NB: STAY TUNED – a 7-part video on the Transition Tax, with
John Richardson & Karen Alpert will be posted in the next couple of days.

 
 
NB: For anyone with time to spare/the interest/needing specifics to make the point regarding the “intention” of the law, here are some of the relevant House/Senate hearings and/or documents:

Oct 3, 2017 Full Committee Hearing -Senate Finance

Nov 6 – 9, 2017 H W & M Markup
Nov 13, 2017 Open Executive Session to Consider an Original Bill Entitled the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act Sessions also continued Nov 14, 15, 16 with videos at the page)
Supporting Document Markup – Senate Finance Committee

*******

Another day, another set of articles and comments where the #TransitionTax & #GILTI are being stuffed down the throats of expatriates who have their own small corporations. The proliferation of articles on this issue, all proclaiming the U.S. can now inflict a deeper cut into the retirement savings of non-residents, is infuriating. The first two articles at least expressed the idea that these provisions might affect non-resident U.S. taxpayers.

Max Reed , posted on November 3, 2017:

As part of this transition, the new rules impose a one-time 12% tax on income that was deferred in a foreign corporation. Although perhaps unintentional, since US citizens will not benefit from a territorial model, the new rules impose a 12% tax on any cash that has been deferred since 1986.

Kevyn Nightengale, posted on November 10, 2017 (I have not included the updated comments because this is what we saw at that time):

This provision was not designed to catch individuals (I think), and certainly not Americans abroad – they are collateral damage. it’s incredibly unfair.

When I saw the House version, I expected that individuals would be exempted after a sober second (or third) thought. Or at least individuals living abroad would be exempted. But seeing a parallel provision in the Senate version makes me expect the worst.

Seems fairly obvious that the biggest clue that the #TransitionTax IS NOT meant to apply to small CFC’s is that they are not “transitioned” from a worldwide system to a territorial one. This is so basic it is hard to believe nobody just calls these people out on this. How many tax professionals watched all of the House/Senate hearings? Many of us did, all hoping to hear that the move to territorial would include individuals; or at least some mention of us. There simply was nothing to suggest that this tax applied to anyone except large multi-national corporations.This provides the context in which the law was conceived. It should be considered just as thoroughly as the plain reading that professionals claim catches expats in the net. Just exactly who is really making the law here?

Now, on to the two prominent articles of the week. The Financial Post has U.S. tax reform to bring double taxation to some Canadians by Julius Melnitzer. Mr. Melnitzer is well-known for making huge distortions of reality. Canadians are familiar with the fact that he perpetuated “the biggest personal loan fraud in Canadian banking history.”

The biggest personal loan fraud in Canadian banking history was the work of a wealthy, respectable London, Ontario lawyer, Julius Melnitzer. When he left the board of Vanguard Trust, a small firm with which his law firm had been dealing, he just happened to take a copy of the corporate seal that Vanguard had used, among other purposes, to attest to the validity of certain forms which it issued in lieu of custom-designed share certificates. Melnitzer’s first trick was to create fake shares by simply typing in the share amounts and stamping the certificates with the company seal. He created five certificates representing a total of almost 900,000 shares. Then he used these “shares” as collateral for personal lines of credit. He also forged financial statements of a company that his father had founded, in which Melnitzer owned 20% of the shares, along with a pledge from the company that it would guarantee Melnitzer’s debts. Using the Vanguard shares and the phoney loan guarantees Melnitzer received a total of $5.6 million in lines of credit from five major Canadian banks. The scam went on for years. Each time a bank would start to press him for repayment, he would threaten to take his business elsewhere. He would also request a letter of recommendation from one bank, then use it to obtain funds from its competitors. A few years later, the banks pressed him to either pay up or come up with better collateral. Emboldened by the fact that no one had questioned the veracity of the forged documents, he decided to do the second.

Melnitzer went to a small local printing company that his law firm had done business with for years. He told them he was representing a client charged with using forged stock certificates to get loans at banks. He wanted to prove in court that printing technology had improved so much, even a small shop like theirs could do a credible job. When the company agreed, he ordered single shares of five blue-chip companies in the name of his daughter to avoid suspicion. He then altered them to put in his own name and bumped up the amounts until they had a face value of about $30 million. Not only did the great majority of the financial institutions he dealt with accept these in the place of the initial collateral, but some even significantly increased his line of credit. Alas, when an officer at National became suspicious about how Melnitzer’s personal wealth had risen so quickly, the officer asked bank experts to inspect the stock certificates. Melnitzer was arrested three days later.

