The “Pax Americana” to the “Tax Americana”: How the USA is imposing a separate, punitive tax regime on “nonresidents”

cross-posted from storify

The “Pax Americana” to the “Tax Americana”: How the USA is imposing a separate, punitive tax regime on “nonresidents”

Tax Colonization by exporting the Internal Revenue Code to other countries

by John Richardson

Part 9-2: Responding to the Sec. 965 “transition tax”: From the “Pax Americana” to the “Tax Americana” (cont)

 

This is a continuation of the post “Part 9: Responding to the Sec. 965 “transition tax”: From the “Pax Americana” to the “Tax Americana”
cross-posted from citizenshipsolutions by John Richardson

The first portion of the post was published here.
Links to the first eight posts in my “transition tax” series are listed at the bottom of this post.

Part D: Citizenship and the expansion of Empire – Ancient Rome

As described by Andrew Henderson of Nomad Capitalist, in 212 AD the Roman Emperor Caracella expanded Roman citizenship by bestowing Roman citizenship on all free men. A listing in Wikipedia suggests that:

The Roman jurist Ulpian‘s Digest stated, “All persons throughout the Roman world were made Roman citizens by an edict of the Emperor Antoninus Caracas” (D. 1.5.17).

The context of the decree is still subject to discussion. According to Cassius Dio, the main reason Caracalla passed the law was to increase the number of people available to tax. In the words of Cassius Dio: “This was the reason why he made all the people in his empire Roman citizens; nominally he was honoring them, but his real purpose was to increase his revenues by this means, inasmuch as aliens did not have to pay most of these taxes.”[2] It should, however, be noted that Cassius Dio generally saw Caracalla as a bad, contemptible emperor.

Another goal may have been to increase the number of men able to serve in the legions, as only full citizens could serve as legionaries in the Roman Army. In scholarly interpretations that followed a model of moral degeneration as the reason for the fall of the Roman Empire, notably the model followed by Edward Gibbon, the edict came at the cost to the auxiliaries, which primarily consisted of non-citizen men, and led to barbarization of the Roman military

Clearly Rome was not the last empire to associate “citizenship” with “taxation”.

Part E: Empire and taxation: As goes taxation, so goes civilizations

As the late Charles W. Adams wrote in his classic book – “For Good and Evil: The Impact Of Taxes On The Course Of Civilization” – the evolution of civilizations is a function of the tax policies of the civilization. Presumably as “civilizations expand into empires”, the tax policies of an empire are more likely to expand beyond the borders of the nation and into other nations. What the United States calls “citizenship-based taxation” (making it seem patriotic) is really the policy of imposing “worldwide taxation” on the “tax residents” of other countries. It is explainable as a part of the creation and expansion of empire. FATCA is the way that the American Empire has forced other nations to (1) impose U.S. taxation on the residents of those countries and (2) force those other countries to bear the cost of so doing.

Canada is probably the number one victim of U.S. “extra-territorial taxation”.

Part F: Public Perception of Empire

Former Canadian Liberal Leader Michael’s Ignatieff writing on American Empire – 2003

Former Canadian Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff was a Harvard Professor when he was recruited by the Federal Liberals to return to Canada and lead the Liberals from the “waste land” to the “promised land”. Mr. Ignatieff was kind of a “public intellectual” who quickly learned that the “hard knocks” of political life were harder than the comforts of his academic appointments. In any case, Mr. Ignatieff recognized American Empire and wrote a fascinating article about it (which appeared in the New York Times in 2003 just prior to the Bush invasion of Iraq.) It’s a fascinating article. Well worth the read. It includes:

America’s empire is not like empires of times past, built on colonies, conquest and the white man’s burden. We are no longer in the era of the United Fruit Company, when American corporations needed the Marines to secure their investments overseas. The 21st century imperium is a new invention in the annals of political science, an empire lite, a global hegemony whose grace notes are free markets, human rights and democracy, enforced by the most awesome military power the world has ever known. It is the imperialism of a people who remember that their country secured its independence by revolt against an empire, and who like to think of themselves as the friend of freedom everywhere. It is an empire without consciousness of itself as such, constantly shocked that its good intentions arouse resentment abroad. But that does not make it any less of an empire, with a conviction that it alone, in Herman Melville’s words, bears ”the ark of the liberties of the world.’

In other words, the United States is a country that believes that all of its policies, actions and ambitions are cloaked in righteousness simply because it is the United States.

Part G: Empire and taxation: If you were to ask your friends the following question:

Q. Do you think that the United States would impose more punitive taxation and compliance requirements on: (1) U.S. citizens living in the United States or (2) certain Canadian citizens living in Canada?

A. The probable answer would be: Don’t be absurd. Of course the United States imposes more punitive taxation on U.S. citizens living in the United States than on Canadian citizens living in Canada.

Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!

To put it simply: The Internal Revenue Code of the United States imposes taxes, sanctions and penalties on certain Canadian residents that are not imposed on Homeland Americans at all. The point its is that “non-residents” are subjected to a harsher set of U.S. tax rules than are U.S. residents.

