Category Archives: citizenship taxation

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.

______________________________________________________________________________

** 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

Is Form 8938 required by “Green Card Holders” who are nonresidents by “treaty tie breaker”? – Any exemption is the result of “IRS grace”

Summary:

The context: Form 8938 was created by the IRS to meet the reporting requirements mandated by Internal Revenue Code S. 6038D. S. 6038D was mandated by S. 511 of the HIRE Act.

On March 18, 2010 President Obama signed the HIRE Act into law. The HIRE Act had two targets. The first target was the Foreign Financial Institutions that were willing to do business with U.S. citizens. The second target was Americans citizens who attempted to do business with any “non-U.S. bank or other financial institution.

The first target – Foreign Financial Institutions: The HIRE Act introduced Chapter 4 of Subtitle A – AKA FATCA – into the Internal Revenue Code. Pursuant to Chapter 4 Foreign Financial Institutions are threatened with a 30% sanction for failing to “Review, Identify and Report” those who the U.S. claims as “U.S. persons“. The Canadian FATCA lawsuit, launched by the Alliance For The Defence of Canadian Sovereignty, is related to the reporting requirements imposed on the banks.

The second target – American citizens attempting to use Foreign Financial Institutions outside the United States: The second group is composed of “individuals” who are required to disclose information to the IRS. The HIRE Act imposed extraordinary reporting requirements on Americans abroad. The most visible – Form 8938 – is an intrusive form that is aimed at targeting “individuals”. The term “individuals” means every human life form on the planet.  The U.S. based “FATCA Legal Action” lawsuit (which was condemned by Democrats abroad), is a lawsuit that is primarily intended to attack the requirements imposed on individual Americans abroad.

Internal Revenue Code Section 6038D and “Foreign Asset Disclosure”

A previous post discussed the interaction among: the Internal Revenue Code, tax treaty tie breaker rules and whether a Green Card Holder is a U.S. resident for FATCA purposes. This post is to discuss the form 8938 requirement and how it applies to Green Card Holders (resident aliens) who are deemed by treaty to be “nonresidents” under a treaty “Tie Breaker” rule.

The statute – Internal Revenue Code Section 6038D – gives the “Secretary” (meaning IRS) the right to create specific exemptions. “Nonresident aliens” is one group that the IRS is allowed to specifically exempt from the form 8938 requirement. Green Card Holders are statutory “resident aliens” under S. 7701(b) of the Internal Revenue Code. Yet, in some cases “Green Card Holders” can be treated as “nonresident aliens” pursuant to a tax treaty.

What is a “Treaty Tie Breaker” rule?

It’s possible for a person to be treated as a “tax resident” of two countries. In this case a Tax Treaty can be used to determine in which country the person is a “tax resident”. For example Section 2 of Article IV of the Canada U.S. Tax Treaty says:

2. Where by reason of the provisions of paragraph 1 an individual is a resident of both Contracting States, then his status shall be determined as follows:

(a) he shall be deemed to be a resident of the Contracting State in which he has a permanent home available to him; if he has a permanent home available to him in both States or in neither State, he shall be deemed to be a resident of the Contracting State with which his personal and economic relations are closer (centre of vital interests);

(b) if the Contracting State in which he has his centre of vital interests cannot be determined, he shall be deemed to be a resident of the Contracting State in which he has an habitual abode;

(c) if he has an habitual abode in both States or in neither State, he shall be deemed to be a resident of the Contracting State of which he is a citizen; and

(d) if he is a citizen of both States or of neither of them, the competent authorities of the Contracting States shall settle the question by mutual agreement.

(Note that the “Treaty Tie Breaker” rules are available to “Green Card” holders. The treaty “savings clause” prevents U.S. citizens from being treated solely as a resident of Canada.)

So, what do the IRS regulations say?

On December 29, 2014 the IRS removed the temporary regulations (which are described here) and issued final Form 8938 reporting rules. The final regulations, which took effect on December 29, 2014 (making them applicable for years 2014 and onward), make it clear that Green Card Holders, who pursuant to a treaty tie-breaker provision, are treated as “nonresidents” (nonresident aliens) are NOT required to file Form 8938.

Specifically, the IRS confirms that:

1. Dual resident taxpayers

A comment recommended an exemption from the section 6038D reporting requirements be included for an individual who is a dual resident taxpayer and who, pursuant to a provision of a treaty that provides for resolution of conflicting claims of residence by the United States and the treaty partner, claims to be treated as a resident of the treaty partner. In such a case, a dual resident taxpayer may claim a treaty benefit as a resident of the treaty partner and will be taxed as a nonresident for U.S. tax purposes for the taxable year (or portion of the taxable year) that the individual is treated as a nonresident. The final rule adopts this recommendation for a dual resident taxpayer who determines his or her U.S. tax liability as if he or she were a nonresident alien and claims a treaty benefit as a nonresident of the United States as provided in § 301.7701(b)–7 by timely filing a Form 1040NR, “Nonresident Alien Income Tax Return,” (or such other appropriate form under that section) and attaching a Form 8833, “Treaty-Based Return Position Disclosure Under Section 6114 or 7701(b).” The Treasury Department and the IRS have concluded that reporting under section 6038D is closely associated with the determination of an individual’s income tax liability. Because the taxpayer’s filing of a Form 8833 with his or her Form 1040NR (or other appropriate form) will permit the IRS to identify individuals in this category and take follow-up tax enforcement actions when considered appropriate, reporting on Form 8938, “Statement of Specified Foreign Financial Assets,” is not essential to effective IRS tax enforcement efforts relating to this category of U.S. residents.

