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Welcome to Citizenship Solutions – John Richardson

Welcome to Citizenship Solutions – The blog of John Richardson

I am guessing (actually I know for sure) that you arrived here because of some aspect of being a U.S. citizen living outside the United States. Maybe you are a Green Card holder. I also know how you are feeling.

“U.S. citizens” and “Green Card holders” are referred to as “U.S. Persons”. So, if you are a “U.S. Person Abroad”, well, life is pretty tough. in fact living as a “U.S. Person” outside the United States is: hard, expensive, confusing and (quite frankly) unsustainable.

Some of you are NOT in compliance with the intricate and (almost) impossible to understand web of tax and reporting requirements. Non-compliance has its share of problems.

Some of you ARE in compliance (as far as you know) with the intricate (and almost) impossible to understand web of tax and reporting requirements. Compliance also has its share of problems (stress, expense, anxiety).

Whether you are in compliance or not in compliance, you have problems. This is because:

U.S. citizenship is the one citizenship in the world that affects virtually every aspect of your life. in addition to the information on this blog, I help people with the following kinds of specific problems/questions (which include):

1. Are you a U.S. citizen at all? Have you relinquished U.S. citizenship along the way? If you have relinquished U.S. citizenship, are you a “U.S. Person” for FATCA and tax filing purposes?

2. Have you just received a “FATCA Letter” addressed to you as an INDIVIDUAL or to you as an ENTITY (corporation, trust, etc.)? How to respond. What’s a W9? What’s a W-8BEN-E anyway?

3. What about that old Green Card sitting in your drawer? What to do ….

4. Renouncing U.S. citizenship – What’s the “right way”? What’s the “wrong way”? The better question is “what’s the safest way”? What about that “back dated” relinquishment?

5. Green Card expatriation – How to exit the tax system and the U.S. immigration system.

6.  Oh My God!! The moment many of you will never forget. Yes it’s a problem. No it’s not as much of a problem as you think. Make certain that you respond and not react. If all you want to do is file U.S. taxes

7.  U.S. S. 877A “Exit Tax” consulting. If you think you can leave the “Land Of The Free” for free, you better think again. A bit about the the United States expatriation taxes. Those of you with a  non-U.S. pension should take specific note!

8. Retirement and financial planning
(including pensions) as a “U.S. Person” abroad – You will be surprised at the problems you will have living as a U.S. tax compliant American abroad. Think (or maybe you shouldn’t) “PFIC“.

9. Coming into U.S. tax complianceWhat are the various options?  Why one option over another? What about “Streamlined”? 99% of you should NEVER use “OVDP”!!!

10. Non-U.S. AKA “Foreign Corporations” – Yes, these can be a BIG problem. Caution: The U.S. CFC tax rules may attribute income to YOU that you never received!

11. Getting a divorce? Are you a U.S. citizen married to a non-citizen? – Your U.S. citizenship will play a role.

Respond, don’t react! – Do NOT make any decisions without understanding the present and FUTURE consequences of those decisions.

So, how do I know this?

First, I am a person (Toronto based lawyer actually) who was born in the United States and has lived almost all of my life outside the United States. In other words, I have lived and do live these problems.

Second, I have spent the last few years of my life assisting “U.S. Persons abroad” survive the unjust imposition of FATCA, FBAR and “CBT” (AKA U.S. “place of birth taxation”) on Americans abroad. I work with many groups of people including: “accidental Americans“, long term dual citizens who wish to retain U.S. citizenship, long term dual citizens who feel they must renounce U.S. citizenship, Green Card holders (whether they live in the United States or not) and those who have ONLY U.S. citizenship. It’s what I do.

Third,
I have been (and continue to be) actively involved in efforts to oppose FATCA in the courts and in the process of making submissions to the U.S. Treasury. If you want to learn about the Alliance For The Defense of Canadian Sovereignty lawsuit against the Government of Canada, see here.

I work with people all around the world! I have given “live presentations” about the “Problems of U.S. citizenship” all over Canada and Europe. I have given a number of “media interviews” about FATCA and the problems of U.S. citizenship. I have testified as a witness before the Canadian House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance (May 2014). I have written hundreds of articles and blog posts about FATCA, FBAR and U.S. taxation-based citizenship. I have and continue to teach courses both for Americans abroad and for professionals who counsel U.S. citizens abroad.

Anyway, the blog is free. The counselling and assistance require individual consultations. Contact me if you want me to help you solve these problems as they apply to YOUR SITUATION.

John Richardson

P.S. Here is the one of the very first posts that I wrote on for this blog. Some posts are “timeless”. “What you need to consider BEFORE consulting a lawyer or tax professional“.

