Category Archives: Green Card

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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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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The Green Card and the “Oh My God” Moment: You know you want to leave the USA? Not so fast!

Well he won the lottery. Specifically he won the “Green Card” lottery. He and his wife came all the way from an Asian country to “Live The Dream” – specifically the dream of living in the United States of America.

He spoke English. His wife did not speak English. He believed in strict compliance in the law. His wife relied on him to ensure her compliance with the law.

As a Green Card holder he was vaguely aware that he could be deported if he were convicted of certain kinds of offenses. But, mainly he believed in compliance with the law for its own sake.

As a Green Card holder and as a U.S. resident he was subject to laws that were never explained to him. He didn’t realize that he was taxable on his WORLD income (including a small pension that he received from his country of citizenship).

In 2009 the “Offshore Jihad” began. He didn’t think of himself as having “offshore accounts”. After all, he was a just citizen of another country. Surely it could NOT be criminal to have a bank account in his country of origin. Did he have to report his small foreign pension to the IRS? That pension was in no way related to the United States of America? And then he learned about the alphabet soup of “reporting requirements” – Mr. FBAR, Uncle FATCA, etc. He began to learn what the “reporting requirements” were. But, the penalties (as least described) were certain. He could not believe the extent of the penalties.

It was at this moment that his “Oh My God” moment began. He was confused and mentally disorganized. At that moment, all of his life assumptions were reversed.

Assumption 1: He had always believed that he was a good, moral “law abiding” person. How could it be that he was NOT in compliance with the law. He had no reason to believe that the reporting requirements would even exist.

Welcome to the United States of America where any involvement with anything “foreign” makes you a presumptive criminal.

Assumption 2: He had always believed that the United States was a “just nation”. How could the United States threaten to impose such penalties on a person in his situation?

Welcome to the United States of America where justice is NOT the norm.

What’s a poor “Green Card” holder to do?

He was ill prepared to deal with the situation in which he found himself.

He strived to learn what he could. The IRS would not answer his questions – suggesting that he go to a “tax professional”

The “tax professionals” gave him different, conflicting and contradictory answers.

His greatest frustration was that he could NOT completely understand what was expected of him – although he did understand the threat of penalties, penalties and more penalties.

He eventually decided that he had to move back to his home country. He did this NOT to escape U.S. taxation, but because:

  1. He could not completely understand what was required of him to be U.S. tax complaint; and
  2. He was worried that he would die and leave his wife in a situation where she would not know how to be U.S. tax compliant.

In order to prepare for leaving he:

  • entered the streamlined program (domestic  version) and “back filed” for 3 years
  • stayed in America for two more years so that he could certify the “five years of tax compliance” when he handed in the I-407
  • even filed the “Sailing Permit” (The 1040C) that is required of ALL aliens (resident or nonresident) when they leave the United States

He in now trying to file his final return and 8854. Fortunately he will not be subject to the S. 877A Exit Tax. He is currently focusing on staying alive long enough to complete his U.S. tax filings. He feels that it is important that he NOT die and leave the U.S. tax compliance problem to his wife.

His emotional state:

Like many he is living in a state of fear. I pointed out to him that he was a small insignificant person and that nobody in the U.S. Government cared about him. He thanked me for telling him that “nobody in the U.S. Government cared about him”. He said that it was the first time in his life that he felt good that nobody cared about him.

Epilogue:

One more day. One more life ruined. One more person chased out of America because of the Internal Revenue Code.

His greatest wish is that he lives long enough to file Form 8854 to log him and his wife out of America.

Nobody, but nobody should move to America without reading the fine print!

#YouCantMakeThisUp!

John Richardson

 

 

 

 

 

Why is the United States imposing an “Exit Tax” on the Canadian pensions of Canadian citizens living in Canada?

