Category Archives: U.S. taxation Americans abroad

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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The “Exit Tax”: Dual US/Canada citizen from birth, no Canada citizenship today = no exemption to US “Exit Tax”

The above tweet references a “guest post” written by Dominic Ferszt of Cape Town South Africa. The post demonstrates how the “dual citizen from birth” exemption to the S. 877A “Exit Tax” relies on the citizenship laws of other nations. In some cases those laws of other nations are arbitrary and unjust. If these laws were U.S. laws, they might violate the equal protection and/or due process guarantees found in the United States constitution. For example, Mr. Ferszt describes how the “dual citizenship exemption” to the “Ext Tax” is dependent on South African “Apartheid Laws”. He describes a situation where a “black” U.S. citizen from birth is denied the benefits of the dual citizen exemption to the Exit Tax, which are available to a “white” dual citizen from birth. (During the “Apartheid Era” Blacks were not entitled to South African citizenship.)

So, what’s the S. 877A “Exit Tax”  dual citizen exemption and how does it work?

The dual citizen exemption, which I have discussed in previous posts,  is found in Internal Revenue Code S. 877A(g)(1)(B) and reads:

(B) Exceptions An individual shall not be treated as meeting the requirements of subparagraph (A) or (B) of section 877(a)(2) if—
(i) the individual—
(I) became at birth a citizen of the United States and a citizen of another country and, as of the expatriation date, continues to be a citizen of, and is taxed as a resident of, such other country, and
(II) has been a resident of the United States (as defined in section 7701(b)(1)(A)(ii)) for not more than 10 taxable years during the 15-taxable year period ending with the taxable year during which the expatriation date occurs, or

Entitlement to the “dual citizen exemption” depends entirely on the citizenship laws of other countries …


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Why Boris Johnson must relinquish US citizenship on the occasion of his appointment as British Foreign Minister

A recent post (July 7, 2016) on this blog began with:

Prologue – U.S. citizens are “subjects” to U.S. law wherever they may be in the world …

Yes, it’s true. In 1932 (eight years after the Supreme Court decision in Cook v. Tait), Justice Hughes of the U.S. Supreme Court, in the case of Blackmer v. United States ruled that:

While it appears that the petitioner removed his residence to France in the year 1924, it is undisputed that he was, and continued to be, a citizen of the United States. He continued to owe allegiance to the United States. By virtue of the obligations of citizenship, the United States retained its authority over him, and he was bound by its laws made applicable to him in a foreign country. Thus, although resident abroad, the petitioner remained subject to the taxing power of the United States. Cook v. Tait, 265 U.S. 47, 54 , 56 S., 44 S. Ct. 444. For disobedience to its laws through conduct abroad, he was subject to punishment in the courts of the United States. United States v. Bow- [284 U.S. 421, 437] man, 260 U.S. 94, 102 , 43 S. Ct. 39. With respect to such an exercise of authority, there is no question of international law,2 but solely of the purport of the municipal law which establishes the duties of the citizen in relation to his own government. 3 While the legislation of the Congress, unless the contrary intent appears, is construed to apply only within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States, the question of its application, so far as citizens of the United States in foreign countries are concerned, is one of construction, not of legislative power. American Banana Co. v. United Fruit Co., 213 U.S. 347, 357 , 29 S. Ct. 511, 16 Ann. Cas. 1047; United States v. Bowman, supra; Robertson v. Labor Board, 268 U.S. 619, 622 , 45 S. Ct. 621. Nor can it be doubted that the United States possesses the power inherent in sovereignty to require the return to this country of a citizen, resident elsewhere, whenever the public interest requires it, and to penalize him in case of refusal. Compare Bartue and the Duchess of Suffolk’s Case, 2 Dyer’s Rep. 176b, 73 Eng. Rep. 388; Knowles v. Luce, Moore 109, 72 Eng. Rep. 473.4 What in England was the prerogative of the sov- [284 U.S. 421, 438] ereign in this respect pertains under our constitutional system to the national authority which may be exercised by the Congress by virtue of the legislative power to prescribe the duties of the citizens of the United States. It is also beyond controversy that one of the duties which the citizen owes to his government is to support the administration of justice by attending its courts and giving his testimony whenever he is properly summoned. Blair v. United States, 250 U.S. 273, 281 , 39 S. St. Ct. 468. And the Congress may provide for the performance of this duty and prescribe penalties for disobedience.

