Tag Archives: Green Card

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 Resident status is deemed to continue unless it is rescinded or administratively or judicially determined to have been abandoned.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 Resident status is considered to be rescinded if a final administrative or judicial order of exclusion or deportation is issued regarding the alien individual.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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Determining Tax Residency In the United States: Citizenship and other forms of deemed tax residence

Introduction

The advent of the OECD Common Reporting Standard (“CRS”) has illuminated the issue of “tax residency” and the desire of people to become “tax residents of  more “tax favourable” jurisdictions. It has become critically important for people to understand what is meant by “tax residency”. It is important that people understand how “tax residency” is determined and the questions that must be asked in determining “tax residency”. “Tax residency” is NOT necessarily determined by physical presence.

What is meant by tax residence? Different rules for different countries

All countries have rules for determining who is a “tax resident” of their country. Some countries have rules that “deem” people to be tax residents. Other countries have rules that base “tax residency” on  “facts and circumstances”. Canada is a country that bases “tax residency” on either “deemed” tax residency OR tax residency based on “factual circumstances”.

What if a person qualifies as “tax resident” of two countries?

When an individual (who is NOT a U.S. citizen) is a “tax resident” of two countries, it is common to consider any tax treaty between those two countries. Often the tax treaty will contain a “treaty tie breaker” provision which will allocate “tax residence” to one of the two countries. (Note that the “savings clause” which is found in standard U.S. tax treaties prevents U.S. citizens from having most tax treaty benefits. Note “treaty tie breaker” provisions are available to Green Card Holders.)

In summary: for the purposes of the “CRS”, tax residence is determined by BOTH a country’s domestic laws AND tax treaty provisions that assign “tax residence” to one country.

Even though the United States has chosen to NOT participate in the OECD “Common Reporting Standard” (CRS), and is NOT a “reportable jurisdiction, the OECD reminds us of the rules for determining “U.S. tax residency”.

Deemed tax residency in the United States …

The IRS discussion of “U.S. Tax Residency” includes:
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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

Green card holders, the “tax treaty tiebreaker” and reporting: Forms 8938, 8621 and 5471

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?

Now, on to the post.

The “Treaty Tiebreaker” and information reporting …

The Internal Revenue Code imposes on “U.S. Persons” (citizens or “residents”):

1. The requirement to pay U.S. taxes; and

2. The requirement to file U.S.forms.

All “U.S. Persons” (citizens or residents) are aware of the importance of “Information Returns” AKA “Forms” in their lives.

What is a U.S. resident for the purposes of taxation?

This question is answered by analyzing Internal Revenue Code S. 7701(b). If one is NOT a U.S. citizen, a physical connection to the United States (at some time or another) is normally required for one to be a “tax resident” of the United States..

What happens if one is a “tax resident” of more than one country?

The “savings clause” ensures that U.S. citizens are the only people in the world who have no defence to being deemed a tax resident of multiple countries. U.S. citizens (“membership has its privileges”) are ALWAYS tax residents of the United States. U.S. citizens who reside in other nations, may also be “tax residents” of their country of residence.

In some cases, a U.S. “resident” (which includes a Green Card holder) may be deemed to be a “nonresident” pursuant to the terms of a U.S. Tax Treaty. A Green Card holder “may” be able to use a “Treaty Tiebreaker” provision to be treated as a “nonresident”.

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?
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Green card holders: the “tax treaty tiebreaker” rules and taxation of Subpart F and PFIC income

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?

Now, on to the post …

The Internal Revenue Code of the United States imposes (1) requirements for taxation (determining how much tax is payable by various individuals) and (2) requirements for information reporting returns. For “U.S. Persons Abroad” the “information reporting requirements” are far more onerous.
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The US “expatriation tax” and the the incentive to apply for a Green Card and/or remain in the USA

America doesn’t really need skilled immigrants, or does it?

The above tweet references a post that references a comment by Victoria Ferauge:
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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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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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Green Card Holders and #Americansabroad: “Residence”, “Long Term Residence” and the S. 877A “Exit Tax”

Tax jurisdiction and residential ties

The two types of residential ties considered for all aliens

When considering the meaning of “residence” for tax purposes, attempting to ascribe a place of “residence “to an individual, and imposing taxation on individuals, the Internal Revenue Code considers:

A. The extent of “residential ties” to the United States; and

B. The extent of “residential ties” to another country.

We see both aspects of residence considered as a way to defeat the “substantial presence” test in Internal Revenue Code S. 7701(b). If the country of residence is uncertain, or if a person is considered to be a “tax resident” of the United States and another country, the Internal Revenue Code considers ties to both the United States and the other country in question.

For “resident aliens” (Green Card Holders):

– both past and present residential ties to the United States and to other nations are considered in at least three ways under the Internal Revenue Code itself; and

– residential ties to both the United States and the other country of residence are considered in determining residence under Article IV of the Canada U.S. (and other) tax treaties**.

Green Card Holders and tax residence

A previous post discussed the fact that:

  1. Internal Revenue Code S. 7701(a)(30) defines “U.S. Persons” as including “citizens” and “residents”
  2. The combined effect of Internal Revenue Code S. 7701(b)(1) and S. 7701(b)(6) define Green Card Holders in a way that ensures that they meet the statutory test of “residence”. (Of course Green Card Holders  may be able to defeat the status of “resident” by making use of the Treaty Election in Article IV of the Tax Treaty)
  3. The statutory defenses to “residence” found in S. 7701(b) of the Internal Revenue Code, available to “aliens” who are NOT Green Card Holders, take into account and are a function of the extent of residential ties to other jurisdictions

Residence matters and residence matters hugely. Hence, the definition of “resident” matters and matters hugely.

Congress has directed its attention to the question of the kind of physical connection to the United States, that justifies deeming one to be a “resident” for tax purposes. Interestingly, the definition of “citizenship” has NOT received the same attention. Nor is “U.S. citizen” defined in the Internal Revenue Code.

The purpose of this post is to consider how actual U.S. residence affects the taxation of Green Card Holders.
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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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