U.S. INDEPENDENCE DAY
Celebrate at the Beach!
Democrats Abroad Greece (DAGR)
Message from the Chair:
Most of us can’t remember an election year like this one in our lifetimes: whacko in its way and yet exciting in its prospects. Fireworks galore!
In the middle of July, the GOP meets in Cleveland to set off the Donald Rocket or help it fizzle out. A week after that, Dems will gather in Philadelphia. With the nomination 99% a done-deal, our goal is to hammer out a deal that lets us unite behind our candidates.
DAGR’s July celebration marks a brief lull before we dive back into furious activity in the fall. We’ll be renewing old friendships, having some fun, sharing ideas, and … filming more material for our GOTV video. It’s going to be a great event, with our own special brand of pyrotechnics! See you there! ~ K.L.
Invited: All American citizens in Greece, family and friends of any nationality
Saturday, July 9, 2016
8:00 to 11:00 pm (20:00 to 23:00)
Nautical Club of Egyptian Greeks (ENOA), Ellinikon
See directions, map link below
RSVP by noon, Thursday, July 7, using the reservation form at:
Gate opens at 8 - Food service at 8:30 - Fireworks at 9:30
Dancing till drop or 11-ish
Swimming, beach volley
Piñata games and face painting
Table competitions and US Election Trivia Quiz
Updated 2016 straw poll for the politically minded
Young Dems meet-up for tweens to 20s
Medley of American music throughout
Donation: Adults €15 -- 6-12 yr olds €7 -- under 5 yrs free
Includes: 1 hotdog, 1 hamburger, corn-on-cob, 3 salads, watermelon
Vegetarian option available
Extras: beer, ice tea, lemonade
NB: Donations may only be received from US citizens, FEC rules. Please bring your US passport!
For general information:
Email [email protected] OR
Call Secretary Charity Moschopoulos, 697 743 3146, or Chair Karen Lee, 693 270 0095
Join us for a wonderful Fourth of July!
For Democrats Abroad Greece Executive Committee,
Karen Lee, Chair 2015-2017
How to Get There: (look for the over-road footbridge!)
By Car – Seawards off Leoforos Poseidonos at 2nd Agh. Kosmas tram stop (left between 2nd and 1st Agh. Kosmas bus stops to loop back, if coming from Sounion).
Follow the winding road almost to the end (Akrotiri). Parking!
And let us know if you need or are willing to form a carpool!
By Bus – 2nd Agh. Kosmas bus stop. Walk down the winding road toward the sea.
By Tram –2nd Agh Kosmas tram stop. Metro connects with tram near Syntagma and at several other stations along the route.
Map on ENOA Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/ENOA/201331406586376
Walking impaired? Reserve for our shuttle service when you RSVP!
Wednesday, May 25, 2016
8 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Free online, web-based information session to assist U.S. overseas taxpayers in understanding their tax filing obligations.
Of interest to taxpayers and tax professionals.
Click this link to log in: https://www.webcaster4.com/Webcast/Page/490/14725
The session will be recorded and made available at a later time.
The full announcement from which this summary was taken was sent out by the United States Embassy Athens, Greece.
For further information, please contact the IRS directly at https://www.irs.gov/uac/contact-my-local-office-internationally
Here’s the full announcement below if you need to check any details.
United States Embassy Athens, Greece
May 24, 2016
Message for U.S. Citizens:
IRS Webinar on Overseas Filing for U.S. Taxpayers
On Wednesday, May 25, 2016, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will hold a free online, web-based information session to assist U.S. overseas taxpayers in understanding their filing obligations. The following guidance is made available from the IRS. For further information, please contact the IRS directly.
The webinar for Greece will be held 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Wednesday, May 25. interested in learning more about these requirements should click this link to log in: Overseas Taxpayers. Attendees are encouraged to log in 10 minutes prior to the start time.
The session will be recorded and made available at a later time.
The IRS reminds U.S. citizens and resident aliens, including those with dual citizenship who have lived or worked abroad during all or part of 2015, that they may have a U.S. tax liability and a filing requirement in 2016. The IRS encourages taxpayers with foreign assets, even relatively small amounts, to check if they have a filing requirement (under FBAR or FATCA).
Most People Abroad Need to File
A filing requirement generally applies even if a taxpayer qualifies for tax benefits, such as the foreign earned income exclusion or the foreign tax credit , that substantially reduce or eliminate their U.S. tax liability. These tax benefits are not automatic and are only available if an eligible taxpayer files a U.S. income tax return.