One answer to the question includes

I know the answer to this question. I filed one year using TurboTax (and a host of paper filings since TurboTax falls way short of being sophisticated enough for a foreign return) and it had a helpful function at the end where you could compare your US tax liability against others in a similar income band. My US tax liability was 2.5x the average bill in the same income band. That’s not 2.5% but 2.5x. My “fair share” was more than twice as much for the same level of income as the homelander “fair share”.

Thankfully, the out of pocket cost was limited by the taxes I had already paid in the UK. But, it shows the cost of not living a life optimised for the rules of the US tax system can be enormous. If you live in the US, there are tax no brainers. If you live in the UK, there are tax no brainers. But if you’re subject to both systems at the same time, you can’t benefit from the tax no brainers since, by and large, the other country takes what the other giveth.

As I’ve said before, the US tax system includes on the basis of citizenship but excludes on the basis of physical location since participation in the tax no brainers is limited by things like US source earned income which you can, generally, only get when you live in the US.

 

U.S. taxation of residents of other Canada and other countries: It’s really “territorial taxation” in reverse

As Charles Bruce (ACA Legal Counsel) describes it:

Ironically, this is a prime example of “upside down” territoriality. Under a territorial approach, such as, residency-based taxation, the taxpayer is expressly not taxed on foreign income. Here, the taxpayer – say, an American abroad – for sure will be fully taxed on foreign income, whereas his or her cousin in the States who earns domestic business income will enjoy the 20% deduction.

Part H: 12 examples (in addition to the “transition tax”) which U.S. residents can “laugh about” and Canadian citizens can/should “rage about”:

1. Templeton Mutual Fund bought in the U.S. by a U.S. resident is NOT subject to PFIC confiscation. The same mutual fund (with exactly the same securities) bought in Canada by a Canadian resident is subject to PFIC confiscation. Furthermore, the Canadian resident is required to report his ownership in his Canadian mutual fund on Form 8621 – check it out here.

2. A U.S. resident who invests in a ROTH IRA has automatic “tax deferral” and is not subject to U.S. taxation. A Canadian resident who invests in an equivalent TFSA does not have “tax deferral” and is subject to U.S taxation on the income on TFSA even though he is not subject to taxation on the income in Canada.

3. A U.S. resident who invests in an ABLE plan (Achieving a Better Life Experience Act) has automatic tax deferral. A Canadian resident who invests in an RDSP (equivalent “special needs plan”) is subject to U.S. taxation on that income. Furthermore, the Canadian resident is required to report his ownership of his RDSP on Form 3520 – check it out here.

4. A U.S. resident who invests in a S. 529 “education plan” has automatic tax deferral. A Canadian resident who invests in an RESP (equivalent “education plan”) does not have “tax deferral” and is subject to U.S. taxation on that income. Furthermore, the Canadian resident is required to report his ownership in his RESP on Form 3520 – check it out here.

5. A U.S. resident who receives distributions from a 401K plan is not subject to the 3.8% Obamacare surtax. A Canadian resident who takes a distribution from an (equivalent) Canadian RRSP is subject to the 3.8% Obamacare surtax. Furthermore, the Canadian resident is required to report his Obamacare surtax on Form 8960 – check it out here.

6. A U.S. resident is not required to report his local U.S. bank accounts to U.S. Financial Crimes. A Canadian resident is required to report his Canadian bank accounts to U.S. Financial Crimes. This is a very special category of “form crime” -see information about Mr. FBAR.

7. A U.S. resident is not required to report his U.S. financial assets annually to the IRS on Form 8938. A Canadian resident may be required to report his Canadian financial assets annually to the IRS on Form 8938. Form 8938 is an extremely intrusive, time consuming form. Check it out here.

8. A U.S. resident is NOT required to treat his activities in the USA as foreign and subject to penalties and reporting. Certain Canadian residents are required to treat their business activities in Canada as foreign and subject to penalties and reporting. Check out Form 5471 and From Form 8865.

9. A U.S. resident married to a U.S. citizen spouse is allowed to make unlimited gifts to his spouse. A Canadian resident married to a Canadian citizen spouse is NOT allowed to make unlimited gifts to his spouse. Furthermore, the Canadian resident is required to report certain gifts to his spouse on Form 709 – check it out here.

10. A U.S. resident who renounces U.S. citizenship will not have his U.S. pension plan subject to confiscation because of the Section 877A Exit Tax. A Canadian resident who renounces U.S. citizenship would have his Canadian pension plan subject to confiscation because of the S. 877A Exit Tax. It’s because it the pension is NOT a “U.S. pension”, but is a “Canadian pension”.

11. The TCJA includes a provision that allows U.S. residents to deduct property taxes on their U.S. principal residences, but specifically does NOT allow a Canadian living in Canadian to deduct property taxes on his Canadian principal residence.

12. The TCJA provided allows a deduction of up to 20% of passthrough income for specified service business owners with income under $157,500 (twice that for married filing jointly) for certain income effectively connected with the conduct of the trade or business within the US. A U.S. resident operating a U.S. business is entitled to the deduction. A Canadian resident carrying on a small unincorporated business in Canada is NOT entitled to the 20% reduction.

