Category Archives: International tax policy

False Form 8854 used as part of “willful” #FBAR prosecution

The primary story is of a U.S. professor who pleaded guilty to an FBAR violation and was subjected to a 100 million FBAR penalty.  Notably the “tax loss” was 10 million dollars and the FBAR penalty was 100 million dollars. It appears that Mr. FBAR is becoming an important tool in the arsenal used by the United States Treasury.

The more interesting (for the purposes of expatriation) was the role that a “false Form 8854 “Expatriation Statement”) may have played in the guilty plea.

The story has been reported at the following two sources:

and on Jack Townsend’s blog

What is most  interesting is the description from the Department of Justice site which includes:

Horsky directed the activities in his Horsky Holdings and other accounts maintained at the Zurich-based bank, despite the fact that it was readily apparent, in communications with employees of the bank, that Horsky was a resident of the United States.  Bank representatives routinely sent emails to Horsky recognizing that he was residing in the United States.  Beginning in at least 2011, Horsky caused another individual to have signature authority over his Zurich-based bank accounts, and this individual assumed the responsibility of providing instructions as to the management of the accounts at Horsky’s direction.  This arrangement was intended to conceal Horsky’s interest in and control over these accounts from the IRS. 

In 2013, the individual who had nominal control over Horsky’s accounts at the Zurich-based bank conspired with Horsky to relinquish the individual’s U.S. citizenship, in part to ensure that Horsky’s control of the offshore accounts would not be reported to the IRS.  In 2014, this individual filed with the IRS a false Form 8854 (Initial Annual Expatriation Statement) that failed to disclose his net worth on the date of expatriation, failed to disclose his ownership of foreign assets, and falsely certified under penalties of perjury that he was in compliance with his tax obligations for the five preceding tax years.

Horsky also willfully filed false 2008 through 2014 individual income tax returns which failed to disclose his income from, and beneficial interest in and control over, his Zurich-based bank accounts.  Horsky agreed that for purposes of sentencing, his criminal conduct resulted in a tax loss of at least $10 million.  In addition, Horsky failed to file Reports of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBARs) up and through 2011, and also filed false FBARs for 2012 and 2013.

The point is that the false Form 8854 (used primarily to provide information about whether one is a “covered expatriate” and to calculate the Exit Tax) was used as evidence of part of a conspiracy to evade taxes. This is an interesting use of the Form 8854,  which is primarily an “information return”.

Obviously this a “general interest” post with extremely unusual circumstances. But, it is an example of how associations with others, in the  “Wide and Wonderful World of U.S. Tax Forms” can become a problem.

This is also a reminder the “information returns” DO matter!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How the “assistance in collection” provisions in the Canada US Tax Treaty facilitates “US citizenship based taxation”

The above tweet references the comment I left on an article titled: ”

Why is the IRS Collecting Taxes for Denmark?

which appeared at the “Procedurally Speaking” blog.

The article is about the “assistance in collection” provision which is found in 5 U.S. Tax Treaties (which include: Canada, Denmark, Sweden, France and the Netherlands). I am particularly interested in this because of a recent post at the Isaac Brock Society.

This post discusses the “assistance in collection” provision found in Article XXVI A of the Canada U.S. Tax Treaty. The full test of this article is:

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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

Does Article 22 the U.S. Australia Tax Treaty require the United States to allow U.S. citizens a foreign tax credit against the 3.8% Obamacare Surtax?

Introduction

The above tweet references a post which I wrote on August 7, 2016 which discussed the (August 5, 2016) decision of the United States Court of Appeals – District of Columbia Circuits in the Esher case. In this case, Justice Millet ruled that:

That extreme reading of the Totalization Agreement rests on nothing more than the Commissioner’s own say-so. It lacks any grounding in the Agreement’s text or in any principle governing the interpretation of international agreements. The tax court’s corresponding disregard of the Totalization Agreement’s textual direction concerning the role of French law in resolving undefined terms and in determining the content of the laws enumerated in Article 2(1)(b) was error and requires reversal.