Further:

Julius Melnitzer, a London, Ont., lawyer, was brilliant in the courtroom and had a stable of powerful clients, including some of the province’s biggest landlords. Thanks to a tip from an observant middle manager at a bank, the police discovered Melnitzer had printed up more than $100 million worth of stock certificates bearing blue-chip names like Exxon Corp. and used them to secure around $67 million in loans from several banks. He also bilked several friends out of more than $14 million by getting them to invest in a bogus property deal in Singapore. In 1992, Melnitzer pleaded guilty to 43 counts of fraud. He was sentenced to nine years in jail but was out on day parole after a couple of years and full parole in 1995. Melnitzer is now a well-known and respected Canadian legal affairs writer.

For Mr. Melnitzer’s point of view see here.

So why am I making such a big deal out of Mr. Melnitzer’s background? Irony. Hypocrisy. Disgraceful. Despicable. Along with government and the tax compliance community, the media is guilty of presenting only one side of the picture, consistently. We are labelled as “tax cheats” “scofflaws” and so on for not filing pieces of paper we knew nothing about. This man, who cheated banks out of $67 million, his friends out of $14 million, is promoting a questionable point of view that seriously affects the lives of millions of expats. Sorry, I cannot consider him a “well-known and respected Canadian legal affairs writer.”

The article quotes Roy Berg on the Transition Tax issues and Paul Seraganian on estate tax issues. An example of the Transition Tax issue:
 
A doctor who is a dual citizen practising in Canada,
with $2M of accumulated earnings in a private Canadian corporation,
would have a one-time U.S. tax liability of $300,000 this year

Roy Berg, director, U.S. tax law, Moodys Gartner
 

“A one-time tax liability of $300,000.” Incredible. Just a “fact.” Doesn’t matter at all how immoral this tax is in the first place. Doesn’t matter that this likely represents the doctor’s retirement savings. He/she likely worked very hard to earn that.This is a real-life person, not a hugely wealthy individual such as a corporate CEO who makes far more than $2 million a year in bonuses alone. It’s not small potatoes to confiscate that from a non-resident “U.S.” person. A Canadian citizen and resident. It is unbelievable that anyone, in any country would simply accept that U.S law applies outside it’s borders. It seems to me that “tax professionals” need to think carefully about what they are doing, who they are hurting and their role in what is truly an amoral regime at best and an immoral regime at worst. And people affected by this should think long and hard about parting with such amounts. I sincerely hope renunciations will be off the charts next year. One can at least be certain that “unofficial” renunciations, people “just walking with their feet” (as in non-compliance) will continue. There is a limit to the value of anything and U.S. citizenship is quickly becoming something non-residents simply cannot afford to keep.

An excellent comment by Karen Alpert on this article:

It is patently clear that Congress was not thinking about the impact of tax reform on non-resident US citizens. None of the discussion in the lead-up to tax reform, or in the committee hearings, indicated that Congress intended to punish the citizens and residents of other countries who happen to be claimed by the US as citizens. Nothing written by the IRS so far has indicated that they believe this applies to non-resident individuals – every example in the IRS notices has specifically looked at corporate shareholders. The only indication that this might apply to non-resident individual shareholders is from the tax compliance industry that stands to earn a large amount of fees on attempts to comply with this extra-territorial over-reach by the US.

If applied to non-resident individuals, the “transition” tax would be a pre-emptive grab at the tax base of Canada and every other country where US emigrants and Accidental Americans are living. The “deferred foreign income” that would be confiscated is money that was never subject to US tax, and is only claimed by the US because of a fictional “deemed repatriation”. Think about what that really means – the US is pretending that US emigrants are “repatriating” funds back to a country where they don’t live, and that they may no longer really identify with. The only good that could possibly come from this is the long overdue realisation that US taxation of the citizens and residents of other countries is contrary to the national interests of those countries and contrary to normal international practice.

The comments section is still open; please go over and make your views known.

**********

The other major article this week is at the Financial Times.

You can see the article on the

citizenshiptaxation facebook group

 
Financial Times
Americans abroad hit by Trump’s new repatriation tax rules
by Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson in New York – FEBRUARY 4, 2018

John Richardson comments:

(A previous comment of John’s is here . )

@Mitchell @WBY @Brian Lillis @Monte

@Mitchell gives us an excellent description of the reality of this situation.

We are dealing with a situation where the “tax compliance community” says: “Resistance is futile” and the reality is “compliance is impossible”.