An “unintended consequence” or “willful”?

The vast majority of U.S. residents and Congressmen neither understand this nor know that this is taking place. That said, some members of the Treasury clearly do understand that:

Part I: It’s the “Tax Americana” – a “form” (pun intended) of “tax colonization”

In any case – the “Tax Americana” must first be understood and then end:

The time has come for the United States to stop imposing “worldwide taxation” of people who are “tax residents” of other countries and do NOT live in the United States”.

The time has come for other countries to recognize the “Tax Americana” and realize how the “Tax Americana” is eroding the sovereignty of other nations!

The next post in this series will explore the question of:

What could the Canadian Government do (without U.S. agreement) to stop the U.S. from taxing Canadian residents (who are also U.S. citizens)?

John Richardson

The first eight posts in my “transition tax” series were:

Part 1: Responding to The Section 965 “transition tax”: “Resistance is futile” but “Compliance is impossible”

Part 2: Responding to The Section 965 “transition tax”: Is “resistance futile”? The possible use of the Canada U.S. tax treaty to defeat the “transition tax”

Part 3: Responding to the Sec. 965 “transition tax”: They hate you for (and want) your pensions!

Part 4: Responding to the Sec. 965 “transition tax”: Comparing the treatment of “Homeland Americans” to the treatment of “nonresidents”

Part 5: Responding to the Sec. 965 “transition tax”: Shades of #OVDP! April 15/18 is your last, best chance to comply!

Part 6: Responding to the Sec. 965 “transition tax”: A “reprieve” until June 15, 2018

Part 7: Responding to the Sec. 965 “transition tax”: Why the transition tax creates a fictional tax event that allows the U.S. to collect tax where it never could have before

Part 8: Responding to the Sec. 965 “transition tax”: This small business thought it was saving to invest in business expansion – Wrong, they were saving to be robbed by America!

Part 5: Responding to the Sec. 965 “transition tax”: Shades of #OVDP! April 15/18 is your last, best chance to comply!

cross posted from citizenship solutions
    by John Richardson

I suggested to John that some might not understand why a similarity between OVDP and the Transition Tax was being made. He asked me to introduce the post to make sure it was clear that the U.S. government has demonstrated that confiscation is the name of the game (NOT tax).

Some of you may wonder why a connection is being made between the OVDP program and the Transition “Tax.” The reason is very simple. We need to change the language. We need to call it what it really is. In the beginning, people were too frightened to understand what the OVDP really was. It took years before it was clear it was nothing less than confiscation. Fortunately, we knew prior to the passage of the Tax Jobs Cut Act that the Transition “Tax” was a blatant confiscatory provision.

The “Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program.” An “amnesty” program. Nine years and many destroyed lives have exposed it for what it really was. No one could really have considered it “voluntary.” The IRS and the tax compliance community certainly presented as one’s only option. In 2011, we did not have the advantage of what we know now; the limitations of being discovered, the extremely difficult/unlikely ability of the IRS to collect. People who had no tax liability among other atrocities, were fined from 20 – 27.5% of their assets. There was no taxable event. This revolved around not filing a piece of paper. FBAR. An appropriate term used was “The FBAR Fundraiser.” Another word would be confiscation. IOW, OVDP was NOT about TAX.

Some words have powerful associations. Sometimes those associations grow into clichés. We are all familiar with the association that anyone who has left America is rich has done so to avoid tax. We have been working at this since late 2011. Seven years. No amount of trying to educate via comments on online articles etc. has put a dent in this erroneous and damaging perception. Recently, some of us have started replacing “citizenship taxation” with “non-resident taxation.” Non-resident taxation describes what it really is and dissociates from the idea that a patriotic citizen (American) should pay it. It appeals to the notion that reasonable people accept i.e., that one pays taxes (only) where one lives. It may take time but the value of changing the language in this situation, is obvious.

To refer to this new requirement as a “tax” is to immediately justify it as being reasonable. Take the Canadian government for example. It’s position is that the U.S. has the right to tax it’s own citizens and that Canada has no business interfering with that. Thus the IGA. Nevermind that the majority of the people affected are Canadian citizens and residents FIRST.

So what’s wrong with the term “Transition Tax?” As we all know, any expat with a “foreign” corporation will be unable to transition to a territorial system as will major multinationals . So to call it a “transition” is completely erroneous. As for “tax”, a general notion is that a tax is connected with delivery of services or benefits i.e., there is some relationship between the exchange of income for services. It is nothing short of bizarre to levy a 30-year retroactive tax on a group of people who were not residents, nor receiving anything in exchange for surrendering a considerable portion of what is primarily, their retirement pensions.

A phrase John has used repeatedly to describe the Transition “Tax” is “the confiscation of the retirement pensions of the citizens and residents of other countries.” That’s what it really is. Like the OVDP, it is a punitive tool that destroys the lives of long-term expats. We need to get that message across.

****

    by John Richardson

Introduction

This is the fifth in my series of posts about the Sec. 965 Transition Tax and whether/how it applies to the small business corporations owned by tax paying residents of other countries (who may also have U.S. citizenship). These small business corporations are in no way “foreign”. They are certainly “local” to the resident of another country who just happens to have the misfortune of being a U.S. citizen.

