French 'Américains Accidentels' get boost from en Marche party leader

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A recently-formed French-American lobbying group, l’Association des Américains Accidentels, has received potentially-significant support in its battle against its members’ US tax obligations  from the Emmanuel Macron’s La République en Marche party, in the form of a letter from the party’s leader to French prime minister Edouard Philippe, International Investment has learned.

The letter, dated 6 February, was written by Richard Ferrand, and calls on Philippe who was appointed by French president Macron last year, to act to defend the “accidentals” by engaging with the US at the diplomatic level.

The fact of the letter was mentioned in a full-page article last week on the plight of les Américains Accidentels  in France’s Le Figaro newspaper, pictured above. 

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 exceedingly complicated and costly for the country’s estimated 9 million expatriates, many of whom have no formal ties to the US, and haven’t had for most of their lives.

Writes Ferrand, in his letter, a copy of which has been seen by International Investment: “The situation has become compromising enough, regarding the rights of French-American citizens, for us to call on the [French] government to engage in a strong diplomatic action favouring the vote of an ad hoc American legal provision, obtaining a derogation for les ‘Américains Accidentels’, enabling them to either renounce their American citizenship through a simple and free procedure, or [otherwise] be exonerated from American tax obligations.”

Philippe adds that such an initiative could take place “in parallel” with negotiations involving French banks, “in order for them to ensure full service to their French-American clients”.

Latest effort to rally a foreign government

As reported, the French Américains Accidentels  are the latest group of American dual nationals to appeal to a foreign government as citizens of that country, in hopes of finding a permanent way of keeping the US from coming after them for taxes – and/or, in some cases, penalty fees that the US says they owe.

Efforts to get foreign governments to challenge the way America taxes those of its expats who have residency and citizenship in other countries have also been made, and continue to be under way, in Canada and Israel, both of which have relatively large numbers of US expats.

In France, the AAA is in the process of collecting signatures in order to get a motion put forward in France’s National Assembly by Marc Le Fur, a French MP and the NA’s deputy speaker, who is sympathetic to their cause, according to Fabien Lehagre, the “accidental” American who heads up the organisation (pictured left, with Le Fur, right).

The AAA, Lehagre says, has some 320 members from across France at present, and is growing rapidly, as more dual nationals like him begin to realise the significant reporting and financial obligations their often distant American links mean for them.

It has just launched a website, which for the moment is just in French, at