The effects of FATCA?

For more than 10 years, I have been helping clients to obtain German citizenship. Those who have German parents, grand-parents or further removed ancestors either are German already (often without knowing it) or eligible for naturalization under less strict conditions than other applicants.

Those who have no such family ties have to meet a set of criteria for naturalization, similar to that in most countries: residence in Germany between 3 to 8 years (although there is an exception to that), German language skills, a citizenship test, lack of a criminal record, the ability to support yourself financially and so on. Regular stuff, nothing surprising.

But then there is one thing where German citizenship law is rather old-fashioned: it requires many applicants to give up the citizenship which they already hold. Of course there are a number of exceptions to this, for law needs to remain complicated in order to sustain thousands of my colleagues.

For clients from Ghana, Haiti or Pakistan, this usually doesn’t pose a problem. But until 2010, I had never had a US-American client who would have given up their citizenship, even if they wanted to live in Germany or Europe for the rest of their life. An American passport seemed to be something sacred, not merely a travel document that you fill with stamps.

passport cut in half

This is actually not how you renounce your citizenship.

This has changed in the past couple of years. There still aren’t many, but I receive a steady trickle of e-mails from US citizens who wish to obtain German (or any other European) citizenship and who don’t mind losing their US citizenship in the process. Apparently, this is part of a wider trend. In 2014, a record number of 3,415 Americans renounced their citizenship, a sevenfold increase compared to a decade ago. And this is just the number of people of whom the US Treasury Department knows.

The timing and anecdotal evidence suggest to me that it does have something to do with the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act FATCA, which requires foreign banks to report accounts held by US citizens to the US Treasury. There is more paperwork, checking and reporting involved, both for the US citizen and for the foreign bank. Some banks in Europe have reportedly told US citizens that they won’t open bank accounts for them anymore because of the paperwork (and possible criminal and civil liability) involved.

Unlike most other countries, the US taxes its citizens’ income regardless of where in the world it is earned. You may think of that what you want (I wouldn’t like it myself), but if there is an obligation to pay taxes, I can understand that the Treasury wants to follow up on that and try to combat or at least limit tax avoidance. I wish some other countries’ treasury departments would be only half as tough.

We should also put things into perspective: 779,929 people got naturalized in the US in 2013.

Posted in Economics, German Law, Immigration Law, Law, Politics, USA | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

Why I don’t play the Lottery

Because it’s a Soviet scam, a Communist charade:

Soviet lottery Grutas ParkasIn the novel Twelve Chairs, Ilja Ilf and Evgeny Petrov provide a very good description of the Soviet Union organizing steamship tours, accompanied by orchestras and dance groups, whose goal it was to get people to sign up to lottery bonds. Apparently, trains were used for the same purpose.

(Photographed at Grutas Park in Lithuania.)

Posted in Books, Economics, History, Lithuania, Photography, Travel | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Giraffes

giraffes

Photographed in Edinburgh, Scotland.

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Szerelmemhez

After the LithuanianSpanish and Romanian translations of my Valentine’s Day poem, I can now add a Hungarian translation, thanks to Judit Gábris.

A kérdés, hogy az igaz szerelem a véletlen műve e

avagy felkutatható

soha nem zavart minket,

mert mi egyik kategóriába sem tartozunk.

A mi történetünk teljesen más.

Úgy érzem, örökké ismerlek,

mégis még mindig újabb mélységeket látok benned

minden nap.

Te is ugyanúgy tudod

hogy bárki, aki azt mondja valakinek

tökéletes vagy”,

hazudik,

vagy nagyon alacsoyra teszi a mércét,

és bárki, aki ezt el is hiszi,

bolond.

Egyik sem igaz,

és te sem vagy tökéletes.

De minden együtt töltött évvel,

ahogy együtt élünk,

együtt utazunk,

együtt nevetünk,

együtt tanulunk,

és birkózunk egymással,

Egyre mélyebben érzem, hogy nem a legfontosabb ember vagy az életemben,

Hanem az egyetlen.

Ezzel a kijelentéssel

Azt a tényt sem fogom tovább elhallgatni,

amit egyébkénk már mindketten úgy is rég jól tudunk,

hogy elég soká vagyunk együtt,

hogy néha el-elkalandozzon a figyelmem

egy-két másik nő felé.

Be kell ismernem, hogy 7 milliárd ember között

Akad néha egy-egy vonzó és érdekes példány.

De ha visszanézek,

e kalandok legtöbbje

csak időpazarlás volt,

túl soká húzódott,

Vagy eleve halálra volt ítélve.

Egyikük sem tudott igazán elválasztani minket.