The purpose of this post is to argue that (as applied to those who do not live in the United States) the transition tax is very similar to the OVDP (“Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Programs” which are discussed here. Some of initial thoughts were captured in the post referenced in the following tweet:

The first four posts about the “transition tax” were:

Part 1: Responding to The Section 965 “transition tax”: “Resistance is futile” but “Compliance is impossible”

Part 2: Responding to The Section 965 “transition tax”: Is “resistance futile”? The possible use of the Canada U.S. tax treaty to defeat the “transition tax”

Part 3: Responding to the Sec. 965 “transition tax”: They hate you for (and want) your pensions!

Part 4: Responding to the Sec. 965 “transition tax”: Comparing the treatment of “Homeland Americans” to the treatment of “nonresidents”

*A review of what what the “transition tax” actually is may be found at the bottom of this post.

This post is for the purpose of the arguing that, as applied to those who live outside the United States, payment of the “transition tax” in 2018, is the financial equivalent to participation in 2011 OVDI (“Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program”.

 

Seven Reasons Why The U.S. Transition Tax as applied to “nonresidents” is similar to the “Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program As Applied To “Nonresidents” Continue reading Part 5: Responding to the Sec. 965 “transition tax”: Shades of #OVDP! April 15/18 is your last, best chance to comply!

IRS Announces the end of #OVDP – Fascinating Reactions from the Tax Compliance Community

 

OVDP Program

cross-posted from citizenshipsolutions

    by John Richardson

IRS announces the end of #OVDP: Fascinating tweets from the “OVDP Historians” who compose the tax compliance community

IRS announces the end of #OVDP: Fascinating reactions from the tax compliance community

#OVDP: Reactions from the “tax compliance community” (and others who tweeted) to the termination of OVDP

(Note: For the purposes of this post I will use the terms “OVDP” and “OVDI” interchangeably. Each term describes a specific example of one of the “OVDP era” programs, as it existed at a specific point in time. A particularly good analysis of the evolution of the “OVDP era” programs is found here – of interest only to those who want to “OVDP Historians“!)

On March 14, 2018 Professor William Byrnes reported that:

The Internal Revenue Service today announced it will begin to ramp down the 2014 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP) and close the program on Sept. 28, 2018. By alerting taxpayers now, the IRS intends that any U.S. taxpayers with undisclosed foreign financial assets have time to use the OVDP before the program closes.

“Taxpayers have had several years to come into compliance with U.S. tax laws under this program,” said Acting IRS Commissioner David Kautter. “All along, we have been clear that we would close the program at the appropriate time, and we have reached that point. Those who still wish to come forward have time to do so.”

Since the OVDP’s initial launch in 2009, more than 56,000 taxpayers have used one of the programs to comply voluntarily. All told, those taxpayers paid a total of $11.1 billion in back taxes, interest and penalties. The planned end of the current OVDP also reflects advances in third-party reporting and increased awareness of U.S. taxpayers of their offshore tax and reporting obligations.

I have heard it said:

The good thing about bad things is that they come to an end.

The bad thing about good things is that they come to an end.
Continue reading IRS Announces the end of #OVDP – Fascinating Reactions from the Tax Compliance Community

Comment #2 on “Think You Can Leave the U.S. – Think Again

 

 


 

“There is something fundamentally wrong with a country where compliance with its laws
forces you to (eventually) renounce your citizenship.”

 
This post is based on a comment by John Richardson. The comment is a response to
a post by laurainparis on the Thom Hartmann blogsite.

Laura, you conclude your last comment with:

“In asking his question Thom demonstrates the importance of how the United States treates it citizens when they leave the country. He demonstrates that this is an important question not just for Americans who live outside the US, but for ALL Americans, regardless of where they live. Because anyone who thinks they can leave the country, anyone who comforts themselves with this idea – anyone who asks the question “why don’t more Americans leave?” – they are deluding themselves. There is no freedom for Americans. Americans are not free to live normal lives outside the US, unless they are financially and emotionally prepared to STOP BEING AMERICANS (that is, renounce their citizenship). The word “ironic” doesn’t begin to describe the situation. The words “impossible” and “tragic” do.”

A tragic situation indeed.

What’s most interesting and tragic is that:

The ones who try the hardest to comply with the U.S. rules are the ones who ultimately are forced to renounce. I have assisted a very large number of people in renouncing their U.S. citizenship (and thereby ending U.S. jursidction over them). A high percentage of people I have assisted are people who:

1. Have tried for years to comply with the “alphabet soup” series of laws and reguations that govern the lives of Americans abroad; and

2. Realize that compliance is no longer possible.

The only remaining Americans abroad will be “noncompliant” Americans abroad

In the long run, the only Americans abroad who will be able to retain their U.S. citizenship are those who do NOT attempt compliance with these laws. There is something fundamentally wrong with a country where compliance with its laws forces you to (eventually) renounce your citizenship. This is a problem that has escalated over time.

U.S. citizens abroad are living under siege.