Why this makes sense …

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Welcome to Citizenship Solutions – John Richardson

Welcome to Citizenship Solutions – The blog of John Richardson

I am guessing (actually I know for sure) that you arrived here because of some aspect of being a U.S. citizen living outside the United States. Maybe you are a Green Card holder. I also know how you are feeling.

“U.S. citizens” and “Green Card holders” are referred to as “U.S. Persons”. So, if you are a “U.S. Person Abroad”, well, life is pretty tough. in fact living as a “U.S. Person” outside the United States is: hard, expensive, confusing and (quite frankly) unsustainable.

Some of you are NOT in compliance with the intricate and (almost) impossible to understand web of tax and reporting requirements. Non-compliance has its share of problems.

Some of you ARE in compliance (as far as you know) with the intricate (and almost) impossible to understand web of tax and reporting requirements. Compliance also has its share of problems (stress, expense, anxiety).

Whether you are in compliance or not in compliance, you have problems. This is because:

U.S. citizenship is the one citizenship in the world that affects virtually every aspect of your life. in addition to the information on this blog, I help people with the following kinds of specific problems/questions (which include):

1. Are you a U.S. citizen at all? Have you relinquished U.S. citizenship along the way? If you have relinquished U.S. citizenship, are you a “U.S. Person” for FATCA and tax filing purposes?

2. Have you just received a “FATCA Letter” addressed to you as an INDIVIDUAL or to you as an ENTITY (corporation, trust, etc.)? How to respond. What’s a W9? What’s a W-8BEN-E anyway?

3. What about that old Green Card sitting in your drawer? You may still be subject to U.S. taxation, even when you don’t live in the USA! What are the tax obligations of Green Card holders? What to do? ….

4. Renouncing U.S. citizenship – What’s the “right way”? What’s the “wrong way”? The better question is “what’s the safest way”? What about that “back dated” relinquishment?

5. Green Card expatriation – How to exit the tax system and the U.S. immigration system.

6.  Oh My God!! The moment many of you will never forget. Yes it’s a problem. No it’s not as much of a problem as you think. Make certain that you respond and not react. If all you want to do is file U.S. taxes

7.  U.S. S. 877A “Exit Tax” consulting. If you think you can leave the “Land Of The Free” for free, you better think again. A bit about the the United States expatriation taxes. Those of you with a  non-U.S. pension and want to renounce U.S. citizenship should take specific note!

8. Retirement and financial planning
(including pensions) as a “U.S. Person” abroad – You will be surprised at the problems you will have living as a U.S. tax compliant American abroad. Think (or maybe you shouldn’t) “PFIC“.

9. Coming into U.S. tax complianceWhat are the various options?  Why one option over another? What about “Streamlined” compliance? 99% of you should NEVER use “OVDP”!!!

10. Non-U.S. AKA “Foreign Corporations” – Yes, these can be a BIG problem. Caution: The U.S. CFC tax rules may attribute income to YOU that you never received!

11. Getting a divorce? Are you a U.S. citizen married to a non-citizen? – Your U.S. citizenship will play a role.

Respond, don’t react! – Do NOT make any decisions without understanding the present and FUTURE consequences of those decisions.

So, how do I know this?

First, I am a person (Toronto based lawyer actually) who was born in the United States and has lived almost all of my life outside the United States. In other words, I have lived and do live these problems.

Second, I have spent the last few years of my life assisting “U.S. Persons abroad” survive the unjust imposition of FATCA, FBAR and “CBT” (AKA U.S. “place of birth taxation”) on Americans abroad. I work with many groups of people including: “accidental Americans“, long term dual citizens who wish to retain U.S. citizenship, long term dual citizens who feel they must renounce U.S. citizenship, Green Card holders (whether they live in the United States or not) and those who have ONLY U.S. citizenship. It’s what I do.

Third,
I have been (and continue to be) actively involved in efforts to oppose FATCA in the courts and in the process of making submissions to the U.S. Treasury. If you want to learn about the Alliance For The Defense of Canadian Sovereignty lawsuit against the Government of Canada, see here.

I work with people all around the world! I have given “live presentations” about the “Problems of U.S. citizenship” all over Canada and Europe. I have given a number of “media interviews” about FATCA and the problems of U.S. citizenship. I have testified as a witness before the Canadian House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance (May 2014). I have written hundreds of articles and blog posts about FATCA, FBAR and U.S. taxation-based citizenship. I have and continue to teach courses both for Americans abroad and for professionals who counsel U.S. citizens abroad.

Anyway, the blog is free. The counselling and assistance require individual consultations. Contact me if you want me to help you solve these problems as they apply to YOUR SITUATION.

John Richardson

P.S. Here is the one of the very first posts that I wrote on for this blog. Some posts are “timeless”. “What you need to consider BEFORE consulting a lawyer or tax professional“.