Friday, July 20, 2012

ING France turning away US customers

Instead of the quiet "I'm sorry, but we can't help you", ING in France is now publicly turning away US customers for some financial accounts:


A savoir
Déjà client ING Direct ?
Connectez-vous sur votre espace client pour une souscription plus rapide.
Information « US Person »
Si vous êtes une « US Person » au sens de la législation américaine, vous ne pouvez pas souscrire à notre Compte Titres ou notre PEA.
En effet, le Groupe ING a choisi de ne pas appliquer les règlements fiscaux du Ministère Américain des Finances, ce qui ne nous permet plus la commercialisation de contrat de Compte Titres ou de PEA aux « US Person ».
Nous vous remercions de votre compréhension.
L'équipe ING Direct.

What means means, more or less, is "We're happy to open new securities accounts to anyone who isn't a US Person."

This is because of FATCA, the US law that tries to force every other country in the world to turn over their banking information to the US. I've been hearing repeatedly of people being turned away for bank accounts because they're an American. This is the first time I've seen a bank go public with this, so I decided to look for more. Here's the Royal Bank of Scotland's "US Person Disclaimer"(emphasis mine):


US Person Disclaimer
Important information for US Persons!
The offering, sale and/or distribution of many of the products or services described on this website is not intended in any jurisdiction to any person to whom it is unlawful to make such an offer, sale and/or distribution, including the United States. If you intend to obtain any product or service from The Royal Bank of Scotland N.V. ("RBS") that is described on this web site, you must first inform RBS N.V. whether you are a US Person or if you would not be allowed to obtain such products or services from RBS N.V. in your home jurisdiction.
This website and its respective contents do not constitute an offer or invitation to purchase or subscribe for any securities or a solicitation of any offer to sell any securities or any other banking product or service to US Persons. Any brokerage and investment advisory services described herein are not intended for U.S. Persons. Furthermore, any solicitation on this web site of retail banking services (including accepting and/or soliciting deposits), insurance services, mortgage and/or consumer lending services or credit card services is not intended for U.S. Persons
"US Persons" are generally defined as a natural person, residing in the United States or any entity organized or incorporated under the laws of the United States. US Citizens living abroad may also be deemed "US Persons" under certain rules.
Neither RBS N.V. nor any of its affiliates accepts any liability whatsoever for any loss howsoever arising from any use of this website or its respective contents or otherwise arising in connection therewith. RBS N.V. cannot be held responsible for any damages or losses that occur from transactions and/or services in defiance of the relevant rules of the purchaser's home jurisdiction.


ANZ Bank in Hong Kong is also denying services to Americans. They have identical text to the above, but it substitutes "ANZ" for "RBS".

And the Canadian Banker's Association is warning US Person's about the legal consequences of being American:


I am a U.S. person. What does FATCA mean for me?
If you are a U.S. person, you may be asked to complete IRS Form W-9 (Request for Taxpayer Identification Number and Certification) which will be kept on file at your financial institution. You may also be asked to provide consent to your financial institution to provide the IRS with personal and account information.
If you do not complete IRS Form W-9 or provide your consent to disclose information to the IRS, your financial institution maybe required to withhold a tax of 30% on any U.S. source payments1 that you receive and send this money to the IRS. Also, your financial institution may refuse to open an account or may be required to close existing accounts.


I've actually been finding a lot of these running around.

This is not discrimination: this is self-protection. All the bank has to do is misidentify one financial transaction which is "US source income" and they're subject to a 30% financial withholding of all US source income and they'll have to file paperwork with the IRS to get the money back, even if they have no business in the US. This could potentially bankrupt financial institutions who accept Americans.

Also, note that this says "US Person", not "US Citizen". This is because the US has a pretty sweeping notion of who falls under its jurisdiction. If you're a foreigner who used to live in the US and pay taxes there, there's a good chance that you're a "US Person" and the US will demand that your bank turn over your information to the US if you have enough money in the bank.

I'm still unclear how making life harder for Americans abroad helps Americans at home.
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