Category Archives: International tax policy

Tax, culture and how the USA uses #citizenshiptaxation to impose US culture (and penalties) on other countries

Civilizations and countries define themselves in part by their tax policies

In 1993 Samuel Huntington wrote “The Clash Of Civilizations“. His basic thesis is captured in the following paragraph from Foreign Affairs Magazine.

World politics is entering a new phase, and intellectuals have not hesitated to proliferate visions of what it will be-the end of history, the return of traditional rivalries between nation states, and the decline of the nation state from the conflicting pulls of tribalism and globalism, among others. Each of these visions catches aspects of the emerging reality. Yet they all miss a crucial, indeed a central, aspect of what global politics is likely to be in the coming years.

It is my hypothesis that the fundamental source of conflict in this new world will not be primarily ideological or primarily economic. The great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural. Nation states will remain the most powerful actors in world affairs, but the principal conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilizations. The clash of civilizations will dominate global politics. The fault lines between civilizations will be the battle lines of the future.

Tax policy and the possible “clash of civilizations”

To what extent does the insistence of the USA on imposing the Internal Revenue Code (“citizenship-based taxation”) on the citizen/residents of other countries, foreshadow a “clash of civilizations”?

This post was motivated by the article by Virginia La Torre Jeker which is referenced in the above tweet. It is an excellent discussion of how the Internal Revenue Code might (or might not) accommodate the reality of Sharia law. The post raises many questions and alerts practitioners to the challenges of applying the Internal Revenue Code to the lives of people whose culture is largely outside the United States. The post raises many “technical issues”. I expect there will further discussion of this issue on Virginia’s blog.

Taxation does NOT exist in a cultural vacuum. A country’s tax system reflects the counry’s cultural values. As the tax historian Charles Adams has noted, the rise and fall of civilizations can be linked to its tax policies. To impose the Internal Revenue Code on people who live outside the United States is to export U.S. cultural values and impose those values on other nations. The United States claims the right to impose the Internal Revenue Code on U.S. citizens who live outside the United States. The reality is that there are millions of people with no connection to the United States (other than a place of birth). U.S. citizenship is acquired automatically if one has the fortune (or misfortune depending on your point of view) of having been (as Bruce would sing) “Born In The USA!

FATCA and the tax compliance industry are working hard to identify those who may be U.S. citizens and do NOT live in the United States. What the United States views as a good source of tax revenue should be seen more broadly. Leaving aside basic issues of fairness, to impose U.S. taxation (according to U.S. rules/cultural values) on the residents of other countries, is sure to create problems. As part of tax reform, the United States must stop imposing the Internal Revenue Code on people who are NOT residents of the United States!

The following “Storification” is an attempt to explain the problem from an “outside the USA” perspective …

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Part 2: The problem is NOT “worldwide taxation”. The problem is imposing “worldwide taxation” on people who don’t live in the South Africa or the USA and are “tax residents’ of other countries.

As goes taxation, so goes civilization.

This is Part 2 of my post discussing the South Africa tax situation. Part 1 is here.

This is a follow up to my post exploring whether South Africa is moving to a tax system that is based on “citizenship-based taxation” or (in the case of the United States of America) “taxation-based citizenship”. That post was the result of a “special request”. The response from that first post included:

I now understand the difference between the SA system and the US. I believe that the similarity that caused the consternation when this first came up was the issue of “tax residency”. CBT mandates that those declared US citizens by the US are simultaneously declared US tax residents. In a similar fashion SA has a concept of tax residency that *does* include some people who do not physically reside in SA but NOT just because they’re citizens. I get it. Thanks again for clarifying this!

That being said, I think the term “tax residency” is crazy. I wish that someone with the power to influence terminology in the general usage of language could come up with something that accurately describes the basis on which a person can be taxed by a country in which that person does not live. Taxes don’t reside; people do, and they can only live one place at a time. Any ideas? 🙂

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Part 1: South Africa is NOT attempting to compete with USA by challenging the US monopoly on citizenship-based taxation

As goes taxation, so goes civilizations

This is Part 1 of my posts discussing the South Africa situation. Part 2 is here.

There have been a number of suggestions in various blogs that South Africa is somehow taxing on the basis of citizenship. American citizens (whether by accident or design) are most sensitive to any discussion of “citizenship-based taxation”. After all, U.S. tax policies combined with FATCA (which is part of the Internal Revenue Code) are destroying the lives of those who have entered the U.S. tax system.

