American Expats, the IRS, FATCA and Other F-words

Besides “IRS,” Americans can now add another item to their list of ominous acronyms: FATCA. Like most things related to income taxes, the FATCA issue has a lot of people in a dither. As if US tax law wasn’t already complicated enough, along comes FATCA to gum up the works even more, especially for US citizens living overseas and earning income from a non-US source.

All US citizens or resident aliens living abroad are obligated to pay income taxes to the US Treasury, even if they haven’t lived in the United States for years, have no intention of returning, and even if their income comes solely from foreign sources. The United States of America is the only modern, industrialized nation that taxes the worldwide income of its estimated six million citizens who live abroad, even if their income is generated in a foreign country and they never return to their homeland.[1] Continue reading

In Search of Healing

One of the typical hotspots in any political discourse between Americans and Germans is the topic of health care. Europeans firmly believe that a shocking percentage of Americans live without any access to health care, and Americans believe that the socialist Europeans pay their hard-earned cash to cure another (poorer) man’s illness. There is a bit of truth in both views, which is then ballooned by the media until it becomes impossible to understand how one country or the other can possibly survive on their current system.

For the purpose of discussion here, let us first differentiate between health insurance and health care. Health insurance is the system we pay into that should hopefully pay out in the event that we are ill and need financial support for treatment. Health care is the treatment of sick patients. While it is true that large numbers of Americans (about 16% of adults  and 9% of children) don’t have health insurance, hospitals across the country offer health care to anyone who comes through their doors – for emergency care.  And while Germany has universal health insurance, there are even people here who fall through the cracks and have no coverage. Continue reading