November 2019 Capitol Hill Tax Reform Meetings (4-6 Nov)

Thanks to all who supported the work of Democrats Abroad advocating for tax reforms for Americans abroad by calling and writing to your elected representatives ahead of and during our week in Washington DC.   Sorry to be repetitive, but the messages members of Congress get from their constituents are the most persuasive ones and push them hardest to address our problems and reform recommendations.  It’s never too late to reach out, so if you’re waiting to contact your member of Congress then please consult our latest campaign guide and make your voice heard.  If you’ve never before contacted your member of Congress and want more background on how to do so then this webinar may be of interest.

More meetings with Ways and Means members and RBT friends

Our team arrived on Capitol Hill with 11 meetings in the calendar but ended up giving 18 briefings across the three days and leaving briefing materials in another 10-12 offices.  As usual, our outreach focused on the all-important members of the House Ways and Means Committee where legislation to enact our keynote reform, Residency Based Taxation (RBT), is being developed. 

We gave briefings in some offices we had yet to brief:  Reps Mike Kelly, Ron Kind, Jason Smith, Devin Nunes, Brad Westrup, Brendan Boyle, Jimmy Gomez, Jodey Arrington, Steven Horsford, Judy Chu and Terri Sewell.  We updated others we’ve met with before:  Reps Thompson, Suozzi, Posey and Blunt-Rochester.  And, of course, we caught up briefly with each of the members who are our RBT Champions:  Reps Beyer, Holding, Maloney, Raskin and Titus.

There’s really no substitute for face-to-face meetings in the offices of these important members.  We have built valuable and trusted relationships with legislative aides important to the progress of our work.  With rare exceptions, they listen carefully, ask good questions and offer insights and thoughtful advice.  We download a lot of information to them, but we learn a lot as well.  (In non-sitting weeks like this one, we find the staff are more available to us, more relaxed and less rushed and more apt to provide particularly insightful information about what’s really going on in Congress.)

We came away with some valuable intel and useful ideas that we will fold into our existing advocacy strategy. 

Democrats Abroad maintains an abiding commitment to representing the concerns of Americans abroad, particularly in the area of taxation which causes such enormous personal and financial harm.  Our advocacy incorporates reform recommendations aimed at addressing the serious problems we face due to discriminatory provisions not only in the tax code but also in bank secrecy, securities and investment, national security and Social Security laws.  As outlined in our recent advocacy reports and grassroots campaign materials, we are asking for Ways and Means Committee hearings to profile the range of problems, concerns and burdens we bear.

Tax Advocacy in Action

As followers of the work of Democrats Abroad advocating for tax reform for Americans abroad know, we are by no means the only group working to persuade Congress to enact a switch to RBT.  We are part of a coalition of partisan and non-partisan organisations working in parallel to educate members of Congress about the genuine harm U.S. taxation causes for non-resident citizens and about how RBT can be implemented to address our problems without creating tax avoidance loopholes. 

Building a Bill

Over the last 3 years our coalition has engaged extensively with the office of Rep. George Holding on the development of a proposal to enact a switch from our current system of Citizenship Based Taxation to RBT.  Our proposal included a complement of design elements for introducing RBT and also for protecting the filing exemption from abuse by those few who would use either real or pretend offshore residency for the purpose of pushing assessable income out of the reach of the IRS. 

Our RBT proposal was scored by the Joint Committee on Taxation and sent to drafters to be converted into the language of a bill.  Unfortunately, by the end of the 115th Congress the drafters had not completed work on the bill.  They did, however, send us the Tax Fairness For Americans Abroad Act which, although bereft of the important legislative design details we worked so hard to establish, was an important advocacy milestone for our coalition.

We picked up the work on RBT in January 2019, at the start of the 116th Congress, with a bi-partisan partnership of Ways and Means Committee members championing our reform - Rep George Holding (R-NC) and Rep Don Beyer (D-VA) - and a new team of drafters in the Ways and Means Committee office.  We have met with the drafters several times this year to discuss the design elements of the RBT proposal. 

Knowing the tax administration aspects of the bill were the main obstacle to completion in the last Congress, we understand the drafters are taking a new approach to structuring the legislation.  We have not as yet, however, seen their work.  Meeting with them provides useful insights into why RBT is still a work in progress.  Importantly, they always assure us that Beyer and Holding are committed sponsors.  But it doesn’t make the waiting any easier.  We continue to make ourselves available to the drafters to workshop the bill; but the most important work is that of the Americans abroad community, reaching out to our elected representatives to maintain pressure on Congress to get this done.

Taxation Task Force

The Democrats Abroad Taxation Task Force is an all-volunteer team giving time on a daily basis to keep abreast of legislative and regulatory developments, plan and execute campaign initiatives and drive a multi-pronged strategy that leverages the strengths and assets of the Americans abroad community to the best of our ability.

We are looking for additional support for our team and encourage those interested in volunteering time and talent to our work to contact us at taxationtf@democratsabroad.org. 

Democratically yours,

DEMOCRATS ABROAD TAXATION TASK FORCE

Julia Bryan – ex officio (Czech Republic

Jennifer Cederwalls (Sweden)

DeeDee Gierow (Sweden)

Rebecca Lammers (UK)

Carmelan Polce – Chair (New York and Australia)

Michael Ramos (Australia)

Joe Smallhoover (France)

Chip Seward (Washington DC and France)