RT @USCitizenAbroad "I suppose you have no idea how much fear so-called US person in Canada r experiencing. I've…" — http://t.co/rw9m6RBpyZ
— John Richardson – lawyer for "U.S. persons" abroad (@ExpatriationLaw) February 6, 2014
On February 5, 2014 the Harper government signed a FATCA IGA with the United States. Pursuant to the agreement, the Government of Canada has agreed to assist the United States Internal Revenue Service in locating “U.S. persons” (a term defined by the U.S.) who live in Canada. This development is even more extraordinary because the vast majority of these “U.S. persons” are Canadian citizens. Many of them have lived their entire adult and working lives in Canada. They have been responsibly saving for retirement through home ownership, RRSPs, TFSAs, Pension plans, etc.
To see how broadly the United States defines “U.S. persons” read the description here.
To put it simply:
At the request of the United States, the Harper Government has obligated itself to:
1. At its own expense, locate a specific group of people (“U.S. persons”); and
2. Turn those people over to the IRS.
The following article in the National Post (and especially the comments) demonstrate the sense of fear, desperation, betrayal and hopelessness that the objects of this unprecedented “Round Up” feel.
Canada signs agreement to dull impact of US crackdown on tax cheats http://t.co/jHh95DdBgb – Hey @financialpost – THESE ARE NOT TAX CHEATS!
— John Richardson – lawyer for "U.S. persons" abroad (@ExpatriationLaw) February 6, 2014
Can you imagine: having lived your whole life in Canada, paid all your taxes in Canada, taken pride in being a Canadian and then … The comments also demonstrate that many of those NOT directly affected fail to understand the issue.
Fair enough, but those who are affected, are affected hugely!
You are encouraged to read the article (a propaganda piece that would make Joseph Goebbels proud – note the title includes “Tax Cheats”) and the comments.
Bottom line: Some but not all of those who are the targets of the Canada U.S. FATCA IGA are suffering physical health issues and are also in need of emotional counselling.
For those who would be helped by being able to share this experience with others:
Regular meetings in Toronto run by qualified therapists and clergy are being arranged.
Meetings by Skype and other forms of teleconferencing are being contemplated.
Two things are clear:
First, the only people who can really understand this are those affected.
Second, of those affected many are in serious need of help!
In the words of Dr. Donald Young:
For those U.S citizens who have elected to live abroad, be it in Canada or elsewhere, American tax policy can place such individuals in a position that engenders constant and severe emotional stress. The vindictiveness of the U.S. position, its unfairness and irrationality, the fact that neither the U.S. government nor tax and legal experts even know the rules and how to rationally proceed, and the constant threat of economic calamity are all factors that can be emotionally devastating. From my observations over the years in people ensnared in this situation, and I would count myself among us, it is common to experience substantial anxiety, depression, feelings of panic and foreboding, guilt over being branded a cheat and a criminal, fear, anger, resentment, and general feelings of helplessness and confusion. I have in fact seen some people who have become virtually suicidal at the prospect of losing everything for the “crime” of not paying taxes to a country they have not lived in for decades if ever at all.
I am a clinical psychologist licensed to practice in Ontario with 35 years of experience. I have also been appointed an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto. In recent years I have had the opportunity to discuss and address these problems with many individuals who are are trapped in these tragic circumstances.
Along with John I am happy to make myself available in any of the forums or meetings that will be forthcoming. There is always strength in numbers and sometimes much can be gained by discussing common problems together in a group. I am also happy to chat or work with people individually with these concerns.
Dr. Donald Young
More information to follow.
Update – The first Toronto area session will be held on Saturday March 29.
Pingback: The Isaac Brock Society | The Story of “J” Part II
Pingback: A #FATCA Related Suicide | Maple Sandbox
The above two “pingbacks” link to the story of a person who committed suicide. It appears that the complications resulting from attempting to comply with the U.S. requirements imposed on Americans abroad were a factor.
