Eleven months of respite promised for Dutch 'unintentional Americans', as campaigners continue to call for a permanent 'solution'
Banks in the Netherlands have said that they will not close the accounts of what are known in that country as "unintentional Americans" for the rest of this year, the country's Minister of Finance, Wopke Hoekstra, told fellow lawmakers on Tuesday – even if these individuals fail to provide these banks with such information as a valid U.S. Social Security Number or Tax Identification Number, as requested.
Hoekstra's assurance, contained in a seven-page letter to the Dutch House of Representatives (Tweede Kamer), is expected to come as a relief to the dozens of dual American/Dutch citizens who have been said to have been told by such banks as ABN Amrobank, Rabobank and de Volksbank that their accounts would be closed if they failed to give them their SSNs or TINs.
The banks have said that they have needed these numbers, or certain other information such as a Certificate of Loss of Nationality (CLN), since last January, in order to comply with new requirements set out by the U.S. anti-tax evasion law known as FATCA.
Spokespeople for organizations representing accidental Americans (as "unintentional Americans" tend to be known as outside of the Netherlands) also welcomed Hoekstra's assurance about the eleven-month moratorium on account freezings and closures, but stressed that it was, as one put it, just a "respite" rather than the permanent solution that they stress is still urgently needed.
"This news offers only temporary relief," said Jet Barendregt, a member of the board of the Nederlandse Accidental Americans (NLAA), which represents many of the tens of thousands of accidental Americans thought to be resident in the Netherlands.
"We continue to fight for a permanent, structural solution, and an end to discrimination of Dutch, and EU, citizens whom the U.S. considers to be American."
Barendregt added that the NLAA and the Americans Overseas, an Amsterdam-based organization which also campaigns on behalf of Dutch accidental Americans, have been invited to participate in an online video conference meeting with senior Ministry of Finance officials on Feb. 17 "to discuss possible legal, and lasting, solutions" to the banking issues their members are struggling with.
Reports of Dutch banks suspending and/or threatening to close the accounts of Dutch accidental Americans first emerged in January of last year, following warnings towards the end of 2019 that such account freezings and closures could occur.
January 2020 was when banks in the Netherlands and elsewhere, but especially in certain European countries, moved decisively to address a Dec. 31, 2019 deadline for such non-U.S. financial institutions to begin provide U.S. officials with the TINs of all their U.S. clients.
After that date, the banks had been told, they would, in theory at least, face significant potential financial sanctions, as they would be seen to be failing to meet their FATCA obligations.
Hoekstra's letter, which may be read and downloaded (in Dutch) by clicking here, included a sentence in which he noted that there were certain cases in which the "temporary solution" agreed to by the Dutch Banking Association, or NVB, whereby the Dutch banks agreed not to close the accounts of dual Dutch/American citizens for failing to provide them with a valid U.S. SSN or TIN, would not be included.
These, he said, would be any cases "in which there were also other circumstances that might give rise to the closure of the account, if, [for example] it appeared that this was necessary in order to comply with the Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing (Prevention) Act."
FATCA hearing next week
News of Hoekstra's letter – one of three Hoekstra is said to have sent to the Dutch Parliament this week – came as lawmakers and campaigners in the Netherlands have been preparing for the latest in an ongoing series of hearings on the subject of FATCA, which is set to take place next Wednesday (Feb. 10) in the Dutch House of Representatives.
According to Dutch lawyer Ellen Timmer, a letter written last December by the Dutch State Secretary for Finance, Taxation and Tax Administration, J.A. Viljbrief, in which he expressed a desire that the U.S. authorities would "soon see the need to find a solution to the problems accidental Americans are experiencing due to their U.S. tax liability and FATCA regulations" is expected to be discussed during the discussions.
Rob Gerretsen, another NLAA board member, told the American Expat Financial News Journal that the organization would be responding to Hoekstra's detailed letter with a series of questions, which the NLAA would then follow up by spelling out the three elements its officials believe any proposed solution to the accidental Americans' banking problems should contain.
That solution, Gerretsen added, "must [include]: A quick and inexpensive opportunity to renounce U.S. citizenship without [having to comply with any] tax obligations to the U.S.; [inclusion of a new clause] in the IGA [inter-governmental agreement between the U.S. and the Netherlands, which spells out how Dutch banks and financial institutions are expected to comply with FATCA], so that all financial services remain available to accidental Americans [even if they have yet to renounce]", and adjustments made to existing Dutch legislation "ASAP, so that all financial services remain available to accidental Americans" that they might not otherwise be eligible for.
"If there is agreement about this, this can be managed," Gerretsen said.
"Then we can also stop asking questions to which technocratic and/or legal answers keep coming back, but which don't solve the problems.
"Remember the statement of Finance Minister Hoekstra, who said, back in November, that 'the bleeding must be stopped'.
"So it should be."
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