In this May 2017 issue
Have you ever wondered what Democrats Abroad is and does outside of the borders of your local group? You know that we help Americans register to vote, and you’re probably aware that there is more to DA than just your chapter – after all, there are 41 country committees with members in 190 countries on 5 continents. But it’s been amazing to find out just how far DA reaches!
Did you know Democrats Abroad is considered a “state” by the DNC? Despite being spread across the globe, our members are our population – the more members we have, the more delegates we get, and the more our concerns are heard.
To this end, DA has task forces such as FATCA, Medicare Portability, Residence-Based Taxation, and others that promote topics that are important to all Americans living overseas. There are also issues and constituencies that are represented through our caucuses and councils. The LGBT, Youth, and Women’s caucuses are established while others, such as the Hispanic Caucus, the Progressive Caucus, and the Veterans and Military Families Council, are still in formation. All of them are eager to hear from you!
The other day, JFK’s iconic words were brought to mind when someone remarked that it’s one thing to be a member but much more satisfying to be involved. “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” is a good parallel to participation in DA – that “aha” moment when one realizes that the organization is made up entirely from members who have chosen to participate.
The subject is timely because DA global leadership elections will be happening in Washington, D.C. from May 12-15. The new international Executive Committee, as well as the Regional Vice Chairs, representing the Americas, Asia-Pacific, and Europe, Middle East and Africa, will be elected. Attending DA members will also knock on the doors of our Representatives and bring the issues that matter to us home to them.
This year, the five door-knocking topics are: Overseas Voting Rights (especially for US citizen children born abroad), FATCA, Residence-Based Taxation, Maintaining/refunding the Election Assistance Commission, and State Department budget cuts, which will affect funding for American Citizen Services, education exchange, and USAID. Last weekend our grassroots group wrote letters to be hand delivered – you can still send one to us and add it to the pile!
Now you know DA does a whole lot more than its vital task of getting out the vote. So the next time you’re feeling discontent, disconnected or -- better yet -- inspired, we hope you’ll write a letter, join a caucus, or stop by a local event and say hello, because you are Democrats Abroad, and together we reach across borders.
Note: This article is reprinted from the Jan 2015 DA Germany newsletter. For up-to-date information and the latest details on the FATCA/FBAR click here
After years of discussion, the majority of Americans living abroad may have heard about or found themselves affected by the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) and Report of Foreign Banks and Financial Accounts (FBAR). While the initial intent was to smoke out rich tax evaders in foreign tax havens, for the average American citizen living abroad it has created unintended negative consequences that critics say far outweigh any intended benefits. The effects on ordinary Americans who engage in normal financial activities such as participating in a company pension plan or starting a small business can be severe in some circumstances.
FATCA and FBAR have been on the statute books for years, even if many of us were unaware of it, and thus non-compliant. If in the past tax “experts” discreetly hinted that if non-filing Americans abroad kept a low profile, they might never be “discovered,” this is no longer extremely likely. In 2014, under new bilateral agreements, foreign banks were asked to identify account holders that could be “US persons” (citizens or green card holders). Many DA members subsequently have received letters from their banks asking for information. Usually, a form W-9 “Request for Taxpayer Identification and Certification” is enclosed. This is then forwarded by the banks to a proxy of the IRS, as the German government, among others, felt uncomfortable with forwarding information directly to the US tax collector.
There are many important things to know when trying to come to grips with what FATCA and FBAR mean. The good news is that the draconian penalties applied by the IRS to those participating in earlier amnesty programs have been dropped in favor of a “simple” explanation of why the person has not filed. Under a new “streamlined procedure,” those wishing to become compliant can do so by submitting US tax returns for the past three years and FBARs for the past six. The bad news is that those who do not complete the streamlined procedure before being found by the US will still face penalties – even if not as severe as in the past.
In a nutshell: A far larger proportion of Americans will be affected by FBAR than the wider-reaching FATCA, which concerns only those residing overseas with assets exceeding $200,000 (single filers) and $400,000 (joint filers). US citizens living abroad are required to file an FBAR with their US tax returns – every year – if they have an interest in any financial account, including bank, securities or other types of account, in a foreign country, provided the aggregate value of these accounts exceeds $10,000 at any time during the calendar year. In addition, a person with signature authority over a foreign bank or financial account must also file an FBAR annually.