The filing deadline is Wednesday, June 15, 2016, for U.S. citizens and resident aliens whose tax home and abode are outside the United States and Puerto Rico, and for those serving in the military outside the U.S. and Puerto Rico. To use this automatic two-month extension, taxpayers must attach a statement to their return explaining which of these two situations applies. See U.S. Citizens and Resident Aliens Abroad for details.
Nonresident aliens who received income from U.S. sources in 2015 also must determine whether they have a U.S. tax obligation. The filing deadline for nonresident aliens can be April 18, 2016, or June 15, 2016, depending on sources of income. See Taxation of Nonresident Aliens on IRS.gov.
Special Reporting for Foreign Accounts and Assets
Federal law requires U.S. citizens and resident aliens to report any worldwide income, including income from foreign trusts and foreign bank and securities accounts. In most cases, affected taxpayers need to complete and attach Schedule B to their tax return. Part III of Schedule B asks about the existence of foreign accounts, such as bank and securities accounts, and usually requires U.S. citizens to report the country in which each account is located.
Taxpayers with an interest in, or signature or other authority over, foreign financial accounts whose aggregate value exceeded $10,000 at any time during 2015 must file with the Treasury Department a Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) Form 114, Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR). It is due to the Treasury Department by June 30, 2016, must be filed electronically and is only available online through the BSA E-Filing System website. For details regarding the FBAR requirements, see Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR).
In addition, under the Foreign Accounts Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), certain taxpayers may also have to complete and attach to their return Form 8938, Statement of Foreign Financial Assets. Generally, U.S. citizens, resident aliens and certain nonresident aliens must report specified foreign financial assets on this form if the aggregate value of those assets exceeds certain thresholds. See the instructions for this form for details.
Taxpayers who relinquished their U.S. citizenship or ceased to be lawful permanent residents of the United States during 2015 must file a dual-status alien return, attaching Form 8854, Initial and Annual Expatriation Statement. A copy of the Form 8854 must also be filed with Internal Revenue Service Philadelphia, PA 19255-0049, by the due date of the tax return (including extensions). See the instructions for this form and Notice 2009-85, Guidance for Expatriates Under Section 877A, for further details.
Choose Free File or E-File
U.S. citizens and resident aliens living abroad can now use IRS Free File to prepare and electronically file their returns for free. This means both U.S. citizens and resident aliens living abroad with adjusted gross incomes (AGI) of $62,000 or less can use brand-name software to prepare their returns and then e-file them for free. A limited number of companies provide software that can accommodate foreign addresses. To determine which will work best, view the complete Free File Software list and the services provided.
The electronic filing options are available until Oct. 15, 2016, for anyone filing a 2015 return. Check out the e-file link on IRS.gov for details on the various electronic filing options. Free File is not currently available to nonresident aliens required to file a Form 1040NR.
More Information Available
Any U.S. taxpayer here or abroad with tax questions can refer to the International Taxpayers landing page and use the online IRS Tax Map and the International Tax Topic Index to get answers. These online tools assemble or group IRS forms, publications and web pages by subject and provide users with a single entry point to find tax information.
Taxpayers who are looking for return preparers abroad should visit the Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications.
To help avoid delays with tax refunds, taxpayers living abroad should visit the Helpful Tips for Effectively Receiving a Tax Refund for Taxpayers Living Abroad page.
Questions regarding this webinar may be sent by email to [email protected]
Before we report on this past weekend's Dems Abroad Global Convention, please note a LOT of news:
CHANGE THE DATE! AND THEN SAVE IT!
DAGR Independence Day Celebration
Where: ENOA, Ellinikon coast, Athens
NEW DATE: SATURDAY, JULY 9
Time: Doors open 7:30, with fun, food, fireworks and more fun after that!
The baptism that had already booked the ENOA indoor space demanded they not have to compete with outside noise. We yielded to 'first come, first served' and have now confirmed for the 9th. We can start later and avoid the heat ... and dance after the fireworks! Better late than curtail the revelry! We might even invite the French since we're so close to Bastille Day. :)
POLITICS AT THE BISTROT: How democratic are the Democratic primaries?
MONDAY, May 23, 7-9 p.m.
La Place Mignonne, Ethnikis Aminis 4, Thessaloniki
Debate on US Democratic primaries, premiere of get-out-the-vote campaigns, selection of the best Vote-here signs, mock exit poll, masterclass in social media, and more. Not a DAGR event, but definitely of interest!
