It was at a party in June in the tiny medieval village in Italy where I live that the lid started to lift on the Pandora’s Box of FATCA, FBAR etc.I had been dutifully filling out forms, getting things notarized, calling, emailing, mystified why it was taking so long to get an inheritance from my aunt of under $70,000 transferred from a bank in Minnesota to the account that I had had for 20 years or more with Morgan Stanley in Rochester, N.Y. I had just received an email from Morgan Stanley breezily wishing me a good summer and advising me that they could no longer go ahead with my account citing the Patriot’s Act! At the party I mentioned this to someone who worked for Credit Suisse in London and he said “KYC.” and explained. The next day I googled and found an article posted by American Citizens Abroad. I was still unbelieving. The senior vice president of MS in Rochester, with whom I had opened the account, had become a friend-like the kind you bring a salami and a bottle of wine from Italy to and go out to lunch with, commiserate on family problems. They don’t Know Your Client? Hey, it’s me, yep naive me. From then it didn’t take long before I found out about FATCA, FBAR, FINCEN. I became increasingly more terrified.
I have filed and paid taxes in the USA and Italy for about 25 years through the same accountants, 1 in Italy, 1 in the USA and they have contacted each other when necessary. I paid social security contributions in the USA, being a dual national and self-employed as an English teacher and my Italian tax declaration was transmitted annually to my American accountant. It never occurred to me that perhaps I would need an international professional-I paid taxes in both countries separately but openly. What would I ever have to hide?
I am 70 years old and retired. My Italian-based income is under $12,000. In the USA I own a portion of land jointly with my siblings and I receive about $825 monthly in social security. My American income is under $12,000. In the years that I was working, I managed to buy my house $130,000, put some savings in investments, and live carefully and contentedly as far as comfort is concerned. I’m of hardy stock, and most people would not choose to live as I do but apart from some health issues and a very serious problem in the family, I am generally good-spirited, very sociable and marvel at the turns my life has taken since landing in Italy by way of a disastrous marriage to an Italian in Amsterdam 44 years ago. The country of my soul is Italy although I have not a drop of Italian blood.
Coming back to the nasties served by the U.S. government, I spent my summer becoming ever more panic-stricken about what could happen to me. I had never filed an FBAR!!! Nobody ever informed me or contacted me about something missing in my American filing. I was the only American client living abroad of my accountant in the USA. I developed hypertension, acute anxiety, had crying bouts, panic-attacks. I spent my summer searching the internet for answers and reassurance.My bank in Turin had me sign the papers waiving my privacy as far as FATCA is concerned. Humiliating!
My accountant in the USA has just filed my return, with the extensions I was always granted. He is a capable, experienced CPA and tries to reassure me. We have yet to file the FBAR which is next.
I am scared sh–less. I want to get it over with and renounce my citizenship. It is only an aggravation for me. I was a fine ambassador for the USA when I taught, when the small school I owned threw 4th of July parties on the river in Turin, when I proudly recounted anecdotes on the power of individuals in the USA to act on their convictions and in many other ways. I am afraid, I am embittered, I feel threatened. Nothing has happened so far but I have not come forward yet with an FBAR. Funny, I thought that $70,000 and an extension to the land in Minnesota through inheritance from my aunt was going to allow me, at this point in my life some simple luxuries.
Why wasn’t I informed? My Italian address has always been on my tax returns. I know I’m a minnow, but maybe not too small to fry, depending on the intentions of the holder of the pan. Any suggestions from anybody?