updated 2:28 PM CEST, May 24, 2023

RTL Luxembourg journalist highlights 'accidentals' issue for English-speaking EU audience

A lawyer who is representing the Paris-based Association des Américains Accidentels (Association of Accidental Americans) in a recently-launched lawsuit aimed at stopping Belgium and Luxembourg from transferring the personal data of certain European citizens to the U.S., has given an in-depth look into the complex and often frustrating situation facing certain EU citizens with legacy U.S. citizenship roots to a well-known English-language presenter, on a major Belgian radio station. 

The lawyer, Vincent Wellens, a partner in the Luxembourg office of the international law firm NautaDutilh, told Lisa Burke, of RTL Luxembourg (pictured above) how the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) of 2010 had been "a game changer" for European individuals who happened to have been born in the U.S., often to European parents, and who then went on to spend the rest of their lives in Europe. 

Because they were born in the U.S., Wellens explained, and because the U.S. taxes on the basis of citizenship -- unlike any other country in the world apart from Eritrea -- these "accidental Americans" have found themselves under increasing pressure in recent years to enter the U.S. tax system, or else risk being able to maintain bank and other financial accounts in the countries in which they live and of which they are citizens.

"The system is quite ingenious, because the U.S. forces banks to disclose data about the bank accounts of every person that has a U.S. nationality," Wellens explained early on in the 18-minute conversation. 

"So, from the moment that you open a bank account in Belgium, France, or wherever in the EU, and you indicate that you are born on American territory, those banks will apply to you the whole FATCA regulations.

"For [these accidental Americans], it's the beginning of a Kafkaesque journey." 

As reported, the Association of Accidental Americans filed legal complaints in both Belgium and Luxemburg in December, in which it demanded the “immediate halt to the transfer of European citizens’ personal data to the United States”.

The complaints were the latest in a series of legal actions the AAA has taken since it was founded in 2017 by a U.S.-born French citizen Fabien Lehagre, and comes as the pressure has been intensifying on so-called accidental Americans across Europe in particular, from their banks and other financial institutions, which are demanding that they either produce U.S. tax identification numbers or prepare to have their accounts closed. 

To listen to the Lisa Burke RTL interview of Wellens, click here.