Member Spotlight: Annebet van Mameren – New2NL

Education consultancy specializing in supporting international families in the Netherlands Hello! My name is Annebet van Mameren, an education consultant specializing in supporting international families in the Netherlands. I founded New2NL, my consulting company, almost 11 years ago. I'm Dutch, and my husband is an American from Philadelphia. We live in Amsterdam with our two sons, whom we are raising to be bilingual in both Dutch and English. How long have you been a member of the AABC? I have been a proud member of the AABC for nine years now. I initially joined to expand my professional network in Amsterdam, especially considering my American husband and the many American clients I serve. The AABC has been an excellent platform to meet wonderful people and establish lasting friendships, as well as collaborate professionally. I have even referred clients to fellow members, and some of our families have become close friends. Additionally, I had the opportunity to contribute an article to the AABC about the Dutch school attendance law. Many international parents may be unaware of this law, which mandates school attendance for children aged 5 to 16 (or 18 if they haven’t received a diploma yet). The law is taken seriously; parents can face fines if their child misses school outside of official school holidays. You can read more about the law in my article: https://aabc.nl/the-dutch-school-attendance-law. Can you share a memorable experience or success story you've had as a result of being part of the AABC? My most memorable experience with the AABC is a personal story: A couple of years ago, my (elderly) in-laws came to visit us in Amsterdam, from the US. We knew in advance it would be the last time for them to visit us, so we wanted to do something special. My father-in-law has celiac disease (gluten intolerance), so he is always a bit anxious when eating out at a restaurant he doesn’t know. I invited the former AABC Chairman, Dennis Cowles, to cook a special dinner at our home, as a surprise for my in-laws. Dennis is a very experienced chef, and he understood how to cook and serve a delicious dinner while keeping the gluten separate. I told my father-in-law that when he cannot go to the restaurant, we’ll ask the restaurant to come to us. It was a such a special night, and my in-laws talk fondly about it to this day. What's one cultural business difference between the Dutch and the American approach that stands out to you, and how have you managed it? The Dutch are known to be very direct. Since I am Dutch, I expect to get a straight answer to my question, and I know the other person expects the same from me. I have noticed that many Americans are more indirect. They sometimes answer in a different way than I had expected, or they keep on asking me the same question, which I had already answered the first time. But then it turns out that they had actually wanted to know something different, but felt it wasn’t polite to ask it that way. After all those years, I still find this a bit confusing. I mean, just ask me what you want to know. Then I give you the answer, and we move on. I can see that some people are a bit shocked by this approach. I think it is important to be clear, and I don't let you read between the lines. It is also more efficient this way.  Sometimes my clients ask me: “the teacher of my child said XYZ. What could they have meant by that?”. My answer is then “If they said XYZ, they mean precisely XYZ. They are not talking about anything else, and they are not complaining about you or your child as a person, they just want to solve the one situation they mentioned.” That is often a relief for the parents, and I am happy to have made the communication between them a little easier.  Amsterdam is a vibrant city with a rich history and diverse culture. How does this environment influence or inspire your business operations? Last July, we celebrated the 10th anniversary of New2NL. At that moment I had assisted more than 1,000 families of all kinds of backgrounds. Now, this number has increased even more. I am very proud to help these families find their way in the Netherlands, and of course make sure the children land at a suitable school.  I have learned a lot from my clients about education and other things in the rest of the world, which I always find very interesting. I can use this knowledge when talking with the next clients who come from the same country.  I have also introduced some former clients of the same nationality or cultural background to each other. This way, the new arrivals already knew some people in Amsterdam, and they could share their experiences or celebrate their cultural traditions together with their new friends. That makes me very happy. If you could give one piece of advice to someone starting a business in Amsterdam, what would it be? It is great to run your own business, but it is not always easy. You need to know a bit of everything: sales, marketing, building websites, SEO, taxes, copywriting, finances, social media, etc. You can outsource a lot of these things, but in the end, you are the one who is responsible for your own business.  When I started my business, it really helped to talk to many different business people, and ask them for advice. I also arranged some barter deals; I helped some of the business owners to find a school, and in return they provided me the service that I needed. This has been a great experience, and much cheaper too. Many of these business owners I met during the AABC events, or via their members. I am still very grateful for these contacts, and now I try to pay it forward by giving advice to new business owners in Amsterdam. What's a fun or unexpected fact about yourself that most members might not know? When I was eight years old, I already decided that I would have bilingual children later. So, that has worked out very well… And lastly, if you were to describe our business networking club in three words, what would they be? Inspiring, friendly, gezellig ☺

