Monday, February 25, 2013

Russian Expats Under Pressure From Russia

Screw Expats
Photo courtesy www.kremlin.ru
It's hard to imagine a better time for becoming an expat. The world is opening up, borders are getting easier to cross, companies are searching worldwide for talent ...

... and governments are punishing you for being an expat. Readers of this blog already know about the FATCA nightmare, US parents not passing their citizenship to their childrenmultiple other failings of international laws regarding expat children and France is considering taxing their expats abroad, leading to more legal nightmares (our French-American daughter faces the possibility of living in a foreign country and having three countries all taxing her income).


The latest attack on expats comes via Russia, with love. Russia has passed a law banning foreign bank accounts to most Russian officials, their spouses, and children. Failure to comply may result in dismissal and massive financial penalties, up to 100% of money transferred into the account.

The idea is to stop corruption, but in practice, it's pretty heavy-handed. Imagine that you're a Russian official covered by this law. Are you renting a flat in London where you've been stationed? The owner wants his money paid via bank transfer, but that's no longer an option for you. Maybe your spouse wants to take a job there. How can she be paid if she can't have a local bank account? Worse, is your child living abroad? Too bad. They can't have a bank account where they reside.

Russians living abroad already have to worry about whether or not they qualify as a "foreign currency resident" and it sounds like Russia is getting more and more serious about not letting money out of the country, even if you are a Russian already living abroad. Countries may be opening up their borders to immigration, but they're really not thinking about the impact their laws have on their citizens abroad. I would love to see an international lobbying group try to address these issues. This is too big a problem for just one country to address.
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