Canada baby’s letter to PM, US prez is focus of anti-FATCA campaigners

A tongue-in-cheek response to a form letter sent by  Canada’s TD Bank to an eight-month-old baby in Vancouver, asking for “additional documentation requirements” in connection with a bank account opened in her name, is making the rounds of Canada’s vociferous anti-FATCA campaign groups. 

While “Baby Elle’s FATCA Letter”, as it’s being called, is humorous in tone, the child’s real-life parents evidently are far from amused by the bank’s correspondence, and anti-FATCA campaigners say it showcases what is wrong with the current system of information reporting on Americans who live outside of the US.

A Canadian news website quotes Laura Mergelas, senior manager corporate and public affairs for the TD Bank Group, as saying that the matter should have been caught by the branch that opened the baby’s account in the first place, and that the bank was “willing to work with the family to find a solution to the problem”.

The “Baby Elle Letter” purports to have been written to the prime minister of Canada and US president by “a friend” of the child’s “Nana”, on behalf of the youngster, who was born in the US to a Canadian father and an American-Canadian mother.

Both Maple Sandbox and the Isaac Brock Society – which campaign against Canada’s participation in the American tax information exchange scheme known as FATCA, on grounds that Canadian citizens who happen also to have American citizenship shouldn’t be required to report to the US tax authorities or pay US taxes if they don’t live there – have published it, and comments relating to it.

At issue is the fact that the US regards anyone born in the US as a US citizen, with an obligation to report tax information to the IRS, for their entire lives, no matter where they live. The only way to end one’s obligation to report tax is to renounce one’s citizenship, which many more people are doing since FATCA came into force over the last few years.

‘Ludicrous’

According to a story on the matter on the iPolitics.ca website, the child’s mother said she was “totally shocked” that the Canada Revenue Agency and the IRS would be interested in an eight-month-old who barely has any money in her account.

“It seems a little bit ludicrous to me,” the mother, identified only as Erika, added.

According to the iPolitics story, Erika had her daughter when she was working in the US, but she and the child’s husband decided to move back to Canada shortly afterwards.

“When Erika opened a bank account in December to deposit money her daughter’s great grandmother gave her, they had not yet received her daughter’s Canadian citizenship papers, so they used her US birth certificate” for identification, the article went on, noting that this set off the bank’s FATCA alarm bells, resulting in the letter it ultimately sent.

Baby Elle’s letter begins as follows:

“Dear Prime Minister Trudeau and President Obama:

“Why do you think I am a tax cheat?

“I am eight months old. I live with my Mommy and Daddy in Canada.

“I can’t walk or talk yet. So my Nana’s friend Lynne is helping me write to you.

“At Christmas time Mommy and Daddy opened a small savings account for me in Canada. When I was six months old in February, TD Bank sent me a letter and other stuff.

“I can’t read. So Nana read it for me.

“I don’t know what the gibberish in the letter means. Nana says it’s crazy. I believe my Nana.”

The Ella letter goes on to note that TD Bank says it “will squeal on me to Canada Revenue Agency” and the US Internal Revenue Service if the documentation it asks for isn’t provided.

The letter concludes, “Please help me. I can’t afford an accountant or lawyer from my allowance”.

To see the TD Bank letter said to have been received by Baby Elle, click here.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Helen Burggraf
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