Alec Mally (former US Consul General of Thessaloniki, Democrats Abroad Greece)
John Koenig, via Skype (Former US Ambassador to Cyprus, Democratic Party delegate, WA)
Michael Dukakis, via Skype (1988 Democratic Nominee for President, Northeastern University)
Dimitris Savvaidis (AddArt),
George Siakas (University of Macedonia Research Institute)
Lansie Sylvia, via Skype (Here?s My Chance, Philadelphia)
THE COFFEE PARTY aka Chapter to meet in Thessaloniki
THURSDAY, June 9, 7 p.m.
Macedonia Palace Hotel, Coffee Shop - Thessaloniki
Thessaloniki Chapter, watch for emails w/details
WORTHY GOAL: No more 'riders' slipped into unrelated bills!
The North Carolina state legislature has slipped an anti-abortion 'rider' into a Motorcycle Safety bill. Well, yes, riders do show up on motorcycles! The bad news shows up in an excellent article on Reproduction Rights, which our DAGR Women's Caucus is discussing this month. Ask to join the group on Facebook or read the article here.
WORTHIER GOAL: Make Election Day a National Holiday
In 2014, voter turnout hit a 70-year low. One reason is that Election Day is mid-week, and, with early/weekend voting cut in some states; many people can't afford to take time off to wait in line at the polling booths. By making Election Day a national holiday, every eligible American voter would be able to exercise their right to vote. This is also a proposed plank in the DA Platform draft, and President Obama has just come out in favor. PTP asks for a click in support.
HALC - ELECTION PREFERENCE SURVEY
If you'd like to let the Hellenic-American Leadership Council know how you stand on current elections, their short survey can be clicked athttp://hellenicleaders.com/WhereDoYouStand
To the family and friends of former US Ambassador Monteagle Stearns, who died Saturday at the age of 91. Stearns, who served as the US ambassador to Greece from August 1981 through September 1985, during the premiership of Andreas Papandreou, was credited as being one of the US's most able diplomats in Greece and a true Philhellene. He was known to many members of DAGR and was also the first ambassador under whom former Chair Alec Mally served. Full article is on e-Kathimerini at
STATE DEPARTMENT JOBS POSTED
The DOS Recent Graduates Program (RGP) is accepting applications from graduates of trade and vocational schools, community colleges, universities, and other qualifying educational institutions or programs. To be eligible, applicants must apply within two years of degree or certificate completion.
A complete application must be submitted by 11:59PM (EST) on the closing date of the announcement to receive consideration.
MORE JOBS - International Rescue Committee (IRC)
Urgently seeking many social workers, translators (Arabic, Farsi, Kurdish, Dari speakers are all needed), people with experience working with vulnerable women and children, psychologists and many other positions! Working in Greece to provide essential care and services to the refugees. These are paid jobs; contracts are 3-6 months with possibility of extension. Interested applicants please send CVs and inquires directly to [email protected]. All jobs and details are posted here: http://www.skywalker.gr/companyHomepage.aspx?companyID=11689
DEMS ABROAD GLOBAL CONVENTION, Berlin 2016
Four 8-hour days at the monitor have come and gone. Exhausting! Exhilarating! Very well conducted!
Congratulations are in order for the international DPCA ExCom, Dems Abroad Germany hosts, and volunteers at every level of the operation. And special kudos are due the IT team that managed the WebEx connection.
DAGR Chair Karen and Vice Chair Steve, as voting members of DPCA, attended all four days, starting with the Global AGM on Thursday. Also registered as ?electors? (any elected member of ExCom could register), we took part in the EMEA Regional Caucus on Friday, both in Sanders caucus room. (The carefully maintained mask of candidate neutrality has just been whipped off to reveal our true faces.) Treasurer Alec joined the Global AGM as well, but had not signed up as an elector. He also ran our Twitter and FB feeds as elections progressed over the weekend.
Thursday began with work on the Platform to be discussed on Sunday. The DPCA AGM had required officers and committee reports, quite interesting actually. Then a discussion ensued on whether to have AGMs all in DC, alternating DC and worldwide, etc. Pros and cons on both choices.
Those of you who've joined our local meetings via WebEx know there's a big screen where files and slides can be shown and, to the right, a video of the main meeting, a list of participants, and a type-chat facility.
