Audience with IRS sought by French lawmakers over ‘accidentals’: Report

French lawmakers sympathetic to the cause of so-called Accidental Americans in France are hoping to ensure that French president Emmanuel Macron raises the matter of their plight with US president Donald Trump next month, during a planned state visit, a French-language news website has reported. 

For now, there is no guarantee that they will be successful in their mission, which is, ultimately, to get the French Ministry of Finance and Foreign Affairs to formally discuss the issue of the “accidentals” with the US Internal Revenue Service and US Treasury.

However, Marc Le Fur, a French MP who is deputy speaker of France’s National Assembly (pictured left) and who, as reported, has agreed to help a group of French citizens who are struggling with the side-effects of their American citizenship, is quoted by Frenchmorning.com, a French-language news website read mainly by French expatriates living in the US, as saying “I will write to the President of the Republic to put it on the agenda”.

Le Fur, the publication says, “intends to ensure that the ‘accidental Americans’ are on the menu” of the discussions that will take place during president Macron’s visit, set for 23 to 25 April.

It isn’t thought that presidents Macron and Trump will themselves discuss in any detail the issue facing the Accidental Americans living in France, but rather, that the matter will be highlighted during the visit by the French delegation, for future talks between the US tax officials and the French.

Also quoted in the Frenchmorning.com article is Roland LeScure, a French MP for North America, who, it says, “had contacts with the IRS and the US Treasury”, and is said to have said he was “confident that we can move forward” on the matter.

“Americans are pragmatic,” he is further quoted as saying.

“When someone is born in the United States, spends three months to three years there, and returns to France, where they spend 30 to 40 years, they [the Americans] will understand that there is an issue” with respect to their status as American citizens.

As reported here earlier this month, l’Association des Américains Accidentels (Accidental American Association, or AAA) was founded last year by a group of French citizens whom the US considers to be Americans, but who have spent most if not all of their lives in France, and who regard themselves as French.

Because they have US citizenship, typically as a result of having been born in the US to French parents, these French citizens are determined to challenge US government claims that, as a result of their US links, they must file annual US tax returns and potentially owe tax to the US, arguing that they shouldn’t have to,as they aren’t really Americans.

The tax obligations of such “accidentals” and other expat Americans only became a major issue after the US introduced the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act in 2010. FATCA was aimed at cracking down on the use by Americans of non-US banks and financial institutions to evade tax, but it has made life complicated and costly for the country’s estimated 9 million expatriates, many of whom have no formal ties to the US, and, in the case of the “accidentals”,  haven’t had for most of their lives.

The Frenchmorning.com quotes Fabien Lehagre, who heads up les ‘Américains Accidentels, as referring to a recent handover of a petition signed by some 2,750 American expats asking the US Congress to move to a residence-based tax system and adding: “The political terrain is currently conducive to a solution” to the problem.

“The Republican expat group [the Republicans Overseas] is mobilised. There are now members of Congress who are against the current US system of taxing on the basis of citizenship.”

In addition to asking that those considered to be “accidental Americans” not be required to file tax returns to the US and potentially be liable for US tax, the AAA is also asking that they be allowed to give up their American nationality without having to go through the lengthy and costly procedure currently required of anyone wishing to renounce, which includes having to apply in person to a US consular office or embassy, pay $2,350 in fees, and, if they have assets above a certain threshold ($2m), pay an “exit tax”.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Helen Burggraf
Helen Burggraf is Chief Correspondent for International Investment. She is a US-trained journalist who has worked in Rome, New York City and London, covering among other things the fashion and retailing industries, the global drinking water and water-treatment sector, private equity, and most recently, the international cross-border financial services/advice industry.

Read more from Helen Burggraf

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