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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? You may still be subject to U.S. taxation, even when you don’t live in the USA! What are the tax obligations of Green Card holders? 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 and want to renounce U.S. citizenship 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” compliance? 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?

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

 

________________________________________________________________________________________

* 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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Americans abroad opposing “taxation-based citizenship” should retire the “Taxation Without Representation” argument

In a recent comment reproduced as a post at the Isaac Brock Society and at Citizenship Taxation, I argued that it’s time for people to unite with one simple message. The message captured in the following tweet:

“The United States must not impose “worldwide taxation” on those who have “tax residency” in other countries and do not live in the United States!”

I propose this for the following reasons:

1. There is not a single person or organization on the planet that could not support this and credibly claim that they want to end U.S. extra-territorial tax policies.

2. It places the focus of U.S. tax policies on how the policies affect the citizens and residents of other countries and NOT on those who identify as U.S. citizens living abroad AKA “Homelanders Abroad”. There is no suggestion of seeking exemptions for certain “tax compliant people”, …

3. It resonates with “accidentals” (AKA those carbon life forms that the United States considers to be life long tax slaves) because they were born in the United States.

4. It naturally leads to a discussion of how U.S. extra-territorial taxation affects the economies (“steals from their tax base) of other countries.

5. By focusing on “tax residents” of other countries, it avoids alltogether the idiotic “baff gablle” of: “Well, you are a member of the political community”, “patriotism”, “right to live in the USA” and all of these “academically focussed) distractions.

6. It avoids getting into the incredibly difficulty problem of explaining precisely HOW the Internal Revenue Code applies in different countries (in practical terms it applies differently in different countries). Almost nobody understands how the Internal Revenue Code actually applies in other countries (including the IRS) …

7. It bypasses arguments like: “What do you mean you are complaining? I hear you exclude about 100,000 using this thing called the “Foreign Earned Income Exclusion”. If you can exclude 100,000 when you don’t even live in the USA, then why can’t I as a Homelander exclude at least 100,000″ …

Again to agree to the message:

“The United States must not impose “worldwide taxation” on those who have “tax residency” in other countries and do not live in the United States!”

should avoid the distractions described in points 1 – 7.

“Taxation without representation argument”

But, I want to focus on an argument/point that I think is a particular time waster and probably hurts the cause rather than helps it.

The ONLY Americans who have representation in the political process are those who have the money to “buy the laws” that they want. The American legislative process is nothing more and nothing less than a “pay to play casino”. It’s that simple. America is one of the world’s most dysfunctional democracies. In fact it is a democracy only in the sense that some Americans (including some but not all Americans abroad) have the right to vote. Having a vote is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for a functioning democracy. A vote matters only if there are viable candidates to vote for. In the America of today, who the candidates are, is tightly controlled by the political parties. Do you really think that if America had a functioning democracy, that allowed for democratically selected candidates, that the 2016 election would have come down to:

Donald Trump vs. Hilary Clinton?

Not a chance. My point is that almost no Americans have political representation in any case. By making the “taxation without representation argument”, Americans abroad are asking for something that Homelanders don’t have!

So, please let’s retire the:


“Taxation without representation argument”!

John Richardson

My morning thoughts on this were generated by the comments in the following tweets (all of which were generated by the Financial Times discussion on the Sec. 965 Transition Tax:

Global Entry, NEXUS and the effect of renouncing US citizenship

This is another post in what is becoming a series about “travel documents” for U.S. and Canadian citizens and permanent residents. To travel the world you need to be able to get easy access to and from different countries. “Travel documents” are required. Travel documents include (but are not limited to): passports, permanent resident cards, Global Entry cards and NEXUS cards. Different rules may apply in different contexts (are you traveling by air, land or sea)? My previous posts about “travel documents” have been:

Canadian citizens and permanent residents of Canada

Travel Documents: Canadian citizens need either a U.S. or Canadian passport to enter Canada by air (or by land)

Why would someone renounce their “permanent resident of Canada” status?

Law permanent residents of the United States AKA “Green Card” holders

What’s a #GreenCard anyway? It’s NOT what you don’t know. It’s what you know that isn’t true!

Although a “reentry permit” can provide evidence of intention to reside permanently in the USA, it does ask about tax returns!

This post focuses on the NEXUS program (in the context of the U.S “Global Entry Program”).

I encourage you to visit the U.S. Government “Global Entry” page. You will be amazed at how broad these programs actually are.

