May 22, 2019

Paying Taxes, Times Two

Running a business and living in London, Rebecca Lammers’07 gets hit twice with taxes from the U.S. and the U.K. She’s lobbying to change that for herself and all Americans living abroad.
  • Expat music industry alumna Rebecca Lammers’07 is working to change one of the little-known drawbacks of living and working abroad.
    Lindsey Wasson

Rebecca Lammers’07 has built an impressive career in the global music industry. In recent months, however, she has had to develop expertise around a seemingly unrelated subject: taxation.

Lammers graduated from Beloit after completing a music major and founding Green Light Go Records, a record label she started as a student through the college’s entrepreneurship center, known as CELEB. She went on to coordinate jazz festivals in New York, before moving to London to begin a master’s program in music business management at the University of Westminster. Soon after, she was hired by EMI Music to work on the company’s online video and music distribution and management. In 2015, she co-founded the Laika Network, an online video management firm based in London. As the CEO of the company, she’s built a successful career for herself abroad, but choosing to live and work abroad has a little-known financial drawback: double taxation.

Like any American living abroad, Lammers has to pay taxes to her country of residence, the United Kingdom in her case, but she also has to pay U.S. income taxes. Small business owners working abroad, like Lammers, are hit particularly hard by these taxes.

In 2017, this situation inspired Lammers to become active in the UK chapter of an organization called Democrats Abroad. The official arm of the U.S. Democratic Party for millions of Americans living outside the United States, Democrats Abroad has 42 committees in as many countries working to promote Democratic interests and candidates. One of the organization’s central issues is double taxation, which they see as an unfair penalty to those building careers outside of the United States. They argue that current tax laws are not accomplishing the goal of bringing large employers back to the United States but, instead, unnecessarily hurts those in the middle class. They advocate for what’s called ‘residency-based taxation,’ the way most other countries tax their citizens. As the name suggests, it would mean that Americans would only pay taxes in the country in which they currently live. Democrats Abroad considers this a solution to many of the tax problems affecting those living overseas.

Last September, Lammers went with members of Democrats Abroad to Washington, D.C., to lobby for change. The group met with members of Congress to explain their issue, but at the time, she recalls them showing little interest in the problem. However, last December, Congressman George Holding, a Republican from North Carolina, introduced a bill called the Tax Fairness for Americans Abroad Act. The law would mean that Americans living abroad would be taxed based on their country of residence, which, according to Lammers, “addresses the issues head-on.

Though the introduction of the bill is considered a success by many, it is not law yet. If the bill passes, Lammers maintains there will still be work to do, suggesting that the bill could contain loopholes and that it does not address issues regarding pensions, another major point of concern for Democrats Abroad.

For now, she plans to continue growing her company while also pursuing her activism with Democrats Abroad, pushing for the bill’s passage and advocating for herself and for her fellow Americans living overseas.


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