The biggest cost of being a “dual Canada/U.S. tax filer” is the “lost opportunity” available to pure Canadians

Cross-posted from citizenshipsolutions

by John Richardson

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:

1. The requirement to pay taxes to both the U.S. and Canada

– Double Taxation: for example, the 3.8% Obamacare surtax on Investment Income

– U.S. taxation on things that are NOT taxed in Canada (example: sale of principal residence and investment income earned inside Canadian Controlled Private Corporations) and phantom capital gains caused only by exchange rate fluctuations

– U.S. punishment/deferral penalties (Interest on tax deferral) on Canadian mutual funds – have you ever heard of a PFIC?

In many cases, the “foreign tax credit rules” will mitigate the impact of potential double taxation. That said, it is very common for “dual filers” living in Canada to be required to pay taxes to the United States. Furthermore, double taxation (because of the “savings clause“) is generally NOT eliminated by the Canada U.S. Tax Treaty. U.S. citizens are NOT generally allowed to benefit from the treaty.

2. The reporting requirements

The United States requires its “citizens” to file detailed reports disclosing financial assets. While a “dual filer” living in Canada is required to report very little information to the Government of Canada, the USA requires a massive amount of information about Canadian assets to be reported to the IRS on an annual basis. There are severe penalties for the failure to report on these assets. You may have heard of FBAR, FATCA form 8398, Form 8621, Form 3520 and 3520A and more. Those who have a Canadian Controlled Private Corporation are required to file Form 5471 (a form that requires more disclosure about their Canadian Controlled Private corporation than is required on A CANADIAN tax return!). Note also that there are circumstances where income earned by the company is attributed to the U.S. citizen individual (and must be reported as income on the U.S. return)!

By the way, forms 8621 and Form 5471 have to be filed even if a tax return is not otherwise required!

U.S. citizens have ZERO financial privacy!

3. The direct costs of U.S. tax compliance

U.S. tax returns (including satisfying the “reporting requirements”) can easily exceed 100 pages and can cost thousands of dollars to prepare. Of course, the costs are significantly less for those who have “simple lives” and few assets. U.S. tax returns are NOT simply an extension of a Canadian tax return. Those who complete their U.S. tax returns based ONLY on their Canadian tax returns are making a mistake. U.S. tax returns need to be considered separately and must take into account items that are “taxable or reportable events” in the USA but are not reportable or taxable in Canada.

4. U.S. tax rules that directly impact the marriage between a U.S. citizen and non-citizen

With a bit of advance planning you can “work around” these areas. That said, a “non-U.S. citizen spouse” is considered to be an “alien” and an opportunity for income and assets to slip away from the U.S. tax system.
It is common for U.S. citizens living in Canada to use the “married filing separately” category which is extremely punitive. Interestingly, this is a “built in tax” on the marriage between a U.S. citizen and an “alien”.

5. The Opportunity Cost – by far the biggest cost

U.S. citizens resident, are deprived of many of the “normal” financial and retirement planning opportunities available to other Canadians. This is NOT immediately obvious. That said: it is the single biggest cost of being a “dual Canada/U.S.filer”.

Why this so – Let me explain …

Canada is a country with very high tax rates. It’s very hard to “save and get ahead” in a country with a high marginal tax rate that “kicks in” at a relatively low level of income. Canada has a brutally efficient system of tax collection. In addition to paying taxes on income that are (in general) higher than in the United States, Canada has a VAT (which is NOT recognized for purposes of the U.S. “Foreign Tax Credit” rules).
Furthermore, Canada does NOT have generous “Social Security Type”
programs. Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security are NOT income replacements but are supplements to income. Therefore, (and financial literacy should be a required skill) it is ESSENTIAL that Canadian residents engage in intelligent, purposeful and effective retirement planning. Much of financial planning is based on the tax consequences of various transactions.

Intelligent, purposeful and effective retirement planning for Canadian residents

At the risk of oversimplification most Canadians employ some or all of the following …

Employee pension plans:

Examples include the pension plans offered by teachers, public employees, etc. Fewer and fewer Canadians have access to these kinds of plans. Fewer and fewer Canadians have access to these lucrative arrangements.

Availability to U.S. citizens in Canada: The U.S./Canada tax treaty does allow for favorable treatment of Company pension plans for U.S. citizens in Canada. The U.S. Canada tax treaty is particularly favorable in this regard. In contrast, consider the U.S.
Australia tax treaty which does NOT afford similar U.S. tax treatment to Australian pensions.

__________________________________________________________________________________

Individual Tax Deferral Opportunities in Government registered plans:

Examples include: RRSP, TFSA, RESP, etc.

Availability to U.S. citizens in Canada:

RRSP – yes
TFSA – no tax deferral and fully taxable RESP – no tax deferral and fully taxable

The income earned inside the TFSA and RESP will be taxed directly to the U.S. citizen. There may also be additional (expensive) “reporting requirements” with respect to these investments.

__________________________________________________________________________________

The Use of a Canadian Controlled Private Corporation (an opportunity that may be coming to an end FOR ALL PEOPLE with the current Liberal Government):

Availability to U.S. citizens in Canada:

  1. Clearly No. The growth of investment income inside the
    corporation is attributed to the shareholder and subjected to
    punitive taxation. This destroys the opportunity to use the
    Canadian Controlled Private Corporation as a retirement planning
    vehicle.
  2. Clearly No. The “reporting requirements”
    reflected in Form 5471 are tremendously expensive and penalty
    laden.
  3. Clearly No. U.S. citizen shareholders of
    Canadian Controlled Private Corporations are NOT entitled to the
    Canadian “lifetime” capital gains exemption on the sale of the
    shares of the CCPC.
  4. Possibly No. Canadian tax planners plan the
    payment of dividends to shareholders in a way that results in
    minimization of taxes paid at the Shareholder level. This is the
    direct result of Canada’s system of giving shareholders tax
    credits for certain taxes paid by the corporation. The dividends
    are subject to full U.S. taxation on the U.S. return.
  5. Possibly No. In theory dividends from a
    Canadian Controlled Private Corporation are possibly (depending
    on your interpretation of the Canada U.S. tax treaty) subject to
    the 3.8% Obamacare surtax.

