Category Archives: U.S. tax treaties

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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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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“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

Not All Tax Treaties Are Created Equal: US-French Social Security & Pension Treatment

This post, originally published on June 20, 2016 is reproduced with the kind permission of Patrick Hoza of U.S. Tax and Financial. Mr. Hoza is the author of the post and retains full copyright over the content.

The following tweet references the original post on the U.S. Tax and Financial website

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Not All Tax Treaties Are Created Equal: US-French Social Security & Pension Treatment

By Patrick Hoza 20 June 2016

While many US tax treaties have the same or similar language in them, one needs to pay USA French Flagsattention, as the devil is in the detail.

One such instance is how social security and pension distributions are treated in the US-French income tax treaty. For example, according to the Treaty (as amended by the 2004 and 2009 Protocols), payments under the social security legislation or similar legislation of a Contracting state to a resident of the other Contracting State or to a citizen of the United States shall be taxable only in the first-mentioned State. In English, social security income is taxed based on its source, a US social security payment made to a US citizen resident of France will be taxable only in the US and a French social security payment made to a US citizen resident of the US or France will only be taxable in France.

The same social security payment above, made to a US citizen resident of Switzerland would have a completely different treatment. In general, under the US-Swiss Income Tax Treaty, social security payments and other public pensions paid by a Contracting State to an individual who is a resident of the other Contracting State may be taxed in that other State. However, such payments may also be taxed in the first Contracting State according to the laws of that State (subject to a maximum 15% of the gross amount of the payment). So, a US citizen living in the US could be taxed up to 15% in Switzerland on Swiss social security payments (though Switzerland does not currently impose a tax on social security paid to non-residents of Switzerland), and Swiss citizens living in Switzerland would be taxed at 15% in the US on their US social security payments.

French pension distributions under the current US-French Income Tax Treaty (as revised by 2009 Protocol) are taxed based on a revised residency rule. If the US citizen resides in the US (or possibly France) and receives distributions from a French pension plan, that distribution is subject to tax only in France. A French resident who receives pension distributions from a US payor is subject to tax only in the US The reason that a US citizen resident in France is possibly only taxable in France on a French pension distribution is that there is some uncertainty if the treaty, as written, would be applicable due to the residency rules of the treaty. One should consult a tax professional when determining what position they are comfortable taking. However, based on the example prepared by the Joint Committee on Taxation the intention was that France would have sole right to tax French pension regardless of where the US citizen resides 1.

One must also be wary of the saving clause included in Tax Treaties. The saving clause is a clause included in all treaties which limits the use of the treaty by US citizens and residents. Due to the citizenship based tax system of the US, the saving clause is required to limit the ability of US persons to escape US tax based on the treaty. However, the saving clause is not uniform and can cover different aspects of a treaty based on the horse trading between the US and treaty country when concluding Tax Treaties and Protocols. The above social security and pension treatments are exempt from the saving clause under article 29 of the US-French Income Tax Treaty and thus open to US citizens to benefit from. However, the US-Swiss saving clause precludes a US citizen or resident from benefiting from the pension article of that treaty.

There are many differences between the various US Tax Treaties. One must make sure not to rely on past experience because, as the blog title indicates, not all treaties are created equal. Each has its own unique provisions and requires it’s own review and analysis.

Source material:
1. From page 16 of Explanation of Proposed Protocol to the Income Tax Treaty Between the United States and France: Under the proposed protocol, a U.S. citizen who resides in the United States (or France) and receives distributions from a French pension plan is subject to tax on that distribution only in France. A French resident who receives pension distributions from a U.S. payor is subject to tax only in the United States.

“Coming Into Tax Compliance Book” – How Americans can come into U.S. tax compliance in a FATCA world

Are you “Coming To America” by entering the U.S. tax system as an American Abroad?

The “How To Come Into U.S. Tax Compliance” book for Americans abroad

John Richardson, LL.B, J.D.

I have contributed to establishing the new “Citizenship Taxation” site. As part of launching that site, I have written a series of posts providing relevant information (in a broad sense) about how Americans abroad, who did not know about their U.S. tax obligations, can come into U.S. tax compliance.

Sooner or later, it’s likely that many people will receive a FATCA letter. In your panic, you should be careful. There are a number of things Americans abroad should consider before consulting a lawyer or tax professional.