This particular post which includes the Don Young comment is now almost two years old. During that time I have worked with a significant number of people who were trying to solve the problems of U.S. citizenship abroad. I have observed their “torment” and have helped them work through the problem of U.S. citizenship abroad. In most cases this has resulted in a desire to either renounce U.S. citizenship (if they were one) or achieve comfort that they are NOT U.S. citizens (based on a past relinquishment).
What I can say is that in many cases: the terror and desperation felt by Americans abroad is very real. I am quite certain that although (OVDI, FBAR, FATCA, PFIC, CFC, etc.) may not have been the sole reason for the feelings of desperation and terror (maybe there was something else going on in their lives) they have sources of very significant stress and unhappiness.
There are two groups of people who seem to me to be primarily affected by (what can be accurately described) as the U.S. war on its citizens abroad.
1. Those who were/are dealing with other significant life stressful events:
Examples include illness, divorce, loss of job, etc. … In other words something that has made them or weak and vulnerable to begin with.
See for example this comment from Polly at the Isaac Brock Society:
“I am a medical doctor who also studied psychoanalysis, and I am telling you that there is no proof of the causal connection of FATCA to this man`s suicide- otherwise many people would be killing themselves under the circumstances and it would not be an isolated incident. One should not let one`s compassion and sympathy blind oneself to this fact. Also, oftentimes the parents are the last to admit that their son or daughter was bipolar or even just depressive. So I speak from experience and many years of study on the topic of mental health. I am not just throwing this out there. If people were killing themselves in droves- one could assume more of a connection. If this case had ((( general ))) merit – it would make headlines.
So I am not writing these things as an amateur who is just voicing what she thinks off the top of her head. One cannot prove that FATCA was the cause of this tragic death as there are other underlying currents that could have affected this choice. Otherwise there would be a lot more victims.”
2. Those who are most inclined to be law abiding citizens and have have (to use the words of Obama) “played by the rules” in their country of residence.
Here is an interesting comment about about “J” from Publius at the Isaac Brock Society:
“What strikes me in reading this man’s letter is that he got into such a state because he was so conscientious about his tax obligations. He was trying to follow every little teeny, tiny law and finding it impossible. The Karolinska Institut is indeed world famous. What a loss to the world and his family.”
I will leave you with this thought of James expressed in a comment at Maple Sandbox:
“The suicide thing is no joke. I am an accidental American in the United Kingdom and I am up at 1:30 am pondering suicide. Only the thought of my children is stopping me.”
At at minimum, it’s clear that the way the U.S. Government treats its citizens abroad causes many of them severe psychological and emotional distress. My view is that it is a form of “terrorism”.
Suicide contemplation is real, I’m sure a lot of people affected by CBT issues think about it, including myself, but only a very few actually do it, perhaps because the ticking bomb they are sitting on hasn’t detonated. But some can’t handle the stress to just think about the implications. This is a serious problem that is affecting thousands of people, and the numbers will increase as more people find out about their unfortunate situations. The bottom line is that CBT needs to end, how is it possible that only the US and Eritrea are the only two countries in the world that force their dacronian tax laws even when you are not a resident in those countries.
FATCA, CBT and, worst of them all, OFAC, were enough reason for my employer of 16 to let me go from my well-paid job. After all, they feared the risk and did not wish to bear the requirements a US Person exposed them to. These same issues made it practically impossible for me to find a new employer in the country in which I reside. The weight of these “programs” have determined many of my fundamental life choices including employment, marriage, retirement and home ownership. The “simple” choice of relinquishing citizenship is no choice in my case as I have close family in the United States.
My point is that other circumstances may not be coincidental but a direct result of these “programs”. They destroy and forever change lives. Freedom, liberty and equality are lost. I can tell you that I too contemplated suicide back in the day, not for myself, but because I realized that my mere existence also forced my otherwise “innocent” loved ones (and employer) into this same Hell. I am very lucky I found a way to carve a meager existence forward. It was far from easy and the experts I sought out for help only responded with horror stories and unfathomable estimates. I am very lucky that my loved ones, in contradiction to my employer, valued me enough to stand by me.
I still suffer from heart palpitations, insomnia and shaking at this time of the year. But that’s no acceptable reason, as I understand, not to relive this terror every year.