The complete decision is here:

FRENCH TAXES US COURT REVERSAL 5 AUG 2016 (1)

 

The general point is this:

When interpreting international tax treaties the United States is not permitted to consider ONLY U.S. law when interpreting the treaty. The United States (and the treaty partner country) is required to consider each country’s expectations of what the treaty meant and how it might be interpreted with respect to laws that did not exist at the time the treaty was signed.

I concluded that post with my thought that:

The court ruled that international tax treaties must be interpreted in the context of what were the expectations of the country when the treaty was signed. This may open up the possibility of reconsidering how various U.S. tax laws may affect the residents and citizens of other nations.

For example: To what extent was or is it the expectation of a country that it can be interpreted to allow the U.S. to impose punitive taxation on those who are primarily citizens of and factually residents of other nations?

Time will tell.

The 3.8% Obamacare surtax and Americans abroad …

As the articles in the above tweets demonstrate, the 3.8% Obamacare surtax (assuming it’s applicability to Americans abroad) is considered to be:

– a form of pure double taxation when applied to Americans abroad

– more likely to be paid by Americans abroad than by Homeland Americans

– a way to force Americans abroad to pay for the medical care of Homeland Americans

– a costly compliance nightmare

– an example of “Boldly Go, where no regime of citizenship taxation has ever gone before

#YouCantMakeThisUp!
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Why Boris Johnson must relinquish US citizenship on the occasion of his appointment as British Foreign Minister

A recent post (July 7, 2016) on this blog began with:

Prologue – U.S. citizens are “subjects” to U.S. law wherever they may be in the world …

Yes, it’s true. In 1932 (eight years after the Supreme Court decision in Cook v. Tait), Justice Hughes of the U.S. Supreme Court, in the case of Blackmer v. United States ruled that:

While it appears that the petitioner removed his residence to France in the year 1924, it is undisputed that he was, and continued to be, a citizen of the United States. He continued to owe allegiance to the United States. By virtue of the obligations of citizenship, the United States retained its authority over him, and he was bound by its laws made applicable to him in a foreign country. Thus, although resident abroad, the petitioner remained subject to the taxing power of the United States. Cook v. Tait, 265 U.S. 47, 54 , 56 S., 44 S. Ct. 444. For disobedience to its laws through conduct abroad, he was subject to punishment in the courts of the United States. United States v. Bow- [284 U.S. 421, 437] man, 260 U.S. 94, 102 , 43 S. Ct. 39. With respect to such an exercise of authority, there is no question of international law,2 but solely of the purport of the municipal law which establishes the duties of the citizen in relation to his own government. 3 While the legislation of the Congress, unless the contrary intent appears, is construed to apply only within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States, the question of its application, so far as citizens of the United States in foreign countries are concerned, is one of construction, not of legislative power. American Banana Co. v. United Fruit Co., 213 U.S. 347, 357 , 29 S. Ct. 511, 16 Ann. Cas. 1047; United States v. Bowman, supra; Robertson v. Labor Board, 268 U.S. 619, 622 , 45 S. Ct. 621. Nor can it be doubted that the United States possesses the power inherent in sovereignty to require the return to this country of a citizen, resident elsewhere, whenever the public interest requires it, and to penalize him in case of refusal. Compare Bartue and the Duchess of Suffolk’s Case, 2 Dyer’s Rep. 176b, 73 Eng. Rep. 388; Knowles v. Luce, Moore 109, 72 Eng. Rep. 473.4 What in England was the prerogative of the sov- [284 U.S. 421, 438] ereign in this respect pertains under our constitutional system to the national authority which may be exercised by the Congress by virtue of the legislative power to prescribe the duties of the citizens of the United States. It is also beyond controversy that one of the duties which the citizen owes to his government is to support the administration of justice by attending its courts and giving his testimony whenever he is properly summoned. Blair v. United States, 250 U.S. 273, 281 , 39 S. St. Ct. 468. And the Congress may provide for the performance of this duty and prescribe penalties for disobedience.

It’s that simple. If you are a U.S. citizen, some would argue that you are the property of the U.S.government.