It’s that simple. If you are a U.S. citizen, some would argue that you are the property of the U.S.government.

On the other hand (and this will be the subject of another post), the Supreme Court decisions in Cook v. Tait and Blackmer v. The United States were decided in an era where there was no U.S. recognition of dual citizenship. It is reasonable to argue that these decisions have no applicability in the modern world.

There will be those who will say: Come on! Get real! The United States would never rely on these old court decisions. Well, they still do cite Cook v. Tait. Mr. FBAR lay dormant until it was resurrected by the Obama administration as the “FBAR Fundraiser“.

Dual Citizenship: What is the “effect” of a U.S. citizen also holding the citizenship of another nation?

The State Department description includes:

However, dual nationals owe allegiance to both the United States and the foreign country. They are required to obey the laws of both countries. Either country has the right to enforce its laws, particularly if the person later travels there. Most U.S. nationals, including dual nationals, must use a U.S. passport to enter and leave the United States. Dual nationals may also be required by the foreign country to use its passport to enter and leave that country. Use of the foreign passport does not endanger U.S. nationality. Most countries permit a person to renounce or otherwise lose nationality.

The life and times of Boris Johnson – A United States taxpayer by birth

Assumptions about Mr. Johnson’s citizenship …

I am assuming that he became both a U.S. and U.K. citizen by birth. I also assume that he remains both a U.S. and a U.K. citizen.

A U.S. Centric Perspective: As a U.S. citizen, Mr. Johnson is defined primarily in terms of taxation. On the occasion of Mr. Johnson’s recent appointment as the U.K. Foreign Minister, the Washington Times published the following article.

The article referenced in the above tweet provides an interesting summary of the Mr. Johnson’s adventures with the U.S. tax system. The article demonstrates how U.S. “place of birth” taxation is used to extract capital from other nations and transfer that capital to the U.S. Treasury. (As always the comments are of great interest.)

A non-U.S. Centric Perspective: Mr. Johnson is a “poster boy” for the problems of the U.S. “place of birth taxation” (AKA “taxation-based citizenship”). Mr. Johnson’s “IRS Problems” resulted in raising the profile and awareness of U.S. tax policies. A particularly interesting article was written by Jackie Bugnion and Roland Crim of “American Citizens Abroad”.

At a minimum, Mr. Johnson is subject to IRS jurisdiction, IRS reporting requirements, IRS threats and penalties and IRS assessments.

Boris Johnson has now been named the U.K. Foreign Minister …

How does his United States citizenship impact on this situation? Is it possible for him to be both a U.S. citizen and the British foreign minister? The “logical answer” is “Yes he can”. That said, having a U.S. citizen as the U.K. foreign minister raises many questions.

These questions include:

1. What effect (if any) does Mr. Johnson’s acceptance of this position have on his retention of United States citizenship as a matter of U.S. law?

2. If his acceptance of the position were a “relinquishing act” (under U.S. law) would Mr. Johnson be subject to the United States S. 877A Exit Tax?

3. Assuming that Mr. Johnson were to retain “dual” U.S./U.K. citizenship, how would his “divided loyalties” impact on this ability to serve as the British foreign minister?

4. Assuming that Mr. Johnson were to retain “dual” U.S./U.K. citizenship, how does the fact that the IRS has the jurisdiction to threaten him with fines and penalties impact the situation? What about the reporting requirements?

5. Should Boris Johnson formally relinquish his U.S. citizenship in order to avoid the conflict of interest that would arise because of divided loyalties?

