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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:

_________________________________________________________________________________________

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).

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

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”.

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

This post is a reminder for Canadian citizens traveling outside of Canada who wish to return to Canada by air! YOU NEED THE RIGHT KIND OF “TRAVEL DOCUMENT” TO RETURN TO CANADA!

Section 6 of Canada’ Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the right of Canadian citizens to enter Canada.

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.)

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Part 2: The problem is NOT “worldwide taxation”. The problem is imposing “worldwide taxation” on people who don’t live in the South Africa or the USA and are “tax residents’ of other countries.

As goes taxation, so goes civilization.

This is Part 2 of my post discussing the South Africa tax situation. Part 1 is here.

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? 🙂

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Part 1: South Africa is NOT attempting to compete with USA by challenging the US monopoly on citizenship-based taxation

As goes taxation, so goes civilizations

This is Part 1 of my posts discussing the South Africa situation. Part 2 is here.

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.

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