By Friday, we discovered chatting was risky. You had to be very careful not to send a private comment to 'everyone,' to keep the 'everyone' channel open for 'hand up to speak' queues and voice votes. Like this:
"Aye/No," Send to everyone. Okay!
"Young guy is sharp. Other one seems full of himself," Send to everyone. Whoops!
Alec observed the Sanders Global Caucus on Saturday. (A thin veil drops quietly to the floor.) We tried to run Skype at the same time, but couldn't mute WebEx without muting Skype. So, we figured out we could open up Skype on laptops, then swing over to the desk-top screen to chat to 'everyone' or cast votes on delegate candidates. Check delegate hopefuls' bios on the DA Wiki. Post a screen shot to Facebook. Check that young alternate's Twitter feed. Multi-task! Yes!
Coffee break, 10 minutes: pop yesterday's coffee in the microwave, throw in a load of laundry, wash breakfast dishes, check snail mail in lobby, grab cup, back to desk as the meeting reconvenes. Whew!
Pledged Delegates are apportioned to the nearly 68-32% spread of the GPP vote. That meant of the 13 pledged delegates, 9 went to Sanders and 4 to Clinton. EMEA also had more to elect than Americas and Asia-Pacific, as it had had a higher GPP turnout. Finally, each CC got the number (or fraction) of votes proportional to its turnout in its region. Complicated, but an algorithm handled it and we just clicked a radio button.
Sunday, a few tempers frayed. One IL lawyer took exception to an off-hand reference to 'Chicago politics.' Another, also IL bar, smoothed ruffled feathers. (The DAGR elector from Ohio refrained from noting what neighboring states say about Chicago.) Delegate elections, left-over from Saturday, were finished. Affirmative Action goals were fairly met, 16 of 18 points fulfilled by the Sanders delegates.
Election of 3 new DNC members (4-year terms) was accomplished. Platform work ran on until the room had to be cleared at 6 p.m. CET, and will be completed by WebEx in the next week.
Speakers smiled at each other as they argued. The work UNITY was used 87 times (at least).
The DA Delegation to the Democratic Nation Convention, July 25-28, including elected pledged delegates, new and current DNC members, and the International Chair and Vice Chair, is listed on the DA Wiki at
Steve: "Highlights for me ...
1. The passion and earnestness of new, young candidates...new members to Democrats Abroad (perhaps even the DP)...their commitment to getting and staying involved.
2. The conscientious and professional organization and leadership (of the process) throughout the global meeting.
3. I came away from the experience feeling that there will be party unity (at least in DA) after the convention and support for our party's nominee. Obviously, strong feelings expressed in both camps...but I did feel that I could trust the representatives we elected (after fighting hard for their positions in Philadelphia) understand that electing a Democrat in November is our top priority. This was important for me, and was an idea that informed my own voting."
Alec: "As many of you know, I declined to run for Chair in 2015 in part because I saw our party's nominations process as controlled by the DNC, thus the path to the coronation essentially foreordained. The vitality and determination of the Sanders campaign over the last year has made me rethink many of my earlier views on how our party works and I was amazed to see a number of truly democratic candidate selection mechanisms/practices in action (not 100% but still?) at the Global Convention and the depth of support for Senator Sanders in Democrats Abroad globally. Now however, the watchword going forward must be “Victory in Unity."
Karen: "The DA Platform says it all! Progressive, sensible, do-able! Once or twice, someone wanted to remove a plank as it was too visionary, would never pass, etc. The plenary kept it in, to raise the issue and set a goal. There's a high level of expertise among members plus a lot of just well-informed people. Our work will become part of the DNC Platform -- and that's a floor fight you won't want to miss! With the nomination still wide open, everyone's worried about how to keep those bright, committed Sanders millennials on board should Clinton win. Well, the Platform is the key!"
AND THAT'S THE NAME OF THAT TUNE!
Winter Lesson Student Performances
Dora Stratou Greek Dances Theatre, Philapappou
Sunday, May 22, starts after dark, 9-ish, chair's group about 10:30-ish
One of the senior 'beyond 3-yr certificate' classes will be performing dances from Avestades, Thrace. As this class is large, the program is double, an aerobic selection including: Tapino, Baidouska, Zonaradiko, Gaitani, Koulouriosto, and Mantilato. Your DAGR Chair will be the old lady about 5th from last in the circle.
2016 seems to be speeding up, or at least our emails seem to be coming out more frequently. We hope it strikes a balance for you between enough-news and not-too-often.
Till next time!
