To: The Resident
1600 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20000
This is to inform you that a large sum of money has been left in the will of the late Alfred Nobel, deceased, to anyone at the above address who is not named George W. Bush.
To collect your prize, please provide us with your confidential bank account details.
There are no conditions regarding the payment to you. It is made because we at the University in Oslo did not have the opportunity to vote for you and we would have liked to.
Our vote is therefore being made with some Swedish kronor instead. We would like to remind you why George W. Bush was not allowed to win our prize.
He cut brush in Texas instead of traveling around the world and never made it to Scandinavia at all. You visited already even if you did not land the Olympics for Chicago.
His wife was a sensible WASP librarian with no Jackie-style glamour. Michelle is something else.
Bush did not rein in the Israelis enough. You may we hope.
He mocked global warming and climate risks. You won't. Al Gore, your predecessor in winning, will make sure of that.
He cut taxes instead of adding Scandinavian-style social services for the people. You're trying on health care.
He did not support freer trade and engaged in protectionist measures to satisfy some US industries. Don't do it again.
He got the whole world into this mess. You may just extract us.
Mr. Resident, note that the lower the dollar falls in the coming weeks, the more your payment will be worth to you. Our fee for reserving your place and tailcoat at the ceremony with our Tribal Chief of SEK 4000 should be paid as quickly as possible to avoid it becoming more expensive in your currency.
Signed: For the Nobel Peace Prize Committee.
Erik The Red
While the Nobel prizes are a way for Sweden and Norway to gain global clout, the US has its own system: tax imperialism. American law since the start of the 19th century has claimed extraterritoriality. That means our country likes to apply its laws to foreigners if their actions affect the U.S. for example in anti-trust.
And it is even keener to apply American rules to Americans wherever they happen to live and work. The USA is almost unique in the world for taxing its citizens on worldwide income, even if they are living in a foreign country to earn it. (If they live in the US and win the Nobel Prize, of course they have to pay taxes on it.)
Extraterritorial tax burdens are relieved by double-taxation treaties with a bunch of respectable countries, to make sure that the same earnings are not taxed twice. But the issue is not just about earned income.
Some Americans seek to escape the IRS by surrendering their passports. Sir John Templeton became a Bahamian for that purpose. But nowadays, renouncing your nationality incurs a disuasive tax too. Moreover, ex-American tax exiles can still be taxed for some US assets: property, gifts to American residents (like family), and for their estates.
One of the oldest banks in Switzerland, Wegelin & Co., decided to say “genug”. It has pulled all investment out of the US and will turn any Americans who manage to find their discrete brass plate away from their doors. The reason is simple: if it has a deceased client from a third country whose heirs include ones who at one point in their lives were subject to US taxes (as a student, say), the whole estate becomes subject to US probate. There are rules against Americans leaving money to foreign nationals in their wills. It is unclear if taxes can be claimed; but the delays and costs would be hard on the other heirs.
Other banks in Switzerland and even Britain say they are thinking about turning Americans away too. I was sent a form by the Social Security Administration this week seeking information about other countries' pension plans I might have contributed to in the course of my peregrinations around the globe, to make sure I did not benefit from a “pension windfall” from payments made after 1952 as a result.
This was worrying because my late mother, who had paid into the German pension system before the Nazis came to power, was flush in her later years because she collected so many payments (Social Security for herself and as my father's widow; her pension from her US employer; and a German “Rent” for her own working days in Schluechtern and as my father's widow.)
Actually, because of having to file for US income taxes while living in Paris, I also paid U.S. Social Security tax, both sides in fact since as a free-lance journalist I was self-employed. I was exempted from earned income tax because I did not earn $70,000, the limit at the time. But that limit is falling along with the dollar today.
This note appears at the insistence of Paul Renaud, a Franco-Swiss national living in Thailand, who covers Thai stocks for us. He thinks something has to give.
What do we know about God? One thing scientists tell us is that the Deity has an inordinate fondness for beetles. He also may like flu germs. Scientists in Kyoto Japan, they have discovered that rivers downstream from Japanese sewage plants are all contaminated with Tamiflu (oseltamivir phosphates) from urine. Birds, which are the frequent vectors for transmitting flu, may pick up drug resistant flu from the water.