 

 

 

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“Coming Into Tax Compliance Book” – How Americans can come into U.S. tax compliance in a FATCA world

Are you “Coming To America” by entering the U.S. tax system as an American Abroad?

https://twitter.com/ExpatriationLaw/status/616126456935137280

The “How To Come Into U.S. Tax Compliance” book for Americans abroad

John Richardson, LL.B, J.D.

I have contributed to establishing the new “Citizenship Taxation” site. As part of launching that site, I have written a series of posts providing relevant information (in a broad sense) about how Americans abroad, who did not know about their U.S. tax obligations, can come into U.S. tax compliance.

Sooner or later, it’s likely that many people will receive a FATCA letter. In your panic, you should be careful. There are a number of things Americans abroad should consider before consulting a lawyer or tax professional.

This series of posts developed from my “Educational Outreach” program for Americans abroad. It is an effort to respond in a practical way to the questions that people have.

The chapters of “Coming Into Compliance Book” are:

Chapter 1 – “Accepting Cleanliness – Understanding U.S. Citizenship Taxation – To remain a U.S. citizen or to renounce U.S. citizenship

Chapter 2 – “But wait, I can’t renounce U.S. citizenship if I’m not a U.S. citizen. How do I know if I am a U.S. citizen?”

Chapter 3 – “No matter what, I must come into U.S. tax compliance – Coming into U.S. tax compliance for those who have NOT been filing U.S. taxes

Chapter4 – “Oh no, I have attempted U.S. tax compliance by filing tax returns. I have just learned that I have made mistakes. How do I fix those mistakes?”

Chapter 5 – “I don’t want to renounce U.S. citizenship. How to live outside the United States as a U.S. tax compliant person

Chapter 6 – “I do want to renounce U.S. citizenship. This is too much for me. How the U.S. “Exit Tax” rules might apply to me if I renounce

Chapter 7 – “I really wish I could do retirement planning like a “normal” person. But, I’m an American abroad. I hear I can’t invest in mutual funds in my country of residence. The problem of Americans Abroad and non-U.S. mutual funds explained.

Chapter 8 – “We all have to live somewhere. Five issues – “The problem of Americans Abroad and non-U.S. real estate explained

Chapter 9 – “Receiving U.S. Social Security – #Americansabroad and entitlement to Social Security

Chapter 10 – “Paying into Social Security – #Americansabroad, double taxation and the payment of “Self-employment” taxes

Chapter 11 – “Saving the children – INA S. 301 – “Residence” vs. “Physical Presence” and transmission of US citizenship abroad

Chapter 12 – “Relinquishing citizenship and your IRA – bringing your IRA home

Chapter 13 – “Married filing separately” and the “Alien Spouse” – the “hidden tax” on #Americansabroad

Chapter 14 – “The Obamacare “Net Investment Income Tax” – Pure double taxation of #Americansabroad

Chapter 15 – “To be “FORMWarned is to be “FORMArmed” – It’s “FORM Crime” stupid!!

Chapter 16 – “Most “Form Crime” penalties can be abated if there is “reasonable cause”

Chapter 17 – “How to get “credit” for taxes (foreign) paid to your country of residence

Chapter 18 – “I don’t pay taxes in the country where I live. Can I “exclude” my foreign income from the U.S. tax return?

Chapter 19 – “Is it better to take the “Foreign Tax Credit” or the “Foreign Earned Income Exclusion” – a discussion

Chapter 20
– “The child tax credit: take it, leave it or how to take it

Chapter 21 – “How #Americansabroad can continue to use the #IRA as a retirement planning vehicle

Chapter 22 – “To share or not to share” – Should a U.S. citizen share a bank account with a “non-citizen AKA alien spouse?

The “Coming Into Compliance Book” is designed to provide an overview of how to bring some sanity to your life.

 Coming to America

You may remember the old Eddie Murphy movie about “Coming To America”.

Welcome to the confusing and high stakes rules for U.S. taxation and Americans abroad.

The United States has the most complex, confusing, most penalty ridden and most difficult anti-deferral regime in the world. McGill Professor Allison Christians has noted that Americans abroad are both:

“deemed to be permanently resident in the United States for tax compliance and financial reporting purposes” …

and are

“subject to the most complex aspects of the U.S. tax code regardless of any activity in the United States, and facing extraordinary compliance costs and disclosure risks even for nil returns”

Although Americans abroad are deemed to be resident in the United States, their assets are treated as “offshore”. In addition Americans abroad are subject to taxation in their country of residence.

All of this means that:

1. Americans abroad are subject to the worst and most punitive aspects of the U.S. tax system (there is no Homelander who is treated as badly as an American abroad); and

2. Denied most benefits of the tax systems of their country of residence.

To put it simply, Americans abroad get the worst of all possible tax systems.