Boldog vagyok

Hogy újra együtt vagyunk.

Boldog vagyok

hogy immár senki sem zavar minket.

Amikor egyedül vagyok önmagammal,

az egyetlen lénnyel vagyok, akivel igazán otthon érzem magam,

azzal az emberrel, aki megért,

Az egyetlennel, akinek társasága mindig öröm.

Andreas Moser

Andreas Moser field flowers South Downs Way

Posted in Hungary, Language | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Breakfast Table

Every day the internet gets congested because millions of people upload photos of their breakfast: freshly pressed orange juice or coffee in which the chocolate powder forms a satanic sign. A healthy muesli or a swordfish filet. Eggs and bacon. Pizza and doughnuts.

breakfast photos

I recognize five potential motives behind this prevalent habit:

  • Some people’s lives are not very exciting or fulfilled, and breakfast may indeed be the highlight of their existence. Sad, but comprehensible.
  • Some want to show off how healthy or how little (diet) they eat. But the healthiest breakfast is pointless if you get into the car instead of on the bicycle to get to work afterwards.
  • Others, particularly recent arrivals to the middle class, want to show off how much food they have. Understandable after years of deprivation in the slum or the refugee camp.
  • Single women taking a photo of an overladen breakfast table do so in order to signal: “Look, guys, I would have enough food to support a man.” Desperate and sad, the bad ending is foreseeable (short affair, accidental pregnancy, et cetera).
  • Children, teenagers and young adults (up to their second university degree) post such photos to avoid their mother calling every day, asking “Have you already had a proper breakfast?”

When I see these photos, I always scream out in horror: “But where is the newspaper?” As far back as I can remember, the Washington Post or the Economist was a more important part of breakfast than oatmeal. All you breakfast photographers, don’t you read anything in the morning? What an uninformed start into the day! After all, the perusal of printed matter is what differentiates humans from animals.

Just as an example, this is how my breakfast table looked like yesterday:

Frühstückstisch1 Frühstückstisch2

Rich in vitamins (hot pepper in the sandwich), refreshing (cola), but also intellectually nourishing. With a few hours of reading for breakfast, you will approach your day with much more creativity and filled with new ideas.

Enjoy your breakfast!

(Zur deutschsprachigen Fassung.)

Posted in Books, Food, Photography | Tagged , | 5 Comments

Snowplow Train

It snowed all night and several feet of snow threaten to paralyze train traffic?No problem: you dispatch the snowplow train and after it crossed the country once, all the other trains are good to go to work as well.

Schneepflug1Schneepflug2(Photographed in Gheorgheni, Romania.)

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Pentru iubirea vieții mele

After the Lithuanian and Spanish translations of my Valentine’s Day poem, I can now add a Romanian translation, thanks to Cristiana Boicu.

Controversa conform căreia iubirea este rezultatul purei întâmplări
sau chiar poate fi găsită
nu a rezonat niciodată în cazul nostru,
pentru ca noi nu ne încadrăm în niciuna dintre aceste categorii.
Povestea noastra este una complet diferită.

Știi la fel de bine ca și mine
că oricine spune altcuiva
„ești perfect”
minte
sau are standarde foarte modeste
și că oricine crede asta
este naiv.
Noi nu suntem nici una, nici alta
și nici tu nu ești perfect.

Dar cu fiecare an pe care îl petrecem împreună,
pe care îl trăim împreună,
în care călătorim împreună,
în care râdem împreună,
în care învățăm împreună,
în care ne luptăm unul cu altul,
îmi dau seama și mai mult ca tu nu ești cea mai importantă persoană din viața mea –
tu ești singura persoană importantă din viața mea.

Făcând această declarație,
nu trebuie să ascund faptul,
de care suntem amândoi dureros de conștienți,
că suntem împreună de suficient timp
pentru ca eu să fi fost distras
de o femeie sau de alta din când în când.
Ce-i drept, într-o lume în care trăiesc 7 miliarde de oameni,
se găsesc câteva atrăgătoare și interesante.

Dar, privind în urmă,
cele mai multe dintre aceste legături
au fost o pierdere de vreme,
au durat prea mult timp
sau au fost sortite eșecului încă de la început.
Niciuna dintre ele nu a putut să ne despartă cu adevărat.

Mă bucur
că suntem din nou împreună.
Mă bucur
că nimeni nu ne mai tulbură
atunci când sunt singur cu mine însumi,
singura persoană cu care mă simt cu adevărat tihnit,
singura care mă înțelege,
singura de care nu mă satur niciodată.

Andreas Moser

Andreas Moser field flowers South Downs Way

Posted in Language, Romania | Tagged , | 9 Comments