Exception to the “savings clause” – How the Canada U.S. Tax Treaty prevents “double taxation” of certain self-employment income

Those responsible for negotiating tax treaties with the United States should remember that:

It’s worth remembering that:

1. The contents of the “savings clause” will vary from treaty to treaty; a
2. Not all sections of the treaty will be subject to the “savings clause”.

Example of the Canada U.S. Tax Treaty used to PREVENT Double Taxation …

The following example comes from Olivier Wagner of “1040 Abroad” (reproduced with permission). It is a very interesting example because it involves an analysis of the interaction among:

(1) The savings clause in Article XXIX

(2) the principle against double taxation in Article XXIV

(3) the “Foreign Tax Credit” provisions in S. 904 of the Internal Revenue Code.

The basic  factual scenario involves a U.S. citizen living outside the United States who receives payment for consulting work inside the United States. I will let Oliver pick it up from here:

 

Now, being a tax geek, the question that comes to mind is: if a Canadian tax accountant (Canadian resident, US citizen) prepares tax returns in the US, will he have tax owing for that US sourced income?

Foreign Earned Income Exclusion (FEIE):

No luck here. IRC 911(a) excludes from taxation “foreign earned income” whereas IRC 911(b)(1)(A)  states “The term “foreign earned income” with respect to any individual means the amount received by such individual from sources within a foreign country or countries which constitute earned income attributable to services performed by such individual during the period described in subparagraph (A) or (B) of subsection (d)(1), whichever is applicable.” As such, income earned in the United States is not to be excluded under the FEIE

Foreign Tax Credit (FTC):

The foreign tax credit can only offset taxes arising from foreign sourced income, so at first look, no luck.

But then, as we note, we have several categories of income, to subdivide how the foreign tax cedit is allocated: General, passive and resourced by treaty – IRC 904(d)(6)(a) bingo !!!

Income resourced by treaty …

(6) Separate application to items resourced under treaties

(A) In general

If—

(i) without regard to any treaty obligation of the United States, any item of income would be treated as derived from sources within the United States,

(ii) under a treaty obligation of the United States, such item would be treated as arising from sources outside the United States, and

(iii) the taxpayer chooses the benefits of such treaty obligation,

subsections (a), (b), and (c) of this section and sections 902907, and 960 shall be applied separately with respect to each such item.

Hence we have the “resourced by treaty” FTC basket. In this case, we’ll use the US-Canada tax treaty. The analysis is a little lengthy so I put it in another post here.

So far so good. But, now we need to understand how the Canada U.S. Tax Treaty actually works to “resource” the U.S. income.

Olivier continues on with his analysis of the Canada U.S. Tax Treaty:

Article XXIX – (Keeping the Savings Clause in mind)

Miscellaneous Rules

1. The provisions of this Convention shall not restrict in any manner any exclusion, exemption, deduction, credit or other allowance now or hereafter accorded by the laws of a Contracting State in the determination of the tax imposed by that State.

2. Except as provided in paragraph 3, nothing in the Convention shall be construed as preventing a Contracting State from taxing its residents (as determined under Article IV (Residence)) and, in the case of the United States, its citizens (including a former citizen whose loss of citizenship had as one of its principal purposes the avoidance of tax, but only for a period of ten years following such loss) and companies electing to be treated as domestic corporations, as if there were no convention between the United States and Canada with respect to taxes on income and on capital.

3. The provisions of paragraph 2 shall not affect the obligations undertaken by a Contracting State:

(a) under paragraphs 3 and 4 of Article IX (Related Persons), paragraphs 6 and 7 of Article XIII (Gains), paragraphs 1, 3, 4, 5, 6(b) and 7 of Article XVIII (Pensions and Annuities), paragraph 5 of Article XXIX (Miscellaneous Rules), paragraphs 1, 5 and 6 of Article XXIX B (Taxes Imposed by Reason of Death), paragraphs 2, 3, 4 and 7 of Article XXIX B (Taxes Imposed by Reason of Death) as applied to the estates of persons other than former citizens referred to in paragraph 2 of this Article, paragraphs 3 and 5 of Article XXX (Entry into Force), and Articles XIX (Government Service), XXI (Exempt Organizations), XXIV (Elimination of Double Taxation), XXV (Non-Discrimination) and XXVI (Mutual Agreement Procedure);

This is the savings clause in which they’re saying that if you’re a US citizen, much of the tax treaty might as well not exist, except for a few articles mentioned in paragraph 3(a), which includes article XXIV (Elimination of Double Taxation), so article XXIV still applies to US citizens.