A wonderful expression of the evolution of the problem comes from Jackie Bugnion in
her submission
to the House Ways and Means Committee on Tax Reform. Writing in 2013 she said:

“In 1776, the United States declared independence because the mother country on the other side of the ocean was imposing taxes on the colonies for the benefit of England. Resentment started when Britain tried to enforce the Navigation Act after 1763. Resentment increased with the Stamp Act in 1765, a way for Britain to tax the colonies. The British Tea Act of 1773 led to the Tea Party and we all know the outcome – the American Revolution and independence crying out “no taxation without representation”.

Today, the estimated 7 million Americans resident abroad, of whom the majority are long-term overseas residents in high tax OECD countries, face a comparable situation. Their representation in Congress is non-existent in reality. Americans abroad amount to only 1 to 2% of the votes in any particular state; Congressmen and Senators have ignored their tax issues. The unjustified myth that Americans abroad are wealthy and disloyal restricts a rational approach to the problems because of political image issues.

Citizenship-based taxation (CBT) has existed ever since the federal income tax was adopted. Despite CBT being an anomaly involving double taxation, taxation of phantom gains and explicit tax code discrimination, it was grudgingly tolerated by Americans abroad because it was essentially voluntary, most often involved little tax or no U.S. tax liability and basically was not enforced. In particular, the FBAR filing requirement was so obscure that even the big four accounting firms were not aware of the filing obligation dating from 1970 and failed to inform Americans abroad of the need to file the FBAR.

Since 2001, a series of legislative events have radically changed the situation:

  • In 2001, the Patriot Act made anything foreign suspect, including Americans residing overseas.
  • In 2004, Congress, under the Jobs Act, drastically increased the FBAR civil and criminal penalties to confiscatory levels, creating a disguised form of taxation on assets held overseas.
  • In 2006 administration of the FBAR reports was transferred to the IRS for enforcement.
  • In 2006 the Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act (TIPRA) extended the Bush tax cuts and included a compensatory revenue raising provision that reduced the benefit of the foreign earned income exclusion, limited the foreign housing allowance and pushed Americans overseas into higher tax brackets, thereby increasing U.S. tax liabilities for many Americans abroad.
  • In 2008 the law relating to renunciation of U.S. citizenship was revised under Section 877A and introduced an Exit Tax on wealthy individuals (defined as “covered”). The law also provided that Americans who inherit from estates of former “covered” U.S. citizens are subject to U.S.
    inheritance tax with no exclusion. This outrageous discriminatory provision aims to discourage renunciation of citizenship, but in fact penalizes children of former U.S. citizens for an act they did not commit. In practice, it encourages the children to also renounce their U.S. citizenship.
  • In 2009 the IRS launched its initiative against tax evasion linked to foreign assets through the Overseas Voluntary Disclosure Programs and a threatening public relations campaign. While it justifiably targeted U.S. resident tax evaders, it simultaneously trapped Americans abroad who necessarily have foreign assets. The IRS’s one size fits all policy and bait and switch tactics led to abuses of Americans abroad which inspired sharp criticism from the National Taxpayer Advocate.
  • In 2010 FATCA was slipped into the HIRE bill with no debate in Congress and no cost/benefit
    analysis. FATCA aims to provide the door that closes the fiscal trap by requiring foreign financial institutions to report to the IRS on assets held overseas by U.S. persons. It effectively cuts off many Americans from foreign financial institutions which find it too onerous to maintain American clients. FATCA creates a barrier to free movement of capital and people.
  • In 2012 S.3457 proposed to grant the IRS the authority to have a U.S. passport cancelled or not issued if the IRS determined that the individual owed $50,000 or more U.S. tax.
  • In 2012 the Ex-patriot Act, S.3205, proposed to deny any “covered” expatriate re-entry into the United States, with retroactive effect for ten years prior to enactment of the law. The Reed
    Amendment of the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act already
    allows the United States to deny entry of former citizens into the United States.
  • In 2013, S.268 was introduced; it compounds difficulties created by FATCA.
  • In 2013 the Senate Finance Committee included in its tax reform recommendations a provision which would grant the IRS authority to cancel a U.S. passport for tax collection purposes.

This stream of legislation and proposals categorizes Americans abroad as suspected criminals seeking to escape U.S. taxes. Congress has outdone George III and has turned the United States into a fiscal prison, including legislation which is deemed anti-constitutional under the Fifth Amendment1 and is contrary to Articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.2
The foundation of the U.S. fiscal prison is citizenship-based taxation. Americans working and living abroad carry a ball and chain of dual taxation throughout their entire lives up to and including death.

Americans abroad already pay taxes in the country where they reside and receive governmental services.

The additional U.S. tax obligation creates inevitable incompatibilities and discrimination and even requires Americans abroad to break foreign exchange control laws to pay U.S. taxes.

A revolution among long-term overseas residents is now underway. Five years ago, Americans abroad never talked about renunciation of citizenship. Today, it is a common topic in the press and among the community abroad. For more and more individuals, renunciation is the only solution to an intolerable situation created by the U.S. imposing its laws beyond its borders. The United States is literally destroying the community of Americans abroad, which plays an essential role in representing U.S. interests and goodwill overseas. The United States is shooting itself in the foot.

