Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Overdue taxes? - if you're a US Citizen you could lose your Passport!

The US Government has continued it's policy of making it more difficult for its citizens to transfer assets and live abroad with the most recent introduction of the Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act (H.R. 22).

One provision in the FAST act will let the federal government revoke, deny or limit a U.S. citizen's passport if the person owes more than $50,000 in "seriously delinquent tax debt," including penalties and interest. 

The IRS will use a threshold of $50,000 of unpaid federal taxes. But this $50,000 figure includes penalties and interest. And as everyone knows, interest and penalties can add up fast and this $50,000 level could be reached quite quickly.

What has the FAST Act got to do with passports when its focus is the funding of transportation infrastructure. The answer is nothing, except that the measure is estimated to raise nearly $400 million over a decade.

Also it follows the US Governments policy of "hiding" legislation limiting its citizens abilities to live overseas within unconnected legislation. FACTA (The Foreign Accounts Tax Compliance Act) was hidden within the unrelated HIRE act (Read more about FACTA here, here and here).

It is better for the US Economy if US Citizens keep their assets within the US Economy rather than investing elsewhere around the world. The US Government has implemented a strategy of disincentivizing and frightening citizens from investing, living and owning property outside of the US.

The implementation of the FAST act, which comes into action in January 2016, is another step of this policy.

The likelihood is that the US Government will continue to implement more disincentives, over the coming months and years.

Our advice to US Citizens remains the same - if you are seriously considering a property purchase in  Costa Rica or elsewhere the time to act is now. The longer you wait the more likely it is to be very difficult if not impossible for you to invest in or own property abroad.

Read more about the FAST Act in Forbes here and on CNN here.

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