Atlantic Lotto to ban Americans from winning

Originally posted on The Manatee:

Moncton — Atlantic Lottery Corporation (ALC) announced today that Americans living in New Brunswick will be forbidden to win Atlantic Lottery games.

In defense of the decision, New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant stated: “Too much of the winnings are being paid to the IRS, and it’s costing New Brunswickers jobs. They may continue to play though,” Gallant said. “We are not a cruel province. Our intent is not to deny them the ability to bet on American football and baseball. They just won’t be able to take home the payouts.”

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2012 NaNoWriMo Version 5 Completed!

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I feel drained. The 80cm of snow we’ve received since last Wednesday (this is Sunday) have something to do with it. 50cm more are due tomorrow. That’s 52 inches of snow. That’s enough snow to bury children and animals, not to mention cars. I literally have nowhere to shovel this snow. We are talking about cancelling our car insurance for the next three months because we won’t be going anywhere in them.

Middle Of Second StormMiddle Of Second Storm

Still, it doesn’t compare to the stress I’m feeling as I finish this edit of the novel I’m working on, my fifth major version in two and a third years. I know there are changes to make: too many ellipses, thinking verbs, rhetorical questions, voice transgressions, theme continuity issues, and story line consistencies. And these are only the headers of my shopping list. Yet the need for input from others outweighs these abstract objectives. At the end of this edit, as I reviewed my notes and made a few more changes, I felt myself sinking into Johnny Weissmuller quicksand.

I think a writer needs to edit from a good place. We cannot be fighting our visions. I feel my story is a piece of art. I feel my story can be an attractive read for millions. Seriously. But I am finding the doubts creeping in. Every page I read makes me question my sanity, my ability to write. I have made so many mistakes! Of course what I need is time away and some concrete feedback.

So I sit here typing this post as the first printed copy of my V5 manuscript prints. It is 126k words, which at font-10 and 1.5 line spacing equals 277 printed pages. I am printing double-sided this time. My previous manuscripts were just too thick. And I did not make the decision alone. I checked with my primary readers for their preferences, and they are fine with reduced note making space. The next steps are to distribute copies to 6 to 8 readers. One EPUB version is already out.

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In a month or so, I’ll need to gather the herd. I’d like to take my readers somewhere for at least coffees. I’m thinking a Starbucks on a snowy Sunday morning. I might even rent a room at the library and bring in some pizza. If I host them at home, I could also serve beer. We’ll see. If I get a constant message that it sucks and there is zero hope anybody would want to read it, then they’ll be getting nothing ;)

Post your FATCA/FBAR/CBT article here!

Originally posted on Post it Here: Why FBAR/fatca/cbt is All Wrong:

If you are tired of the USA’s FBAR, Citizenship-Based Taxation (CBT), and FATCA—this is YOUR place.

If you want to make a post of your own, send in a comment with simple instructions.  Instead of approving your comment—I will copy paste it in to your own post.

Give your instructions as to whether you want to be anonymous, input a nom de plume, or want to put in your real name. I will publish your first name but we must talk by telephone in order to publish your full name.

We invite all affected by this nightmare—including those in the banks and governments who have to deal with this mess.

Many people don’t have their own blog site, and many people want to be together on one site.

Post it here.

I’ll do my best to timely put it up and send a twitter announcement!

Please make it clear that you do…

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2015 Reading Log

In 2015 I am keeping a reading log. Last year I kept track of books I read at a couple of web sites: Goodreads and Harper Collins’ 50 Book Pledge site. But looking back, and these were issues I had uncovered during the year anyway, I determined I needed more.

I review books for myself. I read literature not only to enjoy but to learn how to write better. I make notes when I read: new-to-me words, interesting lines, interesting technique, criticisms and questions, and even the occasional error. Last year I discovered errors in four books, including Neil Gaiman’s “American Gods”, the epub version.

