Introduction – The Canada U.S. Tax Treaty Does Not Always Prevent Double Taxation
Do S. 877A rules interact with the provisions of various U.S. Tax Treaties? http://t.co/3BBRArHeho Do the S. 877A rules mean double tax?
— Citizenship Lawyer (@ExpatriationLaw) April 10, 2015
When countries independently make major changes in tax law, double taxation can occur
The following comment from 5thSwiss on the Isaac Brock Society site explains why and how double taxation can be a reality. It also underscores the dangers of a U.S. citizen leaving the United States.
It’s not obvious that renunciation of citizenship will cure failure to report in the past, or forgive unpaid tax. (“a ‘disposition’ of PFIC shares can occur by redeeming them, selling them, gifting them away, or even by giving up one’s US resident status or citizenship”)
The increasingly complex, expensive and draconian US tax law as applied to “accidental” US Persons might be considered by some a “good thing”. The more draconian – disproportionate – tax laws and penalties become, the more costly it is for ordinary families living abroad to report and pay tax on concessionary funds (such as for minors and disabled dependents, and retirement and tax-sparing funds not envisaged in the relevant bilateral tax treaty) the more impossible of enforcement and outrageous in principle such unilateral and exorbitant laws are seen to be.
And the less likely it is that the country of residence of a noncompliant person deemed to be a US person will assist the USG in collecting tax, prosecuting an individual and pursuing others on the basis of “transferee liability”.
Canadians who faced double taxation of their inheritance in that decade after Canada moved to capital gains taxation of estates based on deemed sale at death vs US imposition of estate duty (there is now a credit of one against the other under a tax Protocol) will understand that individuals are cannon fodder for Governments, who when they negotiate tax treaties are mainly concerned with the interests of multinational firms as represented by lobbyists. It is no wonder that of the 6 million Americans said to be resident abroad (the State Department knows of only half of those), an increasing number, unable to pay for tax advice or preparation, for renunciation of citizenship or the incremental US tax itself, are simply remaining underground. A series of GAO reports has looked at this and found no solution. And, by and large, legislators and bureaucrats (including diplomats) don’t care.
For the time being, the Lord Mansfield Dictum protects. But the hostility towards tax evasion abroad translates into hostility to expatriates generally. That is not a good sign.
5thSwiss describes the creation of “double taxation” after one country (in this Canada) moved from an Estate Tax to a deemed disposition of assets on death. We now have a problem of the U.S. creating a deemed disposition of assets on expatriation when Canada has no such tax. This is what happens when one country makes a major change to its tax system and the other does not. (In this case there is at a minimum a “timing mismatch” in the taxable event.)
The S. 877A “Exit Tax” and the Canada U.S. Tax Treaty
The primary purpose of this post is to explore whether the Canada U.S. Tax Treaty can be used to mitigate some or all of the effects of the “Exit Tax”. I don’t know the answer. Therefore, this post will “raise an important question”, but not “answer the important question raised”.
U.S. Tax Treaties 101 – The outline
I am also going to use this post to outline some VERY basic aspects of U.S. tax treaties. There will four parts to this post:
Part 1 – Tax Treaties and the U.S. Constitution
Part 2 – Tax Treaties and the “Savings Clause”
Part 3 – The S. 877A “Exit Tax” and possible treaty relief
Part 4 – The “Savings Clause” as an argument against “citizenship taxation”