A growing number are giving up their U.S. citizenship over FATCA — aimed at tax cheats but making life harder for law-abiders.
COLOGNE, Germany — Genevieve Besser knows that many people would kill to have what she's thinking of giving up. It's been her birthright for 52 years, something she's cherished and taken pride in.
But being a U.S. citizen, she says, now seems more a penalty than a privilege. For 25 years, the New York native has lived here in western Germany with her German husband, whom she met when he was a student in the U.S. and whom she willingly, if warily, followed back to his homeland.
"I said we'll go, we'll try it, but we have to keep my American citizenship and the kids have to have American citizenship," says Besser, a onetime member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, adding bitterly, "and now I'm thinking of renouncing it."
What's led her to consider such a drastic step is a recent American law that has had an impact on many of the estimated 6 million to 8 million U.S. citizens who, like Besser, make their homes outside the United States.
The federal measure, approved in 2010, was aimed at cracking down on tax evasion. But it has also resulted in law-abiding Americans abroad being denied bank accounts or mortgages in the countries where they live and forced to reveal financial information about their loved ones. In response, some Americans abroad have decided that their citizenship is not worth the cost or hassle, nor the intrusion on their privacy.
The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, or FATCA, imposes stricter reporting requirements on Americans with significant assets outside the U.S. The act also demands that all foreign banks — whether they're based in Britain, Botswana or Brazil — disclose to the U.S. government information on accounts held by Americans, under threat of stiff financial sanction.