I am also in a couple of book clubs. Notes do not raise their ugly heads during the library discussion. We have a dozen or so members, most of whom cannot hear well anyway, and if they can hear me, have no idea what I ramble on about anyway. It is led by a librarian who loves to hear herself talk, and she chews up a big chunk of our hour. There is not much point in using notes to help you say whether you enjoyed it or not and give an example of what you liked. Seems I used the same logic at school decades ago. But I am also in a small, men’s book club. There are four of us. We are all keeners and we like to drink. We only read four books a year, but so far they tend to generate hours of discussion and drinking. We take turns supplying drink, preferably something related to the book in question. We’ve only read three books so far: Crime and Punishment, Fifth Business, and One Hundred Years Of Solitude. We’ve drunk Russian vodka, Canadian whiskey, and South American wine. Our next read is Beloved by Toni Morrison and my turn to bring the booze. I bet you can guess what I will be bringing for drink. Anyway, making notes of books is pretty much required, unless you just want to sit and drink.

Particularly with these three chosen books but also with others, I discovered that note taking and deep thought when reading slows down your pace. It took me two months to read Dostoyevsky and two months to read Marquez. Other books also hung around too long on my desks and tables. I pledged 50 books for 2014 and I only made it to 34. I dilly dally, and I need help keeping on track. I need more granular goals and record keeping. Oh, your a half-book behind pace? Pick it up! I decided to try logging how much I read each day.

Then there are craft and technical books. I read a Unix book last year. It required extra time. I read five or six writing craft books. You cannot breeze through the stuff. You need to read slowly and take it in.

You know what else? I have a shelf full of notebooks and journals I will likely never use. I want to buy more, but how do I justify it? By using them up.

This is January 6th and the day is not done. This is what my next to last page looks like:

1    The Progress Of Love (finishing)                                    12    /    12
2    Hunting Badger [HB]  [275 pages]                                 77    /    89
3    HB p163                                                                      86    /   175
4    HB p217                                                                      54    /   229
5    HB 275                                                                        58    /   287
.     Bird By Bird [237 pages plus 21 Intro]                           21    /    308
6    BBB    Ch 1                                                                  15    /    323
.    Carnival by Rawi Hage [Cl] [289 pages begins @ 3]         17   /    340

So as of right now, I have read 340 pages in the first six days of 2015 and completed one book. Yay! But this begs the question: how much should I read a day? And can I pick up the pace? I read slowly due to eye issues and desire to absorb. Due to the need to scratch this notebook with notes. I am on page five of notes, and there is no way one book will suffice at this pace. But Hunting Badger was abysmally written, or should I say edited. I made a lot of notes from it, the bulk of the note-taking so far. I am running with fifty pages a day. That’s 350 pages a week. At that pace, as long as I don’t attempt too many Tolstoys, I should achieve my fifty book target. My current pace is 56.67 pages a day and I still have seven hours left on today’s clock. Though Hunting Badger’s word count per page was quite low, around 250, and his writing was simple and terse. Carnival’s is more dense and lyrical, but it too is about 250 per page. Some books are around 333 or even 400. I just read Rabbit Run and some of its pages must have 480 words [40 lines x 12 with no white space]. Yeah, fifty a day works. The density will average out.

So where does this get me? It gets me to the concrete goal of reading fifty books a year, employs use of a goal-setting and measurement tool, which frankly I could use elsewhere as well, and keeps me on a pace to publishing.

Oh yeah, publishing. My Jan 15th goal of editing 477 pages is about on track. I am on page 222. I started this around Dec. 19th, and the holidays were not real productive. Two scenes lopped off the list today with more tonight.

An Expatriate’s 2016 Election Mantra

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I am a self-proclaimed centrist. As my friend Dave says, “fiscally competitive combined with socially responsible.”

Any government involvement in business is anathematic to me. Government “control” has never worked. Yet complete free-market systems haven’t either. Living in Canada opens your eyes to other ways of doing things, other ways of failing. No, Canada has not done it very well either. Think Tom Peters.

Yet we need safety nets. We are humans and we supposedly live by human values. We care about each other, and that means caring for each other. I have type one diabetes. It is not my fault I got sick. It is not my fault I am a financial burden. I am one of many such cases: mental illness, physical disability, rare diseases, accidents, etc. We cannot through people off the bus, and we shouldn’t hide them. Abolishing Obamacare may seem fiscally responsible, but it merely hides expenses. Sick people still need treating. I’d rather make the expenses visible. The conservative in me says we can only manage what we measure, and hiding “charity” healthcare inside large tax buckets is wrong. Obamacare may not be right, but doing nothing is wrong.

2016 will be a different election for me. 2012 was a scary election. I was not happy with President Obama, but the whackadoodles lined up on the right made me shiver. I couldn’t pull the GOP trigger.

