Category Archives: citizenship taxation

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 one of two submissions that I submitted in response to Senator Hatch’s request for submissions regarding tax reform.

Responding to Senator Hatch’s request for Feedback on Tax Reform

From:

John Richardson

Toronto, Canada

citizenshiptaxation@gmail.com

To: taxreform2017@finance.senate.gov

July 17, 2017

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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 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 such a broad definition of “tax residency”.

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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U.S. Citizenship clarification: Time between your actual renunciation and the date your CLN is issued

Two questions that I frequently receive from people who have renounced U.S. citizenship are:

I. An immigration question: What if I attempt to travel to the United States during the period of time between my actual renunciation of U.S. citizenship and actually receiving my CLN (which is my proof of having renounced U.S. citizenship)?

II. A tax question: At what point after I renounce U.S. citizenship do I cease to be treated as a U.S. citizen for U.S. tax purposes? For example, when am I free to sell my house (located outside the USA) and NOT be subject to U.S. capital gains taxes?

Two kinds of U.S. citizenship: How the issuance of a CLN affects (1) U.S. citizenship for Immigration purposes and (2) U.S. citizenship for tax purposes

1. How the issuance of a CLN affects U.S. citizenship for immigration and nationality purposes:

Immigration and Nationality Act S. 349(a) (U.S. Code 1481(a)) make it clear that the issuance of a CLN is completely irrelevant to your status as a U.S. citizen for immigration purposes. A CLN is of value ONLY for the purposes of PROVING that you are not a U.S. citizen.

Therefore, one ceases to a U.S. citizen for immigration purposes on the date of the relinquishing (renunciation) act.

2. How the issuance of a CLN affects U.S. citizenship for U.S. tax purposes

Internal Revenue Code 877A(g)(4) mandates that those relinquishing/renouncing U.S. citizenship after June 16, 2008:

– will continue to be treated as U.S. citizens for U.S. tax purposes until the CLN is actually issued; and

– the date of ceasing to be a U.S. citizen for U.S. tax purposes will be the actual date of the relinquishing act (date of renunciation).

Therefore, (assuming a relinquishing act after June 16, 2008) one continues to be a U.S. citizen for tax purposes until the CLN is issued.

These distinctions are discussed in an earlier post:

Renunciation is one form of relinquishment – It’s not the form of relinquishment but the time of relinquishment

Bottom line: One ceases to be a U.S. citizen for immigration purpose before one ceases to be a U.S. citizen for tax purposes.

Generally people are more concerned with travelling to the USA during the time gap between renouncing U.S. citizenship and before receiving a CLN. Fortunately, we have a “guest post” written by someone who has just experienced this issue from the Immigration perspective. He has shared his thoughts as follows:

Travel Limbo? Keep calm and CLN on.

Recently, I found myself in a potentially sticky situation enroute to a holiday in the U.S while at a Canadian airport. My Canadian passport showed a U.S. birthplace and before allowing me
through, the U.S. Border Officer wanted me to show my Certificate of Loss of Nationality (CLN) or an American passport.

Although I had renounced my U.S. citizenship several months earlier, the U.S. Department of State had not yet issued my CLN. Before this experience, I had always been able to cross the border to the U.S. with my Canadian passport (the only passport I’d ever had).

Fortunately, the situation didn’t escalate. I attempted to give the officer a simple explanation that I had renounced at a U.S. Embassy many months before but the approved CLN had not been couriered in time for my trip. If he would permit me, I would show him my email correspondence with the U.S. embassy.

The officer accepted my explanation. Before he waived me through, I asked if he had any advice to share with anyone caught in travel limbo without their CLN.

Hopefully, his comments will help others to navigate a soft landing:

Keep calm

There is a line-up of people behind you. This is not the time to be outraged or to educate agents about the plight of Accidental Americans or dual citizens.

Show proof

Travel with a copy of your CLN. If you’re still waiting for it, carry a copy of Form DS-4080 (the form you sign when you renounce and swear an oath at a U.S. Embassy). Keep copies on your phone.