This post is based on (but is NOT identical to) a July 17, 2017 submission in response to Senator Hatch’s request for Feedback on Tax Reform

“Re the impact of the S. 877A “Exit Tax” on those “Americans living abroad” who relinquish U.S. citizenship:

Why is the United States imposing an “Exit Tax” on their “non-U.S. pensions” and “non-U.S. assets”? After all, these were earned or accumulated AFTER the person moved from the United States?”

Part A – Why certain aspects of the Exit should be repealed

In a global world it is common for people to establish residence outside the United States. Many who establish residence abroad either are or become citizens of other nations. Some who become citizens of other nations do NOT wish to be “dual citizens”. As a result, they “expatriate” – meaning they relinquish their U.S. citizenship. By relinquishing their U.S. citizenship they are cutting political ties to the United States. They are signalling that they do NOT wish the  opportunities, benefits and protection from/of the United States.

Yet Internal Revenue Code S. 877A imposes a separate tax on “expatriation”. The “expatriation tax” is discussed in a series of posts found here.

Specific examples of HOW the “Exit Tax Rules” effectively confiscate pensions earned outside the United States are here.

Assuming, “covered expatriate status” and NO “dual-citizen exemption to the Exit Tax“, the S. 877A “Exit Tax” rules operate to:

  1. Virtually “confiscate” non-U.S. pensions that were earned when the individual was NOT a  United States resident; and
  2. Allow for the retention of “U.S. pensions” which were earned while the individual WAS a resident of the United States.

(One would think that the result should be THE EXACT OPPOSITE!”)

Specific request: The S. 877A Exit Tax should be repealed. If the United States is to impose a tax on expatriation, the tax should not extend to “non-U.S. pensions” earned while the individual was NOT a U.S. resident. Furthermore, the tax should NOT extend to “non-U.S. assets” that were accumulated while the individual was NOT a U.S. resident.

But, that’s assuming that the United States should have ANY kind of “Exit Tax!”

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Morales-Santana: U.S. Supreme Court makes it harder for people “born abroad” to U.S. citizen parent(s) to become citizens

Prologue:U.S. citizenship is not as attractive as it was

One benefit of U.S. citizenship: If one is a U.S. citizen then one cannot be deported from the USA

Some Green Card holders become U.S. citizens. Some do NOT become U.S. citizens. Many of those Green Card holders become U.S. citizens in order to avoid the possibility of deportation. Deportation results in expatriation and can (among other things) subject the unfortunate Green Card holder to the S. 877A Expatriation Tax, which can result in significant confiscation of assets. In fact, the S. 877A Expatriation Tax discourages people from seeking Green Cards in the first place.  That said, it is only Green Card Holders who are “long term residents” who are subject to the Exit Tax.

The plight of Mr. Morales-Santana: No U.S. citizenship = the possibility of deportation

The facts as described by the court:

In 2000, the Government sought to remove Morales-Santana based on several criminal convictions, ranking him as alien because, at his time of birth, his father did not satisfy the requirement of five years’ physical presence after age 14. An immigration judge rejected Morales-Santana’s citizenship claim and ordered his removal. Morales­ Santana later moved to reopen the proceedings, asserting that the Government’s refusal to recognize that he derived citizenship from his U. S.-citizen father violated the Constitution’s equal protection guarantee.

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The teaching of Topsnik 2 – 2016: #Greencard expatriation and the S. 877A “Exit Tax”

What! You want to abandon your Green Card and leave the USA!

Introduction – Introducing Gerd Topsnik – The World According to Facebook

“This case will be seen as the first of an (eventual) series of cases that determine how the definition of “long term resident” applies to Green Card holders. The case makes clear that if one does NOT meet the treaty definition of “resident” in the second country, that one
cannot use that treaty to defeat the “long term resident” test. A subsequent case is sure to expand on this issue. Otherwise, the case confirms that the S. 877A Exit Tax rules are “alive and well” and that the “5 year certification” test must be met to avoid “non-covered status”

Topsnik may or may not be a “bad guy”. But even “bad guys” are entitled to have the law properly applied to their facts. It would be very interesting to know how the court would have responded if Topsnik had been paying tax (a nice taxpayer) in Germany as a German resident.”