Member Spotlight: Moustafa El Kabbash

Organization consultancy / Housekeeping Expert, Freelancer ZZP’er I'm Moustafa El Kabbash, and I made quite a journey from Egypt to Dubai when I was 19, initially working in the hospitality industry. Later, after relocating to the Netherlands, I found myself in housekeeping. This unique journey gave birth to my idea of creating and consulting in the housekeeping departments of hotels. My company specializes in cleaning services, but it's more than just that. We offer organizational and consulting services, help structure businesses, assist in HR matters, and optimize housekeeping processes. Our primary focus is on hotels and cleaning companies. I believe our services can greatly benefit AABC members by enhancing the efficiency and standards of their operations. How long have you been a member of the AABC? I officially became a member this year, but I've been acquainted with the AABC since 2019 through Art Hotel. I had previously met members and attended several events, so I was familiar with the community before becoming a member. Can you share a memorable experience or success story you've had as a result of being part of the AABC? One of the immediate benefits I've experienced as an AABC member is the expansion of my professional network. This broader network holds the potential for future collaborations and opportunities, which is invaluable. What's one cultural business difference between the Dutch and the American approach that stands out to you, and how have you managed it? Well, I'd say the Dutch approach differs significantly from both the American and my previous experience in Dubai. The Dutch have a unique way of doing business, they are very organized and structured. In Dubai, it's more about dynamic ideas and being two steps ahead. Moreover, the Netherlands is known for its advantageous tax policies, which makes business operations more straightforward. What are some challenges you've faced in your business journey and how did being a part of the AABC help in overcoming them? Challenges are inevitable in any business journey. The beauty of being part of a community like AABC is that you get exposed to different ideas and perspectives. When facing challenges, it's reassuring to know that you can tap into the collective wisdom of fellow members, which often provides fresh solutions. Amsterdam is a vibrant city with a rich history and diverse culture. How does this environment influence or inspire your business operations? Amsterdam is synonymous with freedom and diversity. This city is alive 24/7, and its attraction and lifestyle are truly inspiring. My business thrives in such an environment, where dynamism and innovation are encouraged. If you could give one piece of advice to someone starting a business in Amsterdam, what would it be? Having been in Amsterdam since 2012, my advice is not to underestimate the initial challenges. The smartest way is to thoroughly understand the local culture, taxation, and networks from the outset. Don't be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. I regret waiting too long to do so; it's essential to break those barriers early. What's a fun or unexpected fact about yourself that most members might not know? I'm someone who fully embraces life and enjoys it to the max. I'm open-minded, approachable, and consider myself a free spirit, always ready to connect with others. And lastly, if you were to describe our business networking club in three words, what would they be? FUN, Professional, Energetic.

Member Spotlight: Saskia Maas

CEO Boom Chicago A longstanding AABC member, Saskia once held a seat on our board. We're so pleased that she has once again embraced our AABC community. Welcome back, Saskia! What is Boom Chicago? Boom Chicago is an Improv Theater and Comedy Club that has been showcasing outstanding English-language comedy acts for the last 30 years. Their comedic spectacles ignite laughter among both locals and visitors, all in the heart of the city center at their comedy haven on the Rozengracht. Unveiling Cultural Nuances: Dutch Honesty and American Curiosity At Boom Chicago and Boom Chicago for Business, Saskia uncovers distinctive cultural traits the Netherlands and the US. There's Dutch directness, a penchant for expressing thoughts directly, which is often perceived as blunt; while Americans tend to exude curiosity and boundless optimism. Navigating to Boom Chicago: Saskia's Unexpected Voyage During her time as an exchange student in America pursuing a master's degree, Saskia's path converged with the visionaries behind Boom Chicago, who were discussing the idea of launching a theater in Amsterdam. Today, Saskia commands the roles of CEO for both Boom Chicago and Boom Chicago for Business. In this capacity, she spearheads business development, global corporate program production, strategic initiatives, financial matters, sales, and public relations. Saskia, equipped with a master's degree in linguistics from Tilburg University, also completed Nyenrode's esteemed one-year Executive Management Development Program. Her leadership journey extends to THNK, the renowned school of Creative Leadership. Boom Chicago's History With an illustrious history spanning 30 years, Boom Chicago has been showcasing outstanding comedy acts in English, captivating audiences from its comedy sanctuary on the Rozengracht. Distinguished comedians including Seth Meyers, Jordan Peele, and the creative minds behind Ted Lasso (Jason Sudeikis, Brendan Hunt, and Joe Kelly) have graced the stage. The comedic legacy continues with the next generation taking the spotlight tonight! Click on the following links for more information about Boom Chicago: website, LinkedIn, Instagram and Wikipedia!

Gender Equality Symposium A Contemporary Conversation on the State of Female Leadership

One of the AABC's goals for 2020 is to create more events in partnership with other business organizations. For the first co-hosted event of 2020, we joined forces with the American Women's Club of Amsterdam to bring you a symposium on gender equality and female leadership. During the symposium, local leaders from various sectors will discuss the state of gender equality and leadership opportunities. The conversation will highlight career opportunities, leadership, entrepreneurship, education, and societal perception. This program will be moderated by Tracy Metz, the Director of the John Adams Institute and host of talk show Stadsleven.