I recently received an email that asked:

They’re talking about SA expats, people who no longer live in SA, being taxed by SA. Like us, these people are residents and earners in countries other than their country of origin (and, I would assume, citizenship). http://www.internationalinvestment.net/regions/south-african-expats-hit-tax-exemption-removal-plans/ If this is not CBT, on what basis are they being taxed? If SA is just wanting to expand its definition of tax residency on what basis do they feel they can apply this to someone who no longer lives in their country?

The short answer …

South Africa imposes “worldwide taxation” on those who are “tax residents” of South Africa. The rules for an individual to qualify as a “tax resident” of South Africa are here. South African “tax residency” is irrelevant to citizenship.

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#Taxreform17 means that the USA should stop imposing U.S. taxation on the residents of other countries! @SpeakerRyan @RepKevinBrady @SenateJamLdr @OrrinHatch @Stevenmnuchin1

Some of you may be interested in the “short letter” that I sent by regular mail to the “powers to be” in Washington who are working on “Tax Reform”.

A “Town Hall” interview with Speaker Ryan suggests that Tax Reform is going to happen.

The interview confirms that there is pressure to move U.S. corporations to “territorial taxation”. See also the following tweet from the House Ways And Means Committee.

The question is whether individuals will also be considered. In January of 2017 Republicans Overseas proposed “territorial taxation” for individuals. This week the Republican National Committee adopted a resolution from Republicans Overseas urging that “territorial taxation” for individuals be adopted.

Both U.S. corporations and U.S. citizens are “U.S. persons”. If the United States moves to “territorial taxation” for corporations then “territorial taxation” for individuals should follow.

The United States would be will advised to stop imposing U.S. taxation on the tax paying residents of other countries.

What follows is my “short letter”. A PDF copy of the letter is here:

taxreform

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Dewees 3: Lessons about the “Oh My God Moment” and dealing with the problems of U.S. citizenship

As I write this post, my mind goes back to one of my very first posts about U.S. compliance issues. This post was called “What you should consider before contacting a lawyer“. Since that time I have written hundreds of post describing the problems faced by Americans abroad.

More recently …

In Dewees 1, I explained the importance of the Canada U.S. tax treaty and how it provides “some protection” to Canadian citizens from U.S. tax debts.

In Dewees 2, I explained some of the characteristics of the OVDP program and how Mr. Dewees got caught in it.

In Dewees 3 (this post), I am suggesting some possible lessons that can be learned from the story of Donald Dewees.

Ten thoughts on U.S. taxation, non-compliance, Americans Abroad and the U.S. taxation of Americans abroad

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Jackie Bugnion 2017 Residence Based Taxation: To Chairman Hatch’s request for tax reform proposals

Introduction: It’s tax reform season and Senator Orrin Hatch wants to hear from you (again)

As reported on the Isaac Brock Society and other digital resources for those impacted by U.S. taxes, you have until July 17, 2017 to tell Senator Hatch what you think needs to be changed in the Internal Revenue Code. After great deliberation, it occurred to me that people who either are (or are accused of being) U.S. citizens or Green Card holders living outside the United States, might want the USA to stop taxing them. After all, they already pay taxes to the countries where they reside. This is your opportunity to “Let your voices be heard” (well maybe).

The Senate Finance Committee is yet again asking the general public to send comments on tax reform. The deadline is July 17, and the email address is taxreform2017@finance.senate.gov.

https://www.finance.senate.gov/chairmans-news/hatch-calls-for-feedback-on-tax-reform

(July 17, 2017 is coming quickly. Please take a few moments to send your thoughts to Senator Hatch. Tell him you feel about FATCA, citizenship-based taxation, FBAR, etc.)

Speaking of “tax reform”: Introducing Jackie Bugion

Jackie Bugnion is a U.S. citizen who has lived in Switzerland for many many years. She has been a tireless advocate for “residence based taxation”. She worked with “American Citizens Abroad” for many years and has recently retired. She was recently honoured with the Eugene Abrams award by ACA – an event that was the subject of a post at the Isaac Brock Society – that described her many achievements (over a long career).

She was the principal organizer of the “Conference on Citizenship Taxation” which took place in Toronto, Canada in May of 2014. The Conference was widely discussed on the Isaac Brock Society here and here. The live video of the “Kirsch Schneider debate” is here.

I have reproduced a number of her written submissions and posts on this blog, specifically:

Jackie Bugnion – 2013 Submission to the House Ways and Means Committee – Explains the upcoming New American Revolution

The submission referenced in the above tweet describes the history of the construction of the U.S. “fiscal prison” brick by legislative brick! (Forward it to anybody and everybody with a interest in this.)

