Category Archives: Little Red Tax Treaty Book

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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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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How the “assistance in collection” provisions in the Canada US Tax Treaty facilitates “US citizenship based taxation”

The above tweet references the comment I left on an article titled: ”

Why is the IRS Collecting Taxes for Denmark?

which appeared at the “Procedurally Speaking” blog.

The article is about the “assistance in collection” provision which is found in 5 U.S. Tax Treaties (which include: Canada, Denmark, Sweden, France and the Netherlands). I am particularly interested in this because of a recent post at the Isaac Brock Society.

This post discusses the “assistance in collection” provision found in Article XXVI A of the Canada U.S. Tax Treaty. The full test of this article is:

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Is Form 8938 required by “Green Card Holders” who are nonresidents by “treaty tie breaker”? – Any exemption is the result of “IRS grace”

Summary:

The context: Form 8938 was created by the IRS to meet the reporting requirements mandated by Internal Revenue Code S. 6038D. S. 6038D was mandated by S. 511 of the HIRE Act.

On March 18, 2010 President Obama signed the HIRE Act into law. The HIRE Act had two targets. The first target was the Foreign Financial Institutions that were willing to do business with U.S. citizens. The second target was Americans citizens who attempted to do business with any “non-U.S. bank or other financial institution.

The first target – Foreign Financial Institutions: The HIRE Act introduced Chapter 4 of Subtitle A – AKA FATCA – into the Internal Revenue Code. Pursuant to Chapter 4 Foreign Financial Institutions are threatened with a 30% sanction for failing to “Review, Identify and Report” those who the U.S. claims as “U.S. persons“. The Canadian FATCA lawsuit, launched by the Alliance For The Defence of Canadian Sovereignty, is related to the reporting requirements imposed on the banks.

The second target – American citizens attempting to use Foreign Financial Institutions outside the United States: The second group is composed of “individuals” who are required to disclose information to the IRS. The HIRE Act imposed extraordinary reporting requirements on Americans abroad. The most visible – Form 8938 – is an intrusive form that is aimed at targeting “individuals”. The term “individuals” means every human life form on the planet.  The U.S. based “FATCA Legal Action” lawsuit (which was condemned by Democrats abroad), is a lawsuit that is primarily intended to attack the requirements imposed on individual Americans abroad.

Internal Revenue Code Section 6038D and “Foreign Asset Disclosure”

A previous post discussed the interaction among: the Internal Revenue Code, tax treaty tie breaker rules and whether a Green Card Holder is a U.S. resident for FATCA purposes. This post is to discuss the form 8938 requirement and how it applies to Green Card Holders (resident aliens) who are deemed by treaty to be “nonresidents” under a treaty “Tie Breaker” rule.

The statute – Internal Revenue Code Section 6038D – gives the “Secretary” (meaning IRS) the right to create specific exemptions. “Nonresident aliens” is one group that the IRS is allowed to specifically exempt from the form 8938 requirement. Green Card Holders are statutory “resident aliens” under S. 7701(b) of the Internal Revenue Code. Yet, in some cases “Green Card Holders” can be treated as “nonresident aliens” pursuant to a tax treaty.

What is a “Treaty Tie Breaker” rule?

It’s possible for a person to be treated as a “tax resident” of two countries. In this case a Tax Treaty can be used to determine in which country the person is a “tax resident”. For example Section 2 of Article IV of the Canada U.S. Tax Treaty says:

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.

(Note that the “Treaty Tie Breaker” rules are available to “Green Card” holders. The treaty “savings clause” prevents U.S. citizens from being treated solely as a resident of Canada.)

So, what do the IRS regulations say?

On December 29, 2014 the IRS removed the temporary regulations (which are described here) and issued final Form 8938 reporting rules. The final regulations, which took effect on December 29, 2014 (making them applicable for years 2014 and onward), make it clear that Green Card Holders, who pursuant to a treaty tie-breaker provision, are treated as “nonresidents” (nonresident aliens) are NOT required to file Form 8938.

Specifically, the IRS confirms that:

1. Dual resident taxpayers

A comment recommended an exemption from the section 6038D reporting requirements be included for an individual who is a dual resident taxpayer and who, pursuant to a provision of a treaty that provides for resolution of conflicting claims of residence by the United States and the treaty partner, claims to be treated as a resident of the treaty partner. In such a case, a dual resident taxpayer may claim a treaty benefit as a resident of the treaty partner and will be taxed as a nonresident for U.S. tax purposes for the taxable year (or portion of the taxable year) that the individual is treated as a nonresident. The final rule adopts this recommendation for a dual resident taxpayer who determines his or her U.S. tax liability as if he or she were a nonresident alien and claims a treaty benefit as a nonresident of the United States as provided in § 301.7701(b)–7 by timely filing a Form 1040NR, “Nonresident Alien Income Tax Return,” (or such other appropriate form under that section) and attaching a Form 8833, “Treaty-Based Return Position Disclosure Under Section 6114 or 7701(b).” The Treasury Department and the IRS have concluded that reporting under section 6038D is closely associated with the determination of an individual’s income tax liability. Because the taxpayer’s filing of a Form 8833 with his or her Form 1040NR (or other appropriate form) will permit the IRS to identify individuals in this category and take follow-up tax enforcement actions when considered appropriate, reporting on Form 8938, “Statement of Specified Foreign Financial Assets,” is not essential to effective IRS tax enforcement efforts relating to this category of U.S. residents.