Highlights of the event

  • Current climate for women in business. Where are we now, what is next, and how long to achieve gender equality? How do we measure success?
  • Successes and obstacles in the workplace. Hear our speakers' professional journeys.
  • Women in the workplace the US and the Netherlands & EU. A look inside business in both continents and how policy, government and culture play a vital role in equity in the workplace.
  • Where do we go from here. How can we impact change and break through barriers? What are you doing to affect women in leadership and expedite change?


Marja Verloop - Deputy Chief of Mission  A career member of the U.S. Department of State's Senior Foreign Service, Marja Verloop assumed her position as Deputy Chief of Mission at U.S. Embassy The Netherlands in June 2019. Previously, she was the Deputy Executive Director for the East Asian and Pacific Affairs Bureau, with administrative responsibility and oversight for 45 overseas posts and 12 domestic offices. Marja has also served as the State Department’s Director for Innovation and at Embassies around the world including India, Canada, Namibia, Malaysia, and Poland. A member of the Department’s Leadership Roundtable, Marja is also the recipient of numerous Superior and Meritorious Honor Awards.

Judge Kimberly Prost, International Criminal Court

Prior to her election as judge of the ICC, Judge Prost served as Chef de Cabinet for the President of the International Criminal Court for a two year term. Before joining the Court, she was appointed in 2010 as the first Ombudsperson for the Security Council Al Qaida Sanctions Committee. In July 2006, after election by the United Nations General Assembly, she was appointed to sit as an ad litem judge of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia on a multi-accused trial (Popovic et al) related to events at Srebrenica and Zepa. Previously, Judge Prost worked for the Canadian Department of Justice for 18 years, appearing before all levels of the Canadian courts, including the Supreme Court. Judge Prost also held managerial positions with the Commonwealth Secretariat and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime delivering a range of programmes for States on international cooperation, money laundering and asset forfeiture, counter terrorism, implementation of the Rome Statute, and combating organized crime and corruption. Judge Prost graduated as a gold medallist from the University of Manitoba Law School.
Christina Moreno - CEO, She Matters Recruitment  Coming from a background of poverty, Christina Moreno dropped out of high school at 16, became a mom at 18, and was on social benefits with no promising future at all. Yet after a life-altering event with her caseworker, she decided to pursue a degree in law. Today, she is the founder and CEO of She Matters, a social enterprise recruitment agency working towards the social and economic empowerment of migrant and refugee women. 

Ida Sabelis - Associate Professor, Vrije Universitiet Amsterdam

An associate Professor of Organization Studies at Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam. She holds a Ph.D. in Organizational Anthropology. She is currently working on a biography of the Durban artist and 'bush wife' Nola Steele and her husband, conservationist Nick Steele, who worked in KZN, which came about because of an interest in ecofeminism and the position of women in nature conservation. In the 1980s and 1990s, Ida worked as an organizational consultant on the topic 'diversity in organizations' in the pioneering Dutch institute of Kantharos (management of diversity). From the mid-1990s on, the perspective of time/s in organizations offered a conceptual framework further to theorize questions of complex inequalities in organizations (gender, multiculturalism, and diversity) and long-term organizational development (sustainability, future/s, continuity and change). Publications include "Gendering environmental sustainability and organization: Introduction,"Gender, Work & Organization'"25(3), 215-221, with Agnes Bolsø and Mary Phillips and "Hidden lives, invisible vocation?: Giving voice to game rangers' wives in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa," in Contemporary perspectives on ecofeminism (pp. 132-149), Routledge, with Harry Wels and Tamarisk van Vliet (2015). Her most recent book isAcademia in Crisis (2019; open access from Feb. 2020) with Leonidas Donskis and others, dealing with increased work pressure and commercialization of universities in Europe.
Sarah Woodhouse - General Counsel Europe, General Counsel Food and Refreshment Global, Unilever Sarah joined Unilever in 2003 and currently advises on all strategic aspects of the company’s food and refreshment division from innovation to acquisition. She connects to a global team of lawyers across the world. Sarah was based in Singapore for 5.5 years leading the legal team across Asia and Australia on development and diversity and inclusion. She has the distinction of the appearing on the 500 Powerlist Benelux 2019. Sarah has extensive corporate experience in a global setting.

Moderated by Tracy Metz

Tracy Metz is a Dutch-American journalist, writer and moderator who is driven by her passion for our relationship to our built and natural environment. She writes for the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad and the American magazine Architectural Record and has a live talk show on urban issues called Stadsleven ('city life'). She has written several books, all pertaining to the way we furbish and relate to our surroundings, of which the most recent was the best-selling Sweet&Salt: Water and the Dutch. She is also the director of the John Adams Institute, an independent foundation that provides a podium in the Netherlands for the best and brightest of American thinking.
Symposium Introduction by Susan Davis Susan is the founder of Leadership Designs and its principal consultant. Her 20-plus years of experience with companies such as Microsoft, Amazon, Starbucks, and organizations including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the WNBA's Seattle Storm, and venture philanthropy organizations spans executive coaching, leadership development, organizational alignment, meeting facilitation, and human resources strategy. Susan holds a master's degree in applied behavioral science and is the co-author of Brand Driven, The Route to Integrated Branding Through Great Leadership. Susan is a founding and extended leadership team member of Pivotal Ventures, an investment and incubation company created by Melinda Gates in 2014. Pivotal Ventures partners with organizations and individuals who share their urgency for social progress in the United States. They grow understanding around issues, expand participation, encourage cooperation and fuel new approaches that substantially improve people's lives. Most recently, in October 2019, on the heels of her N.Y. Times best-selling book, The Moment of Lift, How Empowering Women Changes the World, Melinda Gates pledged $1 billion to gender equality.
Join us on March 17th, starting 06:00 PM to discuss the state of female leadership in 2020.

