US service members’ tax penalties in Germany weren’t ‘on my radar,’ Blinken says

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A U.S.-Germany treaty dispute that has exposed large numbers of U.S service members and Defense Department support staff to tax penalties in the European country was not ‘on my radar,’ Secretary of State Antony Blinken said this week, according to a report.

When asked about the matter, Blinken told a reporter to "take that up with the embassy" in Germany – but pledged that he would later "double back and look into it," Stars and Stripes reported.

Blinken was in Germany meeting with U.S. allies about evacuation efforts in Afghanistan, according to the report.

The tax dispute centers on the interpretation of the NATO Status of Forces Agreement, which Blinken, as head of the State Department, oversees.

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In some cases, U.S. military personnel in Germany have been penalized as much as six figures, Stars and Stripes reported, noting that the affected service members must also pay their U.S. income tax.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks in Doha, Qatar, Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2021. (Associated Press)

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin confronted German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer about the matter when they met at the Pentagon in June, the news outlet reported.

The U.S. Embassy in Berlin lodged a formal complaint last year, with German Foreign Minister Heiko Mass and other German leaders saying they were interested in resolving the dispute, the report said.

U.S. military personnel can expose themselves to the German tax hit if they are viewed to be in Germany for reasons beyond their military service – such as being married to a German or owning German property, Stars and Stripes reported.

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But Americans serving elsewhere, such as Italy, Spain, Britain, Japan or South Korea, face no similar financial situation, the report said.

It wasn’t clear why Blinken wasn’t better acquainted with the dispute, which could possibly be resolved more quickly if a top level U.S. official became involved, according to the report.

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