While the absolute number of renunciations, currently around 2,000 a year, is insignificant compared to the average annual U.S. citizenship naturalizations of 680,000, renunciations have multiplied seven times over the last four years. So far we have seen only the tip of the iceberg if CBT remains in force.

Today’s situation leads to serious hidden prejudice for the United States. U.S. exports are far below where they should to be because citizenship-based discourages U.S. companies from deploying U.S. citizens overseas to sell U.S. products; the law makes them too expensive. U.S. tax law and FATCA create insurmountable barriers for small and medium-sized companies to establish beachheads abroad to develop exports. The loss represents millions of U.S. jobs, hundreds of billions of dollars of exports, billions of dollars of U.S. tax revenue, and an unsustainable trade and budget deficit. Americans married to a foreign spouse, who represent about a third of the Americans resident abroad, now hesitate to register their children born abroad with the U.S. Embassy. The hot thing among young adults in their twenties is to renounce U.S. citizenship; they are aware of the impossible web of U.S. regulations that restrict job opportunities and personal freedom. Pushing away the young generation of Americans abroad is an immense loss to the United States. In prior generations, many highly educated multi-lingual American children returned to the United States, founded companies and created jobs in the U.S.

Adopting RBT will stop this revolution immediately. RBT law needs to be drafted in the spirit to allow free movement of individuals to leave and return to the United States, to reinforce the competitiveness of Americans and the United States overseas, to provide a simple, non-penalizing transition to RBT for the community of Americans already overseas, to ensure that Americans abroad are not subject to FATCA and FBAR, to adapt existing bilateral tax treaties and enter into new tax treaties so that withholding tax rates on U.S. source income are reasonable and to ensure that Americans abroad who have the majority of their assets in the United States (retirement funds, pension funds, real estate) are not disadvantaged under RBT with regard to either income or estate taxes.

I thank you for the opportunity to comment and hold high hopes that your bi-partisan efforts will lead to the constructive tax reform so necessary for Americans residing abroad.

Sincerely yours,
Jacqueline Bugnion”

 

Comment on “Think You Can Leave U.S. – Think Again”

 


 

Recently an excellent article Think you can leave the US? Think again!
appeared on the Thom Hartmann site.

Written by an expat laurainparis , it is one of the best summaries/sources of information available. This post is based on a comment to the article.
 

by John Richardson

*******
 
Laura, this is one of the very best articles I have seen about the reality of this situation.

At the outset, I would like to explain that what most people call U.S. “citizenship-based taxation” (sounds kind of patriotic) is the U.S. policy of “imposing worldwide taxtion on the “tax residents” of other countries who do NOT live in the United States” (which is what it really is). In other words, let’s call it like it really is. It is NOT restricted to “so called Americans abroad”. The vast majority of people impacted by this are the citizen/residents of other countries.

You explain what it means when the United States claims the right to impose “worldwide taxation” on the residents of other countries. This of course means (as you know first hand) that a resident of France must pay U.S. tax on his/her French income. In addition (as you point out) the penalty regime imposed on assets that are local to the resident of France but “foreign” to the USA are draconian and completely idiotic.

I would also like to point out that although this discussion is frequently framed in terms of “taxation”, what this is really about is the United States exporting the Internal Revenue Code to other countries. This exports certain U.S. cultural values, reporting requirements and penalties on those who “commit personal finance outside the United States”. In other words, this is about much more than taxation.

There was an attempt to effect change, but it failed

The previous comment above by “PetLover” outlined and reinforced many of your points. PetLover also commented on the efforts made by various groups to effect legislative change. These efforts failed.

I would like to comment on why (I believe) these efforts failed and suggest what should be done on a “going forward” basis.

Why the efforts on the part of Americans abroad failed

On an organizational level the efforts were led by “Republicans Overseas” and “Americans Citizens Abroad – ACA”.

On an “individual level”, hundreds of individuals affected by this wrote to the House Ways and Means Committee in 2013 and the Senate Finance Committee in 2015. I mean 100s!! In fact the largest number (by far) of submissions on International Tax Reform came from Americans abroad. These submissions were acknowledged but basically ignored.

Tax “reform” (if you want to call it that) came to fruition on December 22, 2017. It included benefits for corporations, a few temporary benefits for U.S. resident individuals, no effort to improve the situation for Americans abroad and a possible worsening of the situation for Americans abroad who are self-employed.

There is a suggestion that the new “transition tax” applies to the small businesses owned by indivdual Americans abroad. If this is true, the U.S government would (if you believe the compliance community) confiscate approximately 20% of the retained earnings of small businesses owned by certain Americans abroad. If this is true (and I do NOT agree with the prevailing sentiment in the tax compliance community), it would mean that NOT only did Congress NOT assist Americans abroad but they made it even worse for them! In my view, the possible applicability of the “transition tax” is the final straw and those who can afford to renounce U.S. citizenship need to renounce “quick time”. But, back to the question, why did the efforts fail?