What will be people do? Those who have long term relationships with “tax compliance people” are probably in the worst situation. They will be under enormous pressure to transfer their pensions (in reality this is how these corps are often used) to the IRS. These people will be confused, frightened and “easy prey”for the amoral individuals who populate the industry. I saw one explanation of the “transition tax” from a highly regarded tax firm that noted that they must search their client base for “victims”.

Notably, this is also taking place against a backdrop where VERY FEW “tax professionals” even understand how this (so called) tax works and how to work with it (or against it).

It is laughable that the only way any individual could even know that this exists is because of the combined efforts of the media and the “tax compliance industry” (frankly the last group of people I would trust).

I would also like to stress that members of the tax compliance community do NOT know more about this than the individuals impacted. Sure, they may be able to calculate the tax better (assuming that it applies to Americans abroad at all.) But their insight into this is limited by the thought (if you want to call it a thought):

The law is the law – the intent of the law was irrelevant – the unintended consequences are irrelevant.

The unfortunate truth is this:

People are going to have to choose between following the advice from their tax professional that “the law is the law” and retaining their life savings.

It will be interesting to see what happens.

 
 

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.

 

cross-posted from Tax Connections

UPDATE February 2,2018
For more on how an expat can have higher U.S. taxes than a comparably situated Homeland American, please see here.
 
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”:

“Taxes due are usually nothing because of the foreign income exclusion and foreign tax credits or incredibly high because of that the type of income is one that was disfavored by Congress.”

Two general thoughts:

1. It is true that many Americans abroad do not have to send a check to the IRS to pay U.S. taxes. This does NOT necessarily mean that U.S. tax is not owing. Remember that FTCs are a mechanism to pay taxes that ARE ACTUALLY OWED. One pays a tax that would otherwise be owed by using the FTC. What is astonishing about the situation of Americans abroad is that:

Absent the tax mitigation provisions afforded by the FTC rules and the FEIE (“Foreign Earned Income Exclusion”), their U.S. tax bill might be higher than the tax bill of a comparably situated Homeland American!! In other words, the rules of the Internal Revenue Code operate so that Americans abroad (because they have a non-U.S. financial footprint) will have higher U.S. taxes than a comparably situated Homeland American.

A good example of this would be the sale of a principal residence. The fact that their mortgage is in foreign currency frequently means that Americans abroad would pay a tax on the sale of the principal residence even if there is no capital gain on the property.

2. Americans abroad are subject to all kinds of things that I would call fake income. Again this is due to the fact that they live outside the United States. I define “fake income” as income that is specifically created where there really isn’t any. Examples would include:

– phantom gains on foreign currency transactions (see the example of the discharge of the mortgage above)

– Subpart F income because they carry on business through small business corporations that are in their country of residence (but foreign to the USA)

– PFIC “taxation” (interpreted to apply to non-U.S. mutual funds)

– the consequences of using the “married filing separately” category (because they are frequently married to non-U.S. citizens)

– more expensive divorce (because of the rules governing marriage to a non-U.S. citizen)

– and probably more

The bottom line is this:

U.S. citizens who attempt to live outside the USA will be punished for it by the Internal Revenue Code.

Many of you may remember this outstanding post (below) from the early days……when the incessant torment was massive fear of “#FBAR penalties.” Compounded by #OVDP, (or #OVDI in 2011); FAQ35, minnows, whales, LCU’s, FATCA, DATCA, GATCA, FATCAnatics, JustMe, Opting out, in lieu of FBAR penalty etc ad nauseum. People who were minnows, tax compliant but did not know about FBAR being fined $75,000; Just Me engaging the Taxpayer Advocate to get his ridiculous fine of $172k lowered to “only” $25k. Those were days of real terror. Now time has passed, those who want to be compliant can do Streamlined, many have seen they can remain under the radar. The strong possibility of Tax Reform had everyone feeling “safe” again (relatively speaking). About the last thing expected, was that things would get worse. Well guess what, they did.

Anyone who owns a small corporation is being told a one time transition tax is part of the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Now this is a very curious thing as not one word was said about the expat situation during the House or Senate sessions; all of the talk focused on changing the status of large non-resident corporations to a territorial model. I actually watched a very good portion and listened carefully for any mention of us and for any information about this tax. It was clearly concerned only with these large corporations. How many compliance people watched? Can the intent of the law be determined only from a strict reading without any regard for context? The transition tax was a way of the US extracting something from large multinational corporations’ earnings that would never be repatriated. This is the context, the situation the law was meant to address. Shortly after the first version of the bill was passed by the House, the first Canadian tax lawyer wrote that this same tax would apply to smaller corporations, single-shareholder owners in spite of the fact that they will not be able to transition to a territorial system after this “tax” is paid. An excellent discussion took place at Brock between USCitizenAbroad & Karen.

