Arrogance? Maybe just Ignorance!

“Actually, Dan,” my contact said, “the bank will not hire Americans.”

“Too expensive?”

“Too risky. Lot’s of forms, lots of risk. No one knows how or when your government...”

My government?” I interjected.

“... will tighten, change or complicate the rules.”

The news, while unpleasant, was not a surprise. The American government is busily enacting rules, regulations, laws and judgments that make it difficult for Americans to work and live abroad. Consider a few anecdotes:


“No Swiss person would pay this amount of tax on the income you reported,” my tax accountant explained.

“But?” I asked.

“But, if you reduce your Swiss taxes, you’ll simply have to extra American taxes. I assumed that you would rather pay the Swiss.”

The American government taxes people based on citizenship rather than residency. This approach,
shared only by Eritrea, makes it expensive for Americans to work abroad.


“I can’t get Americans to come to work in Dubai, Dan. If I bring a Brit, he gets a favorable local tax treatment, a tax-free housing allowance, a car, and education for his children. An American would pay taxes on all of these benefits - and the spouse wouldn’t be able to work here. Americans simply can’t afford to work here.”


“It’s not impossible for Americans to get a bank account here in Switzerland, Dan. But we only offer the most basic accounts so that the Alien American can pay his bills. It’s very risky for us to have American account holders.”


The State Department represents the American Government abroad. American expatriates represent the American people. Arcane, unfair and (frankly) stupid regulations make the people’s representatives far more scarce. Many say that the American government acts this way because it is arrogant. I suspect that the situation is actually much simpler: It’s not arrogance, it’s ignorance. The people who pass the laws and issue the regulations simply have no clue. As a friend once said:

“I don’t want to be cynical, but I don’t think they can tell the difference between a good idea and a bad idea.”

“That’s not cynical,Alberto,” I replied. “That’s true. Cynical would be: they can tell and they don’t care.”

I’m not cynical. Yet.

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