Why this makes sense …

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Does Article 22 the U.S. Australia Tax Treaty require the United States to allow U.S. citizens a foreign tax credit against the 3.8% Obamacare Surtax?

Introduction

The above tweet references a post which I wrote on August 7, 2016 which discussed the (August 5, 2016) decision of the United States Court of Appeals – District of Columbia Circuits in the Esher case. In this case, Justice Millet ruled that:

That extreme reading of the Totalization Agreement rests on nothing more than the Commissioner’s own say-so. It lacks any grounding in the Agreement’s text or in any principle governing the interpretation of international agreements. The tax court’s corresponding disregard of the Totalization Agreement’s textual direction concerning the role of French law in resolving undefined terms and in determining the content of the laws enumerated in Article 2(1)(b) was error and requires reversal.

The complete decision is here:

FRENCH TAXES US COURT REVERSAL 5 AUG 2016 (1)

 

The general point is this:

When interpreting international tax treaties the United States is not permitted to consider ONLY U.S. law when interpreting the treaty. The United States (and the treaty partner country) is required to consider each country’s expectations of what the treaty meant and how it might be interpreted with respect to laws that did not exist at the time the treaty was signed.

I concluded that post with my thought that:

The court ruled that international tax treaties must be interpreted in the context of what were the expectations of the country when the treaty was signed. This may open up the possibility of reconsidering how various U.S. tax laws may affect the residents and citizens of other nations.

For example: To what extent was or is it the expectation of a country that it can be interpreted to allow the U.S. to impose punitive taxation on those who are primarily citizens of and factually residents of other nations?

Time will tell.

The 3.8% Obamacare surtax and Americans abroad …

As the articles in the above tweets demonstrate, the 3.8% Obamacare surtax (assuming it’s applicability to Americans abroad) is considered to be:

– a form of pure double taxation when applied to Americans abroad

– more likely to be paid by Americans abroad than by Homeland Americans

– a way to force Americans abroad to pay for the medical care of Homeland Americans

– a costly compliance nightmare

– an example of “Boldly Go, where no regime of citizenship taxation has ever gone before

#YouCantMakeThisUp!
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The interpretation of US Tax Treaties: Domestic law, foreign law or the intent of the treaty

On August 5, 2016 the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuits issued it’s decision in the Esher case.

This important case is here:

FRENCH TAXES US COURT REVERSAL 5 AUG 2016 (1)

Information about the history of the case is here which includes:

DC Circ. Chides DOJ For Snub Of US Gov’t In French Tax Row

A D.C. Circuit panel grilled the Department of Justice’s Tax Division on Tuesday for arguing a foreign tax dispute with dual U.S. and French citizens without first seeking input from the U.S. government, saying the case requires the court to interpret international treaties and examine other policy issues.

The court’s decision, authored by Justice Millet concluded with:
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“A Proposal for Fair US Tax Treatment of Foreign Pensions” from @JackieBugnion and Paula Singer

Even in retirement Jackie Bugion writes the best arguments against citizenship taxation ever“. Other references to Ms. Bugnion’s work are here.

In this new post published on May 30, 2016 at Tax Analysts, Ms. Bugnion collaborates with U.S. tax lawyer Paula N. Singer to explain the problems experienced by Americans abroad who have pensions in their country of residence.

This new article explains:

1. The problem – how U.S. tax laws destroy the value of the “foreign pension” as a “pension” at all

2. The treatment of non-U.S. pensions under various U.S. tax treaties (underscoring now tax treaties are very different)

3. The proposal – how the Internal Revenue Code can be simply amended to fix this simple but painful problem.

Below you will find the PDF of this must read article. Please note that this article appears on CitizenshipSolutions.ca under the following conditions:

Permission is for this one use and is contingent on properly crediting the article to the respective authors and to Tax Analysts as the original publisher. Using the PDF attached above covers proper attribution. Any other requests would need to be addressed separately.

Bugnion-Singer (05-30-2016)

John Richardson

Analyze the new 2016 US Treasury Model Tax Treaty – What does it mean for your country?

The post referenced in the above tweet appeared at the Isaac Brock Society. You can read the post directly on their site. I am (with their kind permission) reproducing the post here. The primary value of the post is in the comments. I strongly suggest that you read the comments and add to this “treasure chest” of thoughts.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

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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