Gramps’ Story

We sold our California farm in the late 1970’s with the intention of moving to Australia. After a number of trips to Australia we finally found a farm that we felt would work for us. We made the purchase in 1980 and our son-in-law and daughter moved over to start operating the farm. My wife and I, and the rest our family, came over in 1983 to become permanent residents. By this time there was a new Australian grandson born here, so with our move our numbers came up to seven. A year or two later another son and his new bride joined us, so now our family in Australia numbered nine.

The family has continued to grow through marriages and births, and the number now stands at twenty seven over three generations. Within the family there are teachers, tradies and nurses, and at least six self-employed businesses which have created over one hundred and twenty jobs. It appears that this trend will continue into the future. So far, no one has any interest in going back to the United States to live. One of our granddaughters has renounced US citizenship, and a number of others would like to, but are unable to, for various reasons.

It constantly concerns me that all of our family members will be greatly affected by the FATCA Agreement and US Taxation on Australian Superannuation Funds. Most of the grandchildren think that having dual-citizenship is a good thing. I do as well, so long as one of the countries is not America.

My wife and I had a retirement fund that was started when we were young in America. We never paid much attention to it after moving to Australia, but when we checked it out we found that it had grown significantly.  Upon further checking we found that we should have been paying taxes on the growth, and also found that there would have been penalties for early withdrawals, so this was a big mess. We ended up moving the money to Australia, and into our Superannuation Fund here, but the US Tax implications thereon are no better for it here, than when it was in America.  I have learned one thing, and that is that there is no legal way to establish a retirement program if you are a self-funded expat.

I would like to mention here that we have sought and received professional advice on everything that has been done during our time in Australia. KPMG and Grant Thornton are the two big companies that we have used. We have also had an Australian accounting firm since day one, taking care of the Australian tax side of our business and personal affairs.  My wife and I have always filed US tax returns.

I need to stress that these issues have had a very large emotional and financial impact on our lives, with no end in sight. I expect that the financial cost of solicitors and accountants may have been more than the tax paid (maybe we have created jobs for people who already had a good income).  I would also like to stress the fact that this affects the lives of people who make jobs. Some of our grandchildren have business with Australian partners who probably have no idea that the US government knows all about their banking details. These issues also affect how our Wills are structured. My concerns are real when it comes to my family’s future in Australia.


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