Introduction

A common question (I have been asked this many times) for Canadians renouncing U.S. citizenship:

How will my renunciation affect my NEXUS card?

I provided the following “Readers Digest” answer on Quora. But I thought I would provide a broader answer in this post.

Read John Richardson's answer to Can you still qualify for a Nexus card if you renounce your US citizenship after becoming a naturalized Canadian citizen? on Quora
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On what date does an individual (other than a U.S. citizen) begin or end @USTaxResidency

This is an interesting and important question. This question is always important for determining how the Sec. 877A “Exit Tax” applies to “permanent residents” AKA “Green Card Holders” who with to abandon their permanent residence. There are many other many other reasons why this matters. U.S. tax residency (which is an example of “deemed tax residency“) can be a complicated thing. With the exception of U.S. citizens, U.S. tax residency is usually a function of some form of “physical presence”.

U.S. tax residency can trigger:

– income tax payable
reporting requirements with respect to non-U.S. assets and more (dual tax residents may be able to use a “tax treaty tie-breaker” to opt out of U.S. tax residency)

Remember that “residence” for purposes of taxation can be different from residence for the purposes of immigration. As the Topsnik case makes clear, it is entirely possible to NOT have the right to have lost the right to live in the United States, but still be subject to taxation as a U.S. resident.

Rather than reinvent the wheel, I am please to reproduce this post from Daniel Gray – a Toronto based CPA. Thanks to Daniel for allowing me to reproduce this post from his blog.

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U.S. Tax Reform and the “nonresident” corporation owner: Does the Sec. 965 transition tax apply?

Prologue:

The United States has a long history of imposing “worldwide taxation”on the INDIVIDUAL “tax residents” of other countries. The United States cannot impose direct taxation on “non-U.S corporations” that have no business connection to the United States. That said, the United States (along with certain other countries) has “CFC” (Controlled Foreign Corporation) rules that impose taxation on the “United States Shareholders” of “non-U.S. corporations. In general, these rules simply attribute certain types of corporate income directly to the individual “United States Shareholder”.

U.S. Tax Reform 2017 (well at least “International Tax Reform”)

In early November 2017, it appeared that U.S tax reform “might” include a provision that would in effect impose retroactive taxation on the retained earnings of Canadian (and other non-U.S.) small business corporations. I wrote about that here.

On December 22, 2017 President Donald Trump signed into law the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act”. The uniquely U.S. policy of imposing “worldwide taxation” on the tax residents and citizens of other countries continues. FATCA continues. In other words, in spite of the educational campaign orchestrated by individuals and groups (Americans Citizens abroad and Republicans Overseas) the U.S. Government (although aware of the aware of the problems) declined to make the changes necessary to allow U.S. citizens to live normal financial lives outside the United States. An earlier post, describing “How U.S. Citizens Can Live Abroad In An FBAR and FATCA World” demonstrates that the rules of the Internal Revenue Code involve far more than taxation, but include a number of “penalty laden, intrusive information reporting requirements”. Significantly these rules impact people who are resident/citizens of other countries who are subject to the tax systems of those countries. Many of those impacted do not even consider themselves to be U.S. citizens. Some of them don’t even speak English. Few of them can afford the expensive compliance costs. How could things get worse?

Well, it is possible (but not certain) that things have gotten worse. Incredibly there are some people impacted by U.S. tax rules who are “tax residents” of other countries AND have made the decision to create small businesses where they live. Furthermore, some of them have opted to carry on those businesses by creating “local corporations”. In Canada these “local corporations” are called “Canadian Controlled Private Corporations”. Every country has its own “culture of corporations”. In Canada (to the chagrin of Prime Minister Trudeau and Finance Minister Morneau) these corporations are used as “private pension plans”. (This is because entrepreneurs rarely have access to other traditional pension plans.)

So, what does all this have to do with U.S. tax?

1. The U.S. Internal Revenue Code cannot impose direct taxation on Canadian (or other foreign) corporations.

2. As a result, the U.S. Internal Revenue Code has traditionally attributed the “passive earnings” of many “Canadian Controlled Private Corporations”, to the individual “United States Shareholder”. (See Subpart F: Sections 951 – 965 of the Internal Revenue Code – you have no chance of understanding the legislative scheme.)

3. The Internal Revenue Code has NOT previously attributed the active business of “Canadian Controlled Private Corporations” to the individual “United States shareholder”.

4. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has added a new Sec 965 to the Internal Revenue Code that purports to retroactively impose U.S. taxation on this (previously untaxed) active business income RETROACTIVELY FROM 1986. Yes, you read correctly.

