Tag Archives: FATCA

Tax, culture and how the USA uses #citizenshiptaxation to impose US culture (and penalties) on other countries

Civilizations and countries define themselves in part by their tax policies

In 1993 Samuel Huntington wrote “The Clash Of Civilizations“. His basic thesis is captured in the following paragraph from Foreign Affairs Magazine.

World politics is entering a new phase, and intellectuals have not hesitated to proliferate visions of what it will be-the end of history, the return of traditional rivalries between nation states, and the decline of the nation state from the conflicting pulls of tribalism and globalism, among others. Each of these visions catches aspects of the emerging reality. Yet they all miss a crucial, indeed a central, aspect of what global politics is likely to be in the coming years.

It is my hypothesis that the fundamental source of conflict in this new world will not be primarily ideological or primarily economic. The great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural. Nation states will remain the most powerful actors in world affairs, but the principal conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilizations. The clash of civilizations will dominate global politics. The fault lines between civilizations will be the battle lines of the future.

Tax policy and the possible “clash of civilizations”

To what extent does the insistence of the USA on imposing the Internal Revenue Code (“citizenship-based taxation”) on the citizen/residents of other countries, foreshadow a “clash of civilizations”?

This post was motivated by the article by Virginia La Torre Jeker which is referenced in the above tweet. It is an excellent discussion of how the Internal Revenue Code might (or might not) accommodate the reality of Sharia law. The post raises many questions and alerts practitioners to the challenges of applying the Internal Revenue Code to the lives of people whose culture is largely outside the United States. The post raises many “technical issues”. I expect there will further discussion of this issue on Virginia’s blog.

Taxation does NOT exist in a cultural vacuum. A country’s tax system reflects the counry’s cultural values. As the tax historian Charles Adams has noted, the rise and fall of civilizations can be linked to its tax policies. To impose the Internal Revenue Code on people who live outside the United States is to export U.S. cultural values and impose those values on other nations. The United States claims the right to impose the Internal Revenue Code on U.S. citizens who live outside the United States. The reality is that there are millions of people with no connection to the United States (other than a place of birth). U.S. citizenship is acquired automatically if one has the fortune (or misfortune depending on your point of view) of having been (as Bruce would sing) “Born In The USA!

FATCA and the tax compliance industry are working hard to identify those who may be U.S. citizens and do NOT live in the United States. What the United States views as a good source of tax revenue should be seen more broadly. Leaving aside basic issues of fairness, to impose U.S. taxation (according to U.S. rules/cultural values) on the residents of other countries, is sure to create problems. As part of tax reform, the United States must stop imposing the Internal Revenue Code on people who are NOT residents of the United States!

The following “Storification” is an attempt to explain the problem from an “outside the USA” perspective …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In order to prepare for leaving he:

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

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

His emotional state:

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

Epilogue:

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

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

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

#YouCantMakeThisUp!

John Richardson

 

 

 

 

 

Dewees 3: Lessons about the “Oh My God Moment” and dealing with the problems of U.S. citizenship

As I write this post, my mind goes back to one of my very first posts about U.S. compliance issues. This post was called “What you should consider before contacting a lawyer“. Since that time I have written hundreds of post describing the problems faced by Americans abroad.

More recently …

In Dewees 1, I explained the importance of the Canada U.S. tax treaty and how it provides “some protection” to Canadian citizens from U.S. tax debts.

In Dewees 2, I explained some of the characteristics of the OVDP program and how Mr. Dewees got caught in it.

In Dewees 3 (this post), I am suggesting some possible lessons that can be learned from the story of Donald Dewees.

Ten thoughts on U.S. taxation, non-compliance, Americans Abroad and the U.S. taxation of Americans abroad

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Richardson

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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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Wisdom of “Three Monkeys” explains why: Although there is little support for “citizenship-based taxation” repeal is difficult

The uniquely American practice of “imposing direct taxation on the citizen/residents of other nations” (“citizenship-based taxation”) has NO identifiable group of supporters (with the exception of a few academics who have never experienced it and do not understand it).

The Uniquely American practice of imposing direct taxation on the citizen/residents of other nations has large numbers of opponents (every person and/or entity affected by it). In addition to the submissions of Jackie Bugnion, “American Citizens Abroad“, “Democrats Abroad“, Bernard Schneider there is significant opposition found in the submissions of a large number of individuals. It is highly probable that the submissions come from those who are attempting compliance with the U.S. tax system.

The “imposition of direct taxation” on the “citizen/residents of other nations” evolved from “citizenship-based taxation”. “Citizenship-based taxation” was originally conceived as a “punishment” for those who attempted to leave the United States and avoid the Civil War. I repeat, it’s origins are rooted in PUNISHMENT and PENALTY and not as sound tax policy.

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Whether through regulation or legislation #FATCA Same Country Exemption won’t work

In the beginning there was Facebook …

and from a second Facebook group:

 

Introduction: If you were to REPEAL FATCA

A previous post discussing the what exactly is meant by FATCA and the Mark Meadows “Repeal FATCA” bill, described:

FATCA is the collective effect of a number of specific amendments to the Internal Revenue Code which are designed to target both (1) Foreign Financial Institutions and (2) Those “U.S. Persons” who are their customers.