In 2016 I care not who runs. Let it be Clinton. Let it be another Bush or a Christie or even a Ryan from my home state of Wisconsin. *good lord, please don’t let it be Ryan. I have made up my mind that I will vote for the party most likely to abolish citizen based taxation, FBAR, and FATCA. If you’ve read any of my other postings along this theme, you will understand I think America’s tax treatment of us expatriates is wrong. I call it stupid, and while I can tolerate wrongness, I cannot tolerate stupid.

The Democrats have been stupid about this issue. There is absolutely no logic behind making me file taxes. I owe them no money. Never have and never will. The majority of us never have and never will. We are not tax avoiders: we pay taxes in the country of our residence. Skimming revenue off American-foreign country tax differences is merely regulatory arbitrage. It is a technique practiced by scum-bag corporations. It hurts our investment options. It takes away our ability to minimize taxes within the countries we live in. “Oh John, if you invest in Tax Free Savings Accounts, you’ll just have to pay the saved taxes to America.” What The Fuck! How does a tax policy like this make any sense? How come I cannot save for my retirement the same as my neighbor can? Just ask Boris Johnson how he feels. No taxes on the sale of your primary residence? Too fucking bad, America doesn’t agree with the UK’s tax policies, so fuck you Boris.

In 2011-2012, Senators Tierney (MA) and Honda (CA) took runs at our foreign income exclusion (over $90k of our earned income is excluded from being taxed, the one saving grace to expats). This weighs heavy on me. It seems obvious that Democrats have no understanding of our issues. Oh, and FATCA and this whole crusade at ending the long-standing practice of us ignoring the homeland is a child of the Democrats. They only care about money and votes.

Yet Republicans have not stepped up to the plate. I had lunch a couple of years ago with an extreme right-winged whackadoodle who helped fund the Terri Shiavo case. Complete ignorance of my hurt; complete uncaring. I should be out setting up pay-for-view websites and making money like a real Republican. “We can’t let tax evaders have free reign!” No. No, we can’t. The Pubs do seem to be in the lead, though. At least it’s on their agenda to discuss. See: “J. Non-Resident U.S. Citizens”

It is very early in the race, but at the moment the Pubs are clearly ahead of the Dems. The score? 1 to -3? I don’t know. As the election nears, as more and more of us expatriates attempt to make these issues visible, hopefully I can clarify the race more. But hear this: ignoring us is not an option. I will vote for the best chance to end this madness, regardless of how much I feel it hurts the rest of America, regardless of how opposed to the candidate is for other reasons. This is a one-issue election for me and the over seven million expats out in the wild, the abused foreigners with a very low voting [7%?] turnout.

We will be heard. Hopefully we will be voting.

Novels High School Teachers Teach: version #4 is in the books

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In The Books

I am writing novels. I wrote a novel just this November for NaNoWriMo. No, it is not a readable let alone publishable story. I think I know the differences. My November drafts are forays, experiments, and practice. I pick a rather random idea and write to it. I do some structural planning, but I do not put much thought into them. This might seem bad, but for me it is good. I have no limits when I write, no outline to guide my creative process. I follow enough scene-level form to keep me on the straight and narrow; I don’t need more.

I have five novels in the works, 2010 through 2014. I ran for a year with 2010 just because that was all I had in the hopper. It grew to 80,000 words and I am still fairly happy with its characters and ideas. But it takes place in Newfoundland, and it makes me uncomfortable. What right do I have to write about that province and their peoples’ events? If you have read February by Lisa Moore, you might catch my drift. By the way, she is coming here in February 2015 and we are so excited!

I also ran for a year with my 2011 novel. It is a long Canadian epic at 120,000 words, and it screams for twenty thousand more. My reading suggests publishers want short first novels, something less risky. And lets face it. Two years of fiction writing does not a writer make. I knew I needed to improve my knowledge and skills of this craft. Craft. Let’s all remember that writing is hard and it takes broad and in-depth knowledge and experience. I wasn’t there yet; I am not there now. There are also rumors of grant money for Canadian stories in 2017, the country’s 150th anniversary. I decided to let it sit.

