Overseas Americans Press Washington on Taxes, Banking Issues

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Members of different organizations of Americans living overseas met with members of Congress and the Administration in Washington to press for changes in current legislation on taxes and banking. Current and proposed legislation is not only unfair and detrimental to US citizens living overseas, but it also damages the economy of the United States.

"Current U.S. legislation is making it difficult for Americans to work overseas selling their products, and this has a negative impact on U.S. exports and job creation back home,” said ACA Executive Director Marylouise Serrato.

Dozens of members from various groups representing overseas Americans convened in Washington, DC in April 2011, for the annual Overseas Americans Week (OAW). The groups represented were the Association of American Residents Overseas (AARO), American Citizens Abroad (ACA), the Federation of American Women’s Clubs Overseas (FAWCO), the AmCham Middle East North Africa (MENA) Regional Council (AmCham MENA), and the Overseas Domestic Violence Center.

Together they met with Members and staff of over 85 Members of Congress, along with key agencies and committees such as the Joint Committee on Taxation, the IRS and Department of Treasury, the Commerce Department, State Department and the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

The major issues addressed in these meetings were restrictions on banking services faced by Americans living abroad due to Patriot Act misinterpretation and the upcoming Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) legislation. Other specific tax subjects included removing the limit on the amount of foreign-earned income that may be deducted from a total tax burden, to avoid double taxation on Americans living overseas, and abusive penalty assessment by the IRS of individuals filing late banking reports, called FBARs. During the meetings, testimonials were presented of cases in which individuals faced outright financial ruin because of an oversight in filing forms, even though they owed no taxes.

“We explained to leaders in Washington that current U.S. legislation is making it more and more difficult for Americans to work overseas growing their businesses and selling their products, thereby negatively impacting U.S. exports and job creation back home,” said ACA executive director Marylouise Serrato.

Many severe problems faced by Americans living overseas would be solved by the United States moving to a territorial system of taxation, like nearly every other country in the world, rather than the current citizenship-based system, which confronts US citizens living overseas with double taxation and extremely complex filing rules.

Legislative changes to alleviate these problems are being sought by all groups involved in OAW, and numerous members of Congress, led in particular by the Americans Abroad Caucus, are currently working on ways to address these issues.

During the week, a reception was held for members of the American Abroad Caucus, a bi-partisan, House-Senate caucus representing the interests of Americans living overseas founded by Representatives Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Joe Wilson (R-SC).. Representative Maloney, Co-Chair of the Caucus, spoke to the group about her commitment to the issues affecting Americans living and working overseas.

Later in the week AmCham MENA and the U.S. - U.A.E. Business Council hosted an Export Promotion Reception , where Under Secretary of State for Economic, Energy, and Agricultural Affairs, Robert D. Hormats, spoke of the great importance of having Americans "on the ground" overseas as key to promoting U.S. vital interests in business and export strategy.

All groups involved in OAW continue to urge individuals who have experienced problems with FBAR filings, taxation, FATCA and banking access, to provide their testimonials through the ACA website, as it was clear in Washington these are crucial to encourage remedial actions including legislation. The ACA website is http://www.americansabroad.org.

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MaryLouise Serrato
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