Offshore Accounts: Common India Fact Patterns
Since the Offshore Disclosure program was announced, nearly every day I speak with an Indian-American wondering what to do, with facts that go something like this:
A hard-working, bright, energetic Indian leaves his or her mother and father in Delhi for a fantastic job in America on a visa, a green card, or perhaps even dual citizenship. They are doing great at his or her career and has received promotions. They are also generous, and send money back to India for parents and perhaps siblings as well.
They are proud of what he or she has accomplished in America but is also homesick and wants to move back to India at some point to take care of mother and father. So they send more money back to India. Not once thinking he or she could possibly be breaking any law.
Everything is going great, until they look at the tax organizer their CPA has just sent out. It says to report all your foreign accounts or you will be subjected to harsh penalties.
They then go on the internet and learns that according to the IRS, he or she is a criminal — by simply making a honest mistake in not reporting Indian bank accounts and interest income. He or she further learns that if they don't pay outrageous penalties, they risk going to jail…and may be assessed even bigger penalties.
This is the insult I find more dangerous to America. Instead of getting a 'thank you' from our country for leaving the familiarity of their home and adding so much value to our economy, Indian-Americans are treated as third-class citizens.
Consider if the shoe was on the other foot. Suppose Johnny America left for a job in Delhi, and things were going just fine–until he realizes he's in big trouble because he never told the Indian taxing authorities that he had $50,000 in a Kansas bank.
Think about that. How would we Americans look at the Indian government? Kind of backwards and overreaching, no?
The problem is not reserved to those of Indian ancestry, of course, but those with green cards, dual citizenship, and visa holders from all over the globe. And for what?
For so many unsuspecting foreign account holders, there was simply no intent or desire to defraud the United States.
Keep America Open and Welcoming
In order to remain exceptional, this country needs a constant influx of highly capable immigrants and guest workers. I am afraid that FATCA has sent a chilling message. Come to America. Work hard. Be threatened with penalties or prison.
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