Request requires a US address.  The same applies to Americans abroad who attempt to get an id card or drivers license, as further explained in “Your are an Invalid Resident!

“Approximately 6 to 7 percent of civilians living abroad voted in the 2008 election.  There is evidence that a large portion of the population was not successful in its attempt to participate. The largest problem for Americans abroad is not having their ballot rejected, but ensuring that their ballot is returned on time.”
Overseas Vote Foundation

Even if they can register to vote, they are told that they can’t vote locally or their vote doesn’t count.  Americans abroad are further compensated with their lack of political representation with an up to 50% slash to their US Social Security benefits through the Windfall Elimination Provision.  If they lose their employment abroad, they will be denied unemployment benefits in the US.

“The U.S. Government does not offer an unemployment insurance plan in which overseas Americans could voluntarily enroll to protect themselves upon their return to the United States.”
American Citizens Abroad

The idea of  being together seems to stop at the border, such as with Medicare, or State Farm which writes:

“Each of the investment products and services referred to on the State Farm Mutual Funds web site is intended to be made available to customers or prospective customers residing in the United States. The customer’s U.S. permanent residence address must be a street address.”
State Farm

Yet, it doesn’t end there.  When Americans apply for some bank accounts abroad or even banking services in the States, they may be rejected or treated differently from other Americans.

“As a direct result of existing and newly proposed U.S. regulations, many U.S. and overseas banks have closed accounts held by U.S. citizens living outside of the U.S., and many banking institutions outside the U.S. now refuse to open any new accounts for Americans. Recently enacted legislation from the Treasury and Congress will only worsen this situation.”
Banking Services Denied to U.S. Citizens Abroad

Of course, there are other issues as well, such as Americans abroad being the target of terrorist attacks responding to US foreign policy.  Americans abroad may also be denied residential tuition rates at US colleges.  We can’t even sign up for an American Sweepstakes, get a credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com, buy an app from Barnes & Nobel, watch a video at Amazon or subscribe to Netflix.  Yet, the most serious issue is the excessive government spending on that which does not “rebuild the foundations of our country and economy”:

“Uncle Sam is like the neighborhood wastrel who buys everyone a drink and cosigns everyone’s loans even though he is unemployed. When faced with bankruptcy, he immediately goes down to the bar and buys another round for the road.”
Solving The Debt Crisis: A Military Budget For A Republic

America does not need to be a super power.  Rather, It needs to cut its spending to repay its debts to “rebuild the foundations of our country and economy”.  A 50% slash on Social Security Benefits for all Americans rather than singling out Americans abroad, would qualify under the concept of “pitching in together” and cut spending by $407 billion.  One could even work together more and stop Medicare within the US border too for all Americans, pitching in a few more billion.

Did you hear the President today?  Sadly, I heard no mention of residency-based taxation or even representation for Americans abroad in the House and Senate.  What I did hear appeared to be a collection of bipartisan chatter which stopped in relevance at the border.  Maybe the President should hear Americans today for a change?