Provide a reasonable explanation

If you accidentally forget your documents or booked a trip before your CLN arrives, a simple description of the renunciation process and the long wait times for the approved CLN to arrive will hopefully be reasonable enough to a reasonable officer.

Thanks to our guest blogger for the relaying the above experience!

John Richardson

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”?

 

Tax residency vs. physical presence: The four questions you must ask before making a country your home

An introduction to “tax residency” …

Most people equate residency with physical presence. They assume that where you are physically presence determines where you live. They further assume that where you live is where you pay your taxes. Conclusion: The country where you live is the country where you must be “tax resident”. Not necessarily!

There is no necessary correlation between where one lives and where one is a “tax resident”. In fact, “residency for tax purposes” may be only minimally related to “residency for immigration (where you live) purposes”. It is possible for people to live in only one country and be a tax resident of multiple countries. The most obvious example is “U.S. citizens residing outside the United States”.

The concept of “tax residency” is fundamental to all systems of taxation. The fundamental question, at the root of all tax systems is:

“what kind of connection to a country is required to assume tax jurisdiction over an “individual”, over “property” or over an “entity”?”

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How to get a US Social Security Number in Canada – A step by step guide

 

Why do some Canadians wish to have a U.S. Social Security number?

Many Canadians are in the process of coming into U.S. tax compliance. One might ask:

Why would a Canadian citizen residing in Canada wish to come into U.S tax compliance?

There are two reasons why Canadian citizen/residents file U.S. tax returns:

1. They have learned that they are U.S. citizens or learned about U.S. “citizenship taxation” (perhaps encouraged by a FATCA letter or their local CPA) and they wish to file U.S. taxes; and/or

2. They have learned that they are U.S. citizens and wish to come into U.S tax compliance to “renounce U.S. citizenship” and avoid “covered expatriate” status (particularly important if they wish to take advantage of the “dual citizenship” exemption to the S. 877A Exit Tax).

Regardless of the motivation, one must do considerable work for the privilege of filing U.S. taxes.

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Around the world in 192 pages: Experiences of #Americansabroad in an #FBAR and #FATCA world

Here it is:

richardsonkishcommentsamericansabroadapril152015internationaltax-2

This is one of seven parts of the Richardson Kish submissions to the Senate Finance Committee in April of 2015. I thank Patricia Moon for her unbelievable effort in putting this document together!

And speaking of Americans abroad in an FBAR and FATCA world, you might like to read:

The message is:

When In Rome, Live As A Homelander

#YouCantMakeThisUp!

John Richardson

 

Canada Pension Plan (and other “foreign social security”), The “net worth” test, Form 8854 and Form 8938

Q. How does the inability of the state of Rhode Island to pay its employee pensions help us understand the “net worth” of a U.S. citizen wanting to renounce U.S. citizenship?

A. The answer (like most wisdom in the modern world) is explained in the following tweet.

The article referenced in the above tweet helps us understand the difference between an “entitlement” created by statute and a “right” created by contract.

In most states, lawmakers or the courts have taken steps to make public pension systems creatures of contract law, as opposed to mere creatures of statute. This may sound obscure, but the difference is critical. Statutes are relatively easy to change — lawmakers just amend the law. But states that want to tear up pension contracts face an uphill fight, because of a clause in the United States Constitution that bars them from enacting any law that retroactively impairs contract rights.

Conclusion: Rhode Island’s Governor was able to change the Rhode Island pension benefits. The reason was that: the pension benefits were created by statute (the government can create the statute and the government can change the statute) and not by an enforceable contract (nobody can take the pension away) creating an enforceable right.

The article is fascinating. Other states have not been as fortunate and cannot legislate their pension obligations away. But, what does this have to do with anything?

For Americans abroad: “All Roads Lead To Renunciation“.