The most horrific aspects of the U.S. tax system are saved for Americans abroad. Prepare to be shocked. As one commenter at the Isaac Brock Society site recently said:

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Renouncing US citizenship? How the S. 877A “Exit Tax” may apply to your Canadian assets – 25 Parts

Introduction:

usexittax

There is much discussion of the U.S. rules which operate to impose taxation on the residents of other countries and income earned in those other countries. You will hear references to “citizenship taxation”, “FATCA Canada“, PFIC, etc. It is becoming more common for people to wish to relinquish their U.S. citizenship. The most common form of “relinquishment is renunciation”. The U.S. tax rules, found in the Internal Revenue Code, impose taxes on everything. There is even a tax on “renouncing U.S. citizenship”. I don’t mean the $2350 USD administrative fee which everybody has to pay. (Isn’t that really a tax?). I mean a tax on your assets. To be clear:

You must pay a price to NOT be a U.S. citizen.

This tax is found in S. 877A of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code.

It’s defined as the:

Tax responsibilities of expatriation

Few people are aware of this tax. Fewer still understand how it works.  As FATCA operates to enforce U.S. taxation on many Canadian citizens, and increasing numbers wish to NOT be U.S. citizens, the importance of understanding the U.S. “Exit Tax” increases.

It is particularly important to understand what triggers the “Exit Tax”. You will be subject to the “Exit Tax” if you are a “covered expatriate”. You must know what that means and why, sooner or later, everybody will become a “covered expatriate”.

The “Exit Tax” is not a simple “token tax”. For Canadians, the tax can be a significant percentage of their net worth. Furthermore, the tax is payable NOT on actual gains, but on “pretend gains”. (Where would the money come from to pay the tax?)

Hang on to your seats. You will shocked, amazed and horrified by this.

Since the advent of FATCA in Canada, this issue is increasingly important.*

To be forewarned is to be forearmed!

This is a 22 part series which is designed to provide you  with some basic education on:

How the U.S. S. 877A Exit Tax rules work; and

How they particularly affect Canadians with a U.S. birthplace, who lived most of their lives in Canada.

This will be covered over a 9 day period in a “9 part” series. (It has since been expanded to 16 posts and counting.)

Although this series is beginning on “April Fools Day”, I assure that this is NOT a joke.

The 16 parts are:

Part 1 – April 1, 2015 – “Facts are stubborn things” – The results of the “Exit Tax

Part 2 – April 2, 2015 – “How could this possibly happen? “Exit Taxes” in a system of residence based taxation vs. Exit Taxes in a system of “citizenship (place of birth) taxation

Part 3 – April 3, 2015 – “The “Exit Tax” affects “covered expatriates” – what is a “covered expatriate“?”

Part 4 – April 4, 2015 – “You are a “covered expatriate” How is the “Exit Tax”  actually calculated

Part 5 – April 5, 2015 – “The “Exit Tax” in action – Five actual scenarios with 5 actual completed U.S. tax returns

Part 6 – April 6, 2015 – “Surely, expatriation is NOT worse than death! The two million asset test should be raised to the Estate Tax limitation – approximately five million dollars – It’s Time

Part 7 – April 7, 2015 – “Why 2015 is a good year for many Americans abroad to relinquish U.S. citizenship – It’s the exchange rate

Part 8 – April 8, 2015 – “The U.S. “Exit Tax vs. Canada’s Departure Tax – Understanding the difference between citizenship taxation and residence taxation

Part 9 – April 9, 2015 – “For #Americansabroad: US “citizenship taxation” is “death by a thousand cuts, but the S. 877A Exit Tax is “death by the guillotine”

Part 10 – April 10, 2015 – “The S. 877A Exit Tax and possible relief under the Canada U.S. Tax Treaty

Part 11 – April 11, 2015 – “S. 2801 of the Internal Revenue Code is NOT a S. 877A “Exit Tax”, but a punishment for the “sins of the father (relinquishment)

Part 12 – April 12, 2015 – “The two kinds of U.S. citizenship: Citizenship for “immigration and nationality” and citizenship for  “taxation” – Are we taxed because we are citizens or are we citizens because we are taxed?”

Part 13 – April 13, 2015 – “I relinquished U.S. citizenship many years ago. Could I still have U.S. tax citizenship?

Part 14 – April 14, 2015 – “Leaving the U.S. tax system – renounce or relinquish U.S. citizenship, What’s the difference?

Part 15 – May 22, 2015 – “Interview with GordonTLong.com – “Citizenship taxation”, the S. 877A Exit Tax, PFICs and Americans abroad

Attention: Parts 16 – 21 focus on the “dual citizen exemption in the context of Canada’s Citizenship laws.

Part 16 – February 16, 2016 – “Why the S. 877A(g)(1)(B) “dual citizen exemption” encourages dual citizens from birth to remain US citizens and others (except @SenTedCruz) to renounce” – Note that this module is composed of Parts 16 – 21 – six posts.

Part 17 – February 16, 2016 – The history of Canada’s citizenship laws: Did the 1947 Canada Citizenship Act affirm citizenship or “strip” citizenship and create @LostCanadians?

