Even Father Christmas should make sure he's not inadvertently hiding anything from the US tax authorities, says Sophie Mazzier
We all risk becoming a little preoccupied with counting at this time of year, don't we? Actually, with both counting and deadlines. If it isn't opening those 24 doors on the advent calendar (and then counting the calories of the chocolates inside), it's the bongs of Big Ben on New Year's Eve, not to mention the twelve days of Christmas.
Then there is making sure that the turkey and trimmings have been ordered, paid for, collected, cooked and consumed before the Queen's Speech, the omnibus edition of EastEnders and the re-run of Elf, White Christmas and It's a Wonderful Life* and ensuring that each child has eaten at least two Brussels sprouts for every chocolate coin.
It's a positively wonderful time for the fanatical list maker – and who is the most crucial list maker of all at this time of year? Surely itmust be Father Christmas, with his hugely important naughty and nice list.
This time last year, we looked at his travel arrangements, visa options and tax status so I wondered if it was appropriate to consider how the Chancellor's own recent 'naughty and nice list' – more commonly known as the Autumn (or should that really be advent?) Statement – might have affected the man with the big white beard and his entourage.
The headline changes to property taxes (for example stamp duty land tax or the changes to the principal private residence relief) are unlikely to affect him, and it is too far ahead for him to think how he might benefit from the abolition of air passenger duty for children when flying out of the UK (perhaps he can convince the relevant authorities that those who look under sixteen, namely Santa's little helpers, should come within the exemption?) But more critical might be the need to remind him of any obligations he might have under FATCA with its own registration deadline looming.’
Of course FATCA is not a garbled message referring to the imminent arrival of’FATher ChristmAs himself, or indeed an abbreviation for a Festive And Thoroughly Cheery Advent – but a US legislative provision which impose obligations on various parties to identify those who meet the definition of a US person (of whom there will be many on Father Christmas's lists) and then furnish such information to the authorities who in turn will provide the information to the Internal Revenue Service.
The most pressing requirement for those affected by FATCA is to obtain a GIIN (Global Intermediary Identification Number) before’1st January 2015’- and no doubt he will need one – with lashings of tonic and a slice of lime – once his duties on the 24th’December’are complete.
Sophie Mazzier is counsel at boutique private wealth law firm Maurice Turnor Gardner