Category Archives: S. 877A Exit Tax

US Taxation of the Australian Superannuation? – No, #DontMessWithTheSuper!

I recently engaged in a discussion with people who are worried that they might be “U.S. Persons” living in Australia. Their primary concern (and understandably so) is the possible U.S. taxation of their Australian Superannuations. For many, the “Super” is considered to be their most important retirement planning asset.

In a FATCA world, where  possible “USness” is now an issue, one must consider whether U.S. tax laws, effectively disable a group of Australians from effective retirement planning. But, hey! Even Americans should have the right to plan for retirement? Shouldn’t they?

There have been a number of recent articles attempting to understand the possible U.S. taxability of the Australian Super. I don’t know whether this is good or bad.

Most of these articles (what would you expect?) attempt to analyze the issue from the perspective of U.S. law – specifically the Internal Revenue Code. Rightly or wrongly, this approach assumes that the USA has the right to impose taxation on the retirement plans created by other nations. I don’t believe that this should be assumed!

In any event, what follows is a presentation that I created to discuss this issue. It is NOT intended to be a legal analysis. (If you want trouble, call up a lawyer!) It is intended to be a “contextual” and “common sense” analysis. Sooner or later, all laws (if they are to survive) must move towards “common sense”.

My message to residents of Australia is this:

Your Superannuation is far too important to be left in the hands of the tax professionals!

You will find “my thoughts” by clicking on the following:

The Australia Superannuation For Dummies

Feel free to leave “your thoughts” as comments to this post.

John Richardson

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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Citizenship-based reporting: Russia’s “citizenship reporting” requirements – will the United States be next?

Prologue – A law firm perspective …

As reported by Chelco Vat:

The law does not make dual citizenship illegal; it is merely a reporting requirement.

Federal Law No. 142-FZ on Amendment of Articles 6 and 30 of the Federal Law on Russian Federation Citizenship and Individual Regulations of the Russian Federation, which took effect on 4 August 2014, makes it a criminal offence for Russian nationals to conceal dual citizenship or long-term residence abroad.

Hmmmm … ONLY a reporting requirement you say …

The perspective of an individual subject to the citizenship-reporting requirement …

The above tweet references an article in the New York Times discussing Russia’s law that requires all Russians with a second foreign citizenship report that foreign citizenship to the Government.
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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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Internal Revenue Code vs. IRS Form 8854: the “noncovered expatriate” and the Form 8854 Balance Sheet

Introduction: For whom the “Form” tolls …

I would not want the job that the IRS has. There are many “information reporting requirements” in the Internal Revenue Code. The IRS has the job (sometimes mandatory “shall” and sometimes permissive “may”) of having to create forms that reflect the intent of the Internal Revenue Code. The forms will necessarily reflect how the IRS interprets the text and intent of the Code. Once created, the “forms” become a practical substitute for the Code. If you look through your tax return you will “form” after “form” after “form”. The forms reflect how the various provisions of the Internal Revenue Code are “given meaning” (if the meaning can be determined).

The Form (in theory) follows the requirements of the Internal Revenue Code …

Every “form” is the result of one or more sections of the Internal Revenue Code. For example, Form 8833 is described as:

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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

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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The US “expatriation tax” and the the incentive to apply for a Green Card and/or remain in the USA

America doesn’t really need skilled immigrants, or does it?

The above tweet references a post that references a comment by Victoria Ferauge:
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Relinquishing US citizenship: South African Apartheid, the Accidental Taxpayer and the United States S. 877A exit tax

Introducing this “guest post”

This guest post is written by Dominic Ferszt of Cape Town, South Africa. I first became aware of Mr. Ferszt when, in October of 2014, his post: “The Accidental Tax Invasion” was published in Forbes. I have discussed various aspects of “citizenship-based taxation” with him since. I am very pleased that he has accepted my invitation to write this “guest post” for publication at Citizenship Solutions. His post exposes an aspect of “citizenship taxation” and the S. 877A U.S. expatriation tax that has not (as far as I am aware) been discussed before. Those who did NOT acquire “dual citizenship” at birth because of discriminatory laws (example British and Canadian laws saying that citizenship could be passed down from the father but not from the mother) will find this post extremely interesting and relevant.

Without further adieu …

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Apartheid and the Accidental Taxpayer

How the United States Congress has passed legislation which imposes a tax obligation in accordance with the discriminatory policies of foreign nations; and how this might offer a glimmer of hope to millions around the world who feel unjustly targeted by FATCA or the IRS.

By Dominic Ferszt, Cape Town

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Reporting a “Treaty based position” – Internal Revenue Code S. 6114 using Form 8833

The United States has many tax treaties with many nations. A comprehensive list is here. As a general principle the “savings clause” prevents Americans abroad from having the benefit of treaty provisions. That said, there are situations where a U.S. citizen abroad can benefit from the specific provisions of a specific treaty. In some cases the benefits are found ONLY in the Treaty. In some cases the Internal Revenue Code specifically references a possible treaty benefit (example resourcing income to create a “foreign tax credit” under IRC S. 904). A second (and very relevant) example of the Internal Revenue Code referencing the benefits of a treaty in S. 877A(d) of the Internal Revenue Code, where with respect to an “eligible pension”, the taxpayer: “makes an irrevocable waiver of any right to claim any reduction under any treaty with the United States in withholding on such item”.

As always, we begin with the code …

Subtitle F (Procedure and Administration) is where the requirement to report the treaty position is found …

26 U.S. Code § 6114 – Treaty-based return positions

(a) In general Each taxpayer who, with respect to any tax imposed by this title, takes the position that a treaty of the United States overrules (or otherwise modifies) an internal revenue law of the United States shall disclose (in such manner as the Secretary may prescribe) such position—

on the return of tax for such tax (or any statement attached to such return), or
if no return of tax is required to be filed, in such form as the Secretary may prescribe.

(b)Waiver authority

The Secretary may waive the requirements of subsection (a) with respect to classes of cases for which the Secretary determines that the waiver will not impede the assessment and collection of tax.

Note that S. 6114 became law in 1988. Treaties have existed since before 1988. S. 6114 creates a requirement to report a treaty position. In general, the applicability of the treaty based position is NOT dependent on having complied with S. 6114. That said, Internal Revenue Code S. 6712 authorizes a $1000 penalty (subject to reasonable cause) which may be assessed for failure to disclose the position.

Form 8833 – the mechanism to comply with S. 6114

Form 8833 is how the treaty based position is disclosed “(in such manner as the Secretary may prescribe)”. Interestingly, the IRS is using form 8833 for:

Form 8833, Treaty-Based Return Position Disclosure Under Section 6114 or 7701(b)

It is common for the IRS to use one form to comply with the reporting requirements of multiple sections of the Internal Revenue Code.

Form 8833 and the instructions:

f8833