My 2012 story excited me from its conception. I had nothing but an image in my head on October 15th. After two weeks of active brainstorming and diffuse thinking, the premise came to me. W5 plus how. I was excited that first day of writing, and the excitement stayed with me for the month. Yes, there have been ups and downs. I have asked myself a lot of hard questions. I have put my story and my skills up against firing squads. Like Colonel Aureliano Buendia, we have both survived. Unlike the good colonel, I hope to someday emerge from my solitude. I concluded edit pass number four this past week on December 15th, 2014.

So what to do next? Approach an agent? Pass it on to more beta readers? Let is soak? Stick my head into it again? I have two marked up version #3 manuscripts from beta readers I have not even looked at yet. I pouted for a few days, celebrated my daughter’s 25th birthday on Friday, and I printed out the first six scenes, 83 pages. I went to Starbucks, ordered a Venti coffee, and read the cut off MS. I marked it up as I read with a fountain pen I had lost for seven months (we moved) and an ink I haven’t used in a while.

I found myself marking up many words, phrases, and sentences. I clarified some things and unpacked others. Nothing particularly major but every page was becoming marked up with violet ink. Most changes were to make the sentences clearer. I changed “these” to “those” a few times. I removed much thinking, mostly “know” and “feel.” But I also added some literary flair:

He gave up on being a dad before he met Jill, and she had not changed his mind. “I don’t know how to be the father I never had; I can’t become him.”

I refuse to say if it is good writing, but some of my additions made my heart thump. The good part was I was happy with the story structure. My second and third scenes have always been bloated, and pass #4 was designed to remove bloating. Still, most of my changes this weekend were significant enough to warrant another serious pass. I concluded I need to continue with this edit before I let anybody else read it. I am focusing on the writing and not so much the structure; though I have already killed a significant paragraph. Today I updated 40 pages of changes and modified some of the mark-ups.

I am setting a short deadline of January 15th as my drop-dead date. It currently sits at close to 122,000 words, so this will be an intense few weeks. But it should be a fast edit. Hopefully most of the scene shuffling is over with. Hopefully I can focus on the writing and get it to where it needs to be, to where I want it.

Oh, I made a stunning discovery. I have been reading John Updike’s Rabbit Run and I learned it is one of the early, well regarded use of third person present tense which I use in my story. Like me, Updike drifts up and down in his perspectives. I probably drift more than he does, and I incorporate much reflective past tense as well. Unlike Updike who changes perspectives — sometimes it’s Rabbit and sometimes it’s Eccles — mine stays in one person’s head. In only a handful of places at most do I hint at drifting away. 

One of my beta readers made an interesting comment as we chatted briefly about it. “It reads like one of those novels your high school teacher asks you to read and you never forget.” My line of the year :)

Anti-American … Not!

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Lately I have been writing about my situation as a dual American-Canadian citizen. I do not agree with America’s tax treatment of me and other American citizens living abroad, aka expatriates or expats. America is the only country in the world that taxes its citizens no matter where they live. It is invasive of me and the country I live in. It is anything but patriotic and profitable for America. The practice needs to be abandoned post-haste.

I have read lately where other expatriate activists are concerned about their statuses because of their negative views, that maybe they won’t be let back into America, be put on no-fly lists, given hard times at border crossings, and be subjected to over-scrupulous tax audits.

I am not worried about any of these concerns. Maybe I am an idealist, but I still see America as a great nation, the place of my birth, and my home. I write about her negative behavior because I want her to improve. All of my ranting has America’s best intentions in mind, and of course my own as well.

Should any of these fears happen to me or other expatriates, you can be sure our voices will be heard. I’ll be all over America like a Tyvek suit in an Ebola outbreak. Freedom of speech is the American value I treasure the most. We got here by open exchange of ideas. We will only improve if people like me and you speak out about what is wrong and throw our crazy, creative ideas into the ring. When America steps on my toes because of what I write, then my renunciation will be inevitable. When America stops valuing freedom of speech, she will be lost to me.

I don’t see it happening. I hope. Just remember America, I still vote.

Dear Atlantic Lotto

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Good people at Atlantic Lottery Corporation: I have a request, and it will not cost you any more than a slight administrative hassle.

