Metro Vancouver woman joins movement to drop U.S. citizenship
U.S. tax law intended to nab billionaires who hide money in tax shelters is terrorizing middle-class dual citizens with no income south of the border
Like many people in Canada who still have American citizenship, Pat is both scared and angry.
The semi-retired suburban Vancouver woman is trying to relinquish her U.S. citizenship because she feels unfairly snagged in an unprecedented American campaign to catch tax cheaters living outside the United States.
Beginning this month, Canada’s largest banks are being required by Ottawa to hand over to tax authorities the financial information of every client with American citizenship.
About a million people in Canada hold an American passport, and many are racing to figure out their options in response to Canada’s February decision to cooperate with the U.S. Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, best known as FATCA.
Many dual citizens are rushing to accountants to file complex U.S. back-tax statements. Hundreds are also joining activist groups launching counter-assaults on FATCA, including one called The Isaac Brock Society, named after a Canadian leader in the war of 1812.
And many, like Pat, who will not agree to their full name being published, are trying to quickly become ex-U.S. citizens.
“It’s so outrageous,” said Pat, who became a dual citizen in 2008, after coming to Canada from New York to conduct medical research at the University of B.C.
This week Pat said many people in Canada who are still American nationals “are just kind of hiding underground. They’re scared of poking their heads out.”
Pat owns a condominium in White Rock, has some small Canadian investments and a mother and a son in the U.S.
She wants to file tax statements only in Canada, where she believes governments provide “great service” for the money she sends each year to Ottawa and Victoria.
Pat bitterly asks why Canadians like her, with modest incomes, are being swept up in a U.S. effort meant to target rich people hiding billions of dollars in offshore bank accounts and tax havens.
A prominent renunciation lawyer, Alex Marino of Calgary, says he has four to five people a week coming in to ask how to drop their U.S. citizenship. In a published paper, Marino adds that it is understandable people in Canada fear going public with their criticism of the U.S. tax department.
Pat is one of half a dozen people who have contacted the Sun over the issue. But none were prepared to be quoted unless granted anonymity, with many saying they live in “terror” of the long reach of the U.S. Internal Revenue Service.
Instead of each year hiring an accountant to fill out confusing U.S. tax forms simply to declare she has no investments or income that should be of interest to officials south of the border, Pat has quietly had her request sent off to “relinquish” her American citizenship.
But U.S. embassy officials put Pat on edge when they recommended she go further and “renounce” her U.S. citizenship. Pat is intimidated by the consequences of this bolder action.
Not only does “renunciation” cost $450 US, it will put her name on a list maintained by the FBI, which is normally used for monitoring criminals. It’s been dubbed “the list of shame.”