Accidental Americans in France begin legal action

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Accidental Americans in France begin legal action

A group of 'Accidental Americans' living in France has begun legal action on the grounds that FATCA is being used as an excuse for French banks to refuse bank accounts applications for American citizens.

The Accidental Americans Association (AAA), acting on behalf of 278 of its members, yesterday lodged a complaint at a criminal court in Paris, saying their members are being discriminated against by French banks, which are worried they will be held accountable for any undeclared revenue or assets held in France by their personal banking clients.

Accidental Americans acquired US citizenship either directly via their parents or because they were born in America. This means they are automatically considered US citizens by the American tax authorities, even though they have French nationality also. This in turn means they are subject to the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA).

You can’t exclude someone because of their nationality. It’s clearly discriminatory."

FATCA legislation requires all US citizens abroad and their banks (and other financial services providers) to report their income and assets to the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Fabien Lehagre, president of the AAA, told Agence France Presse that Boursorama, the digital banking arm of Société Générale, claimed it would be too expensive for the bank to file tax information to the IRS on behalf of its account holders.

Lehagre said: "[The bank] spent €6m six months ago to get Brad Pitt for an ad campaign - even though he can't open an account with them."

Antoine Vey, the lawyer presenting the legal action, said: "You can't exclude someone because of their nationality. It's clearly discriminatory. I feel like the prosecutor's office has not understood the significance of an issue that affects nearly 10,000 people in France."

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Christopher Copper-Ind

Christopher Copper-Ind is editor-in-chief of International Investment. Before this, he was editorial director of The Business Year, from 2014 to 2017.