I am a dual Canadian-American citizen. As such, if I ever won one of your lotteries, I would have to pay the IRS a big chunk of change. I’ll just throw out a number: 35%. So if I won a $50 million Lotto Max, I’d have to pay The United States Of America $17.5 million. America will tax me and other American citizens (over a million live in Canada) all because they say I do not pay taxes on my winnings, but of course we all know taxes are in fact paid. It is not just the big prizes but all prizes. 2.85% of Canadians are American citizens. Extrapolated, 2.85% of your prizes are taxed by America. The fix is simple — tax us visibly. The thought of paying Canadian money to America makes me upset, and it should make you upset. A Canadian citizen unable to fully participate in a Canadian financial instrument, albeit a lottery, is a problem we should rectify.

My request is simple. I want a tax receipt. Your FAQ states that 57% of money you receive is paid out. As I see it, 43% of the money you take in is tax. That is what this 43% is. You take in $100, keep $43 as tax, and pay out $57. I want you to increase all prizes by 75%. I want the maximum Lotto Max prize to be $87.7 million. And then I want you to tax me the 43% or $37.7 million. I want you to make this tax visible at the individual level.

What will it do for you and me? I will be able to claim this tax bill on my American taxes which will enable me to keep all of the targeted $50 million. All your hard-earned efforts will not go to waste paying down America’s impossible debts. Instead, the money will stay in Canada, be invested in Canada, create Canadian businesses and jobs, and put all of the money to work where it belongs: in Canada.

Yes, my request is selfish, but it is not just about me. These crazy, unfair citizen-based American income tax policies are invasive. They invade my liberty and well-being as a Canadian citizen and taxpayer, and they invade Canadian tax policy — of which lotteries are an integral part. They invade Canadian citizens’ well-being. They invade Atlantic Canadians’ well-being.

What do you say ALC? Are you game?

John

A New World Order’s Tax System

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Let’s redesign world taxes.

People leave their own country and live in other countries, purely for economic gain. Lifestyles, safety, health care, opportunity, or whatever else does not count. These reasons are un-American. Who in their right mind would emigrate to some frigid Scandinavian country simply to eat cold-water fish and enjoy free healthcare and an excess of well-endowed, blonde women? And given today’s sexual leanings, I don’t think I am being sexually biased.

Money drives the American Government’s treatment of its expatriates, people like me who have lived abroad for decades. It only cares about my money, not me. But I am not going to rant about that, not today. I simply going to propose a re-designation of world taxation policies, an alignment of all countries’ tax policies with America’s policies. If it is good for one, then it must be good for all, right-winged religious fundamentalism excepted. I will not be overly specific but will make assumptions as follows

Assumptions: All country tax rates, policies, and deductions are the same unless otherwise noted, but countries do not recognize other countries deductions (And IRA is not recognized in Canada nor is an equivalent RRSP recognized in America). All countries allow a foreign tax credit (can deduct taxes paid as a deduction in another country) and a foreign income exclusion.

I want to illustrate a couple of things. First, I want to show how silly policies can be (and of course already are for me), and second, I want to then consider what might happen if rates and policies differ, which they do in the real world, how such policies could affect America’s pocket books. Remember, this is all about the almighty greenback.

The real world. I feel like I live in a bad dream. I hope you end up feeling the same as I do. This is the reality of expatriates.

Case A: Doug the Canuck moves to Texas. He and the company that imported him have filed all his paperwork and is legally entitled to work in America, despite all the nasty gun-toting looks he gets when he wears his Team Canada t-shirts. He earns a nice salary, and he pays his taxes. Three months later, he has to file another tax return with Canada. He cannot use any of his American deductions, so he is in danger of paying extra tax to Canada. But there is a salvation: his first $100,000 earned abroad in salary is considered tax free. He is saved.

Case B: Bob the Canuck has lived in California his whole life. He became a citizen in 1969, but he is still a Canadian citizen. He has done well with his business, and his portfolio currently sits at $10,000,000 American dollars held in a variety of investments, largely dividend generating shares. Canada does not recognize his charitable and political donations or a certain state investment tax credits he jumped all over (without obtaining Canadian tax advice – good luck finding south of the 49th). He ends up paying Canada several thousand dollars of extra tax.