How To Stay Current In A Fast-Changing Work World

Technology is changing the workplace faster than many of us can keep up with. We all know this. It poses distinct challenges to people with highly specialised training, or have been in the workforce for longer periods. The truth is, we are all happy to keep things the way they are most of the time. Change is threatening, frightening and involves lots of hard work. This means that very often, people retreat into their habits, ‘the way things have always been done around here,’ and similar reactions. Unfortunately, this response is fast becoming a quick way to the exit door. The pace of change is only increasing and the only way to survive it is to adapt with it: to grow, to change and to innovate. However, very few adults consider themselves the kinds of people that can easily think of new ideas, products, ways to do or approach things. We are simply not creative. Because we didn’t take art at school can’t draw, write, dance or paint, we also cannot be creative at work. This is the biggest obstacle to happiness at work: this idea that you are a certain way and can therefore not change or develop. Of course, you can. Every new thing you learn means you are changing… and provides an opportunity to create. Art is nothing more than a product of Creativity. Just one aspect of what this skill gives us. Creativity also gave us fire, the lightbulb, space shuttles and E=MC². Creativity is actually the ability to see connections between previously unconnected things and join the dots. It is problem-solving. And we can all do that. The trick is to apply how you solve day to day problems to those big issues that require new solutions, thinking or products… And the good news is, the more you know in life, the creative you can be because you have more dots to join. Highly experienced veterans are in fact MORE likely to come up with game-breaking ideas than youngsters. Why? Because they have seen more, experienced more, know more… if they can start to join the dots in new ways, of course, they can see more connections.

How Do You Start Being More Creative?

Stop saying you can’t. Think of it as a practical problem and apply the same method. It's not magic. • Take time Creativity is a normal brain function, but its workings are still a bit mysterious. Don’t insist on instant, black and white answers. Sleep on the problem, do some reading around the topic, let your unconscious go to work. • Work and re-work existing ideas. Rome wasn’t built in a day and the best ideas do not emerge fully-formed from our minds, sometimes they need revising, adding to, removing parts… work. • Claim time To be aware of the process of seeing new unexpected connections, you need time where you can be pretty quiet and introspective where you can calmly think about things without too much pressure. If your job doesn’t give you this time, you need to make it. • Keep trying Like any skills, it takes time to master your own creative process and fine tune it. The Sunflowers was not Van Gogh's first painting. Keep trying and focus on improving. You'll get there. Remember, just because you can't paint, write poetry and act does not mean you are not creative. There's a good chance your products look very different from these. It's the same process, so just keep improving. I am David Chislett and I am a Creativity Trainer and Coach in Amsterdam. I help individuals and companies hone their creative habits, skills and ideas with workshops, coaching sessions and custom-made training. For more details, please look at my website: https://davidchislett.com Author: David Chislett, Creativity Trainer and Coach in Amsterdam. Photo credit: Dave Pelham. Share this article:    

Have Your Say About the 30% Ruling Cuts

The government is planning to cut the 30% ruling duration from eight years to five, following the publication of a report last year which stated that most people do not benefit from the tax break for the full term. The plans are currently beginning finalised, and will be debated by parliament’s finance committee on May 31. The final proposal will be presented to parliament on Prinsjesdag in September. In the meantime, opposition to the proposal is mounting – particularly because the government is not planning to introduce a transition period for people who have benefited from the tax break for five years. In other words, if you’ve had the tax break for longer, on January 1, 2019, you will have thousands of euros less to spend per year. Employers, academic organisations and expat groups saying the proposal is damaging the country's reputation and will hurt many people financially. Petitions have been organised and behind the scenes, intense lobbying is taking place. The Dutch universities association VSNU is writing to tax minister Menno Snel urging him to rethink, saying the plan will hit academia hard. Employers organisations VNO-NCW and MKB-Nederland have described the plan as 'not good' and say the measure will make the Netherlands less attractive compared with other foreign countries. 'It will not make it any easier to attract foreign talent but we need that talent because of the tight jobs market,' the organisation says. In addition, existing claims should be honoured because a 'trustworthy government is essential for a good investment climate.' The current plan means that someone earning around €60,000 a year will have to pay some €8,000 more in tax, plus a further penalty if their employer pays for their children to attend an international school. The expat media have carried many stories of people who may have to give up their jobs and move, because they will not be able to pay the rent on their homes – particularly in Amsterdam, where rents are soaring. One American expat in Amsterdam told DutchNews.nl that the change will cut his family’s income by €20,000 from next January. ‘This could potentially ruin us. We moved here in January 2014 and have just bought a house based on what our income was supposed to be until 2022. ‘Now we potentially can’t afford it, and we can’t resell and leave without incurring a huge financial loss.’ ICAP, the International Community Advisory Panel, is currently carrying out a survey on the likely impact of the cut on the country’s expats. The results will be presented to tax minister Menno Snel and members of the finance committee ahead of the their meeting. ‘We’d welcome anyone who still benefits from the 30% ruling, or who used to benefit, to take part,’ said ICAP spokeswoman Deborah Valentine. ‘It is essential that when it comes to government policy, the voice of the international community is heard.’ Take part in the ICAP survey Author: Robin Pascoe, Dutchnews.nl Photo source: Depositphotos.com Share this article:    