On the other hand (and this will be the subject of another post), the Supreme Court decisions in Cook v. Tait and Blackmer v. The United States were decided in an era where there was no U.S. recognition of dual citizenship. It is reasonable to argue that these decisions have no applicability in the modern world.

There will be those who will say: Come on! Get real! The United States would never rely on these old court decisions. Well, they still do cite Cook v. Tait. Mr. FBAR lay dormant until it was resurrected by the Obama administration as the “FBAR Fundraiser“.

Dual Citizenship: What is the “effect” of a U.S. citizen also holding the citizenship of another nation?

The State Department description includes:

However, dual nationals owe allegiance to both the United States and the foreign country. They are required to obey the laws of both countries. Either country has the right to enforce its laws, particularly if the person later travels there. Most U.S. nationals, including dual nationals, must use a U.S. passport to enter and leave the United States. Dual nationals may also be required by the foreign country to use its passport to enter and leave that country. Use of the foreign passport does not endanger U.S. nationality. Most countries permit a person to renounce or otherwise lose nationality.

The life and times of Boris Johnson – A United States taxpayer by birth

Assumptions about Mr. Johnson’s citizenship …

I am assuming that he became both a U.S. and U.K. citizen by birth. I also assume that he remains both a U.S. and a U.K. citizen.

A U.S. Centric Perspective: As a U.S. citizen, Mr. Johnson is defined primarily in terms of taxation. On the occasion of Mr. Johnson’s recent appointment as the U.K. Foreign Minister, the Washington Times published the following article.

The article referenced in the above tweet provides an interesting summary of the Mr. Johnson’s adventures with the U.S. tax system. The article demonstrates how U.S. “place of birth” taxation is used to extract capital from other nations and transfer that capital to the U.S. Treasury. (As always the comments are of great interest.)

A non-U.S. Centric Perspective: Mr. Johnson is a “poster boy” for the problems of the U.S. “place of birth taxation” (AKA “taxation-based citizenship”). Mr. Johnson’s “IRS Problems” resulted in raising the profile and awareness of U.S. tax policies. A particularly interesting article was written by Jackie Bugnion and Roland Crim of “American Citizens Abroad”.

At a minimum, Mr. Johnson is subject to IRS jurisdiction, IRS reporting requirements, IRS threats and penalties and IRS assessments.

Boris Johnson has now been named the U.K. Foreign Minister …

How does his United States citizenship impact on this situation? Is it possible for him to be both a U.S. citizen and the British foreign minister? The “logical answer” is “Yes he can”. That said, having a U.S. citizen as the U.K. foreign minister raises many questions.

These questions include:

1. What effect (if any) does Mr. Johnson’s acceptance of this position have on his retention of United States citizenship as a matter of U.S. law?

2. If his acceptance of the position were a “relinquishing act” (under U.S. law) would Mr. Johnson be subject to the United States S. 877A Exit Tax?

3. Assuming that Mr. Johnson were to retain “dual” U.S./U.K. citizenship, how would his “divided loyalties” impact on this ability to serve as the British foreign minister?

4. Assuming that Mr. Johnson were to retain “dual” U.S./U.K. citizenship, how does the fact that the IRS has the jurisdiction to threaten him with fines and penalties impact the situation? What about the reporting requirements?

5. Should Boris Johnson formally relinquish his U.S. citizenship in order to avoid the conflict of interest that would arise because of divided loyalties?

Each question will be considered separately. Here we go …

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The ownership and use of the “U.S. Person” (which includes a “citizen”) as an instrument of foreign policy

Welcome and a bit of an introduction

This post turned out to be longer and cover more topics than I originally intended. The problem with discussing the problems experienced by Americans abroad is that there are many “moving parts”. I have broken SOME of the “moving parts” into, well six parts and a “prologue”.

In addition, as the title suggests, the original intention of the post was to discuss how the U.S. Government uses its citizens as “instruments of foreign policy”. The obvious question is: how can they possibly do this? Doesn’t U.S. law end at U.S. borders? How can the United States impose law on the rest of the world. The answer to that question raises other issues (which are discussed in the other parts of this post).

I guess I need a new title for the post.