Jackie has returned with her 2017 submission to Senator Hatch.

Jackie Bugnion – 2017 submission to Chairman Hatch – reproduced with permission of Jackie Bugnion

 

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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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Green card holders: the “tax treaty tiebreaker” and eligibility for Streamlined Offshore

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?

This is another in a series of posts on the “tax treaty tiebreaker” (which is a standard provision in most U.S. tax treaties). “Tax treaty tiebreakers” are rules that are used to assign a person’s “tax residency” to one country when an individual is a “tax resident” of both countries. In the context of U.S. tax treaties, “treaty tie breaker” rules are used when an individual is both:

1. A “U.S. person” for tax purposes (U.S. citizen or U.S. resident); and

2. A “tax resident” of another country.

It is very common to use tax treaties to assign “tax residency” to a country when an individual is  a tax resident of more than one country.

For example, Article IV of the Canada U.S. tax treaty provides for a rule to assign an individual’s “tax residency” to either Canada or the United States when an individual is a “tax resident” of Canada and and a tax resident of the the United States.

The “savings clause” prohibits U.S. citizens from using the “tax treaty tiebreaker” from avoiding being a “tax resident” of the United States.

Article IV of the Canada U.S. tax treaty includes:

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.

It is clear that the “tax treaty tiebreaker” provision does NOT exclude Green Card Holders from it’s application. In fact, the impact of the “tax treaty tie breaker” may be the reason why the Canada Revenue Agency advises that “Green Card Holders” are NOT U.S. residents for FATCA reporting purposes.

The application of the “tax treaty tiebreaker” makes one a “nonresident alien, WITH RESPECT TO INCOME TAXATION, for U.S. tax purposes but NOT for other purposes (including FBAR and other information returns).

The “nonresident alien” and the 1040NR

Nonresident aliens file a 1040NR. A “nonresident alien” filing a 1040NR is filing to report and pay tax on income connected to the United States. A 1040NR is NOT used to report “non-U.S. income”. General information for the 1040NR is here. IRS Publication 519 – The U.S. Tax Guide For Aliens” is here.

Possible advantages for a “Green Card Holder” using the “tax treaty tiebreaker” to file the 1040NR

1. A Green Card Holder, by virtue of the “tax treaty tiebreaker”, would NOT be subject to U.S. taxation on “foreign income” which includes Subpart F income and PFIC income.

2. A Green Card Holder, by virtue of the “tax treaty tiebreaker”, would NOT be required to file Form 8938, Form 8621 and is subject to modified reporting requirements for Form 5471.

A reminder …

A Green Card Holder, using the “tax treaty tiebreaker” IS still a “U.S. Person”. He is a “U.S. Person” who is deemed to NOT be a U.S. person for the limited purposes of the “tax treaty tiebreaker”. He is a “U.S. Person”, who is NOT treated as a “U.S. Person” and  who is therefore able to file a 1040NR.

There are millions of “U.S. persons” (citizens and Green Card Holders) abroad who have not been filing U.S. taxes

Many of them are “coming into compliance” using the IRS Streamlined Foreign Offshore Program. As a general principle, “streamlined” is NOT available to “nonresident” aliens. This makes sense. After all, a “nonresident alien” is NOT a “U.S. person” for tax purposes.

Is “streamlined” available to a “U.S. Person”, who is filing a 1040NR, because he is treated as a “nonresident” pursuant to the “tax treaty tiebreaker”?

I suggest the answer comes from the instructions for streamlined which include:

“Eligibility for the Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures

In addition to having to meet the general eligibility criteria, individual U.S. taxpayers, or estates of individual U.S. taxpayers, seeking to use the Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures described in this section must: (1) meet the applicable non-residency requirement described below (for joint return filers, both spouses must meet the applicable non-residency requirement described below) and (2) have failed to report the income from a foreign financial asset and pay tax as required by U.S. law, and may have failed to file an FBAR (FinCEN Form 114, previously Form TD F 90-22.1) with respect to a foreign financial account, and such failures resulted from non-willful conduct. Non-willful conduct is conduct that is due to negligence, inadvertence, or mistake or conduct that is the result of a good faith misunderstanding of the requirements of the law.”

Let’s focus specifically on this part of the requirements:

“(2) have failed to report the income from a foreign financial asset and pay tax as required by U.S. law,”

If one is filing a 1040NR, then one is reporting ONLY U.S. source income. The whole point of the 1040NR would be to NOT have to report income from foreign financial assets. Think of the specific examples of Subpart F income and PFIC income.