Article XXIV – (Exempt from the Savings Clause)

Elimination of Double Taxation

1. In the case of the United States, subject to the provisions of paragraphs 4, 5 and 6, double taxation shall be avoided as follows: In accordance with the provisions and subject to the limitations of the law of the United States (as it may be amended from time to time without changing the general principle hereof), the United States shall allow to a citizen or resident of the United States, or to a company electing to be treated as a domestic corporation, as a credit against the United States tax on income the appropriate amount of income tax paid or accrued to Canada; and, in the case of a company which is a resident of the United States owning at least 10 per cent of the voting stock of a company which is a resident of Canada from which it receives dividends in any taxable year, the United States shall allow as a credit against the United States tax on income the appropriate amount of income tax paid or accrued to Canada by that company with respect to the profits out of which such dividends are paid.

2. In the case of Canada, subject to the provisions of paragraphs 4, 5 and 6, double taxation shall be avoided as follows:

(a) subject to the provisions of the law of Canada regarding the deduction from tax payable in Canada of tax paid in a territory outside Canada and to any subsequent modification of those provisions (which shall not affect the general principle hereof)

(i) income tax paid or accrued to the United States on profits, income or gains arising in the United States, and

(ii) in the case of an individual, any social security taxes paid to the United States (other than taxes relating to unemployment insurance benefits) by the individual on such profits, income or gains

shall be deducted from any Canadian tax payable in respect of such profits, income or gains;

(b) subject to the existing provisions of the law of Canada regarding the taxation of income from a foreign affiliate and to any subsequent modification of those provisions – which shall not affect the general principle hereof – for the purpose of computing Canadian tax, a company which is a resident of Canada shall be allowed to deduct in computing its taxable income any dividend received by it out of the exempt surplus of a foreign affiliate which is a resident of the United States; and

(c) notwithstanding the provisions of subparagraph (a), where Canada imposes a tax on gains from the alienation of property that, but for the provisions of paragraph 5 of Article XIII (Gains), would not be taxable in Canada, income tax paid or accrued to the United States on such gains shall be deducted from any Canadian tax payable in respect of such gains.

3. For the purposes of this Article:

(a) profits, income or gains (other than gains to which paragraph 5 of Article XIII (Gains) applies) of a resident of a Contracting State which may be taxed in the other Contracting State in accordance with the Convention (without regard to paragraph 2 of Article XXIX (Miscellaneous Rules)) shall be deemed to arise in that other State; and

(b) profits, income or gains of a resident of a Contracting State which may not be taxed in the other Contracting State in accordance with the Convention (without regard to paragraph 2 of Article XXIX (Miscellaneous Rules)) or to which paragraph 5 of Article XIII (Gains) applies shall be deemed to arise in the first-mentioned State.

4. Where a United States citizen is a resident of Canada, the following rules shall apply:

(a) Canada shall allow a deduction from the Canadian tax in respect of income tax paid or accrued to the United States in respect of profits, income or gains which arise (within the meaning of paragraph 3) in the United States, except that such deduction need not exceed the amount of the tax that would be paid to the United States if the resident were not a United States citizen; and

(b) for the purposes of computing the United States tax, the United States shall allow as a credit against United States tax the income tax paid or accrued to Canada after the deduction referred to in subparagraph (a). The credit so allowed shall not reduce that portion of the United States tax that is deductible from Canadian tax in accordance with subparagraph (a). …

Getting to the conclusion …

A. Here the paragraph 4(a) says that Canada should allow a credit for “income tax paid in respect of profits, income or gains which arise (within the meaning of paragraph 3) in the United States”

B. Paragraph 3 says that we can disregard the savings clause for this purpose and that if we have profits, income or gains of a resident of a contracting state (Canada) which may not be taxed in the other contracting state (United Sates) in accordance with the Convention (without regard to paragraph 2 of Article XXIX (Miscellaneous Rules) “savings clause”), such profits, income or gains shall be deemed to arise in the first-mentioned State (Canada).

C. By virtue of “Article VII – Business Profits”, business profits from an individual or corporation resident of Canada which does not have a permanent establishment in the United States shall indeed not be taxed in the United States and are taxed in Canada.

(Article VII

Business Profits

1. The business profits of a resident of a Contracting State shall be taxable only in that State unless the resident carries on business in the other Contracting State through a permanent establishment situated therein. If the resident carries on, or has carried on, business as aforesaid, the business profits of the resident may be taxed in the other State but only so much of them as are attributable to that permanent establishment.)

D. As such, going back to paragraph 4(a), Canada should not allow any foreign tax credit with respect to such income (the business profits are deemed to be taxable only in Canada).

E. Going to paragraph 4(b), the United States shall allow a tax credit for the Canadian taxes with respect to such income.

Conclusion: Practically speaking as long as taxpayer remains a resident of Canada (as defined by Article IV), the actual location where work is performed doesn’t matter, income will be sourced to Canada, taxes will be paid to Canada and the US will allow a foreign tax credit against taxes arising from such income – meaning that in most cases there wouldn’t be any US tax owed.