Category Archives: citizenship-based reporting

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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The biggest cost of being a “dual Canada/U.S. tax filer” is the “lost opportunity” available to pure Canadians

The reality of being a “DUAL” Canada U.S. tax filer is that you are a “DUEL” tax filer

“It’s not the taxes they take from you. It’s that the U.S. tax system leaves you with few opportunities for financial planning”.

I was recently asked “what exactly are the issues facing “Canada U.S. dual tax filers?” This is my attempt to condense this topic into a short answer. There are a number of “obvious issues facing U.S. citizens living in Canada.” There are a number of issues that are less obvious. Here goes …

There are (at least) five obvious issues facing “dual Canada U.S. tax filers in Canada”.

At the very least the issues include:
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Wisdom of “Three Monkeys” explains why: Although there is little support for “citizenship-based taxation” repeal is difficult

The uniquely American practice of “imposing direct taxation on the citizen/residents of other nations” (“citizenship-based taxation”) has NO identifiable group of supporters (with the exception of a few academics who have never experienced it and do not understand it).

The Uniquely American practice of imposing direct taxation on the citizen/residents of other nations has large numbers of opponents (every person and/or entity affected by it). In addition to the submissions of Jackie Bugnion, “American Citizens Abroad“, “Democrats Abroad“, Bernard Schneider there is significant opposition found in the submissions of a large number of individuals. It is highly probable that the submissions come from those who are attempting compliance with the U.S. tax system.

The “imposition of direct taxation” on the “citizen/residents of other nations” evolved from “citizenship-based taxation”. “Citizenship-based taxation” was originally conceived as a “punishment” for those who attempted to leave the United States and avoid the Civil War. I repeat, it’s origins are rooted in PUNISHMENT and PENALTY and not as sound tax policy.

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Why is the United States imposing full U.S. taxation on the Canadian incomes of Canadian citizens living in Canada?

This is post is “based on” (not identical to)  one of two submissions that I submitted in response to Senator Hatch’s request for submissions regarding tax reform.

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Why is the United States imposing full U.S. taxation on the Canadian incomes of Canadian citizens living in Canada?

The Internal Revenue Code mandates that ALL “individuals” , EXCEPT “non-resident aliens”, are subject to full taxation, on their WORLDWIDE income, under the Internal Revenue Code. The word “individuals” includes U.S. citizens regardless of where they live and regardless of whether they are citizens and residents of other countries where they also pay tax. This means that, by its plain terms, the United States imposes full taxation on the citizens and residents of other nations, because they are also (according to U.S. definitions) U.S. citizens. The United States is the only country in the world that has a definition of “tax residency that mandates full taxation based ONLY on citizenship.

How “U.S. citizenship” and U.S. “taxation” interact

Principle 1: The United States is one of the few countries in the world that confers citizenship based SOLELY on birth on its soil.

Principle 2: The United States is the ONLY country in the world that imposes full taxation ON THE WORLD INCOME of its citizens, REGARDLESS OF WHERE THE U.S. CITIZEN LIVES IN THE WORLD.

Bottom line: The United States is the ONLY country in the world that imposes full taxation, on WORLDWIDE income, based ONLY on the “place of birth”!

A practical example: A person whose only connection to the United States is that he was born in the United States, who lives in Canada (and may have never lived in the United States and whose only income is earned in Canada), is required to pay U.S. tax on that income. This resident of Canada is treated AS THOUGH HE WAS A U.S. RESIDENT. NOTE ALSO THAT THIS INDIVIDUAL IS REQUIRED TO PAY TAX TO CANADA! He is subject to “double taxation”. (This “double taxation” is only partially mitigated through “foreign tax credits”, tax treaties and the “foreign earned income exclusion”.)

Therefore: What academics and government officials refer to as “citizenship-based taxation” (they really don’t understand its practical effects) is PRIMARILY  “place of birth taxation” and therefore a convenient way to impose U.S. taxation on the citizens and residents of other countries. As a blog devoted to “citizenship taxation” (noting the difference between the theory and reality) points out:

“A supporter of citizenship taxation is someone who THINKS about “citizenship taxation”. An opponent of citizenship taxation is anybody who has tried to LIVE under citizenship taxation.”

How did this happen? It certainly didn’t start this way!

The evolution of “U.S. citizenship”

The result of legislative change and various U.S. Supreme Court decisions (primarily Afroyim ) has meant that “U.S. citizenship” is far easier to obtain and far harder to lose. 

Furthermore, as people become more and more mobile, it is not unusual for somebody to have been “Born In The USA” but live outside the USA. Global mobility is now the rule, rather than the exception.

The evolution of U.S. taxation and the Internal Revenue Code

The Internal Revenue Code has become more and more complex and impacts more and more activities of daily life. Because “U.S. citizens” (even though they are citizen/residents of other countries) are subject to U.S. taxation, they have been tremendously impacted by the “creeping complexity” of the Internal Revenue Code (which applies equally to ALL Americans wherever they may live).

