Americans Helping Americans Abroad

FATCA: Getting US Persons Involved

We know that FATCA affects US Persons, not just US citizens. It affects all US tax persons, wherever they live, as long as they have accounts in countries other than the US. Canadians have been very vocal in their opposition to FATCA and in the news. Here's the story from France and if you have a story from your country of residence about official concern over FATCA, take a meeting and send AARO your report.

First of all, here's a bit of background. France cherishes its expatriate community. For many years already, the French abroad have had a Council of elected representatives who, in turn, elected senators. At the end of Nicolas Sarkozy's term, France created 11 new seats in parliament for députés representing 11 districts in the world. These députés have more political clout than the council. The 1st district is North America and is comprised of Canada (79,328 voters) and the United States (122,686 voters). (Voters are registered at the local consulates.)

In 2013, Frédéric Lefebvre (UMP) was elected député for North America after the one elected in 2012 was declared ineligible. He was formerly a député from the Paris area, until 2009, and was an under-secretary for Commerce, Crafts, Small and Medium-sized Companies, Tourism, Services, Liberal Professions, and Consumption in the last Fillon government under President Sarkozy.

Keith Redmond, AARO member and organizer of Republicans Overseas in France, arranged a meeting with Mr. Lefebvre and invited me to attend. The meeting was on June 17.

Mr. Lefebvre remarked that US citizens overseas are not valued as are the French and that they do not have direct representation. He explained the differences between the council representatives and the députés and their relative power, with the advantage going to the députés. After briefly reviewing his activities on behalf of his constituents, including just having returned from a 21-day swing to 22 cities in North America, we came to the subject of FATCA.

Many of his constituents complained when AXA Banque announced they were closing accounts and it was through Mr. Lefebvre's intervention that no other French group is able to enact such discrimination. He has heard many concerns raised about FATCA, including the invasion of privacy, the inability to maintain investments set up in France for future retirement in France, and so on. These are the same concerns AARO has been raising in Washington since FATCA became law in 2010.

We discussed the point that as banks and governments became aware of FATCA, everyone was concerned about how to implement it, rather than questioning the legitimacy of violation of banking privacy. (This was also the impression AARO members had after attending the hearing in Brussels last year at the European Parliament and the OECD meeting in Paris.) He feels that the question of privacy will come around, eventually.

He is very interested in the U.S. federal constitutional challenge against FATCA that has been instigated by Republicans Overseas. He agrees that the chase for tax evaders is important, that some kind of data exchange will be implemented, but that FATCA, as it is, has over-reached its target. He puts more faith in the OECD version of data exchange. Mr. Lefebvre feels that France, among other countries, signed their IGA too quickly, without proper examination and concern for its own citizens.

He was very pleased to meet with us and hopes we will continue communication with him.

Follow-up reading: Mr. Lefebvre's "Tribunes" on FATCA, http://www.frederic-lefebvre.org/facta-reminder-of-the-social-role-of-french-banks-the-huffington-post/ (in English) or http://www.frederic-lefebvre.org/facta-du-role-social-banques-francaises-huffington-post/ (in French)

A list of Huffington Post articles on FATCA, including Mr. Lefebvre's: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/foreign-account-tax-compliance-act/

Submitted by:  Ellen Lebelle, AARO Vice-president, Administration

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