Renouncing U.S. citizenship – leaving the U.S. tax system …

“U.S. citizens” considering relinquishing U.S. citizenship or “long term residents” abandoning their Green Cards “may” be subject to the draconian S. 877A Exit Tax rules. I say “may”. Only “covered expatriates” are subject to the “Exit Tax”

Unless you meet one of two exceptions,* “U.S. citizens” and “long term residents” will be “covered expatriates” if they meet ANY one of the following three tests ..

1. Income test (well, based on “tax liability on taxable income”) – You have an average tax liability of approximately $160,000 for the five years prior to the year of relinquishment or abandonment

2. Net worth test – Assets totaling up to of $2,000,000 USD or more

3. Compliance test – Fail to certify compliance with the Internal Revenue Code for the five years prior to the date of relinquishment or abandonment

* See Internal Revenue Code S. 877A(g)(1) which describe the “dual citizen at birth” and the “relinquishment before age 181/2” exceptions.

Net worth is based on the value of all your property. Foreign pensions are included in property. Is non-U.S. “Social Security” included? “Social Security” is a creation of statute. “Social Security can be taken away by changing or repealing the statute.

Because “pensions” are based on a “contractual” right to receive the pension they are included as “property”. If your employer doesn’t pay the pension you are owed you have the right to sue.

Because “social security” is created by statute and can be taken away by statute it is NOT “property”.

Specified Foreign Financial ASSETS – “Non-U.S.” Social Security and Form 8938 …

When it comes to “non-U.S.” Social Security (think Canada Pension Plan) created by statute, the IRS says:

(This makes sense because “Social Security” which is created by statute is NOT property!)

But, when it comes to “foreign pensions” which were created by contract, the IRS says:

(This makes sense because the “pension” is a contractual right and is therefore property.)

Is the Australian Superannuation a Foreign “Social Security Type” plan? – Are Australian “Poorer Than They Think?”

See the post referenced in the above tweet.

Well, the “compliance industry” actually creates the law.** Perhaps the “compliance industry” in Australia should simply take the position that Australian Superannuation is the equivalent of “U.S. Social Security”. The U.S. Australian tax treaty would then exempt it from U.S. taxation.

Article 18(2) of the U.S. Australia Tax Treaty reads:

(2) Social Security payments and other public pensions paid by one of the Contracting States to an individual who is a resident of the other Contracting State or a citizen of the United States shall be taxable only in the first-mentioned State.

Important question indeed! Whether Australians are subject to asset confiscation the S. 877A “Exit Tax”,  may depend on the answer to this characterization/question.

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** In a recent post discussing the death of Dr. Pinheiro and the various “branches” of the U.S. tax compliance system, I identified brach 3 as follows:

Branch 3: The Tax Professionals – These include lawyers, CPAs, Enrolled Agents, and tax preparers. The latter two are specifically licensed by the IRS.

 What needs to be understood is that:

  1. U.S. tax laws are NOT enforced by the IRS as much as they are enforced by the “Tax Professionals”.
  2. The “Tax Professionals” “create” the interpretation of various laws by how they respond to them. (There is a reason that nobody knew about PFICs prior to 2009.) Is a TFSA really a “foreign trust”? Are the S. 877A Exit Tax rules retroactive?
  3. Tax Professionals are NOT independent of the IRS and depend on the IRS for their livelihoods.
  4.   Tax Professionals are also subject to Circular 230 which is the “Rules of Practice” before the Internal Revenue Service.

Understand that very very few “tax professionals” inside the United States know anything about U.S. taxation of its citizens abroad. This is a complex area that is highly specialized.

This is why your choice of tax professional matters very much! Tax Professionals  are NOT all the same. The fact that they are a licensed EA, CPA or lawyer is completely irrelevant. Some of them understand this stuff and some don’t. When it comes to “International Tax”, there is an exceptionally long learning curve. Regardless of their intention, tax professionals have, through their possible ignorance, possible incompetence and almost certain desire to “get along with the IRS”, the potential to completely destroy you!

Food for thought!

John Richardson