“…but this is the story of something much more How power and privilege can not move a people Who know where they stand and stand in the law
From little things big things grow From little things big things grow”
From Little Things, Big Things Grow, Paul Kelly and Kev Carmody, 1991
Let’s Fix the Tax Treaty! seeks to be an open, transparent and effective advocacy group. As part of this commitment, not only do we, the Steering Committee, believe it is good practice to set annual objectives as part of our action planning, it is also useful to look back and reflect on what was achieved with the resources available to us.
2017 was our first full year of existence and much of the year was spent building the foundations upon which we intend to build activity, momentum and scale over the coming years. Key milestones along the way included publishing our Strategy Roadmap, creating and implementing a Wiki framework for knowledge capture and ongoing membership development and support.
Many of you will recall that we prepared a 2017 Scorecard which we issued as part of the Strategy Roadmap document. How did we do? See the table below this post. Although not everything was achieved, we believe we made solid steps towards our goals. Currently, we are finalising our 2018 objectives which will inform our efforts over the coming year.
As always, we value your feedback and comments. Most of all, we value your involvement. Are we moving too slow? Do you want us to go in new or different directions? Get involved!
It’s been almost three months since Carl posted our revised Strategy Roadmap. In that time, the Steering Committee (Karen Alpert, Carl Greenstreet, and Caroline Day) have been working behind the scenes on creating a package of materials to support organised action. I’ve written a “Talking Points” paper and am working on a more detailed Issues paper. We also plan to boil this down into one or more single-page briefs that can be used to help inform members of Parliament, policy-makers and other key decision-makers and influencers. We have a series of questions that we would like to ask the appropriate government agencies under Freedom of Information and Carl is preparing FOI requests. The bottom line is that we need to have both well-documented evidence and a clear objective before we start any campaign to inform policy-makers.
As we have said before, many hands make light work. There are several areas where we could use some help. Please read through this list and consider what you might be able to help with:
Steering Committee (see section 2 of the Strategy Roadmap) – we are still looking for two more members to fill the vacant positions (see page 9 of the document)
Developing and organising our evidence base – We are creating a wiki to organise and index information from this website and others. Even if you don’t feel up to adding original content to the wiki, consider becoming a wiki editor to help populate the wiki with links to other resources.
Branding – Do you have graphic design skills? If you would like to design a logo for us, let us know via our contact form.
Just before Christmas, Karen released our initial Steering Committee work on the group strategy for your feedback through the blog comments, our Facebook Group or Private Message. Perhaps the timing was not the best given how frenetic things get for most of us over the holiday season? Continue reading “Strategy Document Feedback”
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
― Abraham Lincoln
While it may seem like there’s very little activity here, we have been busy behind the scenes. The Steering Committee (myself, Carl Greenstreet, and Caroline Day), have been working on articulating our strategy. We have a very rough draft of our initial strategy roadmap that we are now releasing for comment. There are still many holes to fill – the table of contents shows an outline of where we’re heading.
Previous blog entries have discussed our overall vision. Carl’s Plan to Succeed post foreshadowed much of the structure of the current document. In Priorities I outlined several main goals which have been incorporated here. And in One Step at a Time I talked a bit about the long time horizon that may be necessary in our struggle. The governance section of the document comes mainly from my Steering Committee post. The Strategy Roadmap pulls all of this information into a single document.
This is a first draft. Your comments and suggestions are needed to assist with refining the current document and extending it. Getting the strategy right is an important first step. As the old proverb goes: “What’s the use of running if you’re not on the right road?” You can make comments here, on the Facebook group, or by completing the feedback form on the About page.
Comments will help us develop a coordinated action plan for 2017. We look forward to your feedback, and will be calling for assistance from everyone as our plans for 2017 take shape.
I’d like acknowledge Carl’s efforts in putting together the initial outline that became this first draft. Fleshing out his outline has been a group effort. If you are interested in joining the Steering Committee to help with further refinement of this document, please fill in the form here.
