Category Archives: Renounce U.S. citizenship

“It’s better in the Bahamas – Combining your renunciation with a vacation

For years I have seen the slogan “It’s better in the Bahamas”. It’s a great place to vacation. It’s a short flight from Toronto. It’s relatively inexpensive to visit. It’s was the home of one Sir John Templeton (one of the most famous renunciants of U.S. citizenship). And when it comes to “renouncing U.S. citizenship”, it might be “Better in the Bahamas“, because you can schedule a renunciation appointment on a predictable date!

What follows are some recent reports about the renunciation process in Nassau, Bahamas.

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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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The “Exit Tax”: Dual US/Canada citizen from birth, no Canada citizenship today = no exemption to US “Exit Tax”

The above tweet references a “guest post” written by Dominic Ferszt of Cape Town South Africa. The post demonstrates how the “dual citizen from birth” exemption to the S. 877A “Exit Tax” relies on the citizenship laws of other nations. In some cases those laws of other nations are arbitrary and unjust. If these laws were U.S. laws, they might violate the equal protection and/or due process guarantees found in the United States constitution. For example, Mr. Ferszt describes how the “dual citizenship exemption” to the “Ext Tax” is dependent on South African “Apartheid Laws”. He describes a situation where a “black” U.S. citizen from birth is denied the benefits of the dual citizen exemption to the Exit Tax, which are available to a “white” dual citizen from birth. (During the “Apartheid Era” Blacks were not entitled to South African citizenship.)

So, what’s the S. 877A “Exit Tax”  dual citizen exemption and how does it work?

The dual citizen exemption, which I have discussed in previous posts,  is found in Internal Revenue Code S. 877A(g)(1)(B) and reads:

(B) Exceptions An individual shall not be treated as meeting the requirements of subparagraph (A) or (B) of section 877(a)(2) if—
(i) the individual—
(I) became at birth a citizen of the United States and a citizen of another country and, as of the expatriation date, continues to be a citizen of, and is taxed as a resident of, such other country, and
(II) has been a resident of the United States (as defined in section 7701(b)(1)(A)(ii)) for not more than 10 taxable years during the 15-taxable year period ending with the taxable year during which the expatriation date occurs, or

Entitlement to the “dual citizen exemption” depends entirely on the citizenship laws of other countries …


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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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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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Muhammad Ali, draft resistors, loss of US citizenship, the “Rumble In The Jungle” and a trip down memory lane

Introduction – RIP Muhammad Ali

Like many I was saddened to learn of the death of Muhammad Ali. (One of my profitable ventures was betting on Ali in his 1974 fight with Foreman.) Most of the media discussion of Ali’s death focused on his boxing career. There was far less attention paid to Ali’s refusal to accept induction into the U.S. military. This refusal led to his being stripped of his boxing license (why anyone would need a license to box is beyond me) and interestingly the revocation of his U.S. passport (if you can’t box in America we will prevent you from boxing outside America). Hmmm, does that passport revocation remind you of any recent events or any past events?

Ali made the reasonable point that he was being asked to go to Viet Nam to defend the rights of the South Vietnamese people who were being denied their rights, at the same time that Black Americans were denied their rights in America. Muhammad Ali provided inspiration to Dr. Martin Luther King. Fast forward to 2016: President Clinton (a man who also avoided military service in Viet Nam) will deliver one of the eulogies (I hope he mentions the “draft resistor” aspect of Ali’s life).

Draft Resistors in Canada in the 60s and 70s – The use of “citizenship” as a mechanism to control the people
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Green Card Holders and #Americansabroad: “Residence”, “Long Term Residence” and the S. 877A “Exit Tax”

Tax jurisdiction and residential ties

The two types of residential ties considered for all aliens

When considering the meaning of “residence” for tax purposes, attempting to ascribe a place of “residence “to an individual, and imposing taxation on individuals, the Internal Revenue Code considers:

A. The extent of “residential ties” to the United States; and

B. The extent of “residential ties” to another country.

We see both aspects of residence considered as a way to defeat the “substantial presence” test in Internal Revenue Code S. 7701(b). If the country of residence is uncertain, or if a person is considered to be a “tax resident” of the United States and another country, the Internal Revenue Code considers ties to both the United States and the other country in question.

For “resident aliens” (Green Card Holders):

– both past and present residential ties to the United States and to other nations are considered in at least three ways under the Internal Revenue Code itself; and

– residential ties to both the United States and the other country of residence are considered in determining residence under Article IV of the Canada U.S. (and other) tax treaties**.

Green Card Holders and tax residence

A previous post discussed the fact that:

  1. Internal Revenue Code S. 7701(a)(30) defines “U.S. Persons” as including “citizens” and “residents”
  2. The combined effect of Internal Revenue Code S. 7701(b)(1) and S. 7701(b)(6) define Green Card Holders in a way that ensures that they meet the statutory test of “residence”. (Of course Green Card Holders  may be able to defeat the status of “resident” by making use of the Treaty Election in Article IV of the Tax Treaty)
  3. The statutory defenses to “residence” found in S. 7701(b) of the Internal Revenue Code, available to “aliens” who are NOT Green Card Holders, take into account and are a function of the extent of residential ties to other jurisdictions

Residence matters and residence matters hugely. Hence, the definition of “resident” matters and matters hugely.