I would also like to say that I am hopeful that there will be change. That said, change is possible ONLY (regardless of intention) if all of the issues are understood individually and how they interact.

Prologue – U.S. citizens are “subjects” to U.S. law wherever they may be in the world

Part I – The U.S. “Giveth” and the U.S. “Taketh” – How the U.S. uses “citizenship” as a weapon against individuals

Part II – U.S. Citizens living abroad – “Life in the penalty box”

Part III – I’m a “Toxic American”, but it’s not my fault – How U.S. regulation makes “U.S. citizens undesirables in other nations

Part IV – The use of U.S. citizens as instruments of foreign policy

Part V – Why Americans abroad are renouncing U.S. citizenship

Part VI – The injustice of the S. 877A “Exit Tax” as applied to Americans abroad

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Prologue – U.S. citizens are “subjects” to U.S. law wherever they may be in the world …

Yes, it’s true. In 1932 (eight years after the Supreme Court decision in Cook v. Tait), Justice Hughes of the U.S. Supreme Court, in the case of Blackmer v. United States ruled that:

While it appears that the petitioner removed his residence to France in the year 1924, it is undisputed that he was, and continued to be, a citizen of the United States. He continued to owe allegiance to the United States. By virtue of the obligations of citizenship, the United States retained its authority over him, and he was bound by its laws made applicable to him in a foreign country. Thus, although resident abroad, the petitioner remained subject to the taxing power of the United States. Cook v. Tait, 265 U.S. 47, 54 , 56 S., 44 S. Ct. 444. For disobedience to its laws through conduct abroad, he was subject to punishment in the courts of the United States. United States v. Bow- [284 U.S. 421, 437] man, 260 U.S. 94, 102 , 43 S. Ct. 39. With respect to such an exercise of authority, there is no question of international law,2 but solely of the purport of the municipal law which establishes the duties of the citizen in relation to his own government. 3 While the legislation of the Congress, unless the contrary intent appears, is construed to apply only within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States, the question of its application, so far as citizens of the United States in foreign countries are concerned, is one of construction, not of legislative power. American Banana Co. v. United Fruit Co., 213 U.S. 347, 357 , 29 S. Ct. 511, 16 Ann. Cas. 1047; United States v. Bowman, supra; Robertson v. Labor Board, 268 U.S. 619, 622 , 45 S. Ct. 621. Nor can it be doubted that the United States possesses the power inherent in sovereignty to require the return to this country of a citizen, resident elsewhere, whenever the public interest requires it, and to penalize him in case of refusal. Compare Bartue and the Duchess of Suffolk’s Case, 2 Dyer’s Rep. 176b, 73 Eng. Rep. 388; Knowles v. Luce, Moore 109, 72 Eng. Rep. 473.4 What in England was the prerogative of the sov- [284 U.S. 421, 438] ereign in this respect pertains under our constitutional system to the national authority which may be exercised by the Congress by virtue of the legislative power to prescribe the duties of the citizens of the United States. It is also beyond controversy that one of the duties which the citizen owes to his government is to support the administration of justice by attending its courts and giving his testimony whenever he is properly summoned. Blair v. United States, 250 U.S. 273, 281 , 39 S. St. Ct. 468. And the Congress may provide for the performance of this duty and prescribe penalties for disobedience.

It’s that simple. If you are a U.S. citizen, some would argue that you are the property of the U.S.government.

On the other hand (and this will be the subject of another post), the Supreme Court decisions in Cook v. Tait and Blackmer v. The United States were decided in an era where there was no U.S. recognition of dual citizenship. It is reasonable to argue that these decisions have no applicability in the modern world.

There will be those who will say: Come on! Get real! The United States would never rely on these old court decisions. Well, they still do cite Cook v. Tait. Mr. FBAR lay dormant until it was resurrected by the Obama administration as the “FBAR Fundraiser“.