There is no “Clearly Yes”. It’s complicated! I have seen very knowledgeable and competent advisors argue over whether U.S. citizens in Canada should make use of Canadian Controlled Private Corporations.

__________________________________________________________________________

Individual stock and investment portfolios:

Generally, this would include individual “debt” (think GICs) and “equity” (think individual stocks).

Availability to U.S. citizens in Canada:

Yes absolutely available. The dividends, interest and capital gains are subject to “normal U.S. taxation”. The U.S. tax owed will be reduced by the tax paid in Canada.

___________________________________________________________________________

Canadian Pooled stock and investment portfolios:

In general, this means “Canadian mutual funds”.

Availability to U.S. citizens in Canada:

No. Canadian Mutual funds are considered to be PFICs under U.S. law and are subject to taxation at rates that can approach 100%.

___________________________________________________________________________

Principal residence AKA The tax free sale on a principal residence (very popular in larger Canadian cities):

Availability to U.S. citizens in Canada:

Yes and No. U.S. citizens in Canada are required to pay capital gains taxes on the sale of their principal residence. (There is currently a $250,000 USD exclusion).

____________________________________________________________________________

Conclusion:

U.S. citizens in Canada are simply NOT able to take advantage of the retirement and planning opportunities available to their neighbors. The problem of the U.S. tax system for U.S living in Canada should be characterized as:

“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”.

This is the primary reason why for U.S. citizens living in Canada:

All Roads Lead To Renunciation!

John Richardson

The biggest cost of being a “dual Canada/U.S. tax filer” is the “lost opportunity” available to pure Canadians

_________________________________________________________________________________________

Some additional reading:

How To Live Outside the United States in an FBAR and FATCA world – The 10 Commandments

How To Live Outside The United States In An FBAR And FATCA World

Life in The “Penalty Box”: U.S. Citizens and Green Card Holders Living Outside The United States

Part 1 – Life In The “Penalty Box” – U.S. Citizens And Green Card Holders Living Outside The US

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

cross-posted from citizenshipsolutions


 
 
 
 
 

by John Richardson

Wisdom of “Three Monkeys” explain 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.

In 1924, the U.S. Supreme Court in Cook v. Tait upheld the U.S. practice of “citizenship-based taxation”. This means only that (assuming the validity of the decision almost 100 years later), the U.S. has the right to impose “punishment and penalty” (Justice McKenna actually said that “government by its very nature benefits its citizens”) in the form of “citizenship-based taxation”. This does NOT mean it’s a good idea to do so. Cook v. Tait should be considered in terms of (1) the evolution of citizenship and (2) the evolution of taxation.

The United States has (at least in theory) been imposing direct taxation on Americans abroad (who are mostly the citizen/residents of other
countries) for over 100 years. During this period, there has been no serious discussion about ending this unfair and destructive practice.
See the following article in the New York Times (from the Titanic era) – March 7, 1914.

NYT
March 1914

The United States has “gotten away with this” for so long because there was no attempt to inform about or enforce it until the election of Barack Obama. The Obama era will be remembered for FATCA and the attempt to enforce “citizenship-based taxation”. U.S.
“citizenship-based taxation” is now being used to attack the sovereignty of other countries and transfer capital from those countries to the United States.

Because few knew about “citizenship-based” taxation, there was historically very low compliance and little or no attempt at IRS enforcement, on “nonresident Americans”.

Anecdotal evidence suggest that there is still low compliance and few attempts at IRS enforcement on “nonresident Americans”.

Why is it so difficult to get this horrible law (that is damaging to everybody except members of the “tax compliance” industry) repealed?

The wisdom of “The Three Monkeys” explains why.

“See no evil”: Few people even know about U.S.
“citizenship-based taxation”. What you can’t see you can’t know.

1. Almost NOBODY (including – some but not all – U.S. based tax
professionals) even knows that the U.S. imposes taxation based U.S.
citizenship (which is conferred by a U.S. place of birth”). It is simply unknown to the overwhelmingly majority of Americans (how could their country do something as stupid as this?). For a country where citizens are defined primarily as taxpayers (“taxation-based citizenship”), there is little attempt to educate the masses.

2. Citizenship-based taxation is NOT explicitly required anywhere in the Internal Revenue Code. It’s true. The Internal Revenue Code mandates taxing “individuals”
and taxing “nonresident aliens”
(“nonresident aliens on U.S.
source income only). (This suggests that “nonresidents” are NOT required to pay tax to the USA.) It is ONLY through “Treasury regulation”, that “individual” is defined as “citizen or resident”. I kid you not. Read the Internal Revenue Code yourself.

3. Those who do know that the U.S. imposes taxation based on “citizenship” often, equate “citizenship” with “residency”. They think
that:

“citizens are residents” and that “residents are citizens”

On April 26, 2017 at the FATCA hearings in Washington, D.C., Representative Connolly said:

“All countries tax their citizens” when he really meant “All countries tax their residents”.

In other words, the U.S. population and Congress actually believe the United States has “residence-based taxation”! Well, everybody knows that “U.S. residents” are subject to U.S. taxation. But few know (and it would never occur to them), that U.S. citizens who establish residence in another country, are still required to pay taxes to the United States!

“Hear no evil”: Those who know about “citizenship-based taxation” don’t know how CBT actually operates – by subjecting people who live in a “foreign country” to the Internal Revenue Code – as though they live in the United States.

4. “Citizenship-based taxation” is discussed ONLY by academics. I have yet to see A SINGLE paper written by a U.S. based “academic” who understands or even mentions the “Alphabet Soup” list of problems faced by Americans abroad which include: FBAR, FATCA, CBT, PFIC, CFC and Forms 5471, 8621, 8938, 3520/3520A, etc. At most they have some “vague idea” that “citizenship” should include the requirement to pay U.S.
taxes. They do NOT discuss this issue in practical terms that hint at what it really means.

