Economy Belgian banks threaten to expel Belgians with American nationality


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That's not a joke. You read it well. That's what the Belgian economic magazine Trends explains in this article. It concerns mostly accidental Americans, that is foreigners who were born in the US while their parents were working there (usually for a few years as expats) and were automatically granted US citizenship. The problem with this dual nationality is that the IRS developed the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) in 2010, requiring all non-U.S. foreign financial institutions (FFIs) to search their records for customers with indicia of a connection to the U.S., including indications in records of birth or prior residency in the U.S., or the like, and to report the assets and identities of such persons to the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

Belgium signed the FATCA in 2014 and it came into force in 2016. The article relates the case of Belgians born in the US and who only lived there for a few months or years as babies, but were not even aware that they possessed US nationality. These people have no Tax Identification Number (TIN) in the US and never asked to be American in the first place. Belgian (and surely other European) banks informed them that they were now required to communicate their TIN to the IRS or to close their accounts. As the article explains, "to request a TIN, you must first have a social security number (SSN). The procedure for requesting an SSN is not very complicated, and it is free. But the relevant services of the American Embassy in Brussels have been closed for almost a year, making it practically impossible to request an SSN for a person living in Belgium."

"Another option is to renounce US citizenship. "But it is a very complex procedure, which can take time" explains Isabelle Marchand. Fabien Lehagre also adds that renouncing American nationality costs $2350. This amount converted into euros, so accidental Americans have to pay €1977 to solve their problem. Good to know: Before FATCA, renouncing US citizenship cost only $450."

It's ironic that so many people in the (developing?) world would kill to get a US green card or the US citizenship, but for others it can be a curse, or at least more trouble than it's worth.

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