Skip to comments.Is FATCA the Worst Part of the Internal Revenue Code?
Posted on 07/06/2014 11:41:35 AM PDT by Kaslin
Ive argued that subsidies for the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development are the most destructively wasteful outlays in the federal budget. At least on a per-dollar-spent basis.
But what if we did the same exercise on the tax side of the fiscal ledger. Whats the most damaging provision of the tax code?
In a TV interview earlier this year, I said I was most upset by all the corruption in Washington that is made possible by a Byzantine tax code. But thats an overall observation, not a specific feature.
Todays question deals with the part of the tax system is most harmful to the economy, on a per-dollar-collected basis.
If you asked me to make that choice five years ago, I probably would have picked the death tax, though Ive had some experts tell me that depreciation is even worse.
But I think today we have a new champion (so to speak). A little-known law called the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act almost surely wins the prize. And its not just cranky libertarians such as myself that think the law is bad news.
The U.K.-based Economist is one of the most establishment publications in the world, yet even that magazine has concluded that the law is doing more harm than good.
Here are some excerpts from the article, starting with a basic description of the law.
Basil Zirinis of Sullivan & Cromwell, a law firm, began his presentation with a discussion of events in Iraq, where Islamist fighters were advancing on Baghdad. Barack Obama, he claimed, was drawing a red line around the city and, if necessary, would drop FATCA on them. The analogy was tasteless, but also telling. FATCA stands for Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, an American law passed in 2010 to crack down on the use of offshore banks It is feared and loathed by moneymen because of its complexity, its global reach and the high cost of compliance. One senior banker denounces it as breathtakingly extraterritorial. FATCA turns foreign banks and other financial institutions into enforcement arms of Americas Internal Revenue Service (IRS). They must choose between turning over information on clients who are US persons or handing 30% of all payments they receive from America to Uncle Sam.
The law has a wide range of victims.
Financial institutions obviously are seriously impacted, and the damage isnt limited to banks in places such as Switzerland.
The financial industry is struggling to work out which funds, trusts and other non-bank entities count as financial institutions under the law. There is also confusion over who is a US person. The definition is broad and includes not only citizens but current and former green-card holders and non-Americans with various personal and economic ties to the United States. Some Canadian snowbirds who travel to America for part of each year could be caught in the net, says Allison Christians, a tax professor at McGill University. As the complexities of implementation have grown apparent, the American authorities have had to extend several deadlines.
Americans who live in foreign countries are being adversely affected as well (and Ive shared some of their horror stories).
FATCA has already sent a chill through the 7m Americans who live abroad. Thousands have been told by their local banks and investment advisers that they no longer want their custom because it is too much hassle. Many others will now have to spend thousands of dollars to straighten out their paperwork with the IRS, even if they owe no tax (and most do not, since they will have paid a greater amount abroad, which counts as a credit against tax owed in America). A record 2,999 of these exasperated expats renounced their citizenship or green cards in 2013. More than 1,000 did so in the first quarter of 2014. (Before FATCA the number was a few hundred a year.)
And keep in mind that for every American who officially gives up his or her citizenship, many more are doing it without informing the IRS.
The law is even victimizing organizations that dont deserve the slightest hint of sympathy.
FATCA also places a burden on the IRS, by generating an unwieldy amount of information. The agency is being given far more to do with far fewer people (thanks to budget cuts), leaving it on the verge of collapse, according to a former senior official.
As an aside, dont believe the nonsense about the IRS budget being inadequate.
Returning to our topic, one of the big problems is that FATCA was approved without even the tiniest shred of cost-benefit analysis.
The government, for all intents and purposes, is willing to impose immense damage on the private sector in hopes of collecting a tiny amount of tax revenue.
The law was passed without any formal cost-benefit analysis However, the overall costs of complying, borne mostly by non-American banks, are likely to far exceed the extra tax receipts. FATCA is about putting private-sector assets on a bonfire so that government can collect the ashes, complains Richard Hay of Stikeman Elliott, a law firm. Mark Matthews, a former deputy commissioner of the IRS now with Caplin & Drysdale, another law firm, argues that the effort put into hunting offshore tax evaders is disproportionate.
And its worth pointing out the projected revenue from FATCA about $870 million per year is just a tiny fraction of the $100 billion that Obama was claiming on the campaign trail.
But heres the part that has me most worried.
The OECD wants to use FATCA as a stepping stone to its Dystopian dream of global information sharing between governments.
Another question is whether FATCA might be subsumed into a scheme being promoted by the OECD, a club of mostly rich countries, whereby signatories would share data on financial accounts annually.
And that could be bad news for one of the worlds biggest tax havens. Yes, Im referring to the United States.
As more countries are pushed to share tax information systematically, the focus will turn to Americas willingness (or lack of it) to reciprocate. Latin Americans, for instance, are big users of banks in Florida, but America remains choosy about which governments it will share data with, and how much. It also has only limited information to give on the owners of shell companies because it does not collect their names itself. In some respects, America is less upright than the tax havens it deplores.
It would be very bad for our economy if we started sending confidential financial information to corrupt governments such as Mexico. Foreigners would pull their money out of American financial institutions and move it to other havens.
With all this background, you can understand why I was so critical of FATCA in this interview with a Chinese TV station.
Dan Mitchell Commenting on FATCA and Misguided Fiscal Imperialism
P.S. You probably wont be surprised to learn that Rand Paul is leading the fight against FATCA and other schemes to give governments more extra-territorial tax powers. As you can see, hes even getting left-wing cartoonists upset.