In other words: Those who know of or advocate citizenship-based taxation simply do not understand the problems that it causes.

5. Those who support or tolerate “citizenship-based taxation”, see the problem in terms of Americans leaving the United States (if they have the “wherewithall”) and NOT as Americans leaving the United States and then having becoming subject to BOTH the U.S. tax system and the tax system of their country of residence. In many cases they don’t even seem to understand that all countries require you to pay tax if you live there! In other words, they see this as a “mobility issue” and NOT as “trying to live your life issue outside the USA issue”.

(This is why it is ESSENTIAL that this deplorable state of affairs NOT be described as “citizenship-based, taxation” but be described as “taxing the residents of other
countries
!)

6. “Expatriate taxation” is a narrow and highly specialized area of practice. It is complex and has a long “learning curve”. It is therefore not surprising that many U.S. based tax professionals do NOT understand its practical implications. Many of them do not have the skills to inform and advise Americans abroad.

“Speak no evil”: It is almost impossible to get anybody to “listen to” and “speak about” the problem. It is hard to get the attention of Congress

7. Those impacted by CBT (“Homelanders abroad” and the “citizen/residents” of other nations) do not have political representation in the United States. (Of course it is questionable whether Homeland Americans have political representation either. Such is the reality of a two-party system that dominates the political process.) For the most part, legislative change in the USA is accomplished ONLY through “lobbying” and “money”.

Bottom line – U.S. legislators fall into two
categories:

First, those who don’t know what CBT is – that the U.S.
is imposing taxation on “Homelanders abroad” and the “citizen/residents of other countries”; and

Second, those who are not “paid to care” whether the U.S. is imposing taxation on “Homelanders abroad” and the “citizen/residents of other countries”.

8. The U.S. political system makes it difficult to pass any law. This means that it is both hard to pass new laws and hard to get rid of old bad laws.

9. Congress and Treasury are completely indifferent to “Homelanders abroad” and the “citizen/residents” of other countries. (Indifference being one of the worst forms of abuse.) Therefore, when Congress makes a law or Treasury makes a regulation there is NO consideration given to the effects on persons outside the United States. This indifference would be reasonable if U.S. tax laws did NOT have “extra-territorial application”. But, the indifference is unreasonable when U.S. tax laws do have “extra-territorial application”.

10. The “tax compliance community” is uniquely positioned to advocate for the repeal of “citizenship-based taxation”. Yet it does not do so.
(The repeal of “citizenship-based taxation” would hurt their business
interests.) I am not aware of any tax professionals who have or are actively lobbying for (not even letters to House Ways and Means in 2013 and Senate Finance in 2015) for a move to “residence-based taxation”.

Perhaps “clients” should pressure their “tax professionals” to lobby (either individually and/or through their professional associations) for the repeal of U.S. “extra-territorial taxation”.

Is a Congressional change in the law really needed?

11. The Internal Revenue Code authorizes and requires a large number of Treasury Regulations. I believe it is possible for Treasury to end “citizenship-based taxation” by simple regulation.

Meanwhile the only rational response to this deplorable state of affairs is captured in the thought that:

All roads lead to renunciation!

John Richardson

Why is the United States imposing an “Exit Tax” on the Canadian pensions of Canadian citizens living in Canada?

cross-posted from citizenshipsolutions


by John Richardson

This post is based on (but is NOT identical to) a July 17, 2017 submission in response to Senator Hatch’s request for Feedback on Tax Reform

“Re the impact of the S. 877A “Exit Tax” on those “Americans living abroad” who relinquish U.S. citizenship:

Why is the United States imposing an “Exit Tax” on their “non-U.S. pensions” and “non-U.S. assets”? After all, these were earned or accumulated AFTER the person moved from the United States?”

Part A – Why certain aspects of the Exit Tax should be repealed

In a global world it is common for people to establish residence outside the United States. Many who establish residence abroad either are or become citizens of other nations. Some who become citizens of other nations do NOT wish to be “dual citizens”. As a result, they “expatriate” – meaning they relinquish their U.S. citizenship. By relinquishing their U.S. citizenship they are cutting political ties to the United States. They are signalling that they do NOT wish the opportunities, benefits and protection from/of the United States.

Yet Internal Revenue Code S. 877A imposes a separate tax on “expatriation”. The “expatriation tax” is discussed in a series of posts found here.

Specific examples of HOW the “Exit Tax Rules” effectively confiscate pensions earned outside the United States are here.

Assuming, “covered expatriate status” and NO “dual-citizen exemption to the Exit Tax“, the S. 877A “Exit Tax” rules operate to:

  1. Virtually “confiscate” non-U.S. pensions that were earned
    when the individual was NOT a United States resident; and
  2. Allow for the retention of “U.S. pensions” which were earned
    while the individual WAS a resident of the United States.

(One would think that the result should be THE EXACT OPPOSITE!”)

Specific request: The S. 877A Exit Tax should be repealed. If the United States is to impose a tax on expatriation, the tax should not extend to “non-U.S. pensions” earned while the individual was NOT a U.S. resident. Furthermore, the tax should NOT extend to “non-U.S. assets” that were accumulated while the individual was NOT a U.S. resident.

But, that’s assuming that the United States should have ANY kind of “Exit Tax!”

Continue reading “Why is the United States imposing an “Exit Tax” on the Canadian pensions of Canadian citizens living in Canada?”

Why is the United States imposing full U.S. taxation on the Canadian incomes of Canadian citizens living in Canada?

Cross-posted from citizenshipsolutions

by John Richardson

This is post is “based on” (not identical to) one of two submissions that I submitted in response to Senator Hatch’s request for submissions regarding tax reform.

__________________________________________________________

Why is the United States imposing full U.S. taxation on the Canadian incomes of Canadian citizens living in Canada?

