James George Jatras for RepealFATCA.com
Washington, DC : At the top of the list of "must have" countries on which the U.S. Treasury Department needs to force submission to the "Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act" (FATCA) is our closest ally and biggest trading partner: Canada. Unless Ottawa agrees to sign on the dotted line to permit enforcement of this ill-conceived U.S. law against its own Canadian institutions and citizens, prospects for compelling the rest of the world to fall into line lose all credibility.
According to Treasury's earlier expectations, Ottawa was to have knuckled under by the end of 2012. That didn't happen , though the Department continues to make increasingly absurd and nonfactual claims that the world is stampeding to sign so-called "intergovernmental agreements" (IGAs) that enlist foreign governments as enforcers for the IRS. The first one to run up the white flag, unsurprisingly, was the United Kingdom, which has already finalized regulations that blatantly enforce this foreign (i.e., American) law on British institutions and citizens (" The International Tax Compliance (United States of America) Regulations 2013 "), at the cost of hundreds of millions if not billions of pounds -- in return for nothing from the U.S . (Can anyone imagine Congress's passing a law authorizing the Treasury Department to issue regulations on American firms and citizens to impost The International XYZ Compliance (China, France, Germany -- take your pick ) Regulations 2013?)
In Ottawa, the Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is under strong pressure to follow London's poodle-like example . The problem is, Canada is a country that claims to respect the rule of law, including serious privacy and human rights safeguards , notably under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms . It is also a country in which a million Canadian citizens , perhaps even more, would be considered "U.S. Persons," whose personal financial information would be sent to the IRS (and then over to U.S. intelligence agencies !) without even a suspicion of wrongdoing.
Standing Up for the Rights and Civil Liberties of Canadian Citizens and Residents
To be fair, Prime Minister Harper and Minister Flaherty are on record as objecting to FATCA in principle. But as with officials of other governments around the world, they have been subject to dire threats of sanctions from the Treasury Department, misguided pleas from some financial sectors that an IGA would lessen the negative impact of FATCA ( it won't ), and a cheerleading section of tax lawyers, accountants, consultants, and software firms anticipating a compliance pig-out . This has seriously distorted Canadian officials' awareness of their available options.