Americans Helping Americans Abroad

In November 2018, there are 435 House and 33 Senate seats up for election in the US.

Though the races will undoubtedly focus primarily on domestic topics, there are issues which concern the more than 8 million Americans living abroad.

The purpose of this survey is to ask candidates about their positions on specific issues and how they propose to serve their constituents abroad. Nine states with large numbers of Americans who live abroad have been selected and the candidates for Senate and House seats have been contacted.

The Questionnaire

Candidates were provided a link to an online questionnaire. They also had an option to include a “Message from the Candidate”. Each response was limited to 3000 characters.

Question 1: Taxation

The United States has a unique tax system that is based not on territory or residence but on citizenship. US citizens must file tax returns on their worldwide income, not just what they earn in the United States. Americans living abroad must file tax returns twice, once in their country of residence and again in the US. For many US citizens residing abroad filing US taxes is confusing, expensive, and onerous with complicated and even duplicate forms. In most cases no US tax is owed.

Would you commit to working with Americans residing abroad to reform the current citizenship-based US tax system?

Question 2: Services

Important services to Americans living abroad have been reduced or eliminated. The State Department budget has been under persistent pressure and still faces the threat of further cuts. This has contributed to reductions or elimination of important consular services such as Social Security and IRS assistance.

Even access to Internet communication with government agencies, which is available to all Americans in the United States, has been hampered. For example, Americans without a US address cannot open an online Social Security account and signing on to Medicare accounts is blocked even for Americans traveling temporarily outside the USA.

Would you support online access to government agencies and adequate funding for consular functions upon which Americans abroad rely?

Question 3: Banking

Know Your Customer and Enhanced Due Diligence rules for US banks were initially intended to prevent banks from being used for money-laundering and other illegal activities. They have, however, had consequences for Americans living outside the US who wish to hold accounts in the United States. One such consequence is that American banks are closing accounts and refusing service to Americans living outside the US.

Would you support an enforceable right for all US citizens to a US bank account so they can retain their US savings and retirement accounts and make and receive payments in the United States?

Survey Methodology

This survey is being run as a pilot project by AARO, the Association of Americans Resident Overseas. Nine states were selected for the pilot survey (California, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington) based on the states with the largest number of Americans living abroad, as reported in Dr. Amanda Klekowski von Koppenfels’ study of Americans in Europe. (Klekowski von Koppenfels, 2014)*

After the primary election in each of these states (March 6 to mid-September), all Republican, Democrat, and third-party candidates still in the race, will receive an email inviting them to participate in the survey via a link to an online questionnaire. The questionnaire will address three topics and provide a free form field for additional comments by the candidate.

A page for each of these states is posted on the AARO website which will include a section for the Senate race, if appropriate, and a space for each district. All responses to the survey will be posted as received, and with no editing or corrections.

*Klekowski von Koppenfels, A., 2014. Migrants or expatriates?: Americans in Europe, Migrations, diasporas and citizenship series. Palgrave Macmillan, New York.