The Internal Revenue Code mandates that ALL “individuals” , EXCEPT “non-resident aliens”, are subject to full taxation, on their WORLDWIDE income, under the Internal Revenue Code. The word “individuals” includes U.S. citizens regardless of where they live and regardless of whether they are citizens and residents of other countries where they also pay tax. This means that, by its plain terms, the United States imposes full taxation on the citizens and residents of other nations, because they are also (according to U.S. definitions) U.S. citizens. The United States is the only country in the world that has a definition of “tax residency that mandates full taxation based ONLY on citizenship.

How “U.S. citizenship” and U.S. “taxation” interact

Principle 1: The United States is one of the few countries in the world that confers citizenship based SOLELY on birth on its soil.

Principle 2: The United States is the ONLY country in the world that imposes full taxation ON THE WORLD INCOME of its citizens, REGARDLESS OF WHERE THE U.S. CITIZEN LIVES IN THE WORLD.

Bottom line: The United States is the ONLY country in the world that imposes full taxation, on WORLDWIDE income, based ONLY on the “place of birth”!

A practical example: A person whose only connection to the United States is that he was born in the United States, who lives in Canada (and may have never lived in the United States and whose only income is earned in Canada), is required to pay U.S. tax on that income.
This resident of Canada is treated AS THOUGH HE WAS A U.S. RESIDENT.
NOTE ALSO THAT THIS INDIVIDUAL IS REQUIRED TO PAY TAX TO CANADA! He is subject to “double taxation”. (This “double taxation” is only partially mitigated through “foreign tax credits”, tax treaties and the “foreign earned income exclusion”.)

Therefore: What academics and government officials refer to as “citizenship-based taxation” (they really don’t understand its practical effects) is PRIMARILY “place of birth taxation” and therefore a convenient way to impose U.S.
taxation on the citizens and residents of other countries. As a blog devoted to “citizenship taxation” (noting the difference between the theory and reality) points out:

“A supporter of citizenship taxation is someone who THINKS about “citizenship taxation”. An opponent of citizenship taxation is anybody who has tried to LIVE under citizenship taxation.”

How did this happen? It certainly didn’t start this way!

The evolution of “U.S. citizenship”

The result of legislative change and various U.S. Supreme Court decisions (primarily Afroyim ) has meant that “U.S. citizenship” is far easier to obtain and far harder to lose.

Furthermore, as people become more and more mobile, it is not unusual for somebody to have been “Born In The USA” but live outside the USA.
Global mobility is now the rule, rather than the exception.

The evolution of U.S. taxation and the Internal Revenue Code

The Internal Revenue Code has become more and more complex and impacts more and more activities of daily life.
Because “U.S. citizens” (even though they are citizen/residents of other
countries) are subject to U.S. taxation, they have been tremendously impacted by the “creeping complexity” of the Internal Revenue Code (which applies equally to ALL Americans wherever they may live).

This “creeping complexity” has evolved slowly through the years. The problems have been exacerbated because Congress does NOT consider that when amending the Internal Revenue Code they are impacting the lives of tax paying residents of other nations (who happen to be U.S. citizens).
Congress is “indifferent” to the plight of Americans abroad (indifference being one of the worst forms of abuse).

Through the years, slowly and consistently …

The evolution of the Internal Revenue Code combined with ease of retaining U.S. citizenship has built a “fiscal prison” (legislative brick by legislative brick), in which to keep the tax paying residents of “OTHER NATIONS”, who just happen to have been born in the United States.

Tax Reform 2017

The United States is “making noises” about “tax reform”. Senator Orrin Hatch requested submissions from “steak stake holders” on what should be included in tax reform. He has clearly received (as did the Ways and Means Committee in 2013 and the Senate Finance Committee in 2015) many suggestions advocating the repeal of “citizenship-based taxation”.

As noted at a site compiling the submissions of those affected by U.S.
extra-territorial taxation
:
Continue reading “Why is the United States imposing full U.S. taxation on the Canadian incomes of Canadian citizens living in Canada?”

2017 Residence Based Taxation Request To Chairman Hatch

cross-posted from TaxConnections Blog

SPECIAL REQUEST – PLEASE GO TO TAX CONNECTIONS & COMMENT THERE

THE SITE IS WIDELY READ BY TAX PROFESSIONALS AND WE SHOULD LET THEM KNOW WHAT WE THINK ABOUT THIS


by John Richardson
It’s tax reform season and Senator Orrin Hatch wants to hear from you (again).

As reported on the Isaac Brock Society and other digital resources for those impacted by U.S. taxes, you have until July 17, 2017 to tell Senator Hatch what you think needs to be changed in the Internal Revenue Code. After great deliberation, it occurred to me that people who either are (or are accused of being) U.S. citizens or Green Card holders living outside the United States, might want the USA to stop taxing them. After all, they already pay taxes to the countries where they reside. This is your opportunity to “Let your voices be heard” (well maybe).

Speaking of “tax reform”: Introducing Jackie Bugion

Jackie Bugnion is a U.S. citizen who has lived in Switzerland for many years. She has been a tireless advocate for “residence based taxation”. She worked with “American Citizens Abroad” for many years and has recently retired. She was recently honoured with the Eugene Abrams award by ACA – an event that was the subject of a post at the Isaac Brock Society – that described her many achievements (over a long career).

Jackie has returned with her 2017 submission to Senator Hatch.

Jacqueline Bugnion
Submission to Chairman Hatch’s request for tax reform proposals
Adopt residence-based taxation (RBT) for Americans resident overseas
The Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee have both cited the need to review the way that the United States taxes its citizens and green card holders who reside overseas. The current policy known as citizenship-based taxation (CBT) is increasingly called into question as it taxes Americans on their worldwide income irrespective of their residence, domestic or overseas. I am an American citizen who has resided overseas for 52 years, as my husband is a foreigner. I have personally observed the devastating consequences of CBT on Americans abroad and strongly urge Congress to adopt residence-based taxation (RBT).

What is RBT? Under RBT, the U.S. would tax its citizens and green card holders who reside abroad the same way that the U.S. currently taxes non-resident aliens, i.e. through taxation of U.S.-source income only. FDAP (Fixed, Determinable, Annual, Periodic) income would be taxed largely through withholding at source by the paying agent. Effectively connected U.S.-source earned income would be reported on Form 1040NR and taxed under U.S. income tax rules. Foreign-source income would not be taxable.