I made the following comment to an article in the Financial Times which I believe fairly summarizes what this “tax” means in the lives of the “tax residents” of other countries (who are subject to U.S. taxation”:

Interesting article that demonstrates the impact of the U.S. tax policy of (1) exporting the Internal Revenue Code to other countries and (2) using the Internal Revenue Code to impose direct taxation on the “tax residents” of those other countries.

Some thoughts on this:

1. Different countries have different “cultures” of financial planning and carrying on businesses. The U.S. tax culture is such that an individual carrying on a business through a corporation is considered to be a “presumptive tax cheat”. This is NOT so in other countries. For example, in Canada (and other countries), it is normal for people to use small business corporations to both carry on business and create private pension plans. So, the first point that must be understood is that (if this tax applies) it is in effect a “tax” (actually it’s confiscation) of private pension plans!!! That’s what it actually is. The suggestion in one of the comments that these corporations were created to somehow avoid “self-employment” tax (although possibly true in countries that don’t have totalization agreements) is generally incorrect. I suspect that the largest number of people affected by this are in Canada and the U.K. which are countries which do have “totalization agreements”.

2. None of the people interviewed, made the point (or at least it was not reported) that this “tax” as applied to individuals is actually higher than the “tax” as applied to corporations. In the case of individuals the tax would be about 17.5% and not the 15.5% for corporations. (And individuals do not get the benefit of a transition to “territorial taxation”.)

3. As Mr. Bruce notes people will not easily be able to pay this. There is no realization event whatsoever. It’s just: (“Hey, we see there is some money there, let’s take it). Because there is no realization event, this should be viewed as an “asset confiscation” and not as a “tax”.

4. Understand that this is a pool of capital that was NEVER subject to U.S. taxation on the past. Therefore, if this is a tax at all, it should be viewed as a “retroactive tax”.

5. Under general principles of law, common sense and morality (does any of this matter?) the retained earnings of non-U.S. corporations are first subject to taxation by the country of incorporation. The U.S. “transition tax” is the creation of a “fictitious taxable event” which results in a preemptive “tax strike” against the tax base of other countries. If this is allowed under tax treaties, it’s only because when the treaties were signed, nobody could have imagined anything this outrageous.

6. It is obvious that this was NEVER INTENDED TO APPLY TO Americans abroad. Furthermore, no individual would even imagine that this could apply to them without “Education provided by the tax compliance industry”. Those in the industry should figure out how to argue that this was never intended to apply to Americans abroad, that there is no suggestion from the IRS that this applies to Americans abroad, that there is no legislative history suggesting that this applies to Americans abroad, and that this should not be applied to Americans abroad.

7. Finally, the title of this article refers to “Americans abroad”. This is a gross misstatement of the reality. The problem is that these (so called) “Americans abroad” are primarily the citizens and “tax residents” of other countries – that just happen to have been born in the United States. They have no connection to the USA. Are these citizen/residents of other countries (many who don’t even identify as Americans) expected to simply “turn over” their retirement plans to the IRS???? Come on!

Further commentary on this article is here.

Dr. Karen Alpert offered the following insightful comment to an article in Canada’s Financial Post:

It is patently clear that Congress was not thinking about the impact of tax reform on non-resident US citizens. None of the discussion in the lead-up to tax reform, or in the committee hearings, indicated that Congress intended to punish the citizens and residents of other countries who happen to be claimed by the US as citizens. Nothing written by the IRS so far has indicated that they believe this applies to non-resident individuals – every example in the IRS notices has specifically looked at corporate shareholders. The only indication that this might apply to non-resident individual shareholders is from the tax compliance industry that stands to earn a large amount of fees on attempts to comply with this extra-territorial over-reach by the US.

If applied to non-resident individuals, the “transition” tax would be a pre-emptive grab at the tax base of Canada and every other country where US emigrants and Accidental Americans are living. The “deferred foreign income” that would be confiscated is money that was never subject to US tax, and is only claimed by the US because of a fictional “deemed repatriation”. Think about what that really means – the US is pretending that US emigrants are “repatriating” funds back to a country where they don’t live, and that they may no longer really identify with. The only good that could possibly come from this is the long overdue realisation that US taxation of the citizens and residents of other countries is contrary to the national interests of those countries and contrary to normal international practice.

(I encourage to read this insightful summary by Patricia Moon which appeared at the Isaac Brock Society.)