This “creeping complexity” has evolved slowly through the years. The problems have been exacerbated because Congress does NOT consider that when amending the Internal Revenue Code they are impacting the lives of tax paying residents of other nations (who happen to be U.S. citizens). Congress is “indifferent” to the plight of Americans abroad (indifference being one of the worst forms of abuse).

Through the years, slowly and consistently …

The evolution of the Internal Revenue Code combined with ease of retaining U.S. citizenship has built a “fiscal prison” (legislative brick by legislative brick), in which  to keep the tax paying residents of “OTHER NATIONS”, who just happen to have been born in the United States.

Tax Reform 2017

The United States is “making noises” about “tax reform”. Senator Orrin Hatch requested submissions from “steak stake holders” on what should be included in tax reform. He has clearly received (as did the Ways and Means Committee in 2013 and the Senate Finance Committee in 2015) many suggestions advocating the repeal of “citizenship-based taxation”.

As noted at a site compiling the submissions of those affected by U.S. extra-territorial taxation:
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Determining Tax Residency In the United States: Citizenship and other forms of deemed tax residence

Introduction

The advent of the OECD Common Reporting Standard (“CRS”) has illuminated the issue of “tax residency” and the desire of people to become “tax residents of  more “tax favourable” jurisdictions. It has become critically important for people to understand what is meant by “tax residency”. It is important that people understand how “tax residency” is determined and the questions that must be asked in determining “tax residency”. “Tax residency” is NOT necessarily determined by physical presence.

What is meant by tax residence? Different rules for different countries

All countries have rules for determining who is a “tax resident” of their country. Some countries have rules that “deem” people to be tax residents. Other countries have rules that base “tax residency” on  “facts and circumstances”. Canada is a country that bases “tax residency” on either “deemed” tax residency OR tax residency based on “factual circumstances”.

What if a person qualifies as “tax resident” of two countries?

When an individual (who is NOT a U.S. citizen) is a “tax resident” of two countries, it is common to consider any tax treaty between those two countries. Often the tax treaty will contain a “treaty tie breaker” provision which will allocate “tax residence” to one of the two countries. (Note that the “savings clause” which is found in standard U.S. tax treaties prevents U.S. citizens from having most tax treaty benefits. Note “treaty tie breaker” provisions are available to Green Card Holders.)

In summary: for the purposes of the “CRS”, tax residence is determined by BOTH a country’s domestic laws AND tax treaty provisions that assign “tax residence” to one country.

Even though the United States has chosen to NOT participate in the OECD “Common Reporting Standard” (CRS), and is NOT a “reportable jurisdiction, the OECD reminds us of the rules for determining “U.S. tax residency”.

Deemed tax residency in the United States …

The IRS discussion of “U.S. Tax Residency” includes:
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Part 22: What God Hath Wrought – The #FATCA Inquisition (Review, Identify and Report on “U.S. Persons”) – Oh my God! #FATCA affects even a Paypal account!

 

 

 

Part 25: What God Hath Wrought – The #FATCA Inquisition (Review, Identify and Report on “U.S. Persons”) – What if the 8 month year old Canadian is a “US Person”?

 

More #Americansabroad will pay capital gains tax on sale of principal residence in Canada

The price of Toronto real estate continues its upward trajectory.

This morning I met with yet another (who could have known) Canadian resident who wishes to renounce U.S. citizenship. This person is completely compliant with his U.S. tax obligations. He is renouncing for a very common reason.

The reason for renouncing U.S. citizenship is to:

Protect the tax free capital gain, which results from the sale of his Canadian principal residence in Canada.
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Be careful what you “fix for”! A Holiday Gift: What to do about the unfiled #FBAR

As 2016 comes to an end …

I suspect that history will show that that the growth in renunciations of U.S. citizenship (and abandonment of Green Cards) continued in 2016. Absent a change in the way that the United States treats its “U.S. Persons Abroad”, I suspect that the growth in renunciations of U.S. citizenship will continue.

The purpose of this post and a short summary …

This blog post will hopefully encourage those with U.S. tax issues to consider whether they can deal with minor/unintentional FBAR violations as a “stand alone single problem”. There may be no need to escalate and expand one single problem into a multi-dimensional full blown tax problem that may end up with unintended and unanticipated costly professional fees as well as undue time spent!  Read on and learn why.  Keeping a calm head is most important, even if it is most difficult to do in the face of the scary situation of not being in compliance with the U.S. tax and regulatory regime.

This post consists of the following six parts:

Part 1 – Problems, more problems and the expansion of problems

Part 2 – Looking For Mr. FBAR

Part 3 – It often begins with a chance meeting with Mr. FBAR

Part 4 – How the compliance problems of “Homeland Americans” (particularly Green Card holders) differ from the compliance problems of “Americans Abroad”

Part 5 – Focusing specifically on the problem of FBAR non-compliance

Part 6 – Dealing with the tax professionals: Beware of how they can expand the number of problems

 

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