Love It and Leave It, or Leave It for Good
Expatriates, or as we like to call ourselves “expats,” are defined as people “temporarily or permanently residing in a country other than their native country.” That’s us. For one reason or another, we left the U.S. or Canada or wherever and decided to take up residency somewhere else. In this case, it was France.
The idea isn’t new. People have migrated from one country to another since the beginning of time, whether they be diplomats, merchants, missionaries, refugees or just ordinary people who wish to fulfill their lives by experiencing different cultures. The numbers of expats grew overwhelmingly after the 15th-century with colonialism and of course, easier modes of transportation. Add to that the World Wide Web and the ability to work from anywhere, rolling suitcases and cheap air fares…and expatriate life here we come!
“The word expatriate comes from two Latin terms: ex, meaning ‘out of,’ and patria, meaning ‘country, fatherland.’” (source: IDEA, International Diaspora Alliance), but some see the term as pejorative, meaning “unpatriotic.”
Bull, crap, hogwash, baloney. The expats I know are even more patriotic than those who haven’t stepped foot outside their native country.
Last night, Democrats Abroad France hosted an event they call “First Tuesday,” which consisted of a formal three-course dinner at a local restaurant accompanied by a debate, led by one or more speakers. In last night’s case, the topic was “How a Revolution Became a Surrogate War,” led by three illustrious speakers: William Jordan, a former US Foreign Service officer specializing in the Arab world; Dorothée Schmid, a specialist in EU policies in Mediterranean countries and the Middle-East and Lamis Aljasem, a Syrian scholarship student at Science Po in Paris. For the price of 37€, “Dems Abroad,” as we lovingly call the organization, amassed about 50 people who wanted to learn more about what’s going on in the world and how it affects Americans living abroad. You can’t call that “unpatriotic.”
I certainly don’t think of myself as unpatriotic, even if living outside of the U.S. or not in agreement with the U.S. politics of today. Meanwhile, expats are treated like traitors by their native countries, particularly American expats, in a variety of ways. We have no representation in Congress and have to fight for ourselves on every issue.
Mr. Trump tried to punish us when he signed a tax bill this past December imposing a one-time 15.5 per cent “repatriation tax” on profits U.S. businesses have accumulated overseas, whether or not they choose to repatriate them. Any individual U.S. citizen, or even a green-card holder, would be forced to pay the tax within eight years, regardless of the size of their businesses. Mr. Trump had visions of billions of dollars flooding back into the U.S., but we’re not all the size of Apple or Google and our pockets simply aren’t that deep. But, did he care? No.
Fortunately for us expats who are small business owners and freelancers and caught in the what we call “a ridiculous tax,” there has been granted a one-year reprieve. The IRS is giving us (Americans abroad “whose tax homes and abodes, in a real and substantial sense, are outside the United States”) one year more if our net tax liabilities are less than $1 million, by pushing back the due date to June 17, 2019. See irs.gov/newsroom/ for more information on this.
Isn’t that nice of them? (Do you hear my sarcastic tone of voice?)
Meanwhile, lobbying groups, such as Democrats Abroad and the ACA, American Citizens Abroad, are campaigning to remove small taxpayers from the scope of the tax. The idea for reform that makes sense is residency-based taxation (RBT) vs citizen-based taxation. The Financial Times of London reported that more than 1 million U.S. citizens and green card holders live overseas with 10% interest in foreign corporations. I am one of them. I live and work in France. I pay taxes to France, and plenty of them. Why should I hand over another 15.5 percent of my French company profits to the U.S. What did the U.S. do to deserve it?
The answer: nothing.
Fortunately, with a one-year reprieve, we expats have a chance to fight for our rights. Part of the argument is that expats may be driven to file for bankruptcy or find ways to evade the tax. For Americans living and working abroad, who own businesses where they live, this is as unfair a penalty as we can conceive of and would drive many of us to become very unpatriotic, possibly denouncing our American citizenship if necessary.
Don’t think I haven’t thought of it.
A la prochaine…
Adrian Leeds Group
(By Patty Sadauskas)
P.S. House Hunters International will be airing another of our episodes later this month, AND, a brand new episode! We’ll have details for you in tomorrow’s French Property Insider. Not a subscriber to FPI? Subscribe now