Karen and the ExCom
We had the pleasure to meet many of you during the Global Primary at the Grand Bretagne in early March, and since then, the Women's Caucus has been busy! We have launched a DAGR Women's Caucus Facebook group.
With our survey results and our new DAGR WC Facebook communication tool in place, we invite you to:
- join us in creating a community to explore the issues that concern us;
- promote well researched analysis;
- contribute to discussion to build a platform for our Women's Caucus.
Some of you may have already been added to the Facebook group, as we were already connected on Facebook. Others of you we have tried to add through email searches. Everyone is welcome: If you have not received an invitation on Facebook and are an FB user, kindly respond to [email protected] to request access to the closed FB group and feel free to pass this news on to your DAGR friends.
We hope that you will join us in our discussion and look forward to hearing from you on Facebook!
Every year, at this time, I’m struck by the rush to ‘the holiday break’ and I wonder about those who have to work through the break to help the rest of us enjoy it.
gas station attendants, bus drivers, ferry crews, pilots and flight attendants.
wait staff and counter help at restaurants and snack bars, porters and maids
cinema box office, 24-7 techies at our ISP, telephone operators
on-duty doctors, nurses, pharmacists, med techs and ambulance drivers
TV crews feeding that strange mix of religious films and Barbie animations
students reviewing a ream of notes for end-of-year tests
cooks in the kitchen or turning the spit
Let’s give them all a thought, save them a plate, and maybe leave a little extra in the tip.
If we’re among the privileged ‘free’ this week, we can catch up on our email, maybe even answer the important ones, reconnect with current events and renew our political savvy.
The Dems Abroad Platform
The 5-day Open Comment period has ended, with more than 3,275 entries made by Dems around the world. The final draft will be out on May 8 and then debated and voted on at the DA convention in Berlin (May 12-15). A worthy document, impressive. The section on Issues Affecting Americans Abroad is still up at http://www.democratsabroad.org/2016_draft_platform
Attend the DPCA Convention
We’re going to Berlin … via WebEx. And so can you! Chair and Vice Chair cast our votes. All DA members are welcome. Registration is required even for WebEx. Find the registration page here: http://www.democratsabroad.org/2016berlin
DPCA asks a donation to cover meeting costs, but all Democratic Party meetings are free, so you can register without donating. Or gather a few Dem friends and share the donation. Information is continuously updated on the DA wiki at: http://tinyurl.com/hfshj6n
Get Ready to Come Together
Claims to the contrary, the presidential race is still in play. Depending on primaries over the next 1.5 months, it could go right to the wire in Philadelphia (July 25-28). Then, we reunite! Obama said it well this week:
“… the good news for Democrats is that we know what we believe. … We have two fine Democratic candidates who, no matter their differences, share this same set of core beliefs that defines our party. And in November, we're going to make sure that one of them becomes our next president.”
Looking forward, DAGR
Keep an eye on the DA website Greece page or email or Facebook for details.
Women’s Caucus takes back Mothers’ Day on May 11.
Berlin Convention as above. Form up house parties to join one or more sessions.
Tax Seminar looks set for mid-June, just after our June 15 filing deadline.
Independence Day (aka FOJ) beach party on Saturday, July 2.
DNC Convention, July 25-28, Philadelphia!
Fall GOTV starts the 2nd week of September. Sign up now to lend a hand!
Whether your holiday will be one of religious renewal or secular relaxation, make it the best possible. And come back with batteries charged for the rest of this fascinating election year.
On to summer!
Karen Lee, Chair
The Dems Abroad Platform is an impressive document. In addition to issues of wide interest – US domestic and foreign policy – it addresses those of material consequence to those of us living outside the US.
On the down side, three obstacles stand in the way of its full passage.
Our platform is melded into the Democratic Party Platform at the Convention and may or may not survive intact. Some planks may be amended or dropped altogether.
The passage of any particular plank into law requires ongoing commitment from our elected officials plus energetic, unrelenting advocacy by DA, often in coalition with stateside interest groups.
To accomplish points 1 and 2, we have to know what the Platform contains and how we will benefit from its passage. This raises the question: Do our members know the Platform? Do most of our ExComs and Chapter leaders know it?
As one example, below is an account one member sent along regarding a ‘glitch’ in Social Security rules for Americans living abroad. When we checked, we learned there is a plank in the Platform, fairly consistent since 2012 at least, that covers this discrepancy. Who knew?