Part I – The U.S. “Giveth” and the U.S. “Taketh” – How the U.S. uses “citizenship” as a weapon against individuals …

The U.S. Taketh: Draft Resistors in Canada in the 60s and 70s – The use of  stripping people of “citizenship” as a mechanism to control the people

I my recent post: “Muhammad Ali, draft resistors, loss of US citizenship, the “Rumble In The Jungle” and a trip down memory lane“, I wrote:

During the last few years I have met many former Americans who came to Canada to escape service in the Viet Nam war. Their circumstances vary greatly. This was clearly a tumultuous time and difficult time. Many of them have commented that it has similarities to the circumstances of today. In both the 70s and present day, certain Americans abroad and former Americans abroad, feel uneasy and unsure about their U.S. citizenship. It’s also interesting how in both cases the United States is using “citizenship” as a mechanism to exercise control over individuals who do not live in the United States. In the 70s the United States was punishing people by stripping them of their citizenship. In 2016 the United States is punishing people by imposing citizenship on them. Either way, it’s clear that “citizenship” (and a U.S. place of birth) is a powerful weapon to be used against people to achieve governmental objectives.

The U.S. Giveth: “Accidental Americans” in Canada and throughout the world – The imposition of “U.S. citizenship” as a way to raise tax revenue

There is no one definition of “accidental American”. The group includes primarily those who were born in the United States (often with no memory of having lived there) and have spent all their lives in other nations. I have previously written about the horrible situation of “accidental Americans” in Stanstead, Quebec. Many Stanstead residents were born in Vermont because it was the closer hospital.

The problems of “accidental Americans” worldwide, are well described (on an ongoing basis) by Jude Ryan in his Facebook “Hunger Strike to President Obama”.

The problems experienced by “Accidental Americans” are that at the present time:

– they (in many cases) did not even know they were considered to be U.S. citizens

– if they did know they were U.S. citizens they did not know about the uniquely American practice of “taxation-based citizenship

– they are deemed to be U.S. citizens and are therefore subject to U.S. regulations

– they don’t reside in the United States AND are citizens of other nations

– they are being identified by FATCA and in some cases are having banking problems

– they can’t afford the financial costs of the tax compliance to formally renounce U.S. citizenship

– they can’t afford the $2350 fee to renounce U.S. citizenship

– they live in a state of terror and uncertainty (many don’t believe this or laugh it off)

In short, the forced imposition of U.S. citizenship (or at least the CURRENT unavailability of an easy out) is destroying their lives.

I highly recommend the following presentation by McGill Law Professor Allison Christians in which she puts the problems of “accidental Americans” in perspective.

 

Part II – U.S. Citizens living abroad – “Life in the penalty box”

I do NOT want to devote a major part of this post to this issue. The bottom line is this:

U.S. citizens living abroad are subject to ALL provisions of the Internal Revenue Code (and other U.S. laws – see below). The effect of this is to:

– subject them to double taxation on their incomes (the tax preparers and accountants who claim this is NOT true are dead wrong)

– deem all of their non-U.S. assets as “foreign” triggering numerous penalty provisions

– make it very difficult (in some cases impossible) for them to engage in normal financial planning – this is a “Buy American” provision

– make divorce (if they are married to a non-U.S. citizen potentially much more costly) – this a “Marry American” provision

– report the details of virtually all of their “non-U.S. activities” and investments to the IRS under threats of draconian penalties (this is what makes interaction with Americans “toxic” – see below)

In short, Americans abroad are NOT permitted to fully integrate into the societies where they live (and are often citizens). For more details on this see:

Part III – I’m a “Toxic American”, but it’s not my fault – How U.S. regulation makes “U.S. citizens undesirables in other nations …

U.S. citizenship-taxation, enforced by FATCA, does have an impact on the economies of other nations. There is evidence that this will negatively affect the job and career prospects of Americans abroad. “Citizenship-taxation” is increasingly affecting the way that nations and the citizens of other nations interact with “U.S. citizens”. Because of the “immutable characteristic” of a “U.S place of birth”, many U.S. citizens living outside the United States (assuming they are allowed to have a bank account in a FATCA world) have become undesirable as business partners.