RBT would apply to all bona-fide overseas residents. RBT would be immediate and automatic, but would not be open to residents of Puerto Rico or to military and diplomatic personnel stationed abroad. As an obvious anti-abuse measure, RBT would not be available to residents of designated tax havens. RBT would not be compulsory; Americans abroad for a short period of time, such as academics on sabbatical, may opt to stay under CBT.

The rules for RBT are already in place as they apply to foreigners with U.S.-source income. Withholding taxes on FDAP U.S.-source income would lead to automatic, efficient tax collection. In fact, withholding tax at source would in certain circumstances shift taxation from foreign countries to the U.S.

Shifting from CBT to RBT would be close to tax revenue neutral. Analysis of the IRS 2555 statistics, relating to the foreign earned income exclusion reported by overseas Americans, shows that a significant share of wages and salaries of the highest income groups is U.S.-source, and hence would continue to be taxed by the U.S. under RBT. The top 1% income group account for more than 50% of all taxes paid. In addition, the U.S. today under CBT renounces most claim on tax liability on foreign earned income, by allowing foreign tax credits and the foreign earned income exclusion. These two factors and few minor ones, lead to a neutral tax revenue situation. Any possible difference between CBT and RBT would be utterly insignificant in the U.S. budget – less than 0.001% – so small that it could swing either way.

IRS enforcement costs under the current international tax system are disproportionate to revenue. The international tax forms create burdensome filing costs for taxpayers and create heavy administrative costs for the IRS; this is terribly inefficient when the vast majority of overseas taxpayers owe no U.S. tax.

Tax collected currently under CBT, other than that linked to U.S.-source income, comes from unacceptable instances of double taxation. Incompatibilities between the U.S. tax code and foreign tax systems lead to double taxation. The outrage of Boris Johnson, at the time Mayor of London, when the U.S. taxed the capital gain on the sale of his U.K. home illustrates this issue very well. There are numerous examples of differences between U.S. and foreign tax systems which penalize Americans abroad. To cite just a few:

IRS does not recognize foreign pension funds and therefore taxes all contributions; it treats income generated over the years as coming from a PFIC fund, guaranteeing a negative return.
U.S. legislates double taxation in the cases of the NIIT and the Additional Medicare Tax since neither allow foreign tax credits. This is particularly cynical since these taxes aim to finance U.S. medical care; Americans abroad pay into their foreign health programs and are excluded from the Affordable Care Act.
Some countries have a wealth tax on all net assets instead of a capital gains tax on securities investments. The U.S. taxes the capital gains, but does not allow foreign tax credits against this income.
Definitions of what is an income tax and what is a social security tax varies enormously from country to country, with onerous tax consequences for U.S. citizens abroad.
All OECD countries, except the U.S., have replaced sales taxes by VAT, which can range up to 20% of the price of goods and services purchased. The U.S. does not recognize VAT paid as compensation for the U.S. tax liability, even though it does accept deduction of U.S. state sales tax.
Entrepreneurs in countries without a totalization agreement are subject to double contributions to social security, in the foreign country and in the U.S.
Beyond the immediate issue of taxation, moving from CBT to RBT would have major advantages for Americans abroad, at essentially no cost or lost revenue to the U.S.:

CBT tax law and related FATCA asset and revenue reporting requirements amount to a bank lockout for Americans abroad. FATCA reporting rules imposed by the U.S. on foreign financial institutions, accompanied by draconian penalties for non-compliance, strongly discourage foreign banks from accepting American citizens as clients. In addition, the U.S. Patriot Act know-your-client requirements have effectively cut off Americans abroad from access to U.S. financial institutions. It is difficult to function without a bank account in today’s world.
FBAR and Form 8938 reporting requirements shut off employment and investment opportunities for Americans abroad. The FBAR requirement to report bank accounts with only signature authority eliminates jobs in financial positions. Foreign employers refuse to have their accounts reported to the United States, and such reporting is illegal in many countries. Form 8938 requires foreign companies in which an American holds 10% ownership to report this ownership to the IRS. This measure has shut out entrepreneurial and partnership opportunities for Americans overseas.
Consequently, the number of renunciations of U.S. citizenship is skyrocketing from a few hundred in 2008 to well over 5,000 in 2016. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. The blatant discrimination and unfair treatment of Americans abroad at the hand of their own government has created massive anger and frustration in the overseas community of more than 8 million Americans. The financial burden of compliance is far in excess of reporting requirements for U.S. residents and easily runs into the thousands of dollars, which is all the more ludicrous when the vast majority have no U.S. tax liability.

Adopting RBT meets three of the four tax reform objectives cited by Senator Hatch.

First, it provides relief to middle-class individuals and corrects major unfairness.
Second, it removes impediments and disincentives for savings and investments.
Third, it makes Americans abroad and therefore the United States more competitive in the global economy while preserving the tax base.
I thank you for your attention to the above.

Sincerely yours,

Jacqueline Bugnion

July 8, 2017

If You Want Your Country to Treat You as Her Own, Stop Telling Her You are “American”

The following two comments appeared on a post at Isaac Brock “Refreshing: @SophieintVeld calls EU answer to plight of #AccidentalAmericans “bullshit”

Perhaps one of the difficulties countries experience, that of “standing up to the United States” could be mitigated if citizens and residents of those countries stopped calling themselves “Americans.” Certainly if one does NOT believe him/herself to be American, one would not describe oneself as such. Why allow American law define one’s nationality particularly when doing so allows the U.S.to supersede the laws of the country one resides in?

*******

by USCitizenAbroad

cross posted comments from the Isaac Brock Society

Watched the video a second time today. The time has come to RETIRE the term “Accidental American”. The tern suggests that the petitioner “JR” and others like him are “Americans” of any kind at all. He is NOT an American of any kind and neither is a single person who was born in the USA, left the USA as a child, and has never held himself out as a U.S. citizen. He is a “carbon life form” who is simply being claimed by the United States as U.S. property. Nothing more and nothing less.