1. There are “Three Faces To FATCA” which include:

– Face 1: Legislation targeting Foreign Financial Institutions (Internal Revenue Code Chapter 4)

– Face 2: The FATCA IGAs (which for practical purposes have replaced Chapter 4)

– Face 3: Legislation targeting individuals (primarily Americans abroad who commit “Personal Finance Abroad – While Living Abroad” – Internal Revenue Code 6038D which mandates Form 8938)

2. The amendments to the Internal Revenue Code that would be necessary to reverse the sections of the Internal Revenue that created FATCA.

Legislative FATCA vs. Regulatory FATCA

The sections of the Internal Revenue Code that comprise “FATCA” are surprisingly few.

FATCA Face 1: Internal Revenue Code S. 1474(f) gives Treasury broad authority to make “FATCA regulations”.
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Impressions of the @RepMarkMeadows April 26/17 #FATCA Hearing in Washington, DC – Opportunity to make case to end “taxation-based citizenship”

FATCA Hearings in Washington, DC – April 26, 2017

Beginnings – It all began in July 2016

The purpose of this post is NOT to describe the hearing in detail (that has already been well done), but rather to provide my overall (and perhaps broader) impressions based on actually having attended the hearing.

The April 26, 2017 FATCA hearing in Washington was long in the making. It’s genesis was rooted in a meeting that took place in July of 2016 at the Republican National Convention. The planning and preparation involved the efforts and consistent cooperation (weekly meetings since August) of a number of people in different countries and on different continents. It was a privilege to have been part of this group. A list of the people who worked on making the hearing happen – the  “FATCA prep team” – is  described here. Those efforts culminated in what some  witnessed “in real time” on April 26, and what thousands more will see (thanks to Youtube) in days to come.

The hearing has already been documented IN DETAIL and discussed in various places IN DETAIL, with the best commentary coming from posts at the Isaac Brock Society here and here and various Facebook groups here, here, here and here. (An example of ridiculous commentary is here.) When I say “commentary” I mean NOT ONLY the posts, but the rich and insightful comments. Seriously, this collection of “digital experiences” really is “History In The Making!”

Thinking about FATCA, What is it anyway?

I have written numerous posts about FATCA – “The Little Red FATCA Book” which you will find here. An explanation of how the Meadows “Repeal FATCA” bill would actually work is here. Basically, FATCA is the collective effect of a number of amendments (including the creation of a new Chapter 4 of Subtitle A of the Internal Revenue Code – which has made largely irrelevant by the FATCA IGAs)  which are designed to identify, attack and impose sanctions on:

A. FATCA: Non-U.S. banks and other financial institutions

Forcing them to “hunt down” the financial accounts and entities (examples include mutual funds, corporations, trusts and some insurance policies) owned by “U.S. persons”. The goal is to “turn them over” to the IRS.

This imposes enormous compliance costs on non-U.S. banks. The obvious effect is that they will not want  U.S. person customers. Would you? Interestingly the focus of the witnesses (Mr. Crawford and Mr. Kuettel) was primarily on the denial of basic access to financial and banking services.

Although important, this is only one half of the equation. What happens when “U.S. persons” learn (the vast majority had no idea) that they are subject to U.S. taxation?

B. FATCA: “U.S. Persons” with non-U.S. financial assets and bank accounts

It is not possible for “U.S. citizens” to BOTH: be U.S. tax compliant and live a productive life outside the United States, when they are also subject to the tax laws of other nations. (Digital nomads are the exception.) The reason is that U.S. citizens living outside the United States are living under a system where:

  1. They are presumed to live in the United States (which they don’t); and
  2. Their assets (which are local to them) are presumed to be “foreign” to the United States.

If you don’t understand (or don’t believe) why this is true, you will find an explanation here.

Just remember:

“When In Rome, Live As A Homelander” and do NOT “Commit Personal Finance Abroad!” (It’s UnAmerican)

Although a major effect of FATCA is to subject Americans abroad to a very special set of tax rules (think PFIC, foreign pension, CFC, and a crushing burden of forms that impact ONLY Americans abroad), there was NO witness that even alluded to this as one of the effects of FATCA. (FATCA is the enforcer of the uniquely American policy of “taxation-based citizenship”). There was also no witness that described how a “FATCA letter” can lead to absolute financial ruin for honest taxpayers, who have made a life outside the friendly borders of the United States of America. There was no witness who explained the confiscatory effects of entering one of the IRS “Amnesty – Ministry of Love” programs.

This had had the effect of making it seem as though FATCA (in terms of the effect on Americans abroad) was just a simple “disclosure – Form 8938 issue. Nothing could be further from the truth.

If it were not for “taxation-based citizenship”, FATCA would be no more or less a problem for Americans abroad than it would be for Homelanders (which doesn’t mean it is not a problem). Unfortunately, the hearing did not provide evidence on this point.

(This is NOT a criticism. But, just imagine if there had been witnesses who had been identified as a “U.S. Person” because of FATCA, did NOT know about “taxation-based citizenship” and then were forced into the “Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program“. Now that would have been a story …!)

It is “taxation-based citizenship” that makes the effects of FATCA so hard on Americans abroad! In 2011, I remember thinking:

The United States can have either FATCA or it can have “taxation-based citizenship” but it CANNOT have both!

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Tweet #Citizide: The new response of US citizens to #FATCA #FBAR #PFIC