Congress has directed its attention to the question of the kind of physical connection to the United States, that justifies deeming one to be a “resident” for tax purposes. Interestingly, the definition of “citizenship” has NOT received the same attention. Nor is “U.S. citizen” defined in the Internal Revenue Code.

The purpose of this post is to consider how actual U.S. residence affects the taxation of Green Card Holders.
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US Passport application links Citizenship @StateDept to Taxation @USTreasury to enforce “Taxation based Citizenship”

Yesterday I was forwarded an email which originated from the U.S. Consulate in Toronto. The purpose of the email (included at the end of this post) was to give notice of  U.S. tax obligations for U.S. citizens living outside the United States. In other words, the State Department is assisting the IRS by notifying Americans abroad of their U.S. tax filing obligations. Put another way, this email represents:

“Tax Education Outreach” from the IRS delivered by the State Department”

I do NOT recall this in previous years. That said, this email notification is extremely significant. It means that the IRS can argue that those who received this email may well have had notice that they were required to file U.S. tax returns. Over time, this will increase awareness of U.S. tax filing obligations. The greater the increase in awareness of U.S. tax filing obligations, the harder it will be to claim ignorance of those obligations. (This is in addition to the “Educational Outreach” coming in the form of FATCA letters from your local bank and your friendly journalists. In both cases, you are being asked to consider the question of: “Are you or have you even been an American citizen?“) Although, this is NOT an immediate problem, it seems logical that sooner or later it will become more difficult for Americans abroad to claim ignorance of their U.S. tax filing obligations. This may have implications for coming into U.S. tax compliance.

 

Q. Who would have received this email from the U.S. consulate?

A. Anybody who is on the U.S. Consulate email list.

Q. Who would be on the U.S. Consulate email list?

A. It would include almost anybody who has applied for a U.S. passport.

To put it simply:

One who applies for a U.S. passport is now putting oneself in a position where one will be told about U.S. tax filing obligations. Since most Americans abroad need a U.S. passport, it stands to reason that those who apply for a U.S. passport are creating a situation where they will be told about U.S. “taxation based citizenship”. You can see where this is going.

This appears to be the next step in the progression that includes …

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“The long history of Americans fleeing to Canada for refuge”

“My advice would be to research it very carefully,” Citizenship Lawyer John Richardson said. “If the whole idea is to somehow escape America, to be clear as an American citizen in Canada, you’re legally required to have more contact with the U.S. government while you’re living in Canada than you would if you were still living in the United States.”

Read more: http://www.cctv-america.com/2016/03/10/obama-trudeau-target-methane-emissions-in-new-agreement#ixzz42emdSIYKWatch us live anywhere at http://www.cctvamericalive.com

The S. 877A “Dual Citizen” exemption: Am I still “taxed as a resident” of Canada?

Introduction:

This is the 6th of seven posts analyzing the “dual citizen exemption” to the S. 877A Exit Tax which is found in S. 877A(g)(1)(B) of the Internal Revenue Code. Please remember that the “dual citizen exemption” is available ONLY to those who meet the “five year tax compliance test”.

1. What is the S. 877A(g)(1)(B) “dual citizen exemption” and why does it encourage those “born dual citizens” to not renounce U.S. citizenship?

2. The history of Canada’s citizenship laws: Did the 1947 Canada Citizenship Act affirm citizenship or “strip” citizenship and create @LostCanadians?

3. The S. 877A “dual citizen” exemption – I was born before the first ever Canada Citizenship Act? Could I have been “born a Canadian citizen”?

4. The S. 877A “Dual Citizen” exemption: The 1947 Canada Citizenship Act – Am I still a Canadian or did I lose Canadian citizenship? (The “Sins Of The Father”)

5. The S. 877A “Dual Citizen” exemption: The 1947 Canada Citizenship Act and the requirements to be “born Canadian

6. “The S. 877A “Dual Citizen” exemption: I was born a dual citizen! Am I still “taxed as a resident” of Canada?

7. The S. 877A “Dual Citizen” exemption: “MUST certify tax compliance for the five years prior to relinquishment

 

In order to use your “dual citizen from birth” as a defense to being a “covered expatriate” and therefore subject to the S. 877A “Exit Tax”, you must (as both a Canadian and U.S. citizen from birth”) be subject to taxation as a Canadian resident. What does this mean? Are you actually required to live in Canada?

What are the rules for determining whether one is “taxed as a resident of Canada”?

This could be considered from each of a “U.S.” and a “Canadian” perspective.

“Resident in Canada” for tax purposes – from a Canadian Perspective

 

Living in Canada would be a “sufficient condition” for being subject to taxation as a Canadian resident (all Canadian residents pay tax).

Living in Canada may not be a “necessary condition” for being subject to taxation as a Canadian resident.

In other words, one could be treated as a “tax resident of Canada” without actually living in Canada. It seems clear that this is an issue that is decided on a “case by case” basis. That said, incredibly:

There are situations where one would want to be subject to taxation as a Canadian resident.

Here is information from the Canadian Revenue Agency (current as of the date of this post WHICH IS SUBJECT TO  CHANGE).

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