U.S. Citizen being held in Kuwait prison; Jermaine Rogers

A dear friend contacted me yesterday and asked if I would be willing to post a petition for a friend of hers who was arrested and jailed in Kuwait. Like other cases previously, my friend is certain Jermaine is innocent and being held unjustly. Furthermore, his court dates are set well in advance but no action seems to be taken on these dates and they often reschedule for a month or more away. Leaving Jermaine sitting in a jail cell with zero answers.

AIK

Yes, there are people who have opinions about such things and for the most part I agree; follow the law of the land you’re in. But, until there’s evidence that a real law was broken it’s terribly unfair to endlessly violate one’s human rights. Not to mention, it’s just nasty to point fingers and judge without knowing the entire story.

In the past there have been a number of Americans arrested in Kuwait and given harsh sentences for manufacturing and distributing drugs. I was intimately familiar with a few of those cases and saw the evidence firsthand. I believe their sentences were fair and just. But there is that random case from time to time that just doesn’t quite offer the type of evidence one would like to see before holding a person in a foreign prison without the right to a timely hearing. Especially when their own Attorney is telling them the Police in Kuwait planted the evidence and falsified drug test lab reports.

That being said, my friend asks that you take a moment and sign the petition in hopes of getting justice for her friend. In a time when America is feeling terribly divided, let’s do something nice to bring forth a little unity.

Petition can be found here.

Internal Revenue Service Webinar [US Embassy Kuwait]

The US Embassy Kuwait will be conducting a webinar to provide information to US Citizens regarding their IRS (Internal Revenue Service) and tax filing requirements. It seems the reporting of foreign income for dual citizens seems a bit intimidating and has many reaching out for professional services. The most important thing to remember is that Foreign Earned Income is tax free up to $92,000 (possibly more this year). A US CItizen earning their income abroad only pays taxes on the income earned after that amount. And depending upon the deductions and tax credits, many will end up owing nothing to the IRS. So before you pay someone claiming to be a ‘tax professional’ who’s really just plugging numbers into Turbo Tax, check out the webinar and get sound advice coupled with facts.

US Embassy message and webinar information below:

To assist all taxpayers in meeting their foreign bank account reporting requirements, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is hosting a webinar regarding the Reporting of Foreign Financial Accounts on the Electronic FBAR (Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts).
Date: June 4, 2014
Time: 2:00 pm (ET); 1:00 pm (CT); 12:00 pm (MT); 11:00 a.m. (PT)
Location: Your Office or Home
Contact: SB/SE Webinars; Email: sbse.webinars@irs.gov
Event Information: This FREE one-hour broadcast is for:

  • All Tax Professionals
  • FBAR filers

Topics include:

  • FBAR legal authorities
  • FBAR mandatory e-filing overview
  • Using FinCEN Form 114; and Form 114a
  • FBAR filing requirements
  • FBAR filing exceptions
  • Special filing rules
  • Recordkeeping
  • Administrative guidance
  • Live Q&A session with Subject Matter Experts

 

Please click here for more information

 

The Internal Revenue Service reminds U.S. citizens and resident aliens, including those with dual citizenship who have lived or worked abroad during all or part of 2013, that they may have a U.S. tax liability and a filing requirement in 2014.

The filing deadline is Monday, June 16, 2014, for U.S. citizens and resident aliens living overseas, or serving in the military outside the U.S. on the regular due date of their tax return. Eligible taxpayers get one additional day because the normal June 15 extended due date falls on Sunday this year. To use this automatic two-month extension, taxpayers must attach a statement to their return explaining which of these two situations applies. See U.S. Citizens and Resident Aliens Abroad for details.

Fackin’ FATCA: Will Kuwaiti citizens keep their US passports? [re-post from ExpatandtheCity]

Such an interesting article that Expat posted today regarding dual citizens holding both Kuwaiti and US. Looks like the American government is wanting a little information on these people. However, fact is, ALL US citizens, regardless of where you live and work in the world, are responsible for paying US taxes. Even if you were taken there by your pregnant mommy who hadn’t popped you out yet.

Yes, being a US citizen is a wonderful thing and guarantees a lifetime of freedom and equality. But it also comes with a responsibility to pay your taxes. The IRS is one of the only government agencies with the right to freeze your bank accounts, seize your homes, cars, boats, and other assets… regardless of where they’re located in the world.

Some see this as desperation on the part of the US. I see it as enforcing a law which should have been enforced years ago. Pay your taxes, people!

Kuwait & USA Passports (Photo credit: Me)

Expat’s post below:

New rules to bring Kuwaitis with US passport in tax net
Violating US citizens worldwide face legal measures
Arab Times re-post, Kuwait, June 26, 2013: As per United States’ Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), which takes effect early next year, all foreign financial institutes will be required to report directly to the concerned American authorities information about accounts held by US taxpayers or foreign entities in which US tax payers hold a substantial ownership interest, reports Al-Shahed daily.