What FATCA is about is:

FATCA is about the United States unlawfully laying claim to the citizen/residents of other nations as “tax slaves” and as “weapons”, to attack the economies of other nations, by extending its tax base into other nations. The simple “FATCA Of The Matter” is that, for the U.S. to claim that a citizen and resident of another nation, is a U.S. citizen (against that person’s will), has evolved into an “Act of War” against that nation – what the petitioner calls the “weaponization of nationality”. For the USA to call a citizen/resident of another nation a U.S. citizen is to say to that nation:

That “carbon life form” is our property and we will use our property as a way to extract rents from your economy. (If you use OUR property you must pay us rent.)

It seems to me that countries around the world must do the following:

1. Protect their own citizens from the United States. It’s quite simple really. They should simply say:

So, sorry but “JR” is a resident of our nation and a citizen of our nation. The USA is free to call him anything they want when he is in the USA, but when he is in our nation he is to be treated as a citizen of our nation and accorded all the rights to which citizens of our nation are afforded. We do understand that Americans do NOT have rights (because this is necessary to preserve their American freedoms), but in our nation our citizens have rights and they have equal rights. For example: As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada has said – “A Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian“ (Of course Justin means only “certain Canadians” are really Canadians, but I digress ….)

We (nations of the world) have no opinion, with respect to those Americans, who are in our country, but are not citizens of our nation (the “Homelanders Abroad” type). But our citizens have the full rights of citizenship when in our nation.

We will NOT allow them to be treated as your “property”, when they are living as citizens on “our property!”

We know, that for Americans, the concept of human “rights” is “very deep”, but trust us, “human rights” can exist.

Countries simply cannot allow the United States to claim their citizens as U.S. citizens!

Bottom line: Under no circumstances can the USA be permitted to claim the citizens of other nations (residing in those nations) as U.S. citizens when they are resident in our country.

2. If these European (and other) countries are NOT willing to defend the rights of THEIR citizens, then they should simply agree, that they are nothing but U.S. property and deport (return) them to the United States.

The battle cry should become:

“Defend or deport”.

*****

Adding to the previous comment:

There is a continual focus on:

“Are you or have you ever been a U.S. citizen?”

That’s fine, but the focus needs to change to:

“Who may determine the citizenship of an individual? How is that citizenship to be determined? Under what circumstances can a citizen and resident of country A, be claimed as a citizen of country B”

To date, the world has deferred to U.S. law to answer the question of whether someone is a “U.S. citizen”. I believe that is the wrong question. It leads to absurd results and it allows U.S. lawyers to effectively impose unwanted U.S. citizenship on people with no U.S. connection. The question is whether Country A has to accept a citizenship claim by Country B with respect to a citizen/resident of country A.

(The idea that the USA can impose citizenship on a person born outside the USA is laughable. Yet, U.S. lawyers swear it is true. To say that the USA can impose U.S. citizenship on a person born outside the USA is to say that the USA can use any person of USC parents as a weapon against the economy of another nation.)

The narrow question in a new FATCA world should be:

Can a second country decide the citizenship of a person who is a citizen/resident of a another country? Interestingly the United States is, in certain circumstances, willing to apply its own legal standards, to determine whether someone is or is not a citizen of another country.

See:

In addition, although not determinative of the question, the following information from the State Department is interesting:

Dual Nationality

Section 101(a)(22) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) states that “the term ‘national of the United States’ means (A) a citizen of the United States, or (B) a person who, though not a citizen of the United States, owes permanent allegiance to the United States.” Therefore, U.S. citizens are also U.S. nationals. Non-citizen nationality status refers only individuals who were born either in American Samoa or on Swains Island to parents who are not citizens of the United States. The concept of dual nationality means that a person is a national of two countries at the same time. Each country has its own nationality laws based on its own policy. Persons may have dual nationality by automatic operation of different laws rather than by choice. For example, a child born in a foreign country to U.S. national parents may be both a U.S. national and a national of the country of birth.

A U.S. national may acquire foreign nationality by marriage, or a person naturalized as a U.S. national may not lose the nationality of the country of birth. U.S. law does not mention dual nationality or require a person to choose one nationality or another. Also, a person who is automatically granted another nationality does not risk losing U.S. nationality. However, a person who acquires a foreign nationality by applying for it may lose U.S. nationality. In order to lose U.S. nationality, the law requires that the person must apply for the foreign nationality voluntarily, by free choice, and with the intention to give up U.S. nationality.

Intent can be shown by the person’s statements or conduct. The U.S. Government recognizes that dual nationality exists but does not encourage it as a matter of policy because of the problems it may cause. Claims of other countries on dual national U.S. nationals may conflict with U.S. law, and dual nationality may limit U.S. Government efforts to assist nationals abroad. The country where a dual national is located generally has a stronger claim to that person’s allegiance.

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.

Information on losing foreign nationality can be obtained from the foreign country’s embassy and consulates in the United States. Americans can renounce U.S. nationality in the proper form at U.S. embassies and consulates abroad.

Call for Information Regarding Lack of U.S. Reciprocity #FATCA

I’ve received a request from our fellow expats-in-peril Association des Américains Accidentels to search for documents to help them in their litigation.

As of this week, we have hired a lawyer to get a legal opinion re: FATCA.

One of the angle we are pursuing is non reciprocity. Under the French Constitution (article 55) a treaty which is not reciprocal becomes null and void, as simple as that. We are presently looking for all documents written par the IRS/Treasury to US Senators or any other documents emanating from the US Treasury which point to the fact that the US has no intention of making FATCA reciprocal.

We are now in full gear and our aim is to make FATCA null in void in France and perhaps at the European level too. (it is another avenue we are exploring too)

In advance many many thanks,

Eric and Fabien

I have already sent them the letter from Mark Mazur (then Assistant Secretary of Treasury for Tax Policy) to Senator Rand Paul dated Oct 10, 2012.

