'Accidental Americans' in France file discrimination lawsuit

PARIS (Reuters) - More than 300 “accidental Americans” in France, French citizens who hold U.S. nationality only because they were born there, filed a discrimination lawsuit on Wednesday.

Many of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit did not until only recently realize they had U.S. citizenship, which makes them liable for U.S. income tax regardless of where they live.

Under the 2010 Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, or FATCA, the United States requires foreign banks to provide financial information on U.S. citizens abroad or face possible fines.

As a result, some French citizens who only hold U.S. nationality by being born in the country have been unable to open bank accounts or take out loans, prompting the class-action lawsuit which was filed to a Paris court.

“Because of their nationality, hundreds of people are being deprived of banking services open to everyone else, which constitutes discrimination under criminal law,” said lawyer Antoine Vey, representing the Association of Accidental Americans (AAA).

“We have therefore asked the public prosecutors to sue (financial) establishments that do this sort of thing,” he added.

The French Banking Federation was not immediately available for comment when contacted by Reuters.

The AAA has more than 300 members and many have no personal attachment to the United States other than having been born there. Some do not even speak English.

It estimates that there are more than 10,000 accidental Americans in France and up to 300,000 across Europe. While formally giving up U.S. citizenship is an option, it can be long and costly.

Reporting by Emmanuel Jarry; Writing by Leigh Thomas; Editing by Matthias Blamont