Tuesday 02 June 2020

‘Accidental Americans’ hit by US consulate corona closure

People who ‘accidentally’ have dual Dutch American nationality face losing their Dutch bank accounts because the American consulate which issues the requisite social security number is closed because of coronavirus, the Financieele Dagblad reported on Monday.

So-called ‘accidental’ Americans who acquired the American nationality because they were born there but have no ties to the country, are required by law to provide their Dutch banks with a social security number. The banks must then hand this information over to the American revenue service IRS.

The requirement is a result of a fiscal agreement from 2013 and comes into effect this year. Failure to provide the number can result in sanctions, or, ultimately, in the closure of the account. In the Netherlands some 20,000 people fall into the accidental American category.

A large number of Dutch American account holders has already supplied an number to the banks but according to figures from Americans Overseas, over 40% have not, despite warning letters from their banks.

Some may not be aware of their American background or are still in the process of acquiring an social security number, the organisation said.

‘People who have been waiting for months and months to speak to someone at the consulate have seen their consultations cancelled,’ Daan Durlacher of the American Overseas told the Financieele Dagblad. The office in Dublin which organises the issuing of the numbers to Dutch citizens is likewise closed, he said.

The association of Dutch banks NVB said people who were unable to get an ssn should contact their banks as soon as possible to find a solution. A spokesman did emphasis to the paper that clients had had four years to comply with the rules.

Sanctions

The banks themselves also find themselves in a bind, the NVB said, because American and European rules are contradictory. The cabinet has said that based on European rules the lack of an number cannot be a reason to block or refuse an account. However, banks face heavy sanctions if they break the American rules and this is forcing them to comply, the FD said.

The only other way open to Dutch Americans is to renounce their American nationality. This, however, comes at a prohibitive cost to many– the fee went up from $450 to $2,350 in 2014,  Fabien Lehage, chair of the French association of accidental Americans AAA told DutchNews.nl.

‘Rather than finding a lasting solution to the problems experienced by accidental Americans, the American administration is burying its head in the sand,’ he said.

Lehage said he was aware that some accidental Americans are facing problems because of the consulate closure. DutchNews.nl has contacted the consulate for a reaction.

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