The 2016 draft paragraphs in the Social Security, Medicare and Healthcare plank:
FAVOR replacing the much harsher Foreign Work Test, applicable to Americans abroad, with the Annual Earnings Test, so that all Americans are subjected to the same rules regardless of residence.
FAVOR examination of the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) to establish a remedy that preserves the social security benefits fairly earned by Americans abroad through their working life.
FAVOR elimination of the provision that now cuts off Supplemental Social Security Income (SSI) for persons who live outside the United States for more than 30 consecutive days.
FAVOR elimination of the withholding tax on Social Security for Americans abroad.
FAVOR negotiation and implementation of totalization agreements with all countries that have social security programs and which no such agreement is in place.
Does this cover what we need? We can comment on it till 5 p.m. EDT (Washington DC time) Wednesday, 27 April. That’s today, midnight in Greece.
To read the entire proposed Platform, go here:
For the personal account of how the Foreign Work Test rule impacts an eligible pensioner living abroad, read on.
Foreign Work Test aka “If you win some, you lose some!”
In 2012, I was entitled to apply for a reduced pension from Greece, the country I have resided in for some years, having married a Greek national and raised children here. A few months before, my husband died, leaving me with debts, amongst other problems one faces with the loss of a partner, and no prospect of a widow's pension. I was told that receiving a US pension meant that it would be calculated on totalization (the collaboration between the two countries) because I needed a few more credits to supplement the required amount and they would be taken from my Greek working credits. That also meant that the final pension would be smaller than expected. The amount I am entitled to is about 155 euros a month (at the time it was $178).
Before I applied, I had to make an important decision based on a law that seemed unfair. I was in a quandary because I needed an income, and this law would restrict me from finding the work I needed to do to support myself and my son. If I postponed receiving this pension until I turned 66 when it wouldn't matter if I worked, I might not actually find work in today’s Greece which has been undergoing tremendous financial austerity and stress for several years now. People have suffered more than anyone who does not live here would ever know. It's the average person, the lower income person that gets hit the hardest. Pensions, salaries, wages have been cut and the average person cannot easily find work. Many businesses have closed. This is the climate I have been living in.
The US law in question states that until a person living outside the US turns 66 they are not permitted to work over 45 hours a month. The reason supposedly is that currencies of each country are different. If they do work over, they have to pay the price: for any month that they go over 45 hours they will be penalized by having to pay the benefits back. If they consistently work over 45 hours a month their benefits will be suspended until they are 66. The clincher is that Americans living in the US and receiving a reduced pension are allowed to receive an aggregate of $14,000 a year before benefits are reduced.
Now at the present time in Greece basic wages are pretty low. People are even working for 2 euros an hour. An average pay, if they are lucky may be 20 euros a day. Everyone has had a cut in pay. Those of us in foreign language education are lucky to be paid 10 euros an hour, which isn't really the case anymore. This law means we could only work about 11 hours a week. That would add up to 45 hours x 10 euros (if we were lucky) which amounts to 450 euros a month....x 12 months = 5,400 euros a year. One can easily see there’s a discrepancy between $5,400 and $14,000 a year (12,000 euros). An amount of 750 euros a month (9000 euros a year) used to be an average salary in Greece but, unfortunately, in many cases that has gone down to 500 a month or less. Even in better times, most foreigners living in Greece would not have made 12,000 euros a year.
So the dilemma when I applied was whether I should accept the small, but stable amount coming in every month, supplementing it with various reported, non-permanent incomes, not to succeed 45 hours a month (it didn't matter if I was making 500 euros an hour, it just can't surpass the monthly hour limit) or to forgo the pension at that time and try to find more financially rewarding work, which is quite difficult and uncertain now, particularly because of my age. It is a very discouraging situation for foreigners living in Greece. At least the $150 pension was a constant and there was the hope that something else would come in.
There is seasonal work I do twice a year; the hours are never the same and it only lasts a month each time. I depend on this money. With the 45-hour limit, this income will be penalized.
I was sent an initial report to fill out to see if I work 45 hours or less. I reported that I did and explained the situation. I failed to send the second, more in depth report they asked for, due to waiting for supplementary information from the seasonal employer, and also delayed it due to some serious circumstances in my environment. Just as I was writing to SSA, they informed me that my benefits would be cut because “you are working over 45 hours a week.” This, of course, is not the case. I have time to appeal, which I most certainly will do.
