Category Archives: Little Red Tax Treaty Book

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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Dewees 1: The Canada U.S. tax treaty does NOT protect Canadians from U.S. tax liability but does mean that Canada will NOT assist the U.S. in collection!

There are certainly benefits to being a Canadian citizens. Perhaps Canadian citizenship is the most important line of defense against the confiscation that is OVDP.

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The biggest cost of being a “dual Canada/U.S. tax filer” is the “lost opportunity” available to pure Canadians

The reality of being a “DUAL” Canada U.S. tax filer is that you are a “DUEL” tax filer

“It’s not the taxes they take from you. It’s that the U.S. tax system leaves you with few opportunities for financial planning”.

I was recently asked “what exactly are the issues facing “Canada U.S. dual tax filers?” This is my attempt to condense this topic into a short answer. There are a number of “obvious issues facing U.S. citizens living in Canada.” There are a number of issues that are less obvious. Here goes …

There are (at least) five obvious issues facing “dual Canada U.S. tax filers in Canada”.

At the very least the issues include:
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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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The teaching of Topsnik 1 – 2014: Taxation for #GreenCard @TaxResidency and “tax treaty tiebreakers”

Introduction

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.

Topsnik 1: It’s about the taxation (not expatriation) of  Green Card Holders

The 2014 decision in Topsnik is an interesting example of how these components interact. Mr. Topsnik was given a Green Card in 1977. He moved from the United States in 2003 and did NOT formally abandon his Green Card. He then attempted to argue that because he was a “tax resident” of Germany that he could use a “treaty tie breaker” to argue that he was NOT a “U.S tax resident”.

In summary the court ruled on a number of questions which INCLUDED:

1. Was Mr. Topsnik a U.S. “tax resident”?

Because Mr Topsnik never formally abandoned his Green Card (as required by the regulations) that he WAS a “U.S. tax resident” for ALL relevant years. This meant that he was taxable in the United States on all of his world income.

For clarity the regulations to Internal Revenue Code 7701(b) specifically state:

(b)Lawful permanent resident –

(1)Green card test. An alien is a resident alien with respect to a calendar year if the individual is a lawful permanent resident at any time during the calendar year. A lawful permanent resident is an individual who has been lawfully granted the privilege of residing permanently in the United States as an immigrant in accordance with the immigration laws. Resident status is deemed to continue unless it is rescinded or administratively or judicially determined to have been abandoned.

(2)Rescission of resident status. Resident status is considered to be rescinded if a final administrative or judicial order of exclusion or deportation is issued regarding the alien individual. For purposes of this paragraph, the term “final judicial order” means an order that is no longer subject to appeal to a higher court of competent jurisdiction.

(3)Administrative or judicial determination of abandonment of resident status. An administrative or judicial determination of abandonment of resident status may be initiated by the alien individual, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), or a consular officer. If the alien initiates this determination, resident status is considered to be abandoned when the individual’s application for abandonment (INS Form I-407) or a letter stating the alien’s intent to abandon his or her resident status, with the Alien Registration Receipt Card (INS Form I-151 or Form I-551) enclosed, is filed with the INS or a consular officer. If INS replaces any of the form numbers referred to in this paragraph or § 301.7701(b)-2(f), refer to the comparable INS replacement form number. For purposes of this paragraph, an alien individual shall be considered to have filed a letter stating the intent to abandon resident status with the INS or a consular office if such letter is sent by certified mail, return receipt requested (or a foreign country’s equivalent thereof). A copy of the letter, along with proof that the letter was mailed and received, should be retained by the alien individual. If the INS or a consular officer initiates this determination, resident status will be considered to be abandoned upon the issuance of a final administrative order of abandonment. If an individual is granted an appeal to a federal court of competent jurisdiction, a final judicial order is required.

Green Card holders must understand that they do NOT end their status as “U.S. tax residents” by leaving the United States and taking up residence in another country! Specific steps (related to notification) are required.

2. Could Mr. Topsnik use the “treaty tiebreaker” to argue that he was a “tax resident” of Germany and NOT a “tax resident” of the United States?