Which Visa Do You Need to Work in the United States?

Many dream of moving to the United States. Some want to be closer to family and loved-ones, while others need to go for work or wish to buy or start a business. While relocating to the United States can be exciting, it can also be an overwhelming experience. One of the first administrative obstacles you will face when going to the United States for work will be immigration. Unless you are a US citizen moving back to your home country, you will most likely need a visa. You will need to wade through the alphabet soup which is the US immigration system to determine which visa is right for your situation. Here is a brief description of some circumstances you may be in and the visas you may be eligible for.

Working in the United States for a US employer

Those wishing to move to the United States to work in ‘specialty occupations’ may be able to apply for a H-1B visa. Specialty occupations are jobs that require theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge and at least the attainment of a bachelor’s degree or equivalent to properly carry out the role. Further, someone wishing to use a H-1B visa must be paid at least the prevailing wage for the job position in the geographical location in which the person will work. A major downside of the H-1B is that there is an annual limit on the number of visas issued. There are only 65,000 visas available per fiscal year. The first 20,000 petitions filed on behalf of those with a US master’s degree or higher are exempt from this limit, as are those who work or wish to work at an institute of higher education or a non-profit research organization. Last year, there were almost a quarter of a million applications submitted before the government agency dealing with them stopped accepting new applications. Those on a H-1B may enter the United States for up to three years. The H-1B may usually only be extended up to a total of six years.

Transferring to the United States from the Netherlands

The L-1 visas allow people who have been working for a company outside of the United States for more than one year in the past three years to be transferred to an affiliated company in the United States. The transferee must be going to the United States to work in either an executive or managerial capacity (these may apply for an L-1A visa) or they must possess specialized knowledge related to their work or organization (these may apply for an L-1B visa). Those transferred on an L-1 visa may stay in the United States for an initial period of three years. At the end of this period, the visa may be renewed in increments of two years for a total of seven years for the L-1A and five years for the L-1B. What happens if the company you work for abroad has no affiliate in the United States? Both the L-1A and L-1B allow for the transfer of executive or managerial and specialized knowledge employees respectively to be transferred to help establish a new office in the United States. New Office L visas have the same total time limits as mentioned above but the initial visa is only valid for one year.

Starting a new business or investing in an existing business in the United States

The Netherlands has a treaty with the United States which allows for its citizens to move to the United States to start a business (using an E-1 visa) or to invest a substantial sum in a US business (using an E-2 visa). Dutch citizens starting a business in the United States using an E-1 visa must also ensure that the business will carry on substantial trade between the United States and the Netherlands. This means that the business should conduct more than 50% of its trade with the Netherlands. This trade can be in anything: goods, services, insurance etc, the meaning of the word ‘trade’ is construed quite liberally in this context. However, the trade must be substantial, meaning there must be a continuous flow of sizeable international trade consisting of many transactions over time. A very simple example could be starting a business in the United States which imports Dutch cheese for sale in the United States. Those applying for an E-1 visa must be an employee of the business. Dutch citizens investing in a business in the United States using an E-2 visa must have invested or be in the process of investing a substantial amount of capital in a business in the United States. When applying for the E-2 visa, the Dutch citizen must be seeking to enter the United States solely to develop and direct the investment enterprise, either through their managerial or executive role or because they are specially qualified to do so. This can be proved by showing that the applicant has at least 50% ownership of the business or that they have operational control of it. Further, the investment must have the present or future capacity to generate more than enough income to provide for the applicant and their family. Those applying for an E-1 or E-2 visa may stay in the United States for two years but can potentially renew their visa as many times as they like if they still qualify.

What about family members?

All the visas mentioned in this article allow the main applicant to bring their spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 to the United States. This is not automatic and separate applications have to be made for each person wishing to accompany the main applicant. Spouses may apply for work authorization which, if approved, have no restriction on where the spouse may work.

