New York Times Op-Ed published June 15, 2021
The Washington Post published further revelations from the Pandora Papers this week, expanding upon what was already understood from the Panama Papers and the Paradise Papers about how the really big Fat Cats hide their money from tax authorities. They hire formation agents, like one of the fourteen whose documents were leaked to the Pandora journalists, to stash their untaxed cash in anonymous shell companies whose legal filings, financial disclosures and bank records never reveal the Fat Cats’ identities.
In 2010 Congress enacted the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), creating a system to catch tax cheats and other financial criminals who use foreign bank accounts to hide money from the IRS. Foreign bank accounts with no account holder names don’t make FATCA reports to the IRS. The Fat Cats go free.
Meanwhile FATCA causes real pain for ordinary, law-abiding, working class Americans living abroad. Foreign banks lock them out to avoid FATCA reporting; 1 in 3 report having accounts closed or bank products denied. Non-US spouses remove them from financial accounts and assets to avoid FATCA reporting. And they lose employment and business opportunities.
The Pandora Papers revelations prove that FATCA fails to discourage and apprehend tax cheats; but it traps Americans abroad in a damaging and unfair system never meant for them. It’s time for Congress to direct policy at the right enemy and exempt from FATCA the bank accounts of ordinary Americans abroad in the countries where they live.