Category Archives: S. 877A Exit Tax

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In order to prepare for leaving he:

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

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

His emotional state:

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

Epilogue:

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

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

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

#YouCantMakeThisUp!

John Richardson

 

 

 

 

 

13 Reasons Why I Committed #Citizide: (Inspired by the television series, 13 Reasons Why)

Introduction – Guest post by a perfectly ordinary person who renounced U.S. citizenship for perfectly ordinary reasons

In a recent submission to Senator Hatch  I argued that what the United States thinks of as “citizenship-based taxation”, is actually a system where the United States imposes U.S. taxation on the residents and citizens of other countries. That submission included:

On July 4, 2017, Americans living inside the USA celebrated the “4th of July” holiday – a day that Americans celebrate their independence and freedom.

On that same day, I had meetings with SEVEN American dual citizens, living outside the United States. This “Group of Seven” were in various stages of RENOUNCING their U.S. citizenship. Each of them was also a citizen and tax paying resident of another country. They varied widely in wealth, age, occupation, religion, and political orientation. Some of them have difficulty in affording the $2350 USD “renunciation fee” imposed by the U.S. Government. Some of the SEVEN identify as being American and some did NOT identify as being American. But each of them had one thing in common. They were renouncing their U.S. citizenship in order to gain the freedom that Americans have been taught to believe is their “birth right”.

On August 2, 2017 posts at the Isaac Brock Society and numerous other sources, reported that that there were 1759 expatriates reported in the second quarter report in the Federal Register. The number of people renouncing U.S. citizenship continues to grow.

Now on to the guest post by Jane Doe, which is a very articulate description of the reasons why people living outside the United States feel forced to renounce U.S. citizenship.

John Richardson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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U.S. “culture of penalty” and inflation: First, inflation used to increase the size of #FBAR penalty base and then to increase the size of actual penalties

Introduction: Penalty as a part of American Culture

The above tweet links to a wide range of examples of America’s culture of penalty.

The purpose of this post is to explore how inflation results in the facilitation of enhanced penalty collection in America today.

What is inflation?

In its simplest terms:

“Inflation is defined as a sustained increase in the general level of prices for goods and services in a county, and is measured as an annual percentage change. Under conditions of inflation, the prices of things rise over time. Put differently, as inflation rises, every dollar you own buys a smaller percentage of a good or service. When prices rise, and alternatively when the value of money falls you have inflation.”

Source: Adam Hayes, CFA

(Note his use of the words “goods and services“. Are FBAR penalties and the S. 877A Exit Tax consumer goods or government services?)

Inflation can either be helpful or can be hurtful. Some benefit from inflation and others are hurt by inflation. At a minimum, inflation will always erode the value of cash.

Effect of inflation on owners/lenders of cash: When it comes to cash inflation will hurt the owners/lenders of cash. This is because inflation will erode the value of cash.

Effect of inflation on borrowers of cash: Inflation will help he borrowers of cash. This is because inflation erodes the value of the cash that must be repaid.
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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

Green card holders, the “tax treaty tiebreaker” and reporting: Forms 8938, 8621 and 5471

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

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

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

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

Now, on to the post.

The “Treaty Tiebreaker” and information reporting …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Warning!! Warning!!

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

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

B. His/her status under Title 26 (will he expatriate himself under Internal Revenue Code S. 7701(b)) and subject himself to the S. 877A “Exit Tax” provisions?
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Form 8621 and Form 5471 are required even if the tax return is NOT!

The Internal Revenue Code of the United States requires two things:

1. The calculation of taxes; and

2. The reporting of information.

The Internal Revenue Code of the United States is based on three basic principles:

1. A dislike of all things “foreign”. (If you see the word “foreign” a penalty is sure to follow.)

2. A hatred of all forms of non-U.S. “tax deferral”

3. An attempt to stop the “leakage” of “U.S. taxable assets” from the U.S. tax base. (Examples include the U.S. tax treatment of the “alien spouse” and the U.S. S. 877A “Exit Tax” that may be payable when one makes the decision to renounce U.S. citizenship).

“Forms” AKA “information returns” are for the purpose of forcing disclosure of information relevant to  “foreignness”, “deferral” and “leakage”.

The above tweet references an earlier post describing many of the “forms” required of Americans abroad. The post also describes the significant penalties which can be potentially imposed for the failure to file those forms.

For Americans abroad the information reporting requirements are extensive, burdensome and penalty laden. Normally (but not in all cases) the “forms” are filed as part of the tax return (1040 or 1040NR).

NEVER FORGET MR. FBAR – THE NEW SYMBOL OF U.S. CITIZENSHIP – AND THE POTENTIAL FBAR PENALTIES FOR FAILURE TO FILE THE FBAR! THOSE WHO HAVE FAILED TO FILE MR. FBAR SHOULD BE CAUTIOUS ABOUT HOW THEY “FIX THE FBAR PROBLEM“.

(Interestingly, Mr. FBAR has been used as a model for Russia which now has (for lack of a better term) the Russian FBAR.)

Many people do NOT understand that they may be required to file “information returns”, even though they may NOT meet the income thresholds to file a tax return!
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