FATCA Update: August 2015

Update on our Grassroots Campaign in support of the FATCA Same Country Safe Harbor for Americans Abroad

It’s been a tremendously busy month for the FBAR/FATCA Task Force.  I’ll try to keep this account of our work succinct:

  • As you know from last month’s report, the co-chairs of the Americans Abroad Caucus, Rep Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Rep Mick Mulvaney (R-SC), have drafted a letter from Congress to the Treasury and the IRS asking for them to urgently implement the FATCA Same Country Safe Harbor for Americans abroad.[1]  Representatives Maloney and Mulvaney circulated the letter on Capitol Hill with a covering letter asking their Congressional colleagues to sign on.
  • Democrats Abroad launched our grassroots campaign shortly thereafter, asking Americans abroad to message their members of Congress urging them to sign on to the letter.  Our goal was 1,000 messages.
  • At the end of the first week more than 5,200 individuals participated in the campaign.
  • To date approximately 16,500 messages have been sent from Americans living right around the world to their members of Congress.
  • The FBAR/FATCA Task Force and our colleagues at American Citizens Abroad and Association of Americans Resident Overseas followed up those messages with phone calls to Capitol Hill, repeating again and again the problems FATCA is causing for Americans abroad and re-sending the letter.
  • We set the campaign up to tell us which members of Congress were receiving messages.  We targeted our telephone outreach at the members receiving the most messages.  We also phoned the members of the Americans Abroad Caucus, some of whom have neglected so far to sign the letter.
  • In the three weeks following the start of the campaign we tripled the number of letter signers.  But we are not done yet!
  • We have an analysis that approximates which Congressional Districts have the largest number of voters living abroad.  For the last week we have been targeting members of Congress whose districts are in the top 25% of districts in terms of voters from abroad.
  • The sponsors of the letter were planning to “close” the letter off at the end of the July sitting session.   Our success and momentum has encouraged them to keep the letter open at least through the end of the month, and hopefully into September and the next sitting session.
  • If you have not as yet messaged your member of Congress asking that they sign the Congressional letter in support of the FATCA Same Country Safe Harbor for Americans abroad then please do it now.

Treasury and the IRS need to see that Congress supports this material change to the FATCA implementation rules.  They won’t move unless Congress sends them a positive signal, and Congress won’t move unless we tell them we need them to.  Your participation is critical.  It is not too late.  Please send a message and share the link.

Research on FFIs and the Same Country Safe Harbor

The Task Force has been interviewing foreign financial institutions (FFIs) to assess their views on the FATCA Same Country Safe Harbor for Americans abroad.  Specifically, we are seeking their feedback on whether this reform to the FATCA implementation rules would have a positive impact on their policy towards American citizens.  You will recall from the report of our meetings with Treasury earlier this year that this is one of the key requests made of us.  Treasury is seeking assurances that the Same Country Safe Harbor will succeed in convincing FFIs to reverse their discriminatory policy regarding Americans citizens.  We hope to have some advice for you soon on the outcomes of this research.

Important changes to the FBAR (Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts)

On July 31 Congress made an important change to the filing deadline of the FBAR when it passed the Surface Transportation and Veterans Health Care Choice Improvement Act of 2015.  The Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts, or FBAR, is the report US citizens must file with the IRS if the aggregate value of their assets in foreign financial accounts exceeded $10,000 at anytime during the prior year.  FBARs are filed electronically on FinCEN Form 114 and have always been due by 30 June - but no more.  The filing deadline for the 2016 tax year will be harmonised with the filing date for tax returns – April 15.  (FBARs for the 2015 tax year will be due on June 30, 2016.  FBARs for the 2016 tax year will be due on April 15, 2017.) 

The good news here is that the FBAR is now also eligible for the automatic extensions available for the Form 1040’s.  Send any questions to your tax accountant.  We cannot give you any advice.  If you haven’t got a tax accountant we recommend this global directory of US tax preparers.

FBAR/FATCA Task Force seeking volunteers

The FBAR/FATCA Task Force is looking for some new members.   Please consider joining us – all you need is a good understanding of our work to date and a commitment to contribute time and energy to the tasks before us.  Please contact any of us at any time to discuss the Task Force and becoming a member.

Democrats Abroad FBAR/FATCA Task Force

Jim Black (USA)
DeeDee Gierow (Sweden)
Carmelan Polce – Acting Chair (Singapore)
Joe Smallhoover (France)
Katie Solon – Ex Officio (Germany)

[1] The FATCA Same Country Safe Harbor for Americans abroad would change the FATCA implementation rules to remove the burden of FATCA reporting on the accounts of law abiding Americans residing abroad for financial accounts in their countries of residence.