See the following two accounts of discrimination against U.S. citizens abroad

Good points that highlight, yet again, the absurdity and detachment of the U.S. political system from 9 million of their citizens now living in an ever globalized and ever more competitive world. The U.S. political class and presidential candidates disinterest in this ever-growing and important group of citizens only speaks to the total stupidity, general ignorance, global unawareness, profound provincialism and confirms a totally dysfunctional and archaic system that is today the United States. A country that attacks and harms its diaspora and through its laws has succeeded in turning its own citizens into international pariahs with international banks, in international business partnerships, in marriage and in the general perception outside of the U.S.

I recently met with three start-ups at a fair in Germany, two from the UK and one from Sweden. In my work as a headhunter they were hiring me to find them some talented people for their growing and successful startups. In all three cases, and each in separate meetings with me, the startups told me that they did not want any Americans or Europeans with U.S. Green cards or passports. They were all wisely warned by their banks and financial advisors not to bring any U.S. Persons into their business. Two of them knew the reasons and the risk that any American presence would bring to the business. The other one learned the hard way. They had an American investor who got them into his FATCA mess, reporting his holdings and his American tax consultant demanding the business’s bank details and the personal details of the owners. They returned his investment, threw him out and agreed never again to get involved with any U.S. persons in their business. This is now widely known and even if FATCA and all of the other reporting requirements for Americans would be eliminated, the damage is already done. The perception out there is to avoid hiring any Americans and also avoiding their investments. They are too much trouble and their government is an intrusive bully that thinks it can control the entire world. That spirit is so foreign to the young brilliant startup minds out there today. The U.S. has become a has-been and definitely not seen as a cool place anymore.

The world has moved on and the U.S. politicians and presidential candidates still haven’t realized that the world has changed since their anachronistic citizenship based tax system dating from the Civil War. Truly, a nation of idiots.

As a former U.S. citizen, who renounced just in order to survive, as my four non-U.S. business partners gave me an ultimatum, either get rid of your U.S. citizenship, which was contaminating our totally German business and subjecting our company’s accounts to U.S. Treasury and IRS scrutiny, or you must sell your shares and leave. This all started upon the advice of our German bank, who said that they wouldn’t deal with our accounts if there was any American/’U.S. Person’ involvement? Not to mention the personal impact on my mortgage, on my bank closing all of my investment accounts and everything else that every reader here knows all too well.

What amazes me most, and also amazes all of my personal and professional friends, all of them non U.S. persons, is how obedient and conforming the organizations supposedly representing the interests of U.S. citizens abroad are. With all that has happened, and especially now, subsequent to the Senate Finance Committee’s “report” on tax reform, paying nothing but contemptuous lip service to the plight of US citizens abroad, it should be more than obvious that U.S. Citizens abroad are of absolutely no relevance for lawmakers and legislators in Washington. Yet, the attitude of all of the organizations supposedly looking out for and fighting for the rights of US citizens abroad has been to follow a very respectful path of presenting the case for change, as if they were dealing with a fair democratic system, that respects equal representation and justice. They look ridiculous, all of them! When I read that Democrats Abroad have been trying to push the “bandage” fix of ‘Same Country Exception’ for more than four years, with no result, I say that this is absolutely pathetic. When I see American Citizens Abroad sending endless delegations to Washington, year after year, and even opening an office there, only to see the interests of overseas Americans relegated to a footnote, with no action proposed n the recent Senate Financial Committee report, I would think that they should be embarrassed and ashamed, as they should be. It has taken the group Republicans Overseas over one year to formulate an intended lawsuit, which has been postponed endless times, with a “promise” to file it next week, I say that they too have not approached this in the right way. Too much damage has been done in the interim.

What astonishes all of my “foreign” friends is how passive, obedient and fearful U.S. people are of their government, especially when confronted with such outright injustice, literal extortion and destruction of their financial wellbeing and that of their families and business partners. Even the ever law abiding Germans wouldn’t put up with any of this and they would probably, en masse, as one lawyer friend told me, simply refuse to cooperate with any of this Byzantine filing of forms and endless intrusions into their privacy and that of their families and business partners. They would collectively refuse and file class action suits against the authorities behind these injustices worthy of a fascist totalitarian regime. Perhaps the Germans understand better than the Americans what this sort of thing leads to, when a society becomes so beaten down, so subservient, so fearful of authority that it complies with the most horrific and undemocratic “laws” and is unable to unite and simply say NO, collectively. Until Americans fight to recover some form of democracy and fairness, the ravages of FATCA will be but one in a coming litany of similar such abuses. To continue believing that they are dealing with democratic institutions and that reason and fairness will prevail is nothing but a naive attitude that will lead them nowhere, as we can now see with the recent Senate Finance Committee report.

