No Man (or Woman) is an Island
I woke up early Tuesday morning to a beautiful thick snowfall over the City of Light. By the time I ventured out, it hadn’t been overly disturbed, especially in the Square du Temple that was as calm and serene as it will ever be, with only one or two others taking photos as I was.
The night before, I did a really bad thing. While convalescing in bed with “le rhume” (the common cold), I watched Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11/9” on TV using an Amazon Prime account even though I was warned that “it was tough to watch.” My friend was right. It wasn’t exactly the uplifting message needed to feeling better. In fact, it was a hard pill of reality to swallow. (Here’s the trailer if you want to get even a glimpse)
Whether a fan of Moore’s or not, it would be impossible to deny the accolades he’s received for his dozen or more documentaries that have woken us up or shook us up or both, about the important issues we face on a daily basis: globalization, capitalism, big corporations, war, assault weapons, several of America’s recent presidents, the American health care system, etc., etc. And like him or not, in 2005 Time Magazine declared him one of the world’s 100 most influential people. Yep, he influences me.
Considering I live in France, you might ask why would I care what goes on in the U.S.? Does that mean that if you live in the U.S., you don’t care what goes on in France, or other parts of the world? If you’re French or just a Francophile living anywhere else in the world, then I bet you care a lot about what happens in France. We get international news here that addresses a global picture, and while living in a global society, we can conclude that “no man is an island.” This phrase was coined by English poet John Donne as long ago as the 17th-century, comparing people to countries and extolling on the interconnectedness of all people:
No man is an island,
entire of itself;
every man is a piece of the continent,
a part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less,
as well as if a promontory were.
as well as if a manor of thy friend’s
or of thine own were.
Any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind;
and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
it tolls for thee.
Yep, I agree with John Donne.
Perhaps I should be more like an island and reserve these missives to images of Paris and the rest of France through rosy-colored glasses, but I no longer see life in France that way. That’s easy to do if you come for brief visits, eat all the baguettes and butter you want, binge visit the latest exhibits, soak up the gray Paris rays and then after a week or two go back to a cushy American lifestyle. Doing that, you never have to go deeper into what it’s like to really live outside your comfort zone or see one’s own life from a bigger perspective.
For those of you who have chosen to live abroad, like us Americans here in France, it’s not enough that we’re immigrants in a foreign land. Not only do we battle the acclimation to a different system, different culture and different way of looking at life, but we also battle quite a lot of unfair treatment by our own American government who views us not just as emigrants, but as traitors, deserters, renegades or turncoats. While perhaps that’s not a conscious goal, we are “punished” in a variety of ways, mostly by taxing us based on our citizenship, not our residency.
The international organization, Democrats Abroad, is not taking the battle of non-resident taxation lying down. It is launching a 2019 Non-Resident Taxation Research Project to generate information they will use “to advocate for reforms to relieve the burden of tax, banking, financial account reporting, securities and other laws that discriminate against Americans living abroad.”
One doesn’t come to France to get rich. Everyone knows that it’s a highly taxed society and that doing business here is a challenge. If making money is your goal, then stay Stateside in the “land of opportunity” where free enterprise reigns. The trade-off of living in France is an enrichment of one’s life, not a thick lining of the pocketbooks. We then have to face our own government’s impositions, something many of us consider grossly unfair.
From a letter recently issued by Democrats Abroad, I quote:
“If you follow the work of Democrats Abroad advocating for tax relief for Americans abroad you know that a major milestone was reached in December 2018 with the introduction of the Tax Fairness for Americans Abroad Act, a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives that would enact a switch from the current U.S. system of citizenship-based taxation (CBT) to the global norm of residency-based taxation (RBT). The bill wasn’t perfect, but it does provide an excellent framework for building a proposal for enacting RBT that can be embraced by members of Congress on all sides of politics. Our work on such a proposal continues from where we left off last year and we need your help to execute our advocacy program.“
The issues we expatriates face include:
• Discriminatory practices affecting voters abroad and their
ability to cast their ballots
• Double taxation of business profits
• The FATCA Effect: Denial of ordinary financial products and services
• Double taxation of most types of income
• Denial of full Social Security benefits
• Denial of access to Medicare benefits and the Affordable Care Act
• Numerous barriers to investing and saving for the future
• Insufficient consular support and access
• Freedom of movement
• Transmission of citizenship
• Out-of-proportion tax filing cost and complexity
You can contribute to their research by filling out their questionnaire. I did it and even though it’s fairly extensive, it didn’t take more than 10 minutes. The survey is anonymous and all questions are optional.
Remember, no man (or woman) is an island. If you’re an expatriate (emigrant, traitor, deserter, renegade or turncoat) please take a bit of your time and do this before midnight U.S. EDT on Sunday February 3, 2019 when the survey is over.
A la prochaine…
Adrian Leeds Group
(Enjoying a snowy Paris)
P.S. We know not everyone wants to live in Paris. Are you interested in other parts of La France Profonde? Our network of professionals is here to help. Contact us to discuss your interests and we’ll get to work for you.