Part 18 – February 16, 2016 -The S. 877A “dual citizen” exemption – I was born before the first ever Canada Citizenship Act? Could I have been “born a Canadian citizen”?

Part 19 – February 16, 2016 – The S. 877A “Dual Citizen” exemption: The 1947 Canada Citizenship Act – Am I still a Canadian or did I lose Canadian citizenship? (The “Sins Of The Father”)

Part 20 – February 16, 2016 -The S. 877A “Dual Citizen” exemption: The 1947 Canada Citizenship Act and the requirements to be “born Canadian

Part 21 – February 16, 2016 – “The S. 877A “Dual Citizen” exemption: I was born a dual citizen! Am I still “taxed as a resident” of Canada?

Part 22 – February 29, 2016 – “The S. 877A “Dual Citizen” exemption: MUST certify tax compliance for the five years prior to relinquishment

More on the United States Expatriation Tax – ongoing miscellaneous:

Part 23 – “How the 1966 desire to “poach” capital from other nations led to the 2008 S. 877A Exit Tax

Part 24 – “Clinton Treasury representative Les Samuels explains why the U.S. Exit Tax SHOULD apply to the assets of Americans abroad

Part 25 – “Relinquishing US citizenship: South African Apartheid, the Accidental Taxpayer and the exit tax

 

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* Why this is of increased importance: The role of FATCA and U.S. taxation in Canada

A picture/video tells a thousand words. Have a look at the “Rick Mercer FATCA video” in the following tweet:

FATCA is U.S. law which is designed to identify financial assets and people, outside the United States, that the U.S. believes are subject to its tax laws. (It makes no difference whether the person is a Canadian citizen”.) This includes people who were:

– born in the U.S.

– Green card holders

– people born to U.S. parents in Canada

– “snow birds” who spend too much time in the United States

The Government of Canada is assisting the United State to implement FATCA in Canada. To be specific:

– on February 5, 2014 the Government of Canada formally agreed to change Canadian law to identify “U.S. connected” Canadians in Canada

– in May of 2014, the Government of Canada passed Bill C 31 which contained the implementing legislation

– on July 1, 2014 FATCA became the law in Canada

– since July 1, 2014 many Canadians have received a “FATCA Letter” (can the U.S. claim you as a taxpayer?)

The Alliance For The Defence Of Canadian Sovereignty has sued the Government of Canada in Federal Court on the basis that the participation of the Canadian Government in FATCA, is in violation of the Charter Rights of Canadians. You can keep up with their progress on the Alliance blog” which is here.

FATCA is a tool to enforce “U.S. taxation in Canada”. The result is that more and more Canadian citizen/residents  will be forced to pay U.S. taxes. But, U.S. tax rules include much more than tax. They are source of comprehensive information gathering and “information returns”. Typical returns required by U.S. taxpayers in Canada include: FBAR, FATCA Form 8938, Form 5471, Form 3520, Form 3520A and many more.

In addition, U.S. tax rules are different from Canadian tax rules. The most painful example is that when:

– Canada allows a “tax free” capital gain on your principal residence

– the U.S. imposes a 23.8% tax on the sale of your principal residence (you get a $250,000 deduction)

Sound horrible?

It is, but:

It’s only Canadian citizens with a past “U.S. connection” who will be subject to these taxes. It is estimated that approximately one million Canadians may be subject (as “U.S. Subjects”) to these rules. But, Canadians with a “U.S. connection” are members of families. Therefore, U.S. taxation in Canada will impact all members of a Canadian family which has at least one “U.S. connected” member.

 

John Richardson

 

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What you should consider before contacting a lawyer

decision

The Reality of U.S. Citizenship Abroad

Nobody denied that the unintended targets of Congressional legislation aimed at those who supposedly “owe allegiance” to the USA, now assisted by craven foreign governments anxious lest their financial services entities lose access to the US market, are mostly unlikely to do anything at all. But the whole idea of universal self-assessment of taxation is to keep the taxpayer in an anxious condition, to make him overpay if possible, but at least not to underpay. Those now faced with an unprecedented, even retroactive, enforcement campaign and who must, if they wish to become compliant and avoid penalty or even prosecution (should they be identified in the future), sacrifice much of their wealth, even become insolvent.

Comment at the Isaac Brock Society blog – July 29, 2013

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The US “expatriation tax” and the the incentive to apply for a Green Card or remain in the USA

America doesn’t really need skilled immigrants, or does it?

The above tweet references a post that references a comment by Victoria Ferauge:
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Is Form 8938 required by “Green Card Holders” who are nonresidents by “treaty tie breaker”? – Any exemption is the result of “IRS grace”

Summary:

The context: Form 8938 was created by the IRS to meet the reporting requirements mandated by Internal Revenue Code S. 6038D. S. 6038D was mandated by S. 511 of the HIRE Act.

