Category Archives: Australia Superannuation

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 Taxation of the Australian Superannuation? – No, #DontMessWithTheSuper!

I recently engaged in a discussion with people who are worried that they might be “U.S. Persons” living in Australia. Their primary concern (and understandably so) is the possible U.S. taxation of their Australian Superannuations. For many, the “Super” is considered to be their most important retirement planning asset.

In a FATCA world, where  possible “USness” is now an issue, one must consider whether U.S. tax laws, effectively disable a group of Australians from effective retirement planning. But, hey! Even Americans should have the right to plan for retirement? Shouldn’t they?

There have been a number of recent articles attempting to understand the possible U.S. taxability of the Australian Super. I don’t know whether this is good or bad.

Most of these articles (what would you expect?) attempt to analyze the issue from the perspective of U.S. law – specifically the Internal Revenue Code. Rightly or wrongly, this approach assumes that the USA has the right to impose taxation on the retirement plans created by other nations. I don’t believe that this should be assumed!

In any event, what follows is a presentation that I created to discuss this issue. It is NOT intended to be a legal analysis. (If you want trouble, call up a lawyer!) It is intended to be a “contextual” and “common sense” analysis. Sooner or later, all laws (if they are to survive) must move towards “common sense”.

My message to residents of Australia is this:

Your Superannuation is far too important to be left in the hands of the tax professionals!

You will find “my thoughts” by clicking on the following:

The Australia Superannuation For Dummies

Feel free to leave “your thoughts” as comments to this post.

John Richardson