As a result, US authorities will be given access to the accounts of Kuwaiti citizens who hold American passports to determine their level of income and tax payment.  This is an important development in its efforts to improve tax compliance involving foreign financial assets and offshore accounts.

The daily quoting reliable sources revealed that over 20,000 Kuwaiti citizens hold the American passport and they are subjected to observe the new law and pay taxes based on their income, property and salaries they receive here in Kuwait.

Even though the Kuwaiti citizenship law bans citizens from holding the citizenship of other countries, nearly 2 percent of Kuwaitis hold the American passport besides the nationalities of other European countries, sources noted.

Embarrass 
They explained that this issue will embarrass the Kuwaiti government and the citizens in question in front of the major countries that require all their citizens to pay taxes, even if they live in Kuwait.

The United States is ready to take legal measures against its citizens who fail to comply with the law and settle payable taxes all over the world, sources added, indicating the banks and exchange companies in Kuwait are uneasy with the declaration of FATCA, as it violates the code of banking and confidentiality- given that the banking institutes are obliged to give the concerned American authorities access to their American clients’ accounts.

They also fear the banks and exchange companies could be hacked when the concerned American authorities get access to the accounts of their citizens, as the system is not covered legally, stressing implementation of the law necessitates the application of series of high quality protective systems, which unfortunately, are unavailable in the majority of Kuwaiti financial establishments.

They noted that the US will impose penalties against establishments that do not comply with the requirement, and 30 percent of their deposits will be deducted.

Sources reiterated the Central Bank of Kuwait and the concerned authorities have been asked to make things easier for the banks that are currently in a vulnerable position of losing their clients or a percentage of their deposits.

___________________________________________
My advice is to not listen to newspapers, blogs, friends or acquaintances regarding the changes that will take effect with FATCA.  Contact a professional CPA that has the experience and knowledge to give you the correct information you need to make your decision.

Kuwait and the mass exodus.

Since leaving Kuwait in January I’ve noticed many others have as well. I like to tell myself I’ve been such an inspiration with my Instagram videos and photos they just couldn’t stay away. Yeah, I know better 🙂

Over the past few weeks it appears laws which were never enforced in Kuwait are suddenly being overly enforced. Traffic violations which should result in a fine, but never did before, are now getting people deported on the spot. Like taken directly to the police station and from there… the airport. No time to gather belonging, sort out dependent visas, or settle outstanding debt. Talk about overkill.

More recently the Westerners seem to be packing it up or selling everything they own and leaving as well. Perhaps the recent incident of US Contractors being arrested and deported has everyone a bit shaken? Both of those articles can be found here and here.

Right now the rumor is that Linda from 99.7 has left Kuwait permanently which comes as a surprise to all of us. Though she wasn’t a favorite of everyone, she was certainly a part of Kuwait in her own way. She hosted the morning radio show for as long as I can remember. I’m sure not hearing her in the mornings must be a stark reminder of the changes Kuwait is currently experiencing. All the way from yet another Parliament being dissolved to US Government Contractors being jailed. Certainly not the Kuwait I knew and loved so dearly.

It also came to my attention this week that the Chairman of PAWS will be leaving Kuwait and moving to the US with her family. Yet another unexpected surprise. She has invested a great deal of time and effort in making positive changes at the shelter as well as educating people about animal welfare. Surely she’ll be missed but hopefully replaced by someone equally as compassionate.

In the past 3 months I know of 5 Americans who made the decision to leave Kuwait behind. Some because they decided it was no longer worth the money they were being paid, others because they were exhausted. Yes, Kuwait has a way of wearing one down after a while and we all need a break. I believe it has a lot to do with the high population of numerous cultures smashed into one tiny country. Ya just get tired!

No, this isn’t the ‘I hate Kuwait’ post… and I doubt that’s ever going to come. But since being home in America and finally adapting to my own culture again I can’t say I would ever consider moving back to Kuwait permanently. I wish I could define the feeling of ‘freedom’ with words, but I can’t even begin. Freedom doesn’t necessarily mean the opposite of imprisoned. It doesn’t mean having the right to go from Point A to Point B. But it does have something to do with breathing. Not physically, but emotionally. Not making a bit of sense, I know. But I finally feel like my emotional being is alive again. I’m hoping everyone who returns home to the US can experience that feeling because it’s nice.

So, with all the overzealous law enforcement taking place in Kuwait, what will the result be? Is this an effort at reducing the number of Expats? Did the idea of refusing to issue more visas not cross anyone’s mind?

Kuwait has gone through a lot of changes over the decades. Just as the rest of the GCC has. Some countries appear to embrace the changes and capitalize on opportunities. Kuwait sometimes appears to be taking a nap.