The issues:

  1. Both people have to file two tax returns. That’s two complex sets of laws, and advice for their Canadian return is virtually unavailable in Texas or California. If they make mistakes, there are penalties they may have to pay. And if they can find a professional Canadian tax preparer, it will likely cost them many times what they normally pay for their American tax preparation.
  2. While not a lot of taxes leave the country, some money does. If say it’s $1,000 a head, that’s $800,000,000 leaving the country — 800k Canadian citizens live in America and pay American taxes. That’s capital that cannot be put to work in America. If we add up all of the foreign nationals, there are over 40 million, times a $1,000 outflow equals $40,000,000,000, or forty billion dollars, of exiting capital.
  3. But wait, it’s not so bad. America has seven million expatriates. That’s an estimated $1,000 inflow per head or 7,000,000,000, a seven billion dollar inflow. America will only lose $33,000,000,000, 33 billion dollars, in capital to foreign countries. That’s annually, by the way.
  4. In reality, rates differ. I do not have the numbers – they usually depend on many variables. It is generally considered that foreign tax rates are higher than America’s which is one of the things political pundits brag about as a reason for America being the greatest country in the world. Higher foreign tax rates increase the money going out and decrease the money coming in. Instead of $1,000 each way, maybe it’s closer to $1,500 out and $500 in per head. That thirty three billion dollar deficit suddenly grows to fifty six and a half billion dollars leaving the country, that’s $37,500,000,000.
  5. Retiring residents will be hit extra hard. America’s tax rates on investments is the best in the world. Canada would clean up on a person living off their investments, especially. Social security income does not trigger a foreign income exclusion. Many retired people live on marginal incomes. Take extra tax from them, and you have more people on food stamps and other social assistance programs.
  6. Forty million Americans’ lives will be invaded by foreign countries. Some of those countries may even finance human rights abuse or other forms of global instability – read terrorism, Bubba! Your lost American capital is going to finance Jihading your ass into the back of your pickup.
  7. Forty million Americans will be burdened by extra tax preparation, a need for extra tax knowledge, and face a losing game. They will live under constant stress and health care expenses will rise, drug dependency will rise. They can never minimize their tax burdens like a “normal” citizen can. How can you be a true American if you cannot minimize your taxes?
  8. All countries will have to hire extra government tax workers. Goodbye low unemployment.
  9. The cost of extra tax processing (for the $1,000 a head income) will likely exceed any revenues collected — a pointless exercise for all.
  10. Tax preparation businesses will explode: “Your One Hundred And Fifty Country Tax Expert!”

I am just getting started with this nonsense. What country, besides Canada, would ever trust its citizens to report their foreign taxes correctly? There is no means to check on Wing Wang’s American bank transactions from Beijing, not overtly anyway. So what will foreign countries do? They will force all American financial institutions to report their citizens’ bank accounts to them, that’s any account they have signing authority on. It will include all personal, joint, volunteer, and corporate accounts with the person’s name on it. If Doug is promoted to Treasurer of his large corporation, then that corporation’s bank information becomes available to Canada. And if any expatriate from any country anywhere in the world not only lies (fraud) but makes a mistake, they will be severely fined and penalized. Their names will be plastered all over police station or border crossing walls, and will be blacklisted from flying, crossing borders, and may face prison time.

I love telling stories. This would be unbelievable fiction, yet it’s half true. It’s only half true because only America is stupid enough to do this. It will become true once the rest of the world catches on to America’s lead. Come on China, you can take even more of America’s resources. Mexico? You have eleven million legals here. Soon you may double or triple that. Start taxing them. You’ll pay off your debts in no time. And Canada? Canada bows to its knees and once again abstains from pissing off Big Brother. Come on, America says it is okay, so get on the band wagon. Start stealing what’s left of America’s capital.

Let’s make the obvious conclusions. This is a stupid system. Nobody in their right mind would even consider such a system. We don’t know the cost of implementing it, but the benefits have to be marginal at best. Yet this is how America treats its expatriates. This is why, when my Canadian friends gather at a bar, and the discussion turns to stupid Americans, I buy everybody a beer – after all, I am a billionaire tax cheat – and the conversation goes straight down hill as John spews his diatribe against stupid America.

2863360461_55a4aedc7d_zOne of John the billionaire’s cars.

Perhaps the United Nations should step in — like America would listen to them — and create a new human right, the right to file only one tax return. It’s a sad state of affairs that I would even have to suggest such a thing. America, the greatest nation on earth? The next time I hear that, I’m going to punch that person in the face. To over seven million expats, America is the stupidest nation on earth.

Is anybody listening? $$$$$

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