Should this “tax” apply to the “tax residents” of other nations, this would be an extraordinary escalation of the U.S. imposing “worldwide taxation” on the residents of other countries. The stakes are indeed high for individuals and for their countries of residence. After all, the application of this “tax” would be certainly a preemptive strike against the “tax base” of other countries! After all, this “tax” is not based ANY “realization event” whatsoever.

Understanding the problem in a 7 Part Video Series – Dr. Karen Alpert and John Richardson

(A description of each video is found along with the individual video. I suggest that you watch the videos in order.)

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLHF3nvfM47b1dWAvmqcrkVgEQ50BYQ-jv

Dr. Karen Alpert – FixTheTaxTreaty.org

John Richardson – CitizenshipSolutions.ca

US tax reform bill appears to confiscate 12% (updated to 14%) of retained earnings of certain Canadian Controlled Private Corporations

Update November 9, 2017

Today Chairman Brady concluded the “Mark Up” period of his proposed tax legislation. The “Mark Up” period contained NO move to “territorial taxation” for individuals. It did increase increase the “proposed confiscation” of the retained earnings of certain Canadian Controlled Private Corporation, from 12% to 14%.

See the “Manager’s Amendment” here:

summary_of_chairman_amendment_2

Now back to our regular programming …

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Kudos to Max Reed for his quick analysis of the how the proposed U.S. tax reform bill might affect Canadians citizen/residents who also have hold U.S. citizenship. You will find the bill here. His analysis, which has been widely discussed at the Isaac Brock Society (beginning here) includes provisions that are very damaging to those who are the owners of Canadian Controlled Private Corporations (noting they are also under assault from Messrs Trudeau and Morneau). The damaging provisions are both prospective and retrospective.

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Mr. Bedrosian (a pioneer in FBAR history) meets Mr. #FBAR: The good, the bad and the ugly

Why the Arthur Bedrosian meeting with Mr. FBAR is important

Synopsis:

The Bedrosian FBAR case is an incredibly important victory for taxpayers. Judge Baylson first ruled that FBAR “willfulness” in the “civil” context did NOT require knowledge that filing an FBAR was a legal duty (the criminal standard). He then ruled that Mr. Bedrosian’s failure to report the account was a form of negligence that did NOT meet the required standard of “willfulness”.

Perhaps the message is:

The failure to file an FBAR will be “willful”, if the circumstances of the failure, were evidence of conduct that the FBAR statute was designed to punish.

 

In other words, it is possible to know about Mr. FBAR, fail to file Mr. FBAR and NOT be “willful”!

The “Readers Digest” Version …

The Bad …

The District Court held that the test for what constitutes “willfulness” in the “civil FBAR penalty” context is not the test used in a criminal context – “the intentional violation of a known legal duty”. All that is required is that the person voluntarily NOT file an FBAR. (One need not know that he is violating a legal duty).

The Good …

The failure to file an FBAR can be a form of “negligence” that falls short of “willfulness”. In other words, one can know about the FBAR requirement, fail to file the FBAR and still fall short of “willfulness”.

The Ugly …

The IRS had initially taken the position that Mr. Bedrosian’s misadventures in FBAR were nonwillful. But, they changed their mind.

Round 1 goes to Mr. Bedrosian. Will the IRS appeal?

Mr. Bedrosian has earned a place in FBAR history. He is a true “FBAR Pioneer”. His “Adventures in FBAR” place him in the club of: Mr. Pomerantz, Mr. Hom , Mr. Kentera, Mr. Horsky and Mr. Warner. Fortunately, mere visitors to American do not yet have to file the FBAR. Interestingly, Mr. FBAR appears to have been the “role model” for a Russia foreign bank account reporting laws.

To learn more about the FBAR Odyssey of Mr. Arthur Bedrosian …
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Although a “reentry permit” can provide evidence of intention to reside permanently in the USA, it does ask about tax returns!

Once you have been granted the right to live permanently in the United States, and become a “lawful permanent resident”, it is important that you maintain the intention to live permanently in the United States. If you cease to intend to live permanently in the United States then you have lost the right to live permanently in the United States.

As a “lawful permanent resident” you are free to travel outside the United States. Like all people (including U.S. citizens) who travel outside the United States, you are required to have the appropriate travel documents. The State Department provides the following guidance:

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Tax, culture and how the USA uses #citizenshiptaxation to impose US culture (and penalties) on other countries

Civilizations and countries define themselves in part by their tax policies

In 1993 Samuel Huntington wrote “The Clash Of Civilizations“. His basic thesis is captured in the following paragraph from Foreign Affairs Magazine.