No. The use of a “treaty tiebreaker” requires that an individual be a “tax resident” of both countries. In this case the “treaty tie breaker” could be used ONLY if Mr. Topsnik was a “tax resident” of both Germany and the United States. The court held that Mr. Topsnik was NOT a “tax resident” of Germany but was a “tax resident” of the United States.

Note that the fact that Mr. Topsnik was NOT a “tax resident” of Germany meant that he was NOT eligible to use the “tax treaty tie breaker” rules. Eligibility to use the “tax treaty tie breaker” rules would NOT guarantee that Mr. Topsnik would be a “German tax resident”.

Conclusion: Mr. Topsnik was ONLY a “U.S. tax resident” and was therefore taxable in the United States on his world income!

Moral of the story: If a Green Card Holder ceases to reside in the United States he as NOT ended his status as a U.S. “tax resident”.
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Part 2: OECD Common Reporting Standard (“CRS”): “tax residence” and the “tax treaty tiebreaker”

This is Part 2 – a continuation of the post about “tax residency under the Common Reporting Standard“.

That post ended with:

Breaking “tax residency” to Canada can be difficult and does NOT automatically happen if one moves from Canada. See this sobering discussion in one of my earlier posts about ceasing to be a tax resident of Canada. (In addition, breaking “tax residency in Canada” can result in being subjected to Canada’s departure tax. I have long maintained that paying Canada’s departure tax is clear evidence of having ceased to be a “tax resident of Canada”.)

Let’s assume that our “friend”, without considering possible “tax treaties” is or may be considered to be “ordinarily resident” in and therefore a “tax resident” of Canada.

Would a consideration of possible tax treaties (specifically the “tax treaty residency tiebreaker) make a difference?

This question will be considered in Part 2 – a separate post.

What is the “tax treaty residency tiebreaker”?

It is entirely possible for an individual to be a “tax resident” according to the laws of two (or more countries). This is a disastrous situation for any individual. Fortunately with the exception of “U.S. citizens” (who are always “tax residents of the United States no matter where they live), citizens of most other nations are able to avoid being “tax residents” of more than one country. This is accomplished through a “tax treaty tie breaker” provision. “Treaty tie breakers” are included in many tax treaties. (Q. Why are U.S. citizens always U.S. tax residents? A. U.S. treaties include what is called the “savings clause“).

Some thoughts on the “savings clause”

First, the “savings clause” ensures that the United States retains the right to impose full taxation on U.S. citizens living abroad (even those who are dual citizens and reside outside the United States in their country of second citizenship).

Second, the U.S. insistence on the “savings clause” ensures that other countries agree to allow the United States to impose U.S. taxation on their own citizen/residents who also happen to have U.S. citizenship (generally because of a U.S. place of birth.)

Where are “tax treaty tie breakers” found? What do they typically say?

Many countries have “tax treaty tie breaker” provisions in their tax treaties. The purpose is to assign tax residence to one country when a person is a “tax resident” of more than one country.

As explained by Wayne Bewick and Todd Trowbridge of Trowbridge Professional Corporation (writing in the context of Canadian tax treaties):

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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

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

Determining Tax Residency in Canada: Deemed resident vs. factual resident

Let’s begin with the law as stated in the Income Tax Act of Canada …

Taxation in Canada is governed by the Income Tax Act of Canada. Sections 1 and 2 of the Act read in part as follows:

Short Title

1 This Act may be cited as the Income Tax Act.

PART I Income Tax

DIVISION A Liability for Tax

2 (1) An income tax shall be paid, as required by this Act, on the taxable income for each taxation year of every person resident in Canada at any time in the year.

(This does NOT say that ONLY those “resident in Canada” are required to pay Canadian tax. In fact there are circumstances under which nonresidents of Canada are also required to pay different kinds of Canadian tax.)

Searching for the meaning of “resident in Canada” …

Tax Residency” is becoming an increasingly important topic. Every country has its own rules for determining who is and who is not a “tax resident” of that country. The advent of the OCED CRS (“Common Reporting Standard”) has made the determination of “tax residence” increasingly important.

At the risk of oversimplification, a determination of “tax residency” can be based on a “deeming provision” or decided by a determination “based on the facts”. Some countries base “tax residency” on both “deeming provisions” and a “facts and circumstances” test.

Tax Residency in Canada – “Deemed residence” or “ordinary residence based on the facts” …

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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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