Friday, December 4, 2015

Open a Bank Account - Simple, Right?

I recently received my Permis B, which entitles me to reside in Switzerland.

The next logical step is to open a bank account here. Pay the rent, buy groceries, gas for the car, maybe save a little - all those exotic things that normal people do in the local currency. In this case, the Swiss franc, or CHF.

If I were in America, I would be checking out websites, comparing fees and rates, to determine which bank (or more likely credit union) to put my money in. The choice would be mine, and the bank/credit union might even offer me a toaster or some other welcome gift for allowing them to process my financial transactions in the coming months and years.

It won't be like that in Switzerland (or any other country that is not America). Thanks to the myopic US politicians, who assume any American who chooses to live overseas is automatically considered a tax cheat until proven otherwise, I may not be able to open a simple bank account at all in the place I now call home.

Because of a US law known as FATCA, passed in 2010 but which began to be implemented just in the past year - which requires overseas banks to report the accounts of Americans to the IRS ... or face heavy fines - many banks have decided that any person connected with the US is toxic. They are summarily closing the accounts of Americans who have lived overseas for decades, and they are refusing to even consider opening a new account for US citizens.

I can't say that I blame the banks for their position. They have been bullied and blackmailed into signing agreements with the US Treasury Department because the US currently dominates the world financial transaction systems. Currently there are more than 75,000 banks around the world who have bowed down to the malevolent masters of the IRS.

So, rather than having a freedom of choice of where to do my banking, I'll be lucky if I can get ANY local bank in Switzerland to open an account for me.

We're not talking about a proverbial secret Swiss numbered account here. Double-digit thousands, not millions or billions. Just enough to get by day to day and hopefully get over to the States to see the grandkiddos once or twice a year.

My quest to open a basic personal bank account begins next week. I'll let you know how it turns out.
 

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