April 23, 2024

Radio ARA - The Plight of Americans living abroad.

On Thursday April 11, 2024, Lynette Stoltzfus (Chair) and Patrick Canning (Vice-Chair) of Democrats Abroad Luxembourg (DAL) had the opportunity to speak about the plight of Americans living abroad on Radio ARA (87.8 102.9 and 105.2). They were hosted by Wendy Winn of ARA on the Happy Hour Radio program that airs every Thursday from 18:30 to 20:00. Here’s a link to the recording of the live stream Addressing issues faced by Americans abroad (youtube.com).

What was made clear in this program is that the plight of Americans living abroad is not unique to any one demographic nor political group. There are unique hurdles that all Americans face regarding setting up for a life abroad that are unique for Americans. One of the most obvious points is taxation. United States has citizenship-based taxation while most of the rest of the world uses resident-based taxation. What this boils down to is Americans abroad must complete two sets of taxes: one for the US and another for their country of residency. In our case Luxembourg. While Lynette and Patrick are both dual nationals, it does not change much of anything regarding taxes. It can get quite complicated. Lynette prefers to pay a substantial amount to have her taxes prepared. Others, such as Patrick who’s retired, prefer to prepare them by hand for calculating a strategic advantage. However, this is terribly time consuming.

Another issue is banking. Since the introduction of the Patriot Act, European banks are now required to report specific bank details to the US authorities. This is a violation of European Data Protection laws, and many banks chose not to take on American clients. Not only is there an issue in Europe with banking, but US banks can close an US account if they know you live abroad. Patrick cited several examples of this. This is particularly true for securities accounts and smaller banks. Many people use an address of a relative or friend to circumvent this obstacle, but this undermines the intent and puts one at legal risk.

The were other issues discussed such as the fact that trusts are illegal in Europe (they are view as tax avoidance schemes) and the fact the estate plans from the US are not valid in Europe as there is premise that the beneficiaries will live and die on the USA. Other issues are access to healthcare and voting processes. An of course the Windfall Elimination Provision that reduces Americans’ social security benefits. This impacts Patrick directly. Any American that has been out the US for an extended period e.g. 10 years need to be aware of this.

At first, Patrick and Lynette were afraid we could not fill up the hour and one halve program, but in the end, it was a very flowing and easy conversation. As the final point in the discussion, Patrick and Lynette talked about their visit to Washington DC in July 2023 to talk at the House of Representatives about H.R. 2729. HR 2729 is bill sponsored by Representative Dina Titus to study this plight of Americans abroad. This bill will create a commission of 10 members of both the house and senate to examine the concerns of Americans abroad. Currently there is no structure in place to do this. This bill also calls for recommendation from this committee.

In order to listen to the weekly Happy Hour program please click on the follow link. It’s every Thursday from 18:30 t0 20:00.  Happy Hour - Radio ARA