updated 6:36 PM CET, Mar 18, 2023

Dems Abroad Taxation Task Force planning pro-RBT demo in DC on...Expat Tax Day!

Above, members of the Association of Accidental Americans in a 2018 protest against FATCA in Paris Above, members of the Association of Accidental Americans in a 2018 protest against FATCA in Paris

If you were thinking of planning a protest by expatriate Americans against the U.S. system of citizenship-based taxation, it's difficult to think of a better day to do it than the date when expatriate American expats are obliged to file their U.S. tax returns by – which is to say, June 15 (two months after U.S. taxpayers' taxes are due). 

At least, that appears to have been the thinking behind the recent announcement by the Democrats Abroad's Taxation Task Force (DATTF) that its members and other Americans abroad should "save the date" of June 15, for a "protest in Washington, DC in support of #RBT" (residence-based taxation, the alternative to CBT). 

To be sure, all expats automatically enjoy an automatic grace period of an additional two months – that is, until Aug. 15 – only after which they can begin to expect to be  penalized for taking too long to get their 1040s, FBARs and other forms in. 

That said, many expatriate Americans have come to regard June 15 in the same way that their Homeland relatives and counterparts tend to regard April 15: as one of those dates in the annual calendar that has deeply negative connotations and associations, because it's the date when they're obliged to file tax returns that are likely to have cost them hundreds of U.S. dollars, if not more, to have done by a tax professional, even if they don't owe any U.S. taxes, didn't earn any money in the U.S. during the tax year, and have lived abroad for years.

protest in DC tweet Feb 2023 2(And, of course, if they actually are found to owe money to Uncle Sam, such as for their "capital gains" on the proceeds from the recent sale of their overseas home, the negative associations with Expat Tax Day will typically be considerable... as New York-born former British prime minister Boris Johnson famously discovered after he and his wife sold their London home in London in 2009.) 

News of the DATTF's planned demonstration in Washington was quietly unveiled a few days ago on social media (see tweet, left), and thus far, has otherwise not been publicized. Democrats Abroad Taxation Task Force (DATTF) chair Rebecca Lammers (DATTF) says this is because for now, few other details for the protest have been finalized, beyond the date. 

"I will share more [information] via official DATTF channels as it emerges," she told the American Expat Financial News Journal on Tuesday. 

Publicity value

As many organizers of campaigns know, protests can be an efficient and powerful way of getting their message into the public domain, providing enough of their supporters show up, their placards are easy-to-read and photograph well, and ideally, some representatives from the media show up to film, photograph and report on the protest, and the reasons behind it. 

Even if the press doesn't turn out, the photographs can be used for years in promotional materials, where they tend to be more eye-catching than images of tax returns or headlines containing words like "taxation." 

(Good weather also helps, veterans of such campaigns point out.) Isaac Brock Society cropped lower res

Examples of protests that have lived on for years in the form of photographs include a demonstration against FATCA (pictured right) by Canada's Isaac Brock Society, which took place in front of Canada's Parliament in Ottawa back in 2013; and a 2018 demonstration, also against FATCA, by the Association of Accidental Americans, in front of a Statue of Liberty replica located on the Île aux Cygnes in Paris (see main photo, above, also below). 

More than 150 members of the AAA showed up for that protest, to which then-U.S. president Donald Trump had been invited – as he was in town – but didn't attend.

Call for simultaneous pro-RBT protests 

The initial response to the planned protest in Washington on DC among expats seems to be broadly favorable, but some observers have pointed out that the costs involved in getting to Washington and staying there, even for just one night, will necessarily limit the numbers of expats who will be able to join in – there. 

"Have them [pro-RBT demonstrations] in front of US embassies and foreign government parliaments in] such large European cities as Paris, Berlin, London," one expat tweeted. 

"IMO if this was a serious attempt 2 demonstrate and make a point, it wld b organised outside the US in front of US Embassies," another responded. "Most #AmericansAbroad live abroad not in the US:-)"

The case for holding the pro-RBT protest in Washington, however, is that it's where the members of Congress are, and also more likely to get covered by the U.S. news media than a protest elsewhere, proponents of a Washington protest will argue. And the photographs, with the U.S. Capitol dome in the background, may carry more weight in years to come, for the same reasons. 

AAA demonstration Paris Nov 2018