Please help their legal challenge: Let’s Unite to Defeat FATCA

 

When government turns predator

 

This was the very first post at the Isaac Brock Society, published there on December 10, 2011 by the founder of Brock, Petros. At the time, there was outright terror in the expat community. Horror stories from the 2009 OVDP were coming out. Threats from Shulman (then IRS Commissioner), the media and primarily, the tax compliance industry were non-stop. Confusion and fear reigned and it was like being in a perpetual OMG moment……….

Over 5 years later there is little to suggest much has changed. It would take a major shift, such as passing tax reform that included a switch to RBT for me to even consider the U.S. government has anything less than outright malice for Americans living outside the country. The year is half-over and health care reform is still the focus. There will be no hope for change in 2018 due to the midterm elections.

There have been a few minor concessions-Streamlined was improved and offers foreign filers penalty-free filing as long as there is “reasonable cause.” However, we now have passport revocation for unpaid taxes of $50k and over; extended OVDP with the in-lieu of penalty of 27.5% of the highest aggregate value of OVDP assets (50% if the foreign financial institution is already under investigation by the IRS); attempts to pass the EXPATRIOT ACT; adjustment resulting in increase of FBAR penalties to reflect inflation (without similar treatment for the $10k threshold); two years of FATCA reporting have taken place; threats that the Streamlined Program will be discontinued; collection agencies are coming after us, the list goes on and on.

Though this comment will provoke the compliance community, one thing apparent now, is the IRS seems to have no real way to collect unless one comes forward. And we can see those who have done so, are the ones hurt the most. It is obvious that the majority of expatriates are NOT filing (out of a total of 9 million, approximately 1 million are). There are situations where some can remain hidden, depending to a point on one’s risk-tolerance. Outward resistance remains; the Canadian IGA suit is moving toward the second trial; the Bopp suit will be refiled; ADCT is on hold until we see whether there is RBT or not. And the Accidental Americans in France have begun their fight to bring forth litigation there and/or in the EU courts.

At any rate, I have always considered the post below to be a sort of rallying cry, a call to wake up to the fact that the U.S. government is indeed a predator to be dealt with…..

UPDATE

This recent comment of Andrew over at Brock says it all:

This entire story is and continues to be sickening. I too am so grateful to have renounced several years ago and to have been able to completely extricate myself from this web of nightmares. Sadly, friends and business contacts haven’t been so lucky and many of them are now embroiled in protracted legal cases, with demands that they pay millions, even though they, in two cases, have never lived in the United States and were total “accidentals” one having spent twelve days there after birth and never returned, the other only five days! Still, the corrupt system has gone after them both and they are fighting it as hard as they can. One thing both of them have said is that thy won’t pay anything, no matter what the threats. One, who has business interests in no less than sixteen countries will cut off all activity with the U.S. and stop all investment from his associates into the U.S. arm of their business.
If I didn’t witness all of this for myself I wouldn’t believe that it could be possible, but then, look at the U.S. today and the state of how it is governed. Who could believe that is possible? The best advice, stay away from that place and advise others to do the same.

*******
When Government Turns Predator by Petros

Honest US citizens are being turned into prey by the IRS, the victims a hunt for tax evaders. It is the natural, if lamentable, product of the urge to power our Founders warned us against.

More than two centuries ago, George Washington stated:

Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.

Over the years, General Washington’s prescience has been demonstrated as government usurped and abused power. The myth that government serves the people should be shattered by now. Increasingly, government behaves as the master, not as the intended servant.

Oppression abounds, but nowhere is the raw abuse of power and coercion more possible and evident than in the Internal Revenue Service. They are the most dangerous member of the government gang. Now they have another tool to bully and expropriate wealth from innocents — US citizens living abroad.

Early in his presidency, Barack Obama pledged to add 800 new IRS agents to punish tax evaders with overseas accounts. In an effort, presumably designed to curtail and punish tax evasion on the part of wealthy Americans, legislation aimed at criminals now threatens the income and savings of the law-abiding.

Background

The Bank Secrecy Act became law in 1970 and implemented the Foreign Bank Accounts Report (FBAR) to monitor money laundering. The FBAR law required that US persons owning or having signing authority over foreign bank accounts report this information to the US Treasury Department. It was not much enforced for the obvious reason that a criminal does not willingly divulge incriminating information. During the first three decades of FBAR, there was widespread ignorance and disregard for the law.

In 2003, the Treasury Department handed over enforcement to the IRS. In 2004 non-willful non-compliance increased to a $10,000 fine per account per annum. Willful non-compliance allows criminal charges, a prison sentence, and fines of $100,000 or 50% of bank account’s contents, whichever is more (see Shepherd, p. 10).

The IRS has implemented two Voluntary Disclosure Programs I (2009) and II (2011), in which they waive criminal charges provided that all back taxes and penalties have been paid, along with an FBAR penalty of 20% (in 2009) or 25% (in 2011) of the account’s highest balance over the last six years. The penalty is lower (12.5%) for balances under $75,000. Persons who were unknowingly US citizens face a 5% penalty (see FAQ 52).

In 2010, Congress passed FATCA (Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act) which forces foreign banks to report on American clients, even if doing so would violate the banking and privacy laws of their country. Implementation of FACTA will be coerced by withholding 30% of US income from banks not in compliance.

The arrogance and brutality of the legislation is apparent. The penalties are severe and disproportionate. Economic blackmail of foreign banks is disgraceful. All of these actions will have repercussions, probably not intended.

US Citizens Abroad

US citizens living abroad must open a foreign bank account because commerce is done in the local currency. All who do are potentially in violation of the FBAR law. Most were unaware of the FBAR requirements; but now that the IRS has rattled its FBAR saber, taxpayers abroad are in a quandary.

