Susan’s Story

I came to Australia in 1991 to be with my Australian then-boyfriend.  I had told my friends and family that I’d only be in Australia for 2-3 years.   I was in my 20s and carefree, on an adventure.   Needless to say, I had no idea I had to continue filing taxes in the US.  Well, I ended up staying and I got my Australian citizenship in 2006.  I worked hard here for 25 years, and made investments in addition to superannuation.   Between our investment property, our Sydney home, and the index funds I’ve had since 1997, I’m the dreaded covered expat!   I have bigtime PFIC problems, super problems and potential home sale problems.  Like Carl, I cannot afford to expatriate now.   I discovered the mess I’m in almost exactly a year ago to this day, when I returned from a wonderful European holiday.  I opened an envelope from Merrill Lynch.   The letter stated that they were canceling my 401K plan I had left in the US in 1991.  The account was very small at the time I left, so I didn’t think much of it.   The letter said I had 30 days to contact them about rolling it over to another provider.   Unfortunately, the letter had taken longer than 30 days to get to Australia, and when I contacted them, they said “the cheque is in the mail”.  No one could explain why this was happening, only “a lot of people are angry about this”.   I had no idea what FATCA or FBAR was, let alone that I was supposed to be filing tax returns.   Now, I feel that I am a changed person since finding all this out.  I think about the problem every single day.  I feel that no one understands — not even my family and friends in either country.  Also, no one has any sympathy here for Americans caught up in this mess.   People just say to me, “well if you move back to the States, would this problem go away?”  Not helpful.   I have written letters to politicians and they don’t care.  My husband is Australian, and he thinks I’m making a big deal over nothing.   He doesn’t think I should even be worrying about the situation, and that I should have just kept my head in the sand.     No one wants to hear our stories, except for the people who are in the same predicament.  I feel like I have to live with this all myself.   Yet, I still feel like helping our cause in some way!   I have thought about renouncing, but my mother and sister still live in the US, and I worry that I may need to go back to help them one day.   Maybe I can give all my assets over to my husband so I am not a covered expat, and then get out of this mess, but I hate to think how much it will all cost in accountancy fees to do so.


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