However, at this time I am writing to Democrats Abroad to inform them that this is a law, seriously unjust for all Americans living abroad and one that should be changed. Thank you very much for your attention to this matter.
~ Name withheld by request
April 15 is Tax Day in the US … the filing deadline for most US taxpayers. Those who don’t file today are likely businesses and other entities that operate on a fiscal year basis, rather than a calendar year.
And then there are the canny old farmers, who never owe tax because they show a loss, year after year, due to depreciating (possibly rusting) farm equipment. Penalties and interest are mainly based on taxes owed; if you don’t owe and so don’t file … that pile of receipts on the dining table can turn into a regular ‘garbology’ dig.
For Americans living abroad, however, the rules are a little different. If our income is from a foreign source, we usually file our host country taxes first and then carry the totals to our US return. For this reason, the filing deadline for taxpayers living outside the US is automatically extended to June 15. This allows time for the local filing deadlines, followed by the US one. Note that you may have state income tax returns which don’t grant the automatic Federal extension, so be careful to check this.
Americans with higher incomes, businesses abroad, or those with just slightly more complicated financial holdings usually retain an accountant or hire one for the tax reporting task. Likewise, those whose grasp of the host country’s legal language is light may benefit from professional help. It certainly relieves the anxiety inherent in second-guessing the correct transfer of figures from one country’s return to the US 1040.
Adding to the anxiety is the notoriety gained in recent years by the FATCA and FBAR reporting requirements. The penalties for non-reporting can be stiff and ‘retro-active’ for those who return to the US after a long absence and years of non-reporting. Herein lies a special ‘hidden trap’ for those children of Americans who grow up abroad with US citizenship they’ve barely recognized and never used. In times, like the present, when host-country economies may be sagging, many look to the US as an alternative work place. Once in the US, they may find a surprise, in the form of those accumulated penalties from years of FATCA/FBAR non-compliance.
The reporting rules hit different taxpayers in different ways. At the high end, it may mean either paying extra taxes or paying a professional to help avoid extra taxes. At the low end, for those marginally employed or receiving pensions, meager incomes may be further stressed by the need to pay an accountant. A number of organizations have taken up opposition. Some, such as Republicans Overseas, favor abolishing FATCA. Democrats generally see the ‘anti-money-laundering’ goals as important but seek less harsh treatment for taxpayers. And non-partisan groups such as American Citizens Abroad, encompass both views. Still, some Americans, in particular those with no plans to return to the US, have renounced their citizenship over the matter. With its tradition of being ‘the one passport everybody wants,’ the surrender of US passports has produced screaming headlines in the financial press back home.
Democrats Abroad formed up a FATCA Task Force several years ago to seek solutions to the tax reporting difficulties. DA’s basic suggestion is ‘same country, safe harbor.’ If adopted as an IRS rule, this would allow those who live, earn and bank in just one foreign country and who owe no US tax above what they pay in the host country to file a simple statement with the IRS that they owe no US tax. Remember that in many countries income tax levels and tax brackets can be substantially higher than in ours. In support of SCSH, lawmakers are being asked to sign on to a letter to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and further solicited by door-knock campaigns whenever DA delegations are in DC.
The next phase, encoded in the DA Platform and carried forward by the DA RBT Task Force, is Residence Based Taxation. The US is one of a tiny handful of countries that base tax obligations on citizenship rather than country of residence and that chase delinquent citizens around the globe. Enacting RBT would require legislation. Because this is almost a matter of political philosophy in the US Congress and Treasury Department, this is much more than a simple rule change and will take more time. In the meantime, US taxpayers abroad are faced with compliance, like it or not.
More changes lie ahead, including one slated for January 2017 that’s expected to complicate relationships with foreign banks beginning this fall. To sort out the tangled mess, DAGR will be sponsoring a Tax Seminar at the end of May. Details TBA after the spring holiday break. It’s aimed at providing information for the self-filers as well as giving direction to those who need more professional help.
So you want to go it alone, DIY your tax return, OR just learn more by reading the instructions, the US IRS has a full catalogue of the essential materials. And don’t forget that certain taxpayers abroad, mostly in lower income categories, now have the ability to file their returns electronically.
To download US Tax forms and publications, visit IRS at:
Treasurer and Chair scrambled to put this one together. Enjoy!