How by defining you as a “U.S. Person” (which includes a “U.S. citizen”) you will be used to facilitate U.S. foreign policy …

Part IV – The use of U.S. citizens as instruments of foreign policy

To leave the USA one needs a passport and when it comes to having a U.S. passport …

No passport shall be granted or issued to or verified for any other persons than those owing allegiance, whether citizens or not, to the United States.

“U.S. citizen” vs. “U.S. Person” – What is the difference?

All U.S. citizens are U.S. persons, but not all U.S. persons are U.S. citizens

My impression is that:

– the term “U.S. citizen” is a term that is used to describe one as a person who has rights or membership, benefits and some responsibilities to the United States

– the term “U.S. Person” is a a broader term that “U.S. citizen”. It is defined differently in different pieces of legislation. The class of “U.S. Persons” is broader than the class of “U.S. citizens”. The class of “U.S. Persons” often includes “Green Card holders”, perhaps “U.S. Nationals”, etc. For example, S. 7701(a)(30) of the Internal Revenue Code defines “U.S. Persons” as “citizens or residents”.

The term “U.S. Person” appears to be used in a context that imposes prohibitions and sanctions directly on the “U.S. Person” and/or is used to imply “U.S. ownership and control” over the person. Often this “ownership or control” is exercised in the context of U.S. interaction with “foreign nations”. When used in the context of interaction with “foreign nations”, the “U.S. Person” is often used as an instrument of foreign policy.

There is no one definition of “U.S Person” …

Restrictions on U.S. currency going to Cuba …

When it comes to “Corrupt Foreign Practices”, “U.S. citizens” are “domestic concerns” …

It has become clear that United States enforces its extra-territorial law by pressuring other governments, organizations and entities (under threats of sanction) to do “U.S. dirty work for the U.S.”.

Some examples include:

– the use of the OECD to enforce the U.S. Corrupt Foreign Practices Act

– the FATCA IGAs to impose U.S. taxation on the citizens and residents of other nations

– as per Juan Zarate in “Treasury’s War” the “blacklisting of foreign banks”

The OECD employs “full-time lawyers” whose mission is to enforce the U.S. Corrupt Foreign Practices Act worldwide!

Bobby, you may be a national hero, but don’t even consider playing chess in Serbia …

Restrictions on “U.S. Persons” under FATCA and the FATCA IGAs …

When it comes to FATCA, the definition of “U.S. Person” is broad …

Part V – Why Americans abroad are renouncing U.S. citizenship …

Put it this way:

Ireland recently opened a museum honoring the achievements of Ireland’s diaspora.

The United States continues to control the lives of U.S. citizens living outside the United States. “When in Rome, Live As A Homelander“.

The United States continues to cause other nations to discriminate against U.S. citizens who leave the United States.

The United States continues to use U.S. citizens as instruments of foreign policy.

The United States continues to threaten it’s diaspora (citizens abroad) with penalties and sanctions

It’s no surprise that renunciations of U.S. citizenship are growing! They will continue!

Part VI – The injustice of the S. 877A “Exit Tax” as applied to Americans abroad

For many Americans abroad to renounce U.S. citizenship they will be required to pay an Exit Tax. Those who are “covered expatriates” will be required to pay an “Exit Tax” that is based on the value of their non-U.S. assets, their non-U.S. pensions and possibly more. A detailed explanation is NOT the purpose of this post. For information on the S. 877A Exit Tax, I refer you to:

In closing …

Let us not look back in anger, nor forward in fear, but around us in awareness

John Richardson

Forms required by #Americansabroad 101 – The Explanation

The above tweet references a comment that I left on a medium.com post written by Rachel Heller titled “Why I renounced my US citizenship” (Hint: It’s not because I’m avoiding taxes!“.