1. It’ s about the message – After all this time, most people do NOT make the distinction between FATCA and “citizenship-based taxation” (which is the U.S. tax policiy of taxing residents of other countries). Some were urging the repeal of FATCA. Some were urging a change in U.S tax policies. FATCA and tax policies are not the same thing. In fact, if the U.S were to change its policy of imposing taxation on the “tax residents” of other countries, FATCA would be far less of a problem. This is becaue those who resided in other countries would cease to be U.S. “tax residents”.

FATCA is a law that essentially “hunts” for people who are U.S. “tax residents”. It is U.S. tax law that imposes “worldwide taxation” on the tax residents of other countries. The former is an extreme irritation. It’s the latter that makes life untenable for “tax residents” of other countries.

The focus should have been on changing the U.S. tax policies and less on the repeal of FATCA. But, this requires that people NOT treat “FATCA” and U.S. tax laws as being the same.

So, the message needed to be: Stop imposing U.S. “worldwide taxation” on the “tax residents” of other countriese who do NOT live in the United States!

2. Partisanship – The inability of Americans abroad to behave in a non-partisan way. FATCA may be a partisan issue. But, the U.S. policy of imposing “worldwide taxation” on the “tax residents” of other countries is NOT partisan at all. It’s been around since the 1800s (as the article points out).

3. If you don’t ask for what you want, you won’t get what you want: Neither of the primary organizations (Republicans Overseas nor ACA) made the simple and understandable request that:

“The United States stop imposing “worldwide taxation” on the “tax residents” of other countries who do NOT live in the United States.”

How the organizations framed the issue:

Republicans Overseas: Did not focus on the issue of “tax residency”. It did NOT ask that the United States stop imposing taxation on the residents of other countries. Rather, it asked that the United States stop imposing taxation on certain kinds of income earned regardless of residence (asking for territorial taxation for individuals). Republicans Overseas asked that income earned outside the United States be exempt from U.S. taxation. The focus was NOT on “who” was subject to U.S. taxation, but rather on “what” income was subject to U.S. taxation.

American Citizens Abroad- ACA: Did not ask that the United States stop imposing taxation on the “tax residents” of other countries. Rather it asked that certain individuals, under certain circumstances should be exempted from “worldwide taxation” imposed on “nonresidents”. (Keep “citizenship-based taxation” with a carve out for certain people.)

Don’t get me wrong. I DO applaud the efforts of both organizations. It’s just that neither organization asked specifically for the only acceptable solution. What is that solution?

“The United States MUST stop imposing “worldwide taxation” on the “tax residents” of other countries” who do NOT live in the United States!”

Going forward …

I believe that the world (organizations, individuals, foreign governments, etc.) MUST unite behind this SIMPLE principle. No “carve outs”. No exceptions. No confusing the issues. No suggestions that change is complicated. This is the only solution that makes sense. Furthermore, by framing the issue in this way, the real issue is being discussed. It’s direct. It’s clear. It’s honest. It demonstrates how outrageous the situation is. It’s non-partisan. There is NOT a single individual, organization or foreign government that would disagree with this. Because the issue becomes non-partisan, the partisan fighting should stop. There will be no “divide and conquer”. The message will be clear.
 
Individuals must commit to the overall principle even if they are not individually impacted by all of the aspects of the Internal Revenue Code

For example:

– individuals who do NOT have mutual funds should not say: I don’t have mutual funds. This does not specifically affect me, therefore it is not a problem;

– individuals who have not had to pay capital gains taxes on the sale of their homes should not say: This does not specifically affect me, therefore this is not a problem.

– individuals who do not have small business corporations, should not say: This does not specifically affect me, therefore this is not a problem.
– those individuals who identify strongly as U.S. citizens living abroad, should recognize the impact that U.S. tax policies have on their country of residence. They should not say, this doesn’t affect me, therefore this is not a problem.

– those individuals who are not impacted by the S. 877A “Exit Tax” should not say: If I renounce citizenship, I will not have to pay an “Exit Tax”. They should not say, I don’t have to pay the “Exit Tax” and because it doesn’t affect me, it is not a problem.

Until individuals impacted by outrageous and unjust U.S. policies, unite and support the principle, regardless of how these policies affect them individually, there will be no united voice (only isolated pockets of discontent).

Finally, U.S. citizens living outside the United States are going to have to do some “soul searching” and ask themselves a simple question:

Are they “free” individuals that are entitled to a level of dignity and human rights that individuals in other first world democracies are entitled to? Or are they satisfied to be Americans – essentially the property of the United States government. In other words, are they satisfied to have the lower level of human rights and dignity that are allowed to Americans. Sorry, in the 21st century, the United States is NOT a leader in human rights. Other countries have long since passed the USA in that regard.

The author of this superb article asks:

Q. Why should U.S. residents care? The answer is simple.

A. Because all U.S. residents need to understand their future is to see how the U.S. Government treats its fellow citizens abroad. Their only crime is to have pursued a life (often attempting to sell U.S. products) outside the United States!

 

What is Tax Residency? – Episode 1 with John Richardson & Olivier Wagner

 

 


 
The issue of tax residence has gained so much attention since the “crackdown” on non-resident US Persons began in 2009. It is commonly understood that you pay taxes to the country/state/city-town that you reside in. (For an interesting comparison of differences between countries please see this incredible list compiled by the OECD). It simply does not occur to anyone that they would be required to pay taxes to a foreign government.