On March 18, 2010 President Obama signed the HIRE Act into law. The HIRE Act had two targets. The first target was the Foreign Financial Institutions that were willing to do business with U.S. citizens. The second target was Americans citizens who attempted to do business with any “non-U.S. bank or other financial institution.

The first target – Foreign Financial Institutions: The HIRE Act introduced Chapter 4 of Subtitle A – AKA FATCA – into the Internal Revenue Code. Pursuant to Chapter 4 Foreign Financial Institutions are threatened with a 30% sanction for failing to “Review, Identify and Report” those who the U.S. claims as “U.S. persons“. The Canadian FATCA lawsuit, launched by the Alliance For The Defence of Canadian Sovereignty, is related to the reporting requirements imposed on the banks.

The second target – American citizens attempting to use Foreign Financial Institutions outside the United States: The second group is composed of “individuals” who are required to disclose information to the IRS. The HIRE Act imposed extraordinary reporting requirements on Americans abroad. The most visible – Form 8938 – is an intrusive form that is aimed at targeting “individuals”. The terms “individuals” means every human life form on the planet.  The U.S. based “FATCA Legal Action” lawsuit (which was condemned by Democrats abroad), is a lawsuit that is primarily intended to attack the requirements imposed on individual Americans abroad.

Internal Revenue Code Section 6038D and “Foreign Asset Disclosure”

A previous post discussed the interaction among: the Internal Revenue Code, tax treaty tie breaker rules and whether a Green Card Holder is a U.S. resident for FATCA purposes. This post is to discuss the form 8938 requirement and how it applies to Green Card Holders (resident aliens) who are deemed by treaty to be “nonresidents” under a treaty “Tie Breaker” rule.

The statute – Internal Revenue Code Section 6038D – gives the “Secretary” (meaning IRS) the right to create specific exemptions. “Nonresident aliens” is one group that the IRS is allowed to specifically exempt from the Form 8938 requirement. Green Card Holders are statutory “resident aliens” under S. 7701(b) of the Internal Revenue Code. Yet, in some cases “Green Card Holders” can be treated as “nonresident aliens” pursuant to a tax treaty.

What is a “Treaty Tie Breaker” rule?

It’s possible for a person to be treated as a “tax resident” of two countries. In this case a Tax Treaty can be used to determine where the person is a “tax resident”. For example Section 2 of Article IV of the Canada U.S. Tax Treaty says:

2. Where by reason of the provisions of paragraph 1 an individual is a resident of both Contracting States, then his status shall be determined as follows:

(a) he shall be deemed to be a resident of the Contracting State in which he has a permanent home available to him; if he has a permanent home available to him in both States or in neither State, he shall be deemed to be a resident of the Contracting State with which his personal and economic relations are closer (centre of vital interests);

(b) if the Contracting State in which he has his centre of vital interests cannot be determined, he shall be deemed to be a resident of the Contracting State in which he has an habitual abode;

(c) if he has an habitual abode in both States or in neither State, he shall be deemed to be a resident of the Contracting State of which he is a citizen; and

(d) if he is a citizen of both States or of neither of them, the competent authorities of the Contracting States shall settle the question by mutual agreement.

(Note that the “Treaty Tie Breaker” rules are available to “Green Card” holders. The treaty “savings clause” prevents U.S. citizens from being treated solely as a resident of Canada.)

So, what do the IRS regulations say?

On December 29, 2014 the IRS removed the temporary regulations (which are described here) and issued final Form 8938 reporting rules. The final regulations, which took effect on December 29, 2014 (making them applicable for years 2014 and onward), make it clear that Green Card Holders, who pursuant to a treaty tie-breaker provision, are treated as “nonresidents” (nonresident aliens) are NOT required to file Form 8938.

Specifically, the IRS confirms that:

1. Dual resident taxpayers

A comment recommended an exemption from the section 6038D reporting requirements be included for an individual who is a dual resident taxpayer and who, pursuant to a provision of a treaty that provides for resolution of conflicting claims of residence by the United States and the treaty partner, claims to be treated as a resident of the treaty partner. In such a case, a dual resident taxpayer may claim a treaty benefit as a resident of the treaty partner and will be taxed as a nonresident for U.S. tax purposes for the taxable year (or portion of the taxable year) that the individual is treated as a nonresident. The final rule adopts this recommendation for a dual resident taxpayer who determines his or her U.S. tax liability as if he or she were a nonresident alien and claims a treaty benefit as a nonresident of the United States as provided in § 301.7701(b)–7 by timely filing a Form 1040NR, “Nonresident Alien Income Tax Return,” (or such other appropriate form under that section) and attaching a Form 8833, “Treaty-Based Return Position Disclosure Under Section 6114 or 7701(b).” The Treasury Department and the IRS have concluded that reporting under section 6038D is closely associated with the determination of an individual’s income tax liability. Because the taxpayer’s filing of a Form 8833 with his or her Form 1040NR (or other appropriate form) will permit the IRS to identify individuals in this category and take follow-up tax enforcement actions when considered appropriate, reporting on Form 8938, “Statement of Specified Foreign Financial Assets,” is not essential to effective IRS tax enforcement efforts relating to this category of U.S. residents.