Other US work visas

The visa options mentioned above are the options most often used for Dutch citizens to work in the United States. But what if you are not a Dutch citizen? The United States has treaties with many countries and the E-1 and E-2 may be available to you if you are a national of another country. What if these visas don’t seem like the right fit for the type of work you intend to do in the United States?  There are also several other visas not mentioned here which you may be eligible for, depending on your circumstances. While you are not required to use an attorney for your US immigration issues, it may be wise to consult one to find out the extent of your options as well as what option is the best fit for you. DISCLAIMER: The information in this article is provided for general informational purposes and is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. George Lake is the founder and Managing Attorney at Blue Lake Law LLP, a US Immigration law firm based in Amsterdam. He has experience assisting those who want to move from Europe to the United States. George specialises in US immigration law and focuses particularly on business and corporate immigration. Author: George W. Lake, Managing Attorney at Blue Lake Law LLP Share this article:

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

On December 22, 2017, President Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act cutting corporate tax rates from 35% to 21% and dropping the top individual rate from 39.6% to 37%. This is the first tax overhaul in more than 30 years, which went into effect January 1, 2018. The overhaul cuts income tax rates, doubles the standard deduction, and eliminates personal exemptions. Corporate cuts are permanent, yet the individual changes expire at the end of 2025. Expats and dual citizens have been fighting for years for reform the burdensome policies affecting Americans overseas, and sadly, those reforms will not be brought about by this bill. Many of the reporting requirements most affecting Americans overseas – like the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion and the Foreign Tax Credit and FATCA – remain untouched. Many expat business owners will see tax increases and complicating factors in 2018.

What’s in This Tax Overhaul?

Following is a summary of the major changes we can expect on the individual level. This is not intended to be a full list, but highlights the areas of the tax code that impacts most taxpayers. Specific details, phase-outs, thresholds, rules, etc. are still being worked on, so stay informed. MOST CHANGES ARE EFFECTIVE IN 2018 AND DO NOT IMPACT YOUR 2017 TAX RETURN Changes affecting expats specifically: 1) Taxpayers living abroad will continue to receive the automatic 2-month extension to file and pay taxes. 2017 tax returns, associated forms, and FBARs are due June 15th, 2018. 3) Deductions for real estate taxes on real foreign properties are eliminated. 4) Expats are not subject to the reduced taxation of “passthrough” entities. Passthrough entity profits will be taxed on the individual level for expat business owners. 5) Net Investment Tax (NIT) cannot be reduced by Foreign Tax Credits (unchanged from previous years). 6) Moving expenses are no longer deductible. 7) Inflation calculation has changed, which means the FEIE will grow at a slower rate, increasing only fractionally each year. 8) Corporate taxes have changed significantly. Expats who are owners of Controlled Foreign Corporations (CFC), will be subject to a one-time “deemed repatriation” tax of 15.5% on any previously untaxed profits, 8% for illiquid assets. Taxpayers may have the option to pay this tax over eight years. If you are a shareholder of a B.V. here in The Netherlands, this affects you. Any undistributed profits will be considered to have been brought back to the U.S., and the repatriation tax will apply. 9) Additional forms required to be filed by many expats remain unchanged. These include The Foreign Bank Account Report (also known as FinCEN 114), the FATCA requirements, Form 8938 (Statement of Foreign Financial Assets), Form 5471 (Report of Certain Foreign Corporations), and Form 3520 (Report of Foreign Trusts, including pensions), and more depending on your situation. 10) As one last kick-to-the-gut, tax preparation fees, which can often be exacerbating for expats, will no longer be deductible.

For All Individual Filers:

1) Lower individual rates – our previous rates were 10%, 15% 25%, 28%, 33%, 35% and 39.6%. New rates, including how much income would apply to them: • 10% (income up to $9,525 for individuals; up to $19,050 for married filing jointly - MFJ) • 12% (over $9,525 to $38,700; over $19,050 to $77,400 for MFJ) • 22% (over $38,700 to $82,500; over $77,400 to $165,000 for MFJ) • 32% (over $157,500 to $200,000; over $315,000 to $400,000 for MFJ) • 35% (over $200,000 to $500,000; over $400,000 to $600,000 for MFJ) • 37% (over $500,000; over $600,000 for MFJ) 2) Standard Deduction has nearly doubled greatly reducing the number of taxpayers who will choose to itemize. The bill increases for single filers to $12,000, up from $6,350. For married filing jointly, the new standard deduction increases to $24,000, up from $12,700. 3) No more Personal Exemptions. Previously, you received $4,050 for yourself, your spouse and each dependent. The tax bill eliminates this exemption. 4) State and local tax deduction (SALT). Under the old law, there was no limitation for the itemized deduction of your state and local property taxes along with income or sales taxes. The new law states that the SALT taxes remain as an itemized deduction but caps them at $10,000. Those taxpayers living in states with high income and property taxes will be unlikely to deduct all their SALT taxes. If you rushed to pay property taxes before year-end, the taxes must have been already assessed in order to claim the deduction in 2017. 5) Mortgage interest deduction. If you take out a new mortgage on a first or second home, you will only be allowed to deduct the interest on debt up to $750,000. The bill will no longer allow for a deduction on home equity loans. Previously, the limit was mortgages up to $1,000,000 plus up to $100,000 on home equity loans. This may mean digging up old paperwork to determine the piece of existing loans that is deductible, and working out complicated basis calculations. 6) Alternative Minimum Tax (Alt Min). While we were all hoping that Alt Min would be eliminated, it was only eliminated for corporations. The income exemption levels are being raised to $70,300 for singles (previously $54,300) and $109,400 for married couples (previously $84,500). With the increased levels, the number of filers hit should be reduced. 7) Child tax credit increased. Under the new law, the credit will be doubled to $2,000 for children under 17. High income earners will now be eligible as the income threshold would be raised from $75,000 single to $200,000 and for married couples $110,000 will increase to $400,000. The first $1,000 will continue to be refundable along with $400 of the additional $1,000. This means if you have no tax liability, you may be eligible to receive a refund of up to $1,400 per child. This credit is available to taxpayers living abroad. 8) New credit for non-child dependents. The law allows parents a $500 credit for each non-child dependent they are supporting. This includes a child 17 or older, an elderly parent or an adult child with a disability. 9) Mandate to buy health insurance. While the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as “Obamacare” has not been repealed, there will no longer be a penalty for not buying insurance. Note: The IRS is ENFORCING the penalty for 2017. This repeal does not affect last year. Many taxpayers abroad qualify for an exemption from this requirement.