A nice summary of Topnik 1 and Topsnik 2

This is part of a series of posts on: (1) “tax residency“, (2) the use of “treaty tiebreakers” when an individual is a “tax resident” of more than one jurisdiction and (3) how to use “treaty tiebreakers” to end “tax residency” in an undesirable tax jurisdiction.

This is the second of the two Topsnik posts.

Topsnik 1 focused on the “tax residence” of Green Card Holders. The decision in Topsnik 1 is here:

topsnikdiv.halpern.TC.WPD
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The teaching of Topsnik 1 – 2014: Taxation for #GreenCard @TaxResidency and “tax treaty tiebreakers”

Introduction

This is part of a series of posts on: (1) “tax residency“, (2) the use of “treaty tiebreakers” when an individual is a “tax resident” of more than one jurisdiction and (3) how to use “treaty tiebreakers” to end “tax residency” in an undesirable tax jurisdiction.

Topsnik 1: It’s about the taxation (not expatriation) of  Green Card Holders

The 2014 decision in Topsnik is an interesting example of how these components interact. Mr. Topsnik was given a Green Card in 1977. He moved from the United States in 2003 and did NOT formally abandon his Green Card. He then attempted to argue that because he was a “tax resident” of Germany that he could use a “treaty tie breaker” to argue that he was NOT a “U.S tax resident”.

In summary the court ruled on a number of questions which INCLUDED:

1. Was Mr. Topsnik a U.S. “tax resident”?

Because Mr Topsnik never formally abandoned his Green Card (as required by the regulations) that he WAS a “U.S. tax resident” for ALL relevant years. This meant that he was taxable in the United States on all of his world income.

For clarity the regulations to Internal Revenue Code 7701(b) specifically state:

(b)Lawful permanent resident –

(1)Green card test. An alien is a resident alien with respect to a calendar year if the individual is a lawful permanent resident at any time during the calendar year. A lawful permanent resident is an individual who has been lawfully granted the privilege of residing permanently in the United States as an immigrant in accordance with the immigration laws. Resident status is deemed to continue unless it is rescinded or administratively or judicially determined to have been abandoned.

(2)Rescission of resident status. Resident status is considered to be rescinded if a final administrative or judicial order of exclusion or deportation is issued regarding the alien individual. For purposes of this paragraph, the term “final judicial order” means an order that is no longer subject to appeal to a higher court of competent jurisdiction.

(3)Administrative or judicial determination of abandonment of resident status. An administrative or judicial determination of abandonment of resident status may be initiated by the alien individual, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), or a consular officer. If the alien initiates this determination, resident status is considered to be abandoned when the individual’s application for abandonment (INS Form I-407) or a letter stating the alien’s intent to abandon his or her resident status, with the Alien Registration Receipt Card (INS Form I-151 or Form I-551) enclosed, is filed with the INS or a consular officer. If INS replaces any of the form numbers referred to in this paragraph or § 301.7701(b)-2(f), refer to the comparable INS replacement form number. For purposes of this paragraph, an alien individual shall be considered to have filed a letter stating the intent to abandon resident status with the INS or a consular office if such letter is sent by certified mail, return receipt requested (or a foreign country’s equivalent thereof). A copy of the letter, along with proof that the letter was mailed and received, should be retained by the alien individual. If the INS or a consular officer initiates this determination, resident status will be considered to be abandoned upon the issuance of a final administrative order of abandonment. If an individual is granted an appeal to a federal court of competent jurisdiction, a final judicial order is required.

Green Card holders must understand that they do NOT end their status as “U.S. tax residents” by leaving the United States and taking up residence in another country! Specific steps (related to notification) are required.

2. Could Mr. Topsnik use the “treaty tiebreaker” to argue that he was a “tax resident” of Germany and NOT a “tax resident” of the United States?