Why this makes sense …

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Relinquishing US citizenship: South African Apartheid, the Accidental Taxpayer and the exit tax

Introducing this “guest post”

This guest post is written by Dominic Ferszt of Cape Town, South Africa. I first became aware of Mr. Ferszt when, in October of 2014, his post: “The Accidental Tax Invasion” was published in Forbes. I have discussed various aspects of “citizenship-based taxation” with him since. I am very pleased that he has accepted my invitation to write this “guest post” for publication at Citizenship Solutions. His post exposes an aspect of “citizenship taxation” and the S. 877A U.S. expatriation tax that has not (as far as I am aware) been discussed before. Those who did NOT acquire “dual citizenship” at birth because of discriminatory laws (example British and Canadian laws saying that citizenship could be passed down from the father but not from the mother) will find this post extremely interesting and relevant.

Without further adieu …

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Apartheid and the Accidental Taxpayer

How the United States Congress has passed legislation which imposes a tax obligation in accordance with the discriminatory policies of foreign nations; and how this might offer a glimmer of hope to millions around the world who feel unjustly targeted by FATCA or the IRS.

By Dominic Ferszt, Cape Town

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Will a business trip to the United States of America trigger a “chance” encounter with Mr. #FBAR?

Prologue: Circa 1948 – George Orwell anticipates the arrival of Mr. FBAR

‘By the way, old boy,’ he said. ‘I hear that little beggar of mine let fly at you with his catapult yesterday. I gave him a good dressing-down for it. In fact I told him I’d take the catapult away if he does it again.

‘I think he was a little upset at not going to the execution,’ said Winston.

‘ Ah, well — what I mean to say, shows the right spirit, doesn’t it? Mischievous little beggars they are, both of them, but talk about keenness! All they think about is the Spies, and the war, of course. D’you know what that little girl of mine did last Saturday, when her troop was on a hike out Berkhamsted way? She got two other girls to go with her, slipped off from the hike, and spent the whole afternoon following a strange man. They kept on his tail for two hours, right through the woods, and then, when they got into Amersham, handed him over to the patrols.’

‘What did they do that for?’ said Winston, somewhat taken aback. Parsons went on triumphantly:

‘My kid made sure he was some kind of enemy agent — might have been dropped by parachute, for instance. But here’s the point, old boy. What do you think put her on to him in the first place? She spotted he was wearing a funny kind of shoes — said she’d never seen anyone wearing shoes like that before. So the chances were he was a foreigner. Pretty smart for a nipper of seven, eh?’

‘What happened to the man?’ said Winston.

‘Ah, that I couldn’t say, of course. But I wouldn’t be altogether surprised if-‘ Parsons made the motion of aiming a rifle, and clicked his tongue for the explosion.

Chapter 5 of George Orwell’s 1984

Writing in 1948, George Orwell (in his book 1984) identified the need to identify and punish all things “foreign” as being important for domestic security.

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Part 1: Tax Treaties, determining “tax residence” and new OECD Common Reporting Standard (“CRS”)

 

The above tweet references an article from Stikeman Elliot which includes:

For CRS purposes, the term “reportable person” generally refers to a natural person or entity that is resident in a reportable jurisdiction (excluding Canada and the United States) under the tax laws of that jurisdiction, or an estate of an individual who was a resident of a reportable jurisdiction under the tax laws of that jurisdiction immediately before death, other than: (i) a corporation the stock of which is regularly traded on one or more established securities markets; (ii) any corporation that is a related entity of a corporation described in clause (i); (iii) a governmental entity; (iv) an international organization; (v) a central bank; or (vi) a financial institution.  See definitional subsection ITA 270 (1).

This morning I received an email that included the following question:

My friend lives and works in country A, and has bank accounts in Country B. He is a permanent resident of Canada. Will the banks in either Country A or Country B, report his accounts to the Canada Revenue Agency? Country A (where he resides) has no income tax system. This is common in Gulf Countries. Country A has not signed on to Common Reporting Standard. Country B (a European country) has signed on to the Common Reporting Standard.

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Does Article 22 the U.S. Australia Tax Treaty require the United States to allow U.S. citizens a foreign tax credit against the 3.8% Obamacare Surtax?