As compliance with any of the rules involves more than just listing income and other assets and calculating the foreign tax exemption, those who can afford to would be wise to hire a tax preparer, preferably a certified public accountant (CPA) registered with the IRS. This can cost upwards of €1,000 for the three tax returns and six FBARs. Democrats Abroad does not keep an official list, but those seeking names and addresses can contact this email address from DA Germany: DAG-FATCA@DemocratsAbroad.org
Since FATCA and FBAR came into effect, a dedicated Democrats Abroad task force has been working with the IRS and the US Treasury Department to address the financial reporting burden the legislation imposes on Americans living and working abroad.
Aloka Barthel, Media Contact – DAG-Press@DemocratsAbroad.org (2015)
Dede Williams, Communications Team – DAG-FATCA@DemocratsAbroad.org (2015)
By Danny LoCascio
Democrats Abroad Austria participated in the recent March for Science held on Earth Day, April 22. About 25 DAA members carried the American flag and a DAA banner as they marched alongside scientists, students, professors, and people from all walks of life - expats and Austrians alike.
The march was just one of more than 500 satellite marches in solidarity of the March for Science in Washington, D.C. Millions marched around the world to demonstrate in support of science, but also in protest of the recent decisions made by Donald Trump regarding science. "He has thrown a wrecking ball at institutions like the Environmental Agency," one member stated. “He has appointed climate change deniers to his cabinet. He has publicly described climate change as a hoax. It's like putting an arsonist in charge of extinguishing a fire which they started, and we're all living in the burning house."
Scientists are now worrying about government funding for research desperately needed to undo the ravages that the misuse of science has caused. And people all over the world are worried that climate change will continue until it is irreparable, if it isn't already.
The march originated at Sigmund Freud Park, where people gathered, met up with friends, and got the feel of the march. Democrats Abroad Austria set up a table for voter registration. Although rain was forecast at precisely the time of the march, it held off until the end to everyone's relief. At Sigmund Freud Park, there was a DJ, interviews with scientists and live music provided by Danny Chicago, who performed Bob Dylan's "The Times They are a Changin" and his own socially influenced song "Runaway Train"
DAA Chair Jennifer Rakow-Stepper commented, “The organizers had posted a map with the scientific landmarks along the route and our new treasurer, Marcy Fowler, gave us her professional insights about the Iran nuclear deal as we passed by Palais Coburg, where the talks were held. Another DAA member, Lizzie Stevens, was a part of the TBA21 artwork, Jiboia (King Boa), by Ernesto Netos. Everyone had a good time for an important issue.
The march began at 2 pm and wove its way through the first district and back to the ring at Maria Theresien Platz. The entire march took roughly 90 minutes. There were hundreds of distinguished Austrian scientists who gave their signed support to the march and many of them could be seen marching in the crowd.
Several highly respected scientists in the Austrian scientific community gave speeches in support of science such as Vice-President of the Universities' Conference and Rector of the Vienna University of Economics Edeltraud Hanappi-Egger and former President of the European Research Council (ERC) Helga Nowotny.
Two DAA members, Casey Miller and Danny LoCascio, were part of the original organizational committee. The initial organizers were Robin Gleason and Olivia Fischer, and original members included Monica LoCascio, Laura Silverstein, Sabine Montagnon and David Heuser. The organization was later turned over to Oliver Lehmann and his support team of Petra Eckhart, Emilie Kleinszig and Claudia Spitz, and the original committee stayed active through the end of the march.
The demonstration size was estimated within the 2500 range. It was a positive crowd with great energy, enthusiasm and a healthy mix of sending an important message while keeping a good sense of humor. The signs being carried were a varied mix of grim messages, clever science puns, angry sentiments, inspirational quotes and takeaway phrases.
After the march, twelve members of DAA met up at Halle to rest their feet while enjoying refreshments and conversation.
If you would like to see follow-up events and activities go to the main March for Science link.
Welcome, New Democrat!
Congratulations to DAA Member-at-Large and Database Manager, Caitlin Ahern, on the birth of her son Benjamin on April 8th. She is thrilled to be raising another tiny Democrat in this very parenting-friendly country!