Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt has accused me of evading my U.S. taxes and has implied that I am an unpatriotic American. I am thinking of discussing the matter with an attorney friend to see if I have grounds for a defamation action against LaBolt.
In a Tweet he says there are only two reasons I want an offshore account: “hedging against the dollar or avoiding paying fair share in taxes.”
And LaBolt hasn’t even met me! Nor, as far as I am aware, has he had an opportunity to scrutinize my IRS tax returns. I ought to say immediately – as the IRS has prying eyes – that I have always reported my offshore accounts to the U.S. Department of Treasury and faithfully report the pathetic annual interest I accrue.
Maybe I am taking this all too personally. LaBolt was really aiming at GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney for having offshore Swiss accounts. And, of course, part of the Obama election narrative is to portray Romney as an unpatriotic financial predator.
In the process LaBolt defamed me – and tens of thousands of other Americans and dual-citizens who have, for legitimate and non-tax evasion reasons, foreign bank accounts.
And by the way, what’s wrong with hedging against the dollar – if corporations and banks and financial institutions of all types, including pension funds, do so, why shouldn’t individuals, especially when they need to use foreign currencies?
So, what possible legitimate, non-murky reasons could I have to have European bank accounts? Like millions of Americans, I wasn’t born in the U.S. and am, in fact, a dual citizen, having UK nationality as well. I have business ties in Europe.
So, my non-tax evasion reasons for having non-U.S. bank accounts?
First, I own property in Europe and need to have European bank accounts to be able to have direct debit facilities for such basic things as paying the utility bills, etc.
Second, I need everyday money when I am there to buy food and don’t want to be hit with absurd currency conversion fees and commissions.
Third, as an international journalist I move around a lot and not just in Europe and need a reliable international bank to be able to transfer money – and, believe me LaBolt, U.S. domestic banks are awful at doing that kind of thing, most haven’t even heard of SWIFT or IBANN numbers (by the way, have you?)
Fourth, whenever a foreign newspaper, magazine or news outlet wants to pay me, if they try to wire the money into a domestic U.S. bank the money goes missing for weeks (see answer above). It is so much simpler to have a functioning non-U.S. international bank.
Fifth, have you ever tried to pay a foreign check into a domestic U.S. bank? (See the two above answers).
Why have I taken such umbrage with LaBolt’s defamation? Well, I don’t like being defamed. Second, his ignorance is irritating and I felt I had to give him some practical examples of why any American would need a foreign bank account.
And, third, U.S. authorities are making it harder and harder for individual Americans to do international business, to be global and competitive, and all under the cover of fighting tax evasion.
This year, the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act starts being implemented – it comes fully into effect next January. And it requires financial institutions based outside the U.S. to obtain and report information about income and interest payments accrued to the accounts of American clients.
As a result, many foreign banks are declining to open accounts to U.S. citizens or to do business with foreigners resident in the U.S. because the compliance costs are too much. The consequence will be that Americans resident in the U.S. and even in many cases U.S. citizens resident overseas will find it more difficult to have foreign banks accounts and to conduct business abroad.
And it will mean it is more difficult to make investments abroad – investments that can make money and be taxed in the U.S. Others will make the investments instead — such as the Chinese. Of course, it is protectionist of U.S. banks and discriminates against non-U.S. banks, inviting protectionism from other countries against U.S. banks.
I am all for fighting tax evasion but there has to be a balance. And when did it become a bad thing for Americans to do business — international as well domestic?