Wealthier citizens spend thousands of dollars on accountants and tax lawyers to try to put themselves into compliance with the least financial damage. The average citizen not in compliance has limited options. His choices include:

  1. Do Nothing The IRS doesn’t know about you, so continuing to keep a low profile and ignore the law might be the best route. This option may become impossible once FACTA comes into force.
  2. File FBAR Forms IRS FAQ 17 of the 2011 Voluntary Disclosure Program states that filers who have complied with all taxes and filing requirements except FBAR should not enter the program but simply file the delinquent forms by August 31, 2011 with a letter of explanation. They promise that no penalties will apply to such persons. But given the severe threats of punishment issued to anyone failing to comply, many wonder whether the IRS will accept the excuse of ignorance of the FBAR requirement.
  3. Enter 2011 Voluntary Disclosure Program: Some US citizens who entered the 2009 Voluntary Disclosure Program and were otherwise in compliance with US tax laws, found that the IRS intended to apply to them the full 20% penalty (see, e.g., hereand here).
  4. Renounce Citizenship Many US citizens living overseas have lives fully integrated into their new country. They comply with the local tax laws and often possess dual citizenship. Compliance with US tax laws and FBAR are a nuisance and liability that they may be able to live without.

Renunciation of citizenship is not riskless. Such a decision will set citizens free from future liability, but may subject them to IRS penalties for prior non-compliance. In addition, for covered expatriates, those having two million in assets or $145,000 in average annual tax liability over the last five years, an exit tax is also required.

To appreciate the uncertainty and duress faced by US citizens living abroad, a couple of hypothetical situations are useful. International tax lawyer Phil Hodgen partly inspired the following hypothetical cases:

Hypothetical Case 1: Jim lives in a foreign country and has dutifully filed a US income tax return each year, but was unaware of FBAR filing retirements. Jim operates eight accounts: four retirement accounts (which he reported on his annual tax returns), two trading accounts, a checking account and a high interest savings account. The highest balance in these accounts is $1,000,000 over the last six years. His current balance is $800,000 after the market dip.

Jim doesn’t know what to do. After great worry, he enters the Voluntary Disclosure Program. The IRS assesses Jim a $250,000 FBAR penalty. In order to pay the penalty, Jim must withdraw funds from his retirement accounts forcing an additional tax liability of $100,000 on the income. Jim is no longer able to retire because his $800,000 has been reduced to $450,000, solely as a result of IRS capriciousness.

Hypothetical case 2: Nancy is a teacher and mother of three, married to a citizen of the foreign country where she has lived for fifteen years. She dutifully filed her taxes in the US, but never knew about FBAR. A friend entered the Voluntary Disclosure Program and was assessed $14,000. She contemplates the renunciation of American citizen, because her foreign husband owns a successful business and Nancy is a signer on business accounts. She fears exposing her husband’s business to the IRS and also fears that upon her death, the IRS will seek its pound of flesh from her estate. She renounces citizenship, though it breaks her heart.

Abuse Of the Law

FBAR was initially a harmless and little known embarrassment for the United States. It began as an ineffective attempt to stop money laundering. Like so many other laws (RICO, Homeland Security, etc.), it began with what some believed noble purposes, only to morph into a tyranny imposed upon law-abiding citizens. It is now a tool capable of arbitrary and oppressive expropriation of the wealth of millions of US citizens living abroad.

An insolvent government is a dangerous government. It is akin to a wounded and cornered animal. When conditions become really difficult, it is likely to do anything to survive. Arbitrariness in the interpretation of any law is dangerous to freedom, but especially so when government’s primary concern is survival rather than justice.

There are many reasons to be critical of FBAR. The following two will illustrate:

  1. Excessive fines: Ayn Rand said “The severity of the punishment must match the gravity of the crime.” This basic principle of human rights, enshrined in the Eighth Amendment, forbids excessive fines. It is immoral for the IRS to intimidate innocent citizens. Any law so uncertain that it could result in a loss of 50% of your wealth, depending upon the whims of the IRS, is not a law. It is government-sanctioned extortion.
  2. Guilt Presumed: The Fourth Amendment protects (or was supposed to) citizens against arbitrary fishing expeditions by government. Probable cause is required. The FBAR requirements circumvent this Fourth Amendment right, in effect saying: “You will volunteer to open the door to your house and let us look inside. If you don’t, we will fine and/or imprison you.” The IRS demands bank information based on a presumption of guilt even though holding funds in a foreign bank account is no crime.

Unintended Consequences

The term unintended consequences, a convenient euphemism for stupid policy or law, is appropriate. Some of the foreseeable outcomes are the following:

  1. An avalanche of US persons will renounce their citizenship. In July 2010, the State Department implemented a $450 fee for making a renunciation before a consular officer, presumably to exact additional income and possibly (highly unlikely) deter some from making the decision.
  2. Foreign banks and investors may decide doing business with the US is not worth the trouble of compliance with FACTA, particularly as the US economy collapses and the global economy shifts to the East.
  3. US Citizens abroad already find it challenging to open bank accounts both in US and in their countries of residence. This annoyance makes it more difficult for American companies and their employees to engage in foreign missions, business and trade.
  4. US citizens are already shunned from positions in foreign companies which do not want their banking details revealed to the United States Treasury Department.

Conclusion

The Bank Secrecy Act, passed in 1970, is an example of law designed for one purpose being expanded to be used against innocent citizens. Regardless of its good intentions, it is now a tyranny used to extort wealth from otherwise legal, law-abiding US citizens living abroad.

It represents a classic case of how government usurps freedom. What level of morality must government have to think they are entitled to shake-down hard-working citizens?

Monty Pelerin has never lived abroad or had a foreign bank account. He has friends who do and hopes that exposing this State plunder will cause it to cease in this and other parts of our lives.

NB: The preceding article appeared first at the American Thinker on April 5, 2011, then at Monty Pelerin’s World. Monty Pelerin is a retired economist who writes under a pen name. In March, I approached Monty asking if he would publish under his pen name an article on FBAR. He agreed and then we co-wrote the article and he kindly gave me no credit because I feared the long arm of the IRS. Then, Monty submitted it to the American Thinker. Now that I am out in the open with my IRS concerns, I’ve decided I can reproduce it here. So I want to thank Monty for his extraordinary help when nearly no one in the mainstream media or even conservative blogs were talking about this injustice which the IRS has afflicted upon millions of Americans – Petros