It’s crystal clear by now that the US and Australian governments are not going to wake up tomorrow and realise that FATCA and CBT are unjust and discriminatory. It will take quite some time to get rid of CBT and move to RBT. The other night I was catching up on my long list of podcasts, and stumbled upon the latest edition of the Freakonomics Podcast – In Praise of Incrementalism. The podcast explores how an incremental approach worked for gay marriage, and the civil rights movement as well as how an incremental approach might be used for current issues such as #BlackLivesMatter. Listening to the podcast soon after reading a discussion about the civil rights movement in the American Expatriates Facebook group, started me thinking about our struggle to get our elected representatives to understand the injustice of FATCA and CBT. When it comes to fixing FATCA and CBT, a home run is unlikely. But each hit makes a run more likely. So while we have our eyes on the prize, we need to also aim for small victories that will eventually make a shift to RBT seem inevitable.
What does incremental look like?
Incremental is SLOW. It’s not exciting. But eventually it gets you there.
The incremental approach is most effective when the obvious, low-hanging fruit, is tackled first. I’ll suggest three potential baby steps that could get us on the road to victory – please add more in the comments.
Many of those claimed as US persons don’t identify as Americans at all. Perhaps they were born in the US, but their non-American parents took them home while they were still children. Or maybe they were born outside of the US with at least one US citizen parent. They may not even speak English. And now, if they admit their place of birth or parentage to their local bank, they are asked to fill out a W-9 so their account information can be sent to the IRS. What right does the US have to tax these people? The injustice is so obvious that President Obama has proposed an inadequate remedy in the 2016 and 2017 budget proposals. And recently there has been some push back against the US taxation of Accidental Americans in France.
Privacy/Transparency Last week’s post argued that US Persons should be automatically notified when their account information was reported to the IRS via the ATO. Implementing this type of reporting would be an acknowledgement that affected US Persons have a right to know who has their financial information. Again, this is a baby step towards overturning the massive privacy violations of FATCA. A comment in the Facebook group argues that privacy is just a distraction, and that we should, instead focus on more substantive problems with FATCA. However, once our governments admit that there are some privacy concerns with FATCA, it may be easier to get them to understand some of the bigger problems.
Same Country Exemption (the right way) This excellent video by Professor Allison Christians (McGill University) from 2014 was recently linked in the Citizenship Taxation Facebook group.
Starting about 6 minutes into the video Professor Christians advocates a “Same Country Exemption (SCE)” as an incremental approach to dismantling FATCA. SCE has a bad name among some groups of US expats because of a specific proposal that links SCE with IRS compliance. However, I think Professor Christians is advocating a simple SCE without any need for the FFI to check anything other than proof of residence: if you bank where you live, the bank is absolved of all FATCA reporting requirements. Plus, you’re being taxed where you live, so the chances of your “foreign” bank account being used to evade a significant amount of US tax is fairly small. SCE would be a small incremental step that would bring relief to many (not all) of those adversely affected by FATCA. Does it go far enough? No. But, implementing this type of SCE would alleviate at least some of the injustice of FATCA – it would be a small wedge that might allow us to push the door open wider.
Following on from Carl’s post, I think the main issues have been obvious since this site was started. What we need now is to set specific goals and objectives. We can divide these into two broad groups – Tax Treaty goals and FATCA goals. The purpose of this post is to list the goals so that we can prioritise action. Continue reading “Priorities”
Back in 2014, we met with our federal MP who sent a letter on our behalf to the Assistant Treasurer asking about taxation of our superannuation accounts by the US. This is an extract of the response we received from then Acting Assistant Treasurer, Matthias Cormann:
Too often, when members of our government refer to the problems caused by FATCA or US CBT, they speak of “Americans residing in Australia”. This fails to recognise that many of us are Australian citizens, with all the rights that citizenship confers. This also fails to recognise that all Australians have a stake in this issue as FATCA and CBT drain money from the Australian economy, both in the form of US tax paid and as excess compliance costs forced on Australian financial institutions (and paid for by all account holders through higher fees).
As I’ve said elsewhere, there are two fronts to the battle against US extra-territorial taxation: 1) the US and 2) the countries that allow the US to steal from their tax base.
If we are to pursue this struggle on the Australian front, we do it as Australians (which is not to diminish any connection we may still have to our American heritage).
So, how do we frame our letters and communication with our MPs and others to avoid having them frame the issue as one of “Americans in Australia”?