I spent the last four years listening to rabid US advisors and CPAs here in Singapore gnash their teeth and wag their fingers ad nauseum about FBARS and the big bad IRS’s FATCA program. Well, the more informed have been to this rodeo more than once with our own government.
The good news is that those who have late filings and forgotten bank accounts, you can now file back taxes and FBARs penalty free. Why all of a sudden is the US playing good cop, honestly I don’t even care any more. My guess is that the Stalinesque tactics of the Treasury, US advisors and US CPAs resulted in far less compliance than they may have hoped and has done more long term damage than can be estimated. That’s right, for those of us who can do simple math; a one-time haul of US$10 billion over 5 years is nothing for a US$20 trillion economy (cue the calls for mass repatriation of corporate wealth).
I suspect that the IRS is now quietly reversing course because they cannot possibly locate every foreign account or figure out who might be non-compliant. In other words, if you cannot locate the Russian syndicate stealing billions of dollars in fraudulent tax returns in towns like Des Moines, Iowa, good luck tracking globe trotting expats who would more than happily drop off the radar forever.
I do not support tax evasion. But the big, bad FATCA dragnet ensnared way too many little old ladies in Canada who don’t know an FBAR from FUBAR. And except for a handful of serial evaders, the truly High Net Worth crowd is laughing over Caipirinhas and Cosmos in the Caymans and Cook Islands (including Peter Thiel), having already stashed their Cash in freeports, businesses and homes owned by foreign wives and mistresses. Yes, this crowd definitely sings to the tune, “I don’t pay taxes, which makes me smart.”
But I digress, the entire FATCA thing has gone so far overboard that otherwise normal, salary-earning US citizens abroad have been hamstrung from even holding US bank accounts because we have a foreign address. (Non-resident green card holders are all using their twice-removed auntie's address in California etc. to circumvent this.) And don’t even start me on that moronic excise tax we are required to pay if we buy simple term life insurance overseas (repeal that ridiculous rule please!).
So huuuuge memo to our new President: The Stasi tactics of the US government and its IRS agents will turn away people (the kind that you President Trump think that you want) from US citizenship forever. This does not endear anything close to loyalty nor does it create jobs, just red tape that benefits lawyers and accountants. For the current citizens who have firm roots outside the US, unless something changes, you can bet (this writer included) we are swiftly arranging second passports for our children as fast as we can.