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‘Accidental Americans’ hit by US tax in France

Campaigners believe thousands of ‘accidental Americans’ are suffering in France due to a rule that anyone born in the US has American nationality – and all Americans are meant to submit American tax returns.

A group of around 50 French people who are American by accident of birth is seeking solutions to the problem of being chased for tax by a country they have no link with apart from being born there and have not lived in since childhood. Most either have no valid US passport or only obtained one so as to have a holiday in America.

Founder Fabien Lehagre says this has escalated due to the ‘Fatca’ law which, since 2014, requires French banks to pass information to the American tax authorities on their US customers, compoun­ded by 2016 OECD rules on information sharing between countries.

Mr Lehagre has not lived in America since he was a baby and was unaware of the issue until his bank wrote asking him his US social security number – which he did not have.
The ‘Américains accidentels’ collective has now been lobbying French politicians and the European parliament and is succeeding in raising awareness. They were mentioned in a recent parliamentary report to the Foreign Affairs Ministry, which advised France to seek a solution with America.

Mr Lehagre said: “The problem is their tax system based on nationality not residence.
“Renouncing American natio­nality isn’t hard in itself, but you still have to go to the embassy, fill out forms and pay $2,350.

“But to do it you also have to show you are up to date with your taxes, which for us means having to become established in the US tax system – potentially incurring back taxes and penalties as well as thousands of dollars in payments to lawyers to regularise our situation.

“One accidental American told me it cost her $25,000 just in lawyers’ fees.”
Mr Lehagre said they want a simpler procedure for renouncing, without having to become involved in the tax system.
‘Accidental Americans’ in France can join facebook.com/groups/accidental.americans/ to contact the collective.

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