Each question will be considered separately. Here we go …

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Is it Congress or Treasury that is responsible for “taxation-based citizenship”? Perhaps change is through regulation and not law!

This post is a continuation to my recent post: “The Internal Revenue Code does not explicitly define “citizen”, “citizenship” or require “citizenship-based taxation“. That post was reposted at the Isaac Brock Society, and received a comment which included:

Your statement that the IRC does not explicitly define citizenship is technically correct. It is also misleading. When the IRC was codified in 1939, the Secretary of Treasury was given an order to issue all needful regulations. That mandate is now found at 26 USC 7805. The needful regulation of the Secretary, Treasury Regulation, 26 CFR 1.1-1(c) explicitly defines citizenship in terms of the 14th Amendment and it included the term subject. 26 CFR 1.1-1(a) explicitly states that the tax imposed by section 1 of the IRC imposes the tax on citizens and residents. It does not list any other type, class or category of person upon the tax may be imposed by force.

In the original post I had demonstrated why taxation based on “citizenship” was a reasonable inference from Sections 1 and 2 of the Internal Revenue Code. The basic reasoning from Sections 1 and 2 of the Internal Revenue (without consideration of outside sources) is reflected in the following syllogism:

1. All individuals with the exception of non-resident aliens are subject to U.S. taxation.

2. Citizens are individuals who are NOT “nonresident aliens”

Therefore, citizens are subject to taxation.

Nevertheless, the comment raises a very interesting question. To put it simply the question is:

Could U.S. Treasury/IRS by regulation exempt Americans abroad from U.S. taxation?

The purpose of this post is to explore this very interesting question.

Let’s work with the information in the comment.

1. S. 7805 of the Internal Revenue Code gives U.S. Treasury the authority to make regulations to implement the provisions of the Internal Revenue Code.

(a) Authorization

Except where such authority is expressly given by this title to any person other than an officer or employee of the Treasury Department, the Secretary shall prescribe all needful rules and regulations for the enforcement of this title, including all rules and regulations as may be necessary by reason of any alteration of law in relation to internal revenue.

2. The regulation made to interpret S. 7805 of the Internal Revenue Code is:

§ 1.1-1 Income tax on individuals.

(a) General rule.

(1) Section 1 of the Code imposes an income tax on the income of every individual who is a citizen or resident of the United States and, to the extent provided by section 871(b) or 877(b), on the income of a nonresident alien individual. …

(JR Note: This does NOT say ONLY “citizen or resident”, but okay.)

(b) Citizens or residents of the United States liable to tax. In general, all citizens of the United States, wherever resident, and all resident alien individuals are liable to the income taxes imposed by the Code whether the income is received from sources within or without the United States. …

(c) Who is a citizen. Every person born or naturalized in the United States and subject to its jurisdiction is a citizen. For other rules governing the acquisition of citizenship, see chapters 1 and 2 of title III of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1401-1459). For rules governing loss of citizenship, see sections 349 to 357, inclusive, of such Act (8 U.S.C. 1481-1489), Schneider v. Rusk, (1964) 377 U.S. 163, and Rev. Rul. 70-506, C.B. 1970-2, 1. For rules pertaining to persons who are nationals but not citizens at birth, e.g., a person born in American Samoa, see section 308 of such Act (8 U.S.C. 1408). For special rules applicable to certain expatriates who have lost citizenship with a principal purpose of avoiding certain taxes, see section 877. A foreigner who has filed his declaration of intention of becoming a citizen but who has not yet been admitted to citizenship by a final order of a naturalization court is an alien.

All well and good, what might this mean? Why might this be helpful?

A possible conclusion:

In the above regulation Treasury appears to have restricted the meaning and scope of the word “individual” to “citizen or resident”. For example a U.S. national is a broader term than citizen. (Confirmed by S. C of the above regulation “For rules pertaining to persons who are nationals but not citizens at birth“). Yet, in this regulation Treasury appears to have excluded “nationals”, who clearly are “individuals”, from payment of the income taxes imposed in Subtitle A of Title 26. Yet, U.S. “nationals” are clearly “individuals”.