For Business Filers:

This subject is beyond the scope of this article, but a couple things should be pointed out: 1) The corporate tax rate has been slashed from 35% to 21%. 2) For owners, partners, and shareholders of U.S. based S-corporations, LLCs and partnerships, the tax burden would be lowered by a 20% deduction. There are some exclusions and complicated calculations which may apply. Taxpayers living abroad always have complicating factors in their tax situation. This year promises to be extra complicated. Be sure to seek the advice of a trusted tax expert well in advance of the tax deadline to help navigate the waters of expat tax issues and this year’s tax reform. Author: Christie DuChateau, BNC Tax & Accounting. Share this article:

How Joy Can Bring Better Results in 2018

Do you want to see better results in 2018? Money, impact, influence?

Do you want to find more joy in 2018?

Do you want both?

If you are like the people who attended the Amsterdam American Business Club (AABC) December event, you will answer with a definite YES. We all want this, and we have wanted it every single year. However, there are huge barriers within us that have stopped us from achieving these things and continue to do so, including…
  • Our beliefs: We think, “we cannot have our cake and eat it, too.” Is this true, or is this just one of many self-defeating popular beliefs?
  • Our fears: We set objectives and work on projects that don’t make our heart sing. In other words we walk over our own desires.
  • Our habits: We want to lose weight, but keep choosing the cake instead of the carrot.
These three barriers are linked to the three centers of intelligence in our body: our brain, our heart, and our gut. Yes, scientists have discovered we have more than one “brain.” Our heart and our gut are also valuable sources of wisdom. Our brain is the source of creativity. It generates wonderful ideas. No wonder we have, for centuries, centered our world around it. However as creative at it is, it also creates unreal realities. It generates thoughts that sabotage our intent. Sadly some of these thoughts become chronic thoughts, a.k.a. beliefs. Once they reach this stage, they are very powerful and stop your endeavors. Our heart and our gut haven’t received much attention over the centuries. We have actually learned to suppress our compassion and our courage. Current social changes, however, are bringing these two qualities to light. We are starting to realize how important it is to work on purpose. When we are truly committed to doing what we love, we engage our heart’s intelliguence. Thus we create solutions that are truly meaningful to many, most importantly you. Plus when you listen to your heart, everything becomes easier. It allows you to find the most graceful route toward meaningful impact. The one that has the least attention is the gut. No wonder there are so many people with creative and compassionate business plans, movie scripts, or book drafts that never see the light of day. What we need is the power of the gut: courage.

To get all you want out of 2018, you need to activate the powers of your three brains. You need to illicit:

  • A better MindSet: Activate your creativity. Invent new and empowering beliefs.
  • A better HeartSet: Activate your compassion. Smother all your fears by allowing the wisdom of your heart to be your guide.
  • A better HandSet. Activate your courage. Build daily habits that gradually expand your comfort zone and your self-reliance.
I have created courses and books full of techniques outlining how to activate these three sets. For the purpose of this article, I’ll give you one technique that will allow you to engage your three intelligences at once. This tool will help you make difficult decisions fast. Once you are proficient at using it, your productivity will soar. The best is that your joy and sense of calm will too. When you are confronted with a difficult choice (going to a networking event when tired, accepting funding for your venture from a person you don’t trust, developing a software/app further after knowing there is already competition in the market, etc.) ask yourself:

What is the most creative, compassionate, and courageous thing to do?

