Research reveals US expats’ thoughts on voting while abroad
Expat Americans have revealed they don’t feel well-represented by the US government, but many do not bother to vote in elections even if they can do so, research has found.
There are an estimated 7.6 million Americans living abroad but a poll has found that only 58% of them voted in the last Presidential election and 86% don’t feel well-represented.
US expats don’t vote for a variety of reasons, the survey by Greenback Expat Tax Services shows. Some 15% didn’t know how to vote while living abroad, 9% didn’t feel their vote would make a difference and 10% didn’t feel that voting as an expat was important.
According to the firm’s co-founder David McKeegan, this highlights a clear need for education on the voting process for US expats with clear communication as to why and how their vote could make a difference in the US election next year.
He pointed out that the numbers involved are significant. Indeed, US expats represent a larger community than the entire populations of Rhode Island, Montana, Delaware, South Dakota, North Dakota, Alaska, the District of Columbia, Vermont and Wyoming put together.
‘Our survey indicates that with the major issues US expats are facing, including tax compliancy, FATCA and FBAR reporting regulations and a feeling of being under-represented, it stands to reason that they may be more inclined to vote if a candidate actively addresses their concerns and lobbies for positive change on their behalf,’ said McKeegan.
According to the American Citizens Abroad Global Foundation (ACAGF), which focusses on educational matters to promote the interests of Americans abroad, the survey shows a growing dissatisfaction with US tax laws, such as Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), a major US initiative to uncover US taxpayers hiding money overseas to avoid paying American taxes.
FATCA requires individuals to report their offshore assets if they exceed certain thresholds and foreign financial institutions are now required to report information about the accounts of their American clients to the US. This reportedly is resulting in banking issues for US expats, as some foreign financial institutions are choosing not to do business with Americans to avoid the hassle of FATCA’s special due diligence and reporting requirements.
The survey found that only 34% of US expats surveyed are not currently affected by FATCA, while 36% of respondents will need to file additional tax forms due to FATCA regulations. Indeed, 13% of respondents cited issues with their foreign bank.
‘The results of the survey are very important to the work that ACAGF and American Citizens Abroad are doing on behalf of Americans living and working overseas. Identifying the problem areas and the concerns of this community helps better formulate policy,’ said Marylouise Serrato, executive director of ACA.
According to Charles Bruce, ACAGF chairman, it is important to identify the issues facing the community of Americans living and working overseas. ‘Better understanding of our members’ and supporters’ issues helps us educate everyone, including Congress, as to the real needs of Americans living and working overseas,’ he said.