However, the United States claims jurisdiction due to citizenship. One does not even have to have touched foot in the U.S., according to U.S. law. Of course, due to the viciousness of the U.S. “FBAR Fundraiser” many people began to resist whether of anger or fear.

Not much has changed* , in spite of all the factors that have contributed to this debacle (and debacle it is, what could one expect when a country tries to take what is someone else’s, based on an idea of fake residence?).

For a detailed discussion concerning the determination of tax residence and related factors, please see here.

In this interview, John Richardson speaks with Olivier Wagner about tax residency and how a seemingly simple concept has become so terribly important in the 21st century.

Listen here

 

 

The Attributes of Immoral Laws or How the Internal Revenue Code Applies to Non-Resident Taxpayers

 

cross-posted from Tax Connections

After the latest IRS Medic podcast, Tax Connections published a post by Anthony Parent.

Perhaps the most unifying statement of the post is:

A part of our interview that really stands out to me is when Attorney Richardson referred to the current system of global taxation and compliance as immoral.

John Richardson answers :

As a person who lives “offshore”, and attempts to assist individuals who are “tax residents” of other countries (Canada and others), I am a keen observer of the damage (perhaps “carnage”) that the Internal Revenue Code inflicts on people who do not live in the United States.

As a law student I had little interest in the philosophy of law. As a person who sees how the extra-territorial application of laws impacts the lives of ordinary people, I recently had the following memory.

Many years ago I was introduced to Professor Lon Fuller’s (of Harvard law school fame) book titled “The Morality of Law”. In Chapter 2 he describes “The Morality That Makes Law Possible”. It is a fascinating and relevant read. He identifies the following (among others) as characteristics of immoral laws:

– retroactive laws
– laws that lack clarity
– contradictory laws
– laws requiring the impossible
– laws that are not constant through time – laws where the law is applied in a manner that is inconsistent with it’s intent (FBAR anyone?)

Professor Fuller was writing in the early 1970s. Looks to me as though the application of the Internal Revenue Code to “tax residents” of other countries, was specifically designed to include all of these immoral attributes.

Funny how rereading Professor Fuller’s book many years (at least one generation) later reminded me of the great American writer Mark Twain:

“When I was 14 my father was so ignorant I couldn’t stand to with him. By the time I turned 21, I was amazed at how much my father had learned in 7 years.”
 

Imposing Tax & Reporting Obligations on the Citizens & Residents of Other Countries is Immoral

Latest Podcast Guest: Tax Attorney John Richardson

 

cross-posted from Tax Connections

After the latest IRS Medic podcast, Tax Connections published a post by Anthony Parent.

Perhaps the most unifying statement of the post is:

A part of our interview that really stands out to me is when Attorney Richardson referred to the current system of global taxation and compliance as immoral.

John Richardson answers :

With the respect to the following excerpt as evidence of the “immorality”:

“Imposes compliance obligations on tax residents of other countries.”

Notice that that says “compliance” obligations. This includes but is certainly not limited to “tax obligations”.

The Internal Revenue Code is written so that EVERY INDIVIDUAL in the world EXCEPT “NONRESIDENT ALIENS” is required to comply with the Internal Revenue Code in its entirety. This requirement is without regard to where you live in the world. So, in determining how the Internal Revenue Code applies to an individual, one would simply ask whether the person is a “nonresident alien”. If not, the the Internal Revenue Code applies in its full force. This means that the full force of the Internal Revenue Code applies to individuals who are citizens and residents of other countries who just happen to have been born in the United States. (U.S. citizenship is automatically conferred on those who were “Born In The USA”).

Think of it. The U.S. has actually exported the Internal Revenue Code around the world. The Internal Revenue Code is used to impose direct taxation on people who are BOTH citizens and “tax residents” of other countries! Note that is the Internal Revenue Code (in its full force) that applies.

Whether you are a seasoned tax professional or doing your first tax return, you know full well that that compliance with the Internal revenue code requires much more than the payment of U.S. tax. It requires compliance with a range of penalty laden and intrusive reporting obligations. It also punishes those who “commit personal finance abroad” and/or attempt financial and retirement planning outside the United States.

As mentioned in the video, all tax systems are expressions of the cultural values of the country. So, the application of the Internal Revenue Code to other countries, means that the U.S. (via its tax system) is actually exporting and attempting to impose U.S. cultural values (or lack thereof) on the citizens and residents of other countries. The video used the example of imposing the Internal Revenue Code on residents of Muslim countries. This is a big problem that can lead only to trouble. (See for example a recent article written by Virginia La Torre Jeker that suggests conflicts between the Internal Revenue Code and Sharia law.)

The United States and Eritrea are the only two countries in the world that attempt to impose “worldwide taxation” on the residents of other countries. Interestingly, Eritrea imposes only an excise tax. It does not export its reporting requirements and create “fake income”. It is a far more gentle system than that imposed by the United States.

Frankly, to compare the Eritrea to the United States (in this regard), is an insult to Eritrea.