This series of posts developed from my “Educational Outreach” program for Americans abroad. It is an effort to respond in a practical way to the questions that people have.

The chapters of “Coming Into Compliance Book” are:

Chapter 1 – “Accepting Cleanliness – Understanding U.S. Citizenship Taxation – To remain a U.S. citizen or to renounce U.S. citizenship

Chapter 2 – “But wait, I can’t renounce U.S. citizenship if I’m not a U.S. citizen. How do I know if I am a U.S. citizen?”

Chapter 3 – “No matter what, I must come into U.S. tax compliance – Coming into U.S. tax compliance for those who have NOT been filing U.S. taxes

Chapter4 – “Oh no, I have attempted U.S. tax compliance by filing tax returns. I have just learned that I have made mistakes. How do I fix those mistakes?”

Chapter 5 – “I don’t want to renounce U.S. citizenship. How to live outside the United States as a U.S. tax compliant person

Chapter 6 – “I do want to renounce U.S. citizenship. This is too much for me. How the U.S. “Exit Tax” rules might apply to me if I renounce

Chapter 7 – “I really wish I could do retirement planning like a “normal” person. But, I’m an American abroad. I hear I can’t invest in mutual funds in my country of residence. The problem of Americans Abroad and non-U.S. mutual funds explained.

Chapter 8 – “We all have to live somewhere. Five issues – “The problem of Americans Abroad and non-U.S. real estate explained

Chapter 9 – “Receiving U.S. Social Security – #Americansabroad and entitlement to Social Security

Chapter 10 – “Paying into Social Security – #Americansabroad, double taxation and the payment of “Self-employment” taxes

Chapter 11 – “Saving the children – INA S. 301 – “Residence” vs. “Physical Presence” and transmission of US citizenship abroad

Chapter 12 – “Relinquishing citizenship and your IRA – bringing your IRA home

Chapter 13 – “Married filing separately” and the “Alien Spouse” – the “hidden tax” on #Americansabroad

Chapter 14 – “The Obamacare “Net Investment Income Tax” – Pure double taxation of #Americansabroad

Chapter 15 – “To be “FORMWarned is to be “FORMArmed” – It’s “FORM Crime” stupid!!

Chapter 16 – “Most “Form Crime” penalties can be abated if there is “reasonable cause”

Chapter 17 – “How to get “credit” for taxes (foreign) paid to your country of residence

Chapter 18 – “I don’t pay taxes in the country where I live. Can I “exclude” my foreign income from the U.S. tax return?

Chapter 19 – “Is it better to take the “Foreign Tax Credit” or the “Foreign Earned Income Exclusion” – a discussion

Chapter 20
– “The child tax credit: take it, leave it or how to take it

Chapter 21 – “How #Americansabroad can continue to use the #IRA as a retirement planning vehicle

Chapter 22 – “To share or not to share” – Should a U.S. citizen share a bank account with a “non-citizen AKA alien spouse?

The “Coming Into Compliance Book” is designed to provide an overview of how to bring some sanity to your life.

 Coming to America

You may remember the old Eddie Murphy movie about “Coming To America”.

Welcome to the confusing and high stakes rules for U.S. taxation and Americans abroad.

The United States has the most complex, confusing, most penalty ridden and most difficult anti-deferral regime in the world. McGill Professor Allison Christians has noted that Americans abroad are both:

“deemed to be permanently resident in the United States for tax compliance and financial reporting purposes” …

and are

“subject to the most complex aspects of the U.S. tax code regardless of any activity in the United States, and facing extraordinary compliance costs and disclosure risks even for nil returns”

Although Americans abroad are deemed to be resident in the United States, their assets are treated as “offshore”. In addition Americans abroad are subject to taxation in their country of residence.

All of this means that:

1. Americans abroad are subject to the worst and most punitive aspects of the U.S. tax system (there is no Homelander who is treated as badly as an American abroad); and

2. Denied most benefits of the tax systems of their country of residence.

To put it simply, Americans abroad get the worst of all possible tax systems.

The most horrific aspects of the U.S. tax system are saved for Americans abroad. Prepare to be shocked. As one commenter at the Isaac Brock Society site recently said:

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