No. The use of a “treaty tiebreaker” requires that an individual be a “tax resident” of both countries. In this case the “treaty tie breaker” could be used ONLY if Mr. Topsnik was a “tax resident” of both Germany and the United States. The court held that Mr. Topsnik was NOT a “tax resident” of Germany but was a “tax resident” of the United States.

Note that the fact that Mr. Topsnik was NOT a “tax resident” of Germany meant that he was NOT eligible to use the “tax treaty tie breaker” rules. Eligibility to use the “tax treaty tie breaker” rules would NOT guarantee that Mr. Topsnik would be a “German tax resident”.

Conclusion: Mr. Topsnik was ONLY a “U.S. tax resident” and was therefore taxable in the United States on his world income!

Moral of the story: If a Green Card Holder ceases to reside in the United States he as NOT ended his status as a U.S. “tax resident”.
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Green card holders, the “tax treaty tiebreaker” and reporting: Forms 8938, 8621 and 5471

Before you read this post!! Warning!! Warning!!

Before a “Green Card” holder uses the “Treaty Tiebreaker” provision of a U.S. Tax Treaty, he/she must consider what is the effect of using the “Treaty Tiebreaker” on:

A. His/her immigration status under Title 8 (will he/she risk losing the Green Card?)

B. His/her status under Title 26 (will he expatriate himself under Internal Revenue Code S. 7701(b)) and subject himself to the S. 877A “Exit Tax” provisions?

Now, on to the post.

The “Treaty Tiebreaker” and information reporting …

The Internal Revenue Code imposes on “U.S. Persons” (citizens or “residents”):

1. The requirement to pay U.S. taxes; and

2. The requirement to file U.S.forms.

All “U.S. Persons” (citizens or residents) are aware of the importance of “Information Returns” AKA “Forms” in their lives.

What is a U.S. resident for the purposes of taxation?

This question is answered by analyzing Internal Revenue Code S. 7701(b). If one is NOT a U.S. citizen, a physical connection to the United States (at some time or another) is normally required for one to be a “tax resident” of the United States..

What happens if one is a “tax resident” of more than one country?

The “savings clause” ensures that U.S. citizens are the only people in the world who have no defence to being deemed a tax resident of multiple countries. U.S. citizens (“membership has its privileges”) are ALWAYS tax residents of the United States. U.S. citizens who reside in other nations, may also be “tax residents” of their country of residence.

In some cases, a U.S. “resident” (which includes a Green Card holder) may be deemed to be a “nonresident” pursuant to the terms of a U.S. Tax Treaty. A Green Card holder “may” be able to use a “Treaty Tiebreaker” provision to be treated as a “nonresident”.

Warning!! Warning!!

Before a “Green Card” holder uses the “Treaty Tiebreaker” provision of a U.S. Tax Treaty, he/she must consider what is the effect of using the “Treaty Tiebreaker” on:

A. His/her immigration status under Title 8 (will he/she risk losing the Green Card?)

B. His/her status under Title 26 (will he expatriate himself under Internal Revenue Code S. 7701(b)) and subject himself to the S. 877A “Exit Tax” provisions?
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Green card holders: the “tax treaty tiebreaker” rules and taxation of Subpart F and PFIC income

Before you read this post!! Warning!! Warning!!

Before a “Green Card” holder uses the “Treaty Tiebreaker” provision of a U.S. Tax Treaty, he/she must consider what is the effect of using the “Treaty Tiebreaker” on:

A. His/her immigration status under Title 8 (will he/she risk losing the Green Card?)

B. His/her status under Title 26 (will he expatriate himself under Internal Revenue Code S. 7701(b)) and subject himself to the S. 877A “Exit Tax” provisions?

Now, on to the post …

The Internal Revenue Code of the United States imposes (1) requirements for taxation (determining how much tax is payable by various individuals) and (2) requirements for information reporting returns. For “U.S. Persons Abroad” the “information reporting requirements” are far more onerous.
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