Dear Mr. President, Trinidad & Tobago Seeks Urgent Reply on Future of FATCA

I have blogged several times about the impasse in the Trinidad & Tobago government to reach agreement on legislation to implement the provisions of the “Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act” (FATCA).  Readers shall remember that a country could have signed an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) with the United States to enforce FATCA, but the IGA is not yet considered to be “in force”. This is so because many partner jurisdictions that have signed IGAs or reached an agreement “in substance” on the text of an IGA have not yet completed implementing their internal procedures to bring the IGA “into force”.

Trinidad & Tobago is one such country. In order to adopt the needed legislation, a special 3/5th majority of its Parliamentary members is required. This majority has been lacking and has been the cause of much drama in the country.   The Trinidad & Tobago government needs the support of the Opposition for the special majority needed to pass the bill, but the Opposition has firmly dug in its heels.

The Mouse Roars

Ms. Kamla Persad-Bissessar is Trinidad & Tobago’s former prime minister.  She is the current leader of the parliamentary Opposition. She’s also a very gutsy lady with loads of spunk.  She’s David challenging Goliath.  Ms. Persad-Bissessar recently took a bold step that leaders of far more powerful countries were too afraid to take.  Here’s what she did —

The Trinidad and Tobago Guardian News reported that on January 13, Opposition Leader Persad-Bissessar wrote to US President Donald Trump asking whether his government intends to do away with FATCA. This is important because the internal laws of that country must be revamped in order to accommodate FATCA. The deadline for passing the necessary legislation is soon here, with the end of February marking the proverbial end of the road. Obviously, if FATCA won’t be on the books for very long, a country has better things to do with its time.

Ms. Persad-Bissessar noted that FATCA was a law enacted by President Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama and that it had become the “subject of sharp controversy” in Trinidad and Tobago. She cleverly reminded Trump of one of his campaign promises – that is, to revoke executive actions taken by President Obama which exceeded his authority as President.  She very astutely pointed out that such unauthorized actions “would appear to cover non-treaty Inter-Governmental Agreements with Trinidad and Tobago and many other countries to implement FATCA [since the terms were] not codified in US statute or [through a treaty].”  For those needing a little background information here about the import of Ms. Persad-Bissessar’s words, while an IGA may read just like a treaty and is ratified as such by the foreign “partner” government, the IGA has not been submitted to the US Senate for its advice and consent as mandated by the US Constitution.

Ms. Persad-Bissessar noted that unsuccessful actions had been taken by other Republicans in the former US Congress to repeal FATCA (for example, you may recall the FATCA lawsuit led by Senator Rand Paul).

Evidently, there is a lot of internal wrangling going on in the Caribbean paradise. Earlier in January, the outgoing United States Ambassador to Trinidad & Tobago, Mr. John Estrada, accused “some folks” in the country of deliberately spreading misinformation about FATCA.  He told television viewers that when he went to the United States last September and earlier this month seeking a FATCA extension, he had informed Washington that  “this can will be kicked down the road because there are some folks, some of them are fighting this (and) probably have cocoa in the sun as you say here.” [Rough translationWhen you have cocoa in the sun, look out for rain”  When you have done wrong, you must expect the unexpected.]

Meanwhile, Ms. Persad-Bissessar said she had been “informed that a FATCA repeal bill might be among the reforms included in President Trump’s comprehensive legislative package.

“Whatever information you may provide about how your administration intends to proceed would be much appreciated so that the Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago may have a better sense how we might proceed,” she said.

Ms. Persad-Bissessar told President Trump she is awaiting his “earliest reply”.

Aren’t we all!


Follow me on Twitter: @VLJeker




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