World politics is entering a new phase, and intellectuals have not hesitated to proliferate visions of what it will be-the end of history, the return of traditional rivalries between nation states, and the decline of the nation state from the conflicting pulls of tribalism and globalism, among others. Each of these visions catches aspects of the emerging reality. Yet they all miss a crucial, indeed a central, aspect of what global politics is likely to be in the coming years.

It is my hypothesis that the fundamental source of conflict in this new world will not be primarily ideological or primarily economic. The great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural. Nation states will remain the most powerful actors in world affairs, but the principal conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilizations. The clash of civilizations will dominate global politics. The fault lines between civilizations will be the battle lines of the future.

Tax policy and the possible “clash of civilizations”

To what extent does the insistence of the USA on imposing the Internal Revenue Code (“citizenship-based taxation”) on the citizen/residents of other countries, foreshadow a “clash of civilizations”?

This post was motivated by the article by Virginia La Torre Jeker which is referenced in the above tweet. It is an excellent discussion of how the Internal Revenue Code might (or might not) accommodate the reality of Sharia law. The post raises many questions and alerts practitioners to the challenges of applying the Internal Revenue Code to the lives of people whose culture is largely outside the United States. The post raises many “technical issues”. I expect there will further discussion of this issue on Virginia’s blog.

Taxation does NOT exist in a cultural vacuum. A country’s tax system reflects the counry’s cultural values. As the tax historian Charles Adams has noted, the rise and fall of civilizations can be linked to its tax policies. To impose the Internal Revenue Code on people who live outside the United States is to export U.S. cultural values and impose those values on other nations. The United States claims the right to impose the Internal Revenue Code on U.S. citizens who live outside the United States. The reality is that there are millions of people with no connection to the United States (other than a place of birth). U.S. citizenship is acquired automatically if one has the fortune (or misfortune depending on your point of view) of having been (as Bruce would sing) “Born In The USA!

FATCA and the tax compliance industry are working hard to identify those who may be U.S. citizens and do NOT live in the United States. What the United States views as a good source of tax revenue should be seen more broadly. Leaving aside basic issues of fairness, to impose U.S. taxation (according to U.S. rules/cultural values) on the residents of other countries, is sure to create problems. As part of tax reform, the United States must stop imposing the Internal Revenue Code on people who are NOT residents of the United States!

The following “Storification” is an attempt to explain the problem from an “outside the USA” perspective …

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US Consulates and US Embassy in Canada cease to offer US Social Security Assistance

I received the following email today from the U.S. State Department: notifications@state.gov. It is clear that the U.S. will no longer be offering “Social Security Services” from the U.S. Consulates or Embassy in Canada. I presume this also means that the Social Security numbers cannot be obtained from U.S. Consulates in Canada. Assuming this to be true, this is one more big headache for Americans in Canada who are attempting to become U.S. tax compliant.

What follows it the bulletin from the State Department:

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United States Embassy Ottawa, Canada

Notice Regarding Social Security Services

September 29, 2017

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has consolidated its overseas operations and will no longer be offering social security assistance through the United States Embassy or Consulates in Canada. Effective October 1, 2017, individuals residing in Canada who require social security services or have questions about SSA benefits must contact their nearest SSA field office in the United States.

Please be advised that as of October 1, the United States Embassy and Consulates across Canada can no longer accept telephone calls, emails, or walk-in consultations regarding Social Security issues.

For questions regarding your application or your benefits, residents in Canada can find their designated field office on the SSA website: https://www.ssa.gov/foreign/canada.htm. SSA may require you to appear in person to submit your SSA application.

For general information on SSA services for people living outside the United States, please visit https://www.ssa.gov/foreign/.

If you are already receiving SSA benefits payments, there will be no change in the method of distribution of those payments.

For further information for American citizens in Canada:

• See the Department of State travel website for the Worldwide Caution, Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts, and Canada Country Specific Information.

• Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive security messages and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.

• The U.S. Embassy in Ottawa is located at 490 Sussex Drive, Ottawa, Ontario, K1N 1G8, and is open from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Eastern Time on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. You can reach us at 1-613-688-5335 during business hours. If you are a U.S. citizen in need of urgent assistance outside of business hours, the emergency after-hours number for the U.S. Embassy is 1-613-238-5335.

• Call 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or 1-202-501-4444 from other countries from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).