Notice this question is forcing you to use the three qualities at the same time. It is forcing you to align the power of your whole being in the choice you will make. It is asking you to come up with innovative options that make your heart sing, allow you to care for humanity, and are still daring adventures. Once you have an option on the table, butterflies will flutter in your tummy. It’s unavoidable! Then ask yourself: is there another alternative? Brainstorm. Ask your heart. Feel the fear. When they are finally aligned, take action, no matter how small. Success loves speed. You must tell your brain, your heart, and your gut that you mean it. This way you will build brand new neuro-pathways of resilience and self-belief. With this article, I also want to wish you a Merry Everything and a Happy Always. Plus I have a special gift for all of the AABC community. I decided to give you 30 percent discount off all my books and online courses. I expand on techniques to transform your fears into fuel. To claim your gift, go to http://www.blancavergara.com/for-you-2/ and use the code aabc2017. Share this article:

How to Deal with Stress?

Feeling and functioning better under stress, starts with understanding stress. What stress is, how to recognize it and the secret of how to deal with it. But let me start with; why stress coaching? The reason is that besides being a trained coach, I am an experience expert. Twenty years in corporate sales thought me what stress is. A burnout about 7 years ago, thought me how not to deal with it. The good news is, that I came through it, now know how to deal with it, and am able to help others with this knowledge. I do that by means of presentations, workshops and of course life coaching.

What is stress?

Stress is a mental and physical response to an event, that comes in three forms:
  • Incidental stress
  • Overspannenheid (No English word for this, sorry)
  • Burnout
Incidental stress Stress that occurs now and then, followed by periods of recuperation and rest, is called incidental stress. Your body, mind and energy levels can deal with this fairly good without too much strain.   Overspannenheid Overspannenheid is a continuous period of chronical stress. It leads up to a feeling of not being able to rest anymore and of not being able to function. Overspannenheid also leads to mental and physical complaints. Your battery is almost, but not completely empty. And that is the good news, you still have energy to make a change and recover, worse can be prevented. Burnout Burnout is the result of completely ignoring the symptoms of overspannenheid. It will lead to a complete and utter exhaustion, both mental and physical. You will wake up, not knowing how to get out of bed or how to get through your day. Your battery is completely empty, and you need to recharge first, before you can recover.  

It all sounds serious, but how big is the problem?

There are a lot of studies being done into this subject, The numbers differ, but the message is generally the same. All studies state that a large part of the workforce in the Netherlands is suffering from stress and stress related issues. Concerning burnout the numbers a bit more clear, because these people don’t show up for work, so they get easier noticed. In certain age groups the number goes as high as 17% of the workforce suffering of burnout related issues. Those are serious numbers.

If the difference between recovering from overspannenheid and ending up with a burnout, is listening to the symptoms, how do you recognize them?

If your mind is ignoring the facts, learn to listen to your body. Your body will always show when there is stress. Indicators of that are for instance a higher breathing, tension in your body or sweating. Of course, by themselves, these can just as well mean that you are falling in love, and therefore no reason to be alarmed, but when combined for instance with a deep and utter feeling of mental and physical fatigue, highly irritable behaviour or sleep disorders, to name just a few of the easy noticeable ones, they can and should be reason for alarm. I call these mental and physical signals the “early warning system” and as a coach I teach people how to listen to them. In fact this “early warning system” is the strongest tool you have to prevent stress to turn from bad to worse.

How do you prevent or deal with stress?

Stress is an imbalance between (work)stress-load and your (perceived) ability to deal with it. So the secret lays in working on these two parts of the equation by:
  • Either reduce the pressure or increase your stress resilience!
  As promised, I have practical tips in line with this that will help you deal with work related stress. 1. Do not try to do everything yourself Being an entrepreneur, you are eager to do it all yourself. Don’t! Ask yourself what is your business, and how you best add value to that. Focus on what gives you energy and leave the rest to external experts. This will not only free up time for things that will give you energy, but most likely your business will improve too. 2. Make sure your goals are realistic Many starting entrepreneurs write unrealistic business plans with sky high goals. Unrealistic goals are a sure source of stress and failing businesses. So plan realistic. But keep in mind, planning your daily activities should be realistically too. 3. Take good care of yourself Eat healthy! Research has shown that there is a clear connection between eating and stress. Exercise! This has to do with the build-up of the so called stress hormones, like adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol in your body, which can be lowered by exercise. Commit to charging as you do to working! Take breaks, real breaks! Without emails or social media. And that goes twice for vacations. 4. ASK! A lot of work related stress has its origin in uncertainty. “What does this colleague really means to say? Does my manager think that I am not doing a good job? How should I do a better job at this? What does he/she think of me? Is that client satisfied?” The only way to know what is really happening, is to ask! So prevent unnecessary stress, ASK! 5. If all else fails Well, then it is time for professional help. Don’t keep struggling, find help to deal with it.

To Conclude

Be honest with yourself. Listen to your body, learn to read the signs. If you find that difficult, there are all kinds of books and otherwise this coach, that can help you to connect what is below your neck to what’s above. I am Rob Lacroix and stress coach at ExpatCoachingCompany.nl, and I can help you feel and function better under stress. Want to get in touch? Email me at rob.lacroix@expatcoachingcompany.nl or look me up on LinkedIn. Share this article: