Guest blogger post.
It’s hard for a lot of Americans to look beyond their borders. Consequently, issues like expat tax reform get lost in the daily static. Bipartisan cooperation in America feels more uncommon than ever. So when Democrats and Republicans do converge on an issue, you can be sure it’s a consequential one.
According to the State Department, there are nearly eight million Americans who live in other countries but who maintain a residence in the U.S. This voting bloc is large enough to sway a close election. And most of America’s elections are close these days.
Simply put, eight million Americans is not a trivial number of people. For the sake of reference, there were only 10 states in 2015 which had populations greater than ten million persons.
So what’s on the mind of overseas Americans these days?
Because America does not stand with the rest of the world in imposing residence-based taxes, American expats must struggle with incompatible foreign tax codes and ponderous domestic requirements.
Worse, the IRS no longer has a physical presence abroad. [Editor’s note: AARO has been critical of the decision to close all IRS overseas offices.] So, when things get complicated with expatriates’ taxes — and something almost always does — their only recourse is to flock to overburdened and understaffed telephone lines to get it straightened out. On top of that, tax filing for Americans overseas can be excessively costly and time-consuming.
The word “degrading’ comes to mind. Most seasoned adults recognize paying taxes as a privilege and an obligation of living in an advanced democracy, but the process of paying them should be as straightforward as it is consistent for all Americans.
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One of the easiest solutions America could adopt to solve this problem is to switch to residence-based taxes.
The trouble is, too few people even recognize this is a problem. Folks in Congress have their hands full and most voting Americans don’t even participate in presidential elections, much less weigh in on an issue which literally feels like a world away.
Nevertheless, this issue enjoys bipartisan support among Americans abroad. Active public awareness and petition campaigns are underway as we speak from both “sides’ of the American political aisle overseas.
If you are or have ever been a tax-paying American expat, Democrats Abroad would like your help shedding light on the ways our tax regulations are burdensome and borderline discriminatory.
Expat tax reform is also largely supported on the Right. Like Democrats Abroad, Republicans Overseas is actively encouraging anybody with firsthand experience or even just strong opinions to join their letter-writing campaign and sign their petitions. They will deliver all the letters they receive to President Trump in early October of 2017.
Making the world a better place requires us to become worldlier citizens. Nobody who wishes to broaden their horizons should see their efforts held back by outdated bureaucracy.
Kate Harveston is a journalist and freelance writer. Find more of her writing on her blog, Only Slightly Biased.
Editors note: AARO works with many organizations in our advocacy efforts. To learn more about our position on taxation and financial reporting, see our position paper on the issue.