GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – David Cay Johnston, Reuters columnist, says he thinks the chances are only one in 84,000 that the US Congress will simplify the US tax system, but he’s nevertheless taking on the admirable job of pointing out to them the wisdom of doing so. Johnston’s blog post was sparked by a federal government action to shut down “a nationwide chain of income tax preparation shops it accuses of fraud”.
His lengthy post on why and how to do so are worth reading if the subject affects you, which means just about anyone in Switzerland or France (read: living abroad) who has to file US taxes. Since the complexity and exorbitant cost of filing US taxes for people who don’t owe tax is one of the reasons cited by many Americans abroad for their failure to file (and to thus be considered non-compliant), any suggestions to simplify the system are worth discussion.
Johnston points out that:
“Congress could easily eliminate fraud by abusive tax preparers, as is alleged in the Ogbazion case, and save taxpayers billions of dollars annually, by simply ending mandatory filing of tax returns for most taxpayers.
“About 100 million taxpayers — those whose income is entirely from wages and retirement funds, and who do not itemize deductions — should not have to file returns. The government already has the information it needs to calculate the taxes these people owe, once they supply their marital status and number of dependents. It would not take much to automate their income tax payments, as many other modern countries do.”
The remarkably simpler Swiss tax filing system, for example, requires people in this category to file, but the numbers are calculated for them and the process is quick and simple, a question of a few minutes and there is no need to pay an outside company. Bravo to Johnston for suggesting the US would be wise to move in that direction, too.
Ed. note: The next in a series of US Town Hall meetings in Switzerland will be at the University of Lausanne 18 April. There is one more in the series of five, in Zurich 9 May.
US tax filers and anyone interested in the complex issues linked to US citizenship if you live abroad should consider attending.
UNIVERSITY OF LAUSANNE
INTERNEF BUILDING – ROOM 126
PARKING LOT: DORIGNY
METRO: M1 – UNIL-DORIGNY STATION
RIGHT OFF THE AUTOROUTE TO LAUSANNE SUD
For details contact one of the following partnering organizations:
US Embassy in Bern: Seth Kolb (KolbSS@state.gov) Tel: +41 31 357 7011
American Citizens Abroad: Marylouise Serrato (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Democrats Abroad: Maya Samara (email@example.com)
Republicans Abroad: Edward Karr (firstname.lastname@example.org)