December 09, 2023

DAGR Kafeneion: Tax Takeaways

by Gina Billy, DAGR At-Large Rep, Issues Chair

The November 22nd Kafeneion took on the taxing topic of “expat taxes” and highlighted yet another way Democrats Abroad volunteers are working to get things done for all US Americans who live abroad. If you missed this information-packed Kafeneion (and its calls for your action!):

  • catch up by watching the recording on YouTube — and/or 
  • read on for a sum-up in “play-by-play, timeline” form to help navigate the video.
  • Call/write (really!) the US Representative in your voting district to raise their awareness about expat issues and ask them to support related legislation
  • VOTE from abroad in 2024 – and 
  • Get help and support with the nitty-gritty of voting from abroad at DAGRs first Kafeneion of 2024 on January 17th. RSVP now.

Taxation Tax Force Kafeneion: A timeline and sum-up

(l-r) DAGR VC, Kafeneion coordinator Sarajane Leone; DA Taxation TF Chair Rebecca Lammers; DAGR At-Large Rep, Kafeneion Moderator Gina Billy

(0.0 0- 5:00)  Welcome: The Kafeneion kicks off  with its Coordinator (Sarajane Kidd Leone – in Texas) and Moderator (Gina Billy – on southern Crete ) welcoming everyone, giving a few instructions, and introducing guest speaker, Rebecca Lammerts, who joins in from London.

(5:00 - 11:25) Presentation Begins: Rebecca starts by sharing with us who she is and the backstory of how she became an advocate for “expat tax matters” and financial access concerns. Meanwhile, she chairs the DA Taxation Task Force and is the International Member of the Taxpayers Advocacy Panel (TAP).

(11:25 - 19:38) What the Taxation Task Force Does for You/US! Rebecca proceeds to outline exactly what she and the other meanwhile 70 volunteers in the DA global Taxation Task Force are doing for us all. (Please watch this part of the video or flip through and read Rebecca’s presentation slides 4 – 10 for the specifics.) She encourages all to read Once silent, now suffering: a 2022 Report on Tax and Financial Access Issues Facing US Citizens Abroad. The report’s data comes from an April 2022 bipartisan survey of 7000 US expats.

(19:38 -  23:54) What’s up with the 118th Congress? Of course, it’s up to Congress to first pass into law things most expats want to see like Residence Based Taxation and eliminating the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) reporting of foreign accounts of Americans abroad. So in this part of her talk, Rebecca gives the low-down on the 118th Congress. In a nutshell, with this Congress, the chances of getting anything of substance done is um, an uphill battle. However, Rebecca reminds us all, “If the Democrats are in charge of both the House and the Senate, it will make it easier to pass these bills. There will be less division in Congress (…)  But it is not like it will sail through. You know we still haven’t even passed the ERA.” (That remark gets some sad nods and wry chuckles from the audience.) 

(23:54 - 32:25) What you / we can (and should) do! Rebecca explains here three actions each of us can do to raise awareness about expats’ needs and concerns. As Rebecca puts it, “Remember, there are so many competing priorities in Congress and we are a very small voice. We need all of you to contact your congresspeople. Many of them do not even know they [the proposed bills on expat matters] exist until they hear from their constituents.”
Rebecca’s slides 14 – 18 outline the actions. Here are the links she shows there to direct you to  sample texts to use with your representative for each action:

(32:25 – 40:42) Simplifying it! Rebecca shares progress in the quest to  make dealing with the IRS simpler and more streamlined. She updates us on the status of “On-line and paperless to the IRS” and where this is projected to be in 10 years. The IRS is “better than its reputation,” Rebecca tells us. This prompts a bit of discussion…and some “ahead of schedule” Q & A.

(40:42 – 46:19)  IRS related Q & A Participants take up Rebecca’s offer to take a few questions during her presentation. Rebecca answers inquiries about using (for among other things, paperless communicating with the IRS) and gives valuable info regarding COVID relief payments from the IRS.

(46:19 – 54:10)  What is the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel (TAP) Rebecca wraps-up her presentation by telling us about the important work of the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel. She also gave us a heads-up: Her three-year term as the panel member who represents all US citizens living abroad will end in about a year. That means there will be a window for a new person to take on this key task. Interested? Contact Rebecca about this per email: [email protected]

Q&A session with Brady, Joanne, David, Jennifer and Peter, among others

(54:10 – 1:22:08) Q & A Session Here, Rebecca answers participants’ questions and also receives appreciative thanks for giving such an informative presentation.

“I didn’t have any idea that anyone was advocating for us,” DAGR member Jennifer shares, and adds, “I have felt so frustrated for the last almost 30 years – I’ve been here that long (…) with my tax situation. Always fighting and struggling with it and trying to do the right thing – like many people.” 

(1:22:08 – 1:23:40) Next Up The Kafeneion comes to an end with closing remarks from first, Sarajane. She focuses on thanking Rebecca and the Kafeneion team and then invites all to our next Kafeneion – and first one in the New Year on January 17, 2024. Called “Vote from Anywhere: Help with voting from abroad, ” the next Kafeneion is part of the International Voter Registration Day efforts. It features Linda Adeson of Vote from Abroad as the guest presenter and DAGR’s Get Out the Vote (GOTV) Chair Charity Moschopoulos and Fundraising Chair Stacey Harris-Papaioannou as co-moderators. RSVP here.

(1:23:40 – 1:25:22) The End Sarajane tosses to DAGR Chair Brady Kiesling, who concludes the Kafeneion by assuring Rebecca (and the audience ) that, “Your work is extremely important to our ability to explain why Democrats Abroad work is necessary. Getting out the vote is great, but we have to be able to say we have   people [like Rebecca] who actually know what they are doing and who are working in Washington to make things happen. (…)The fact that you have spoken with us tonight will resonate with a lot more people than were actually here this evening.”