Therefore, (although I will confess to never having analyzed this in terms of the streamlined rules) I suggest that one could NOT use the Foreign Offshore streamlined program to file the 1040NR.

It’s NOT that Green Card Holders who use the “tax treaty tiebreaker are NOT “U.S. Persons”. It’s that filing a 1040NR means that there is no reason to report income from a foreign financial asset (meaning that one fails the eligibility test for streamlined)!

John Richardson

Searching for Uncle #FATCA: Where is he? What does he do? Why is he a danger to America? Can Congressman Meadows and Senator Paul save America?

Outline:

April 7, 2017

Part 1: Prologue – Introducing  Uncle FATCA – Who is he? What does he mean in your life?

Part 2: What is FATCA, what are the FATCA IGAs, what is the Meadows Bill and how do these things interact?

Part 3 – What does it mean to repeal FATCA and how exactly does the Meadow Bill repeal FATCA? A section by section analysis

Part 4: An important reminder – FATCA repeal does not mean IGA repeal

Part 5: The text of FATCA and the text of the Meadows Bill (very dry and technical and not likely to be of interest to the casual reader)

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The Little Red #FATCA Book – (Review, Identify and Report on “U.S. Persons”) – How FATCA affects the non-U.S. World

About FATCA – The “worst law nobody has heard of” …

FATCA (The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act) was signed into law – as a revenue offset provision to the Hire Act – in March of 2010. It is doubtful that Congress even knew that FATCA was part of the HIRE Act (“Hiring Incentives To Restore Employment”). Yet, FATCA has created havoc in banking systems around the world, has destroyed the lives of the citizens and residents of other nations (who just happen to have been born in the United States), led to many Americans abroad renouncing their U.S. citizenship and forced banks to waste tens of millions (and this is conservative) of dollars in compliance fees. Interestingly FATCA has also led to other countries actually changing their domestic laws (overriding their own constitutions) to “hunt” for people with a U.S. birthplace. FATCA has generated significant hatred of America and has severely eroded America’s “moral capital” during a time when China is challenging the United States for global supremacy.

FATCA has recently been part of an inquiry by the Government of France into the “overreaching” of U.S. laws. Nigel Green of the Devere Group has joined with Jim Jatras to lobby for the repeal of FATCA.

2012 – The world according to FATCA  – For the compliance industry: “The Gift That Just Keeps on Giving” …

2014 – At Home In Canada – The genesis of the ADSC Lawsuit – Opposition Rising …

2015 – Meanwhile, In The Homeland – The Bopp FATCALegalAction.com Lawsuit begins …

Interestingly, in August 2016, Dr. Stephen Kish, a plaintiff in the Bopp lawsuit and Chair of the Alliance For the Defence of Canadian Sovereignty renounced his U.S. citizenship.

Listen to the legal arguments …

 

December 2016 – Advocacy For Americans Abroad Fails: U.S. Treasury refuses proposed FATCA Same Country Exemption for Americans Abroad (but not for “Accidental Americans”) …

To be clear, much of the FATCA harm caused to “some” Americans abroad could be alleviated with the FATCA Same Country exemption (proposed by “ACA” and “Democrats Abroad”). FATCA SCE could be achieved by regulation. In December of 2016, U.S. Treasury refused to support a regulation creating the FATCA Same Country Exemption. This means that, the Obama administration was:

1. Aware of the harm that FATCA was causing to Americans abroad (leaving aside the harm to the rest of the world); and

2. Refused to provide relief for Americans abroad!

2017 – The world according to FATCA  – Hearings in Washington, D.C. …

 

On April 26, 2017, at the initiative of Congressman Mark Meadows and Senator Rand Paul, “FATCA Hearings” will take place in Washington, DC. Although FATCA has been the subject of much discussion outside of the United States, there has been little discussion of FATCA inside the United States. In fact, FATCA is NOT well known in the United States.

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The “Little Red FATCA Book” Documenting the “Worldwide Hunt” for “U.S. Persons” …

The “Little Red FATCA Book” is a collection of posts that I created over an 18 month period. I have decided to collect the individual posts and organize them in one place. I have grouped the individual posts into three broad chapters which I will call Chapter A, Chapter B and Chapter C. This is a “work in progress”. Some of the posts are incomplete.

FATCA which is essentially the enforcement mechanism of U.S. “Place of Birth Taxation” is a controversial topic. Feel free to post your thoughts and comments.

John Richardson

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