Put it another way: In this Treasury regulation, Treasury is excluding at least one class of “individuals” (“nationals”) from the Income Tax. If Treasury can exclude one class of persons from the meaning of “individuals” for the purposes of S. 1 of the Internal Revenue Code, then why can’t it exclude another class of individuals?

I nominate Americans abroad as a class of “individuals” that Treasury could ALSO exempt from taxation under Subtitle A of Title 26 (the income tax).

To put it another way:

Could “taxation-based citizenship” be abolished by Treasury/IRS regulation? This seems like a simple argument. Why has this argument not been made before?

Afterthought …

In the last two Obama budgets, the White House has recognized the injustice of imposing “U.S. taxation” on certain “accidental Americans“. If Treasury believes it can define “individuals” in a way that excludes certain “individuals” from U.S. Income tax, then why not let the Obama government solve this problem through regulation (which he loves doing anyway) rather than waiting for Congress to change the law (at best as part of major tax reform) or through the Alliance For The Defeat of Citizenship Taxation lawsuit.

A question for President Obama and Democrats who have caused all the problems:

Cook v. Tait just means that the U.S. had (at least in 1924) the constitutional right to impose citizenship-based taxation. This does not mean that the U.S. is required to have citizenship-based taxation.

How about abolishing citizenship-based taxation through regulation?

With the stroke of a pen you could solve this problem – that is if you want to!

In fact, here is recent precedent of your attempting to amend the Internal Revenue Code by regulation:

Yes we can!!!

John Richardson

The Internal Revenue Code does NOT explicitly define “citizen”, “citizenship” or require “citizenship-based taxation”

 

It is widely understood that the United States Internal Revenue Code requires that “U.S. citizens” are subject to U.S. taxation wherever they may live in the world. Although this is true, Subtitle A (Income Taxes) of the Internal Revenue Code:

  1. Does NOT explicitly say that U.S. citizens are subject to U.S. taxation on their world income wherever they reside; and
  2. Does NOT explicitly define the term “citizen” or “U.S. citizen”. (This contrasts with the the terms: “U.S. Person”, “Permanent Resident”, “Substantial presence”, etc. that ARE explicitly defined in the Internal Revenue Code here and here. This means that the starting point for the definition of “U.S. citizen” is in the 14th Amendment of the Constitution and the United States Immigration and Nationality Act.

(Interestingly it appears that only the “Estate Tax” provisions in Subtitle B of the Internal Revenue Code (Internal Revenue Code S. 2001) specifically impose tax liability on the “taxable estate of every decedent who is a citizen or resident of the United States”.)

Some thoughts on each of these points …

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Forms required by #Americansabroad 101 – The Explanation

The above tweet references a comment that I left on a medium.com post written by Rachel Heller titled “Why I renounced my US citizenship” (Hint: It’s not because I’m avoiding taxes!“.

The article was well written, interesting and attracted responses from Homeland Americans. (It was reproduced here and attracted even more comments.) The comments from U.S. residents demonstrated again that they do NOT understand the problems experienced by Americans abroad. Although Rachel DID mention the problem of “forms” as a contributing factor to her renunciation, at least one comment – ” indicated “disbelief” that “forms” could be a contributing factor to the renunciation of U.S. citizenship.

It is clear that this person, well intentioned as he/she may be simply does NOT understand what forms mean in the lives of Americans abroad. It’s as though he/she thinks that filling out a form is akin to completing a customer satisfaction survey.

As I result, I wrote a reply in the hopes of inviting him/her to understand what forms really mean in the lives of Americans abroad. (This post is a modified version of that “reply”.)

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Obama budget: “Dual citizens from birth” who are NOT “US residents” should be taxed as non-residents

 

“It’s unjust, it’s inhumane, I didn’t choose where I was born!”