Thank you to everyone who came to the film outing to see Suffragette and discuss the latest results of our on-going DAGR WC survey. Everyone enjoyed the film and expressed amazement that the history of the vote in England was so recent and violent! The film also highlighted the consequences women suffered for participating in the movement, with a story line that highlighted the lack of parental rights when women were seen to have stepped out of line morally. Fortunately, in the same decade that women's full voting rights came into law in England, women's custodial rights were instated as well. We have indeed come a long way in less than a century, in America as well, but there remains work to be done in order to protect women's improved condition and forge new advancements. Our progress depends on you and we hope that you will join us in our events to discuss, debate, propose and succeed in our efforts!
Below are a few highlights from the on-going, anonymous survey that we reviewed over drinks and nibbles. There are three clear umbrellas of concern with regard to policy in the U.S.:
Woman's Health/Woman's Choice;
Employment/Equal Pay for Equal Work/Maternity Leave/Job Security/Equal Opportunity;
The survey also highlighted our expat woman's concerns while abroad.
Language/Education and Integration
I VOTED! And You Still Can, Too!
Democrats in Greece who have not yet cast their ballot in the Global Presidential Primary have until midnight tomorrow night (Tuesday, March 8) to get in on the decision!
Meanwhile, yesterday’s live Voting Center at the Grande Bretagne Hotel in Athens saw a steady flow of voters from doors-open at noon until 6 p.m. Among these were nearly 50 new members, joining to take advantage of the same-day voting.
Unlike some GOP-controlled states back home, Dems Abroad, recognized as a state party committee by the national party, welcomes voter turnout and makes it easy to join and vote.
Easy as the process is, eligibility and accountability are strictly observed, just as in any precinct in the US. DAGR’s routine, laid out by Voting Center Manager Steve Medeiros in concert with Country Chair Karen Lee, tailored the global DA rules to the layout and flow of the venue in the GB’s mezzanine conference room area. “The buck stops with us,” remarked Lee. “So, that skype session with Steve, that ended at 2 a.m. was worth it. Honing those station instructions before volunteer training on Saturday really paid off in practice.” The Chair and Vice Chair of each Country Committee are the voting members of the DPCA (Democratic Party Committees Abroad).
Medeiros, Vice Chair of DAGR, noted, “You can read the rules over and over, but when you put them into a working plan for a particular venue, that’s when you digest the logic of the accountability process.”
After close, when the ‘vote tellers’ made the preliminary count, sign-ins and new-joins matched every ballot cast! The preliminary count of local ballots did not include the ‘remote’ ballots sent by members outside Athens, and will not be official till worldwide ballots are counted by DA. Athens results were roughly 57% Sanders, 43% Clinton, with no votes cast for the other two names on the ballot, de la Fuente and O’Malley. The tally was immediately reported by phone to the International Chair, Katie Solon. The signed report was then scanned and emailed to central. Once voting closes on March 8 and all remote ballots sent by post are received, the actual ballots will be sent to DA global. One more physical count will be made of ballots from around the world. Final, official count results will be announced by DA on March 21.
Remote ballots can be sent in by fax, email scanned attachment, or regular mail. Ballots sent via post office must be postmarked midnight on March 8. Democratic voters can still join DA and download a ballot and instructions at the DA website: http://www.democratsabroad.org/global_presidential_primary?e=e97bc892e2449f446a1c843ce4e3ef5c&utm_source=democratsabroad&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=glb3616lastapam&n=2
Over 40 member-volunteers covered three shifts, while students from an ACS 10th grade history class helped usher voters. The students witnessed a typical – though possibly more fun than usual – US election site and learned much. They also helped with photos for live tweeting. Other photos were taken by a member volunteer, while video footage was also recorded throughout the day.
As voters moved through the site, there was ample time for talk about the process, as well as about issues of the day and DAGR plans for the election season. Several new volunteers signed on and the Women’s Caucus netted close to 20 new names for its mailing list.
A DAGR supporter rented the venue and provided sandwiches for volunteers, while the Grande Bretagne offered coffee and water. “The GB management and staff were superb, start to finish,” said Medeiros. “We can’t thank them enough! Nor can we begin to thank our volunteers!”
“Electoral law, party rules, state variations, process and schedules … it’s a lot to take in, let alone be competent to explain to others. But with phone banking just past, and these members helping again with the GPP, we’re getting quite good at it,” Lee added. “That’s the life blood of the organization, though, with members pitching in, gaining knowledge and confidence, moving up into leadership.”
Volunteers will be recognized at DAGR’s Annual General Meeting, set for Thursday, March 21.
Check out photos from the Voting Center on Facebook and Twitter.