Introduction – It’s about the right to live permanently in the United States
There are tens of thousands of people who have “Green Cards” who live outside the United States. Some of them want to maintain their Green Cards which they understand to mean maintaining their right to live permanently in the United States. Otherwise do NOT want to maintain their Green Cards meaning they do NOT want to maintain their right to live permanently in the United States.
The “Green Card” itself, is different from the “right to live permanently in the United States”.
6. (1) Every citizen of Canada has the right to enter, remain in and leave Canada.
Yet, certain travel documents are required as proof of identity and citizenship.
There is a distinction between a “travel document” and one’s “citizenship or immigration status”. The “travel document” is generally considered to be “proof” of the “citizenship status”. A Canadian “permanent resident” card, which is valid for at most five years, is proof of having the status of “permanent resident” of Canada. A U.S. Green Card, which is subject to renewal, is a document that is proof of having the status of being a lawful permanent resident of the United States. All travel documents are valid for finite periods of time and must be renewed.
The expiration of the “travel document” does not affect the “citizenship” or “immigration” status. For example, the failure to renew the U.S. Green Card does NOT mean that you lose the right to live permanently in the United States. (You will be required to file U.S. taxes until your status as a lawful permanent resident has been terminated. The recent cases of Mr. Topsnik, discussed here and here, confirm that Green Card holders are subject to U.S. taxation until their status as permanent residents has been terminated.)
This is a follow up to my post exploring whether South Africa is moving to a tax system that is based on “citizenship-based taxation” or (in the case of the United States of America) “taxation-based citizenship”. That post was the result of a “special request”. The response from that first post included:
I now understand the difference between the SA system and the US. I believe that the similarity that caused the consternation when this first came up was the issue of “tax residency”. CBT mandates that those declared US citizens by the US are simultaneously declared US tax residents. In a similar fashion SA has a concept of tax residency that *does* include some people who do not physically reside in SA but NOT just because they’re citizens. I get it. Thanks again for clarifying this!
That being said, I think the term “tax residency” is crazy. I wish that someone with the power to influence terminology in the general usage of language could come up with something that accurately describes the basis on which a person can be taxed by a country in which that person does not live. Taxes don’t reside; people do, and they can only live one place at a time. Any ideas? 🙂
There have been a number of suggestions in various blogs that South Africa is somehow taxing on the basis of citizenship. American citizens (whether by accident or design) are most sensitive to any discussion of “citizenship-based taxation”. After all, U.S. tax policies combined with FATCA (which is part of the Internal Revenue Code) are destroying the lives of those who have entered the U.S. tax system.
I recently received an email that asked:
They’re talking about SA expats, people who no longer live in SA, being taxed by SA. Like us, these people are residents and earners in countries other than their country of origin (and, I would assume, citizenship). http://www.internationalinvestment.net/regions/south-african-expats-hit-tax-exemption-removal-plans/If this is not CBT, on what basis are they being taxed? If SA is just wanting to expand its definition of tax residency on what basis do they feel they can apply this to someone who no longer lives in their country?
The short answer …
South Africa imposes “worldwide taxation” on those who are “tax residents” of South Africa. The rules for an individual to qualify as a “tax resident” of South Africa are here. South African “tax residency” is irrelevant to citizenship.