The article was well written, interesting and attracted responses from Homeland Americans. (It was reproduced here and attracted even more comments.) The comments from U.S. residents demonstrated again that they do NOT understand the problems experienced by Americans abroad. Although Rachel DID mention the problem of “forms” as a contributing factor to her renunciation, at least one comment – ” indicated “disbelief” that “forms” could be a contributing factor to the renunciation of U.S. citizenship.

It is clear that this person, well intentioned as he/she may be simply does NOT understand what forms mean in the lives of Americans abroad. It’s as though he/she thinks that filling out a form is akin to completing a customer satisfaction survey.

As I result, I wrote a reply in the hopes of inviting him/her to understand what forms really mean in the lives of Americans abroad. (This post is a modified version of that “reply”.)

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“Savings clause” in US Tax Treaties guarantees US right of taxation on residents and citizens of other nations

Introduction …

It is commonly believed that U.S. Tax Treaties are for the purpose of preventing “double taxation”. In general, US Tax Treaties do NOT prevent double taxation with respect to Americans abroad. For Americans abroad, double taxation is mitigated (but not prevented) by through Internal Revenue Code S. 901 (foreign tax credits) and Internal Revenue Code S. 911 (Foreign Earned Income Exclusion).

U.S. Tax Treaties include a “savings clause” (found in different sections of different treaties) that:

1. Guarantee the right of the United States to impose taxation on its citizens who are residing in other nations; and

2. Guarantee the right of the United States to impose taxation on its citizens as though the treaty didn’t exist.

Note that these “U.S. citizens” may (and in many cases are) citizens of their country of residence.

Those countries that have signed FATCA IGAs have effectively agreed to assist the United States in imposing taxation on their own citizens and residents. This will allow the United States to legally transfer capital out of the signatory country to the United States Treasury (for better use).

May 2016 – Elazar Cole and the “Savings Clause” …

On May 16, 2010, the U.S. Tax Court in the decision of – Elazar M. Cole v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, T.C. Summary Opinion 2016-22 (May 2016) – confirmed the principle that a U.S. citizen cannot (as a general principle) use the Tax Treaty to prevent U.S. taxation.

The decision is here:
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Obama budget: “Dual citizens from birth” who are NOT “US residents” should be taxed as non-residents

 

“It’s unjust, it’s inhumane, I didn’t choose where I was born!”

This accurately describes the sentiments of those who are the target of FATCA Hunt. “Place Of Birth Taxation” is unfair to ALL those it affects. The most visible and egregious example of the unfairness is it’s application to “Accidental Americans“.

The context just imagine …

Imagine having been born in the United States, never having lived in the United States and then being “captured in FATCA Hunt”. It appears that the Obama administration has realized that the most visible unfairness of “place of birth” taxation is the application to Accidental Americans.

As a result, both the 2016 and 2017 Obama budget proposals have contained provisions to allow “Accidental Americans” to relinquish U.S. citizenship without being subject to the S. 877A Exit Tax or without having to certify U.S. tax compliance with respect to worldwide income. Those who qualify would be required to certify U.S. tax compliance on the basis that they were/are subject to the U.S. tax system as “non-resident aliens”. This raises the twin questions of:

1. Who is a “non-resident” alien? – See Internal Revenue Code S. 7701(b); and

2. How is a “non-resident” alien taxed? – See Internal Revenue Code S. 2(d) and S. 871.

I wrote a detailed post, referenced by the following tweet, about this issue in 2015.


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Physical presence as a necessary condition for being a US “resident” under the Internal Revenue Code

Introduction

Every country in the world with the exceptions of Eritrea and the United States claim tax jurisdiction based on “residence”. Although the tests for “residence” may differ, “residence based taxation” means that it is possible to sever your tax connection to a country by severing residence.

The nations of Eritrea and the United States impose taxation based on citizenship. U.S. citizens (primarily those “Born In The USA”) can NEVER sever their tax connection to the United States as long as they remain citizens. When it comes to U.S. citizenship-based taxation it is possible to NEVER have lived in the United States and still be subject to taxation!
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