This is like a repeat of a very bad movie, one which we all should take a close look at.

Like the OVDP, expats are at risk of confiscation of a considerable portion of wealth based on a non-event.

And like the OVDP, the enforcers will not be the IRS but the cross-border tax compliance community.

Remember how strongly OVDP was pushed, due to the fact there would be no criminal charges? It was revoltingly referred to as an “amnesty program.” It was a program for criminals, and was not intended for people who had in no way, consciously chosen to omit filing an FBAR. Virtually no one had ever heard of it and it had never been unforced prior to the Swiss bank debacle.

How about all the hoopla about “quiet disclosures” which were misunderstood (misrepresented?) as amounting to a first disclosure filed without going through the program/without anything to flag it as new (i.e., likely delinquent for FBAR). As I recall, a real “quiet” disclosure was amending a previous return without calling the IRS’ attention to it.

As has been said, the law says “you have to file” it does not say you have to go through the OVDP/OVDI. Fear of being labelled a “quiet disclosure” stopped people from following the actual law, of just entering the system. There was no way many of us would have entered OVDP, even without the FactSheet 2011-13 (which did not say that one had to enter OVDP).

Yet the tax compliance community pushed OVDP and many people who did not belong there went through 2+ years of pure hell plus penalties. And later, so many lamented the fact that it was clear OVDP was not for minnows………….However, the fact remains that the actions of the compliance community at the very least, established themselves as “IRS agents-at-large.” Many feel the influence of the tax compliance community amounts to actually making the law, rather than deferring to what Congress passed (case in point – the “retroactivity” of 877A).

If it were not for the tax community, nobody would have noticed anything in the bill to suggest this idea that small foreign corporations (who do NOT have shareholders resident in the U.S.)would be required to pay the Transition Tax. No one would ever have imagined nor come to the conclusion that this portion of the law would apply to them. While we wait for some kind of indication from Congress as to their intention, the compliance community continues to engage in an education campaign; more and more articles are appearing. Some make reference to the fact it is not entirely clear whether it applies or not yet all are claiming it does. In other words, this is absolutely a creation of the compliance community.

Are we about to see a repeat of the tax compliance community insisting the transition tax applies which will cost people many thousands of dollars just to compute the actual retained earnings figure and an obscene amount of tax that will transition expats nowhere? Let’s not forget that for the 5 countries with Mutual Collection Agreements (Canada, Denmark, France, Sweden & the Netherlands), people who were citizens at the time the tax was incurred do not at this time, have any reason to fear.

As far as we know, RO was unable to get clarification from the Congress before the bill was passed. Guidance from the IRS only gives examples for large corporations. Guidance also here

And while we assume penalties for non-compliance will be threatened, has anyone actually seen, read or heard of anything specific?

Will this be the “straw that broke the camel’s back?” How many will refuse to turn over their pensions to the IRS? Where will this end?

It is still clear that the best protection is renouncing U.S.citizenship.

More Information

********************
The Conscience of a Lawyer and “The FBAR Fundraiser”

Cross posted from RenounceUScitizenship.

Having a license to practise law (bar admission) does not a lawyer make.

Admission to the Bar, gives an individual the legal right to conduct oneself as  a lawyer. A lawyer operates within a specific construct of ethics and morality. The American Bar Association Model Rules of Professional Conduct make it clear that

A lawyer has an obligation to the client that is more important than loyalty to any other person or entity. This principle is made clear in Rule 1.7 of  The American Bar Association Model Rules of Professional Conduct.  Rule 1.7 clarifies that a lawyer should not act for a client if there exists any conflict of interest. It reads as follows: Continue reading “The Conscience of a Lawyer and “The FBAR Fundraiser” Revisited”

 


 
This comment from the Isaac Brock Society makes basic points to be made with regard to the proposed “Transition Tax” in both the House and Senate Tax Reform Bills.
 
Every expat who knows there are private individuals who are incorporated in their country should be contacting relevant government representatives giving them the information that U.S. Tax Reform may impose a “transition tax.” As it is widely surmised that this is an unintended consequence, now is the time to bring it to the forefront and create awareness/resistance to this. We have appealed to the U.S. government to change the relevant sections (or give some clarification); if this does not occur, we cannot allow the compliance community to decide what the law is. In the past this HAS occurred with regard to the treatment of PFICs, applying the Exit Tax retroactively to people who renounced prior to 2008 and putting “minnows” into OVDP/