This accurately describes the sentiments of those who are the target of FATCA Hunt. “Place Of Birth Taxation” is unfair to ALL those it affects. The most visible and egregious example of the unfairness is it’s application to “Accidental Americans“.

The context just imagine …

Imagine having been born in the United States, never having lived in the United States and then being “captured in FATCA Hunt”. It appears that the Obama administration has realized that the most visible unfairness of “place of birth” taxation is the application to Accidental Americans.

As a result, both the 2016 and 2017 Obama budget proposals have contained provisions to allow “Accidental Americans” to relinquish U.S. citizenship without being subject to the S. 877A Exit Tax or without having to certify U.S. tax compliance with respect to worldwide income. Those who qualify would be required to certify U.S. tax compliance on the basis that they were/are subject to the U.S. tax system as “non-resident aliens”. This raises the twin questions of:

1. Who is a “non-resident” alien? – See Internal Revenue Code S. 7701(b); and

2. How is a “non-resident” alien taxed? – See Internal Revenue Code S. 2(d) and S. 871.

I wrote a detailed post, referenced by the following tweet, about this issue in 2015.


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Physical presence as a necessary condition for being a US “resident” under the Internal Revenue Code

Introduction

Every country in the world with the exceptions of Eritrea and the United States claim tax jurisdiction based on “residence”. Although the tests for “residence” may differ, “residence based taxation” means that it is possible to sever your tax connection to a country by severing residence.

The nations of Eritrea and the United States impose taxation based on citizenship. U.S. citizens (primarily those “Born In The USA”) can NEVER sever their tax connection to the United States as long as they remain citizens. When it comes to U.S. citizenship-based taxation it is possible to NEVER have lived in the United States and still be subject to taxation!
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US Passport application links Citizenship @StateDept to Taxation @USTreasury to enforce “Taxation based Citizenship”

Yesterday I was forwarded an email which originated from the U.S. Consulate in Toronto. The purpose of the email (included at the end of this post) was to give notice of  U.S. tax obligations for U.S. citizens living outside the United States. In other words, the State Department is assisting the IRS by notifying Americans abroad of their U.S. tax filing obligations. Put another way, this email represents:

“Tax Education Outreach” from the IRS delivered by the State Department”

I do NOT recall this in previous years. That said, this email notification is extremely significant. It means that the IRS can argue that those who received this email may well have had notice that they were required to file U.S. tax returns. Over time, this will increase awareness of U.S. tax filing obligations. The greater the increase in awareness of U.S. tax filing obligations, the harder it will be to claim ignorance of those obligations. (This is in addition to the “Educational Outreach” coming in the form of FATCA letters from your local bank and your friendly journalists. In both cases, you are being asked to consider the question of: “Are you or have you even been an American citizen?“) Although, this is NOT an immediate problem, it seems logical that sooner or later it will become more difficult for Americans abroad to claim ignorance of their U.S. tax filing obligations. This may have implications for coming into U.S. tax compliance.

 

Q. Who would have received this email from the U.S. consulate?

A. Anybody who is on the U.S. Consulate email list.

Q. Who would be on the U.S. Consulate email list?

A. It would include almost anybody who has applied for a U.S. passport.

To put it simply:

One who applies for a U.S. passport is now putting oneself in a position where one will be told about U.S. tax filing obligations. Since most Americans abroad need a U.S. passport, it stands to reason that those who apply for a U.S. passport are creating a situation where they will be told about U.S. “taxation based citizenship”. You can see where this is going.

This appears to be the next step in the progression that includes …

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“The long history of Americans fleeing to Canada for refuge”

“My advice would be to research it very carefully,” Citizenship Lawyer John Richardson said. “If the whole idea is to somehow escape America, to be clear as an American citizen in Canada, you’re legally required to have more contact with the U.S. government while you’re living in Canada than you would if you were still living in the United States.”

Read more: http://www.cctv-america.com/2016/03/10/obama-trudeau-target-methane-emissions-in-new-agreement#ixzz42emdSIYKWatch us live anywhere at http://www.cctvamericalive.com