Other lawmakers also now understand that the statist campaign against tax competition is bad news for America. Marco Rubio, for instance, deserves credit for trying to stop the Obama Administration from coercing American banks into obeying foreign tax law.
Policy makers should repeal FATCA, of course, but the real problem is that the tax code is biased against capital formation and also has a punitive policy of worldwide taxation.
Thats why the long-run answer is tax reform. All pro-growth tax reform plans, such as the flat tax and national sales tax, get rid of double taxation and theyre also based on the common-sense principle of territorial taxation. With such systems, the government doesnt need to know about your personal financial affairs, regardless of whether you have accounts in Geneva, Illinois, or Geneva, Switzerland.
Sounds like an act of war to me.
Somehow I doubt Obama would accept a foreign nation doing the same to US banks. If I was president I certainly would not.
Sure he would. If he can give Interpol jurisdiction on US soil, he can do that.
It sounds more like stealth capital controls to me.
When I was young, it was a given that only totalitarian regimes like Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, and from time to time Latin American dictatorships would trap their citizens' wealth within their borders. The feeling in the land of the free was that after you'd paid your taxes, your money was your private business.
Now, the US is leading the world in this area of financial repression.
I dont know about the US being the leader in this repression but I do agree that the US is rapidly expanding financial repression.
I believe the US recently passed a law the taxes your wealth if you decide to renounce your citizenship and you want to take your wealth with you.
I find such a law abhorrent.
Before FATCA, there were countries in the world who didn’t hate us.
Now they all do.
Agenda 21? Bilderbergers? TriLaterals, Council on Foreign Relations....? and others.
It was subtle... what they said was that exiting is a taxable event, because it will be construed by the IRS as a constructive sale. Example: You have held some stock shares for 25 years, and your basis is negligible. The IRS deems your leaving as an effective sale, so you'll owe tax on the difference between the current price and your basis. Kinda creepy, but perhaps justifiable.
FACTA is much more over the top. It's virtually impossible as a US citizen (without dual citizenship and some sneakiness, in itself considered criminal) to put some assets offshore to protect yourself against a predatory government. Oh, it can be done, but it requires an awful lot of hoopjumping that shouldn't be necessary.
Like everything else associated with the IRS, it’s the FATCAts in the upper bureaucracy who stand to benefit by squeezing the taxpayer in every way conceivable
I’m sure that the guys who really need to hide their money don’t give a fly fart about IRS regulations. When I lived in Japan, there was a huge India-Paki underground banking system, and I’m sure the same kind of stuff happens here. We’ve got 20,000,000 illegals, and they have to put their money somewhere.
The people they’re going to hurt are those who make their money legally, whether here or abroad.
Exactly. And exactly the people who should be protected, or at least left alone. You and me.
For a number of years....more than ten...I had an account with Fidelity. Very happy with service. About six weeks ago....they let me know that because I was living in Germany (semi-retirement)....they would restrict me from buying or selling stock, period. However, if I wanted to appoint someone who was living in the US....that was ok , and they could do my stock trades or investing. All the while, I could sit and see my entire portfolio via the internet....but I could not do anything with it.
I talked to several of the representatives....which none could really explain this except to say their lawyers at Fidelity felt it was better to cast me aside (like several thousand others) and not get the IRS into their business.
So, I left Fidelity. I found another bank....utilized a US address....got myself a US phone number which reaches me in Germany....and use a US IP service. Yes, I’ve faked out the system...which this all costs me roughly $100 a year to pretend that I’m residing in the US. The only option was to hire some idiot to manage my finances...that I could well do myself, and I didn’t need to pay some guy $2000 a year for fifteen hours of work for the whole year.
That’s reality in America....fake it as much as you can....to beat the fakers at the top.
Thanks for the explanation.
Ping to self for pungent response later today!
In his new book, "Extortion," author Peter Schweitzer writes about Obozo and Holder, using the Justice Dept and assorted govt agencies to extort Big Money ....threatening jailtime unless the targets fork over billions. Read on.
US robs $13B from venerable bank / By Mark DeCambre, Oct 19, 2013
JPMorgan Chase has tentatively agreed to pay (Holder's) Dept of Justice a record $13 billion settlement to resolve several civil probes a costly deal that still doesnt protect the bank against additional criminal prosecutions.
This is a basic and fundamental attack on capitalism, declared Dick Bove, an influential bank analyst at Rafferty Capital. It is possible that the government is taking away the property of the JPMorgan shareholders without the shareholders having committed any crime or having any say in the expropriation of these funds. The deal also includes an undisclosed sum to settle a civil suit brought by NY state AG.
Under the settlement, JPMorgan must continue to cooperate with federal investigators probing the banking giants issuance of mortgage-backed securities from 2005 to 2007, according to sources.
Still to be ironed out are how to resolve that criminal investigation, along with the wording of any admissions of culpability the feds might require.
The general terms of the settlement deal were forged Friday in a phone conversation between Attorney General Eric Holder and JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon, The WSJ reported.
Analysts called the settlement a raw deal given that, by JPMorgans own estimate, some 80 percent of its mortgage-backed securities had been acquired at the request of the Obama-led government, when it bought Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual in 2008. Ultimately, the earnings power of banks is being force-regulated out the (SEC), by the Department of Justice, Kass added.
The settlement sum includes $4 billion that JPMorgan agreed this month to pay the Federal Housing Finance Agency to resolve allegations that the bank misled mortgage-finance companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac about the quality of loans it sold them prior to the 2008 financial crisis, the Journal reported.