Introduction

The above tweet references a post which I wrote on August 7, 2016 which discussed the (August 5, 2016) decision of the United States Court of Appeals – District of Columbia Circuits in the Esher case. In this case, Justice Millet ruled that:

That extreme reading of the Totalization Agreement rests on nothing more than the Commissioner’s own say-so. It lacks any grounding in the Agreement’s text or in any principle governing the interpretation of international agreements. The tax court’s corresponding disregard of the Totalization Agreement’s textual direction concerning the role of French law in resolving undefined terms and in determining the content of the laws enumerated in Article 2(1)(b) was error and requires reversal.

The complete decision is here:

FRENCH TAXES US COURT REVERSAL 5 AUG 2016 (1)

 

The general point is this:

When interpreting international tax treaties the United States is not permitted to consider ONLY U.S. law when interpreting the treaty. The United States (and the treaty partner country) is required to consider each country’s expectations of what the treaty meant and how it might be interpreted with respect to laws that did not exist at the time the treaty was signed.

I concluded that post with my thought that:

The court ruled that international tax treaties must be interpreted in the context of what were the expectations of the country when the treaty was signed. This may open up the possibility of reconsidering how various U.S. tax laws may affect the residents and citizens of other nations.

For example: To what extent was or is it the expectation of a country that it can be interpreted to allow the U.S. to impose punitive taxation on those who are primarily citizens of and factually residents of other nations?

Time will tell.

The 3.8% Obamacare surtax and Americans abroad …

As the articles in the above tweets demonstrate, the 3.8% Obamacare surtax (assuming it’s applicability to Americans abroad) is considered to be:

– a form of pure double taxation when applied to Americans abroad

– more likely to be paid by Americans abroad than by Homeland Americans

– a way to force Americans abroad to pay for the medical care of Homeland Americans

– a costly compliance nightmare

– an example of “Boldly Go, where no regime of citizenship taxation has ever gone before

#YouCantMakeThisUp!
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The interpretation of US Tax Treaties: Domestic law, foreign law or the intent of the treaty

On August 5, 2016 the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuits issued it’s decision in the Esher case.

This important case is here:

FRENCH TAXES US COURT REVERSAL 5 AUG 2016 (1)

Information about the history of the case is here which includes:

DC Circ. Chides DOJ For Snub Of US Gov’t In French Tax Row

A D.C. Circuit panel grilled the Department of Justice’s Tax Division on Tuesday for arguing a foreign tax dispute with dual U.S. and French citizens without first seeking input from the U.S. government, saying the case requires the court to interpret international treaties and examine other policy issues.

The court’s decision, authored by Justice Millet concluded with:
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“A Proposal for Fair US Tax Treatment of Foreign Pensions” from @JackieBugnion and Paula Singer

Even in retirement Jackie Bugion writes the best arguments against citizenship taxation ever“. Other references to Ms. Bugnion’s work are here.

In this new post published on May 30, 2016 at Tax Analysts, Ms. Bugnion collaborates with U.S. tax lawyer Paula N. Singer to explain the problems experienced by Americans abroad who have pensions in their country of residence.

This new article explains:

1. The problem – how U.S. tax laws destroy the value of the “foreign pension” as a “pension” at all

2. The treatment of non-U.S. pensions under various U.S. tax treaties (underscoring now tax treaties are very different)

3. The proposal – how the Internal Revenue Code can be simply amended to fix this simple but painful problem.

Below you will find the PDF of this must read article. Please note that this article appears on CitizenshipSolutions.ca under the following conditions:

Permission is for this one use and is contingent on properly crediting the article to the respective authors and to Tax Analysts as the original publisher. Using the PDF attached above covers proper attribution. Any other requests would need to be addressed separately.

Bugnion-Singer (05-30-2016)

John Richardson

Why Boris Johnson must relinquish US citizenship on the occasion of his appointment as British Foreign Minister

A recent post (July 7, 2016) on this blog began with:

Prologue – U.S. citizens are “subjects” to U.S. law wherever they may be in the world …

Yes, it’s true. In 1932 (eight years after the Supreme Court decision in Cook v. Tait), Justice Hughes of the U.S. Supreme Court, in the case of Blackmer v. United States ruled that:

While it appears that the petitioner removed his residence to France in the year 1924, it is undisputed that he was, and continued to be, a citizen of the United States. He continued to owe allegiance to the United States. By virtue of the obligations of citizenship, the United States retained its authority over him, and he was bound by its laws made applicable to him in a foreign country. Thus, although resident abroad, the petitioner remained subject to the taxing power of the United States. Cook v. Tait, 265 U.S. 47, 54 , 56 S., 44 S. Ct. 444. For disobedience to its laws through conduct abroad, he was subject to punishment in the courts of the United States. United States v. Bow- [284 U.S. 421, 437] man, 260 U.S. 94, 102 , 43 S. Ct. 39. With respect to such an exercise of authority, there is no question of international law,2 but solely of the purport of the municipal law which establishes the duties of the citizen in relation to his own government. 3 While the legislation of the Congress, unless the contrary intent appears, is construed to apply only within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States, the question of its application, so far as citizens of the United States in foreign countries are concerned, is one of construction, not of legislative power. American Banana Co. v. United Fruit Co., 213 U.S. 347, 357 , 29 S. Ct. 511, 16 Ann. Cas. 1047; United States v. Bowman, supra; Robertson v. Labor Board, 268 U.S. 619, 622 , 45 S. Ct. 621. Nor can it be doubted that the United States possesses the power inherent in sovereignty to require the return to this country of a citizen, resident elsewhere, whenever the public interest requires it, and to penalize him in case of refusal. Compare Bartue and the Duchess of Suffolk’s Case, 2 Dyer’s Rep. 176b, 73 Eng. Rep. 388; Knowles v. Luce, Moore 109, 72 Eng. Rep. 473.4 What in England was the prerogative of the sov- [284 U.S. 421, 438] ereign in this respect pertains under our constitutional system to the national authority which may be exercised by the Congress by virtue of the legislative power to prescribe the duties of the citizens of the United States. It is also beyond controversy that one of the duties which the citizen owes to his government is to support the administration of justice by attending its courts and giving his testimony whenever he is properly summoned. Blair v. United States, 250 U.S. 273, 281 , 39 S. St. Ct. 468. And the Congress may provide for the performance of this duty and prescribe penalties for disobedience.

It’s that simple. If you are a U.S. citizen, some would argue that you are the property of the U.S.government.

On the other hand (and this will be the subject of another post), the Supreme Court decisions in Cook v. Tait and Blackmer v. The United States were decided in an era where there was no U.S. recognition of dual citizenship. It is reasonable to argue that these decisions have no applicability in the modern world.

There will be those who will say: Come on! Get real! The United States would never rely on these old court decisions. Well, they still do cite Cook v. Tait. Mr. FBAR lay dormant until it was resurrected by the Obama administration as the “FBAR Fundraiser“.

Dual Citizenship: What is the “effect” of a U.S. citizen also holding the citizenship of another nation?

The State Department description includes:

However, dual nationals owe allegiance to both the United States and the foreign country. They are required to obey the laws of both countries. Either country has the right to enforce its laws, particularly if the person later travels there. Most U.S. nationals, including dual nationals, must use a U.S. passport to enter and leave the United States. Dual nationals may also be required by the foreign country to use its passport to enter and leave that country. Use of the foreign passport does not endanger U.S. nationality. Most countries permit a person to renounce or otherwise lose nationality.

The life and times of Boris Johnson – A United States taxpayer by birth

Assumptions about Mr. Johnson’s citizenship …

I am assuming that he became both a U.S. and U.K. citizen by birth. I also assume that he remains both a U.S. and a U.K. citizen.

A U.S. Centric Perspective: As a U.S. citizen, Mr. Johnson is defined primarily in terms of taxation. On the occasion of Mr. Johnson’s recent appointment as the U.K. Foreign Minister, the Washington Times published the following article.

The article referenced in the above tweet provides an interesting summary of the Mr. Johnson’s adventures with the U.S. tax system. The article demonstrates how U.S. “place of birth” taxation is used to extract capital from other nations and transfer that capital to the U.S. Treasury. (As always the comments are of great interest.)

A non-U.S. Centric Perspective: Mr. Johnson is a “poster boy” for the problems of the U.S. “place of birth taxation” (AKA “taxation-based citizenship”). Mr. Johnson’s “IRS Problems” resulted in raising the profile and awareness of U.S. tax policies. A particularly interesting article was written by Jackie Bugnion and Roland Crim of “American Citizens Abroad”.

At a minimum, Mr. Johnson is subject to IRS jurisdiction, IRS reporting requirements, IRS threats and penalties and IRS assessments.

Boris Johnson has now been named the U.K. Foreign Minister …

How does his United States citizenship impact on this situation? Is it possible for him to be both a U.S. citizen and the British foreign minister? The “logical answer” is “Yes he can”. That said, having a U.S. citizen as the U.K. foreign minister raises many questions.

These questions include:

1. What effect (if any) does Mr. Johnson’s acceptance of this position have on his retention of United States citizenship as a matter of U.S. law?

2. If his acceptance of the position were a “relinquishing act” (under U.S. law) would Mr. Johnson be subject to the United States S. 877A Exit Tax?

3. Assuming that Mr. Johnson were to retain “dual” U.S./U.K. citizenship, how would his “divided loyalties” impact on this ability to serve as the British foreign minister?

4. Assuming that Mr. Johnson were to retain “dual” U.S./U.K. citizenship, how does the fact that the IRS has the jurisdiction to threaten him with fines and penalties impact the situation? What about the reporting requirements?

5. Should Boris Johnson formally relinquish his U.S. citizenship in order to avoid the conflict of interest that would arise because of divided loyalties?

Each question will be considered separately. Here we go …

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