 

“Honey, where’s your chabka?” (Repost from DG)

Below is a post from Desert Girl which I felt compelled to share. She’s very knowledgeable about the laws, traditions, and customs here in Kuwait and was kind enough to write a brilliant post to educate others on an important topic. I’ve pasted her post below but it can also be found on her awesome blog here.

“I’ve had a lot of inquiries from foreign ladies recently married to Kuwaitis – or about to be married.  Sometimes it isn’t an inquiry even, but when we get down to discussing things, it comes out that they are missing a few things; or that perhaps hubby has “forgotten” to mention a few things of importance that perhaps he should have.   Girlfraynd, get edumacated!  (and Kuwaiti girlfriends – if anything I am saying below is incorrect, please feel free to jump in.)

“… but I looooooove him….”  Okey dokey.  What about your future?  We foreign chicks are not the blue-light special and shouldn’t come at a discount, but unfortunately, that’s the way it works a lot of times:  Know your rights; culturally and legally.  So, a weee bit of Desert Girl condescending advice….

In the States, for example, when you get married, customarily dude buys you an engagement rock and a wedding band; and your daddy pays for the wedding.  Not here. Women in Kuwait (and you don’t have to be Kuwaiti) get “chabka” when they get married.    Chabka is a gold set (necklace, bracelet, ring, earrings).  Although you are foreign, the family should give you gold otherwise they look cheap in front of their friends/neighbors. It is considered “ayeb”.  Women keep gold as a safety net and often sell it/trade it.  (Chabka is not one piece of gold either.  If you want to know what chabka looks like – go down to any gold souq in Kuwait and ask them to see a set.  Shock and awe, baybeee.)   And it is the Kuwaiti man’s responsibility to pay for the wedding. Bam.
 
Have a Kuwaiti wedding reception, even if it’s a small one.  Think bigtime gifts for your new home!  Doooo IT.  Its payback for all the time your guy and his family have given bigtime gifts to their relatives and close friends at their weddings.
 
Marriage contract:  What you put into your Kuwaiti marriage contract as an end-of-marriage amount is all that you get for alimony.  You can’t sue him for alimony – only child support.  So, if they talked you into signing something that you didn’t understand when you signed your marriage contract, you may have just cheated yourself out of a nest egg.  Don’t sign anything that you don’t understand.
Dowry is written into the marriage contract.  Many women choose not to put a lot down at the front end of the marriage contract, but write in a large amount at end-of-marriage so that 1) dude can’t just divorce you on a whim and then not have to pay out (making it “cheaper to keep her”) and 2) the woman will be financially secure if he does divorce you.  [I have one Kuwaiti friend who wrote in a million dinars for end-of-marriage to prove to his new bride how strong his love (lust, methinks)  was.  He can never leave her.  He’s soooo screwed.]
 
If you are getting married here in Kuwait, do NOT kiss when it is announced you are married at the courthouse.  Public display of affection is illegal and the judge will have no other choice than to have you both arrested (especially since there are appointed witnesses).  Witnesses:  You can bring your own if you want.
 
Know your rights before you have children.  There is a difference between Shiite and Sunni courts in terms of child custody.  Who gets the kids?  What happens?   Learn about family law here and what could potentially happen.
 
Kuwaiti men get more money monthly when they get married from the government (usually something like 150kd) and 50kd/mo for each child up to 5 children.
 
If your husband works in a private (non-government)  company, his salary is partially matched by the government. 
 
By law, a husband must provide food for the house, rent, and be able to support his wife and children.  Any money the wife makes during the marriage is HERS and he can’t touch it. 
 
Apply early for Kuwaiti nationality.  Your husband should start this when you get married.  Why do you want it?  Because if you get it, the government will give you (as a couple) a house (you’ve got to be on a waiting list).   1/2 of it becomes yours.  You get benefits and money from the government.  If you ever get divorced as a Kuwaiti woman, the government pays for (part of?) your housing.  You also get medical care. Major benefits.  You want it – trust me.
 
Don’t ever let your husband or his family make you think that you HAVE to wear hejab.  It is your choice.  It is ONLY your choice; between you and God.
 
When a woman has a serious fight with her husband here, she returns to her family and usually the families sort it out.  As a foreign woman in Kuwait, you don’t have that resource, so your circle of women friends is REALLY important as a support system.  You will get no assistance from the embassy.  It isn’t their mission.  They’ll only refer you to a lawyer on their list.  There are no women’s shelters in Kuwait.  Who ya gonna call?
 
Call me a cynic,  but these are the things that you have to know.  In the mothahland, you know what happens.  Do you know what might happen here?   I believe in love and all that, but I’m a realist and  girls should know the skinny.  Have a back-up plan.  Love is great, but so is food and shelter.

Disclaimer:  Guys:  please don’t get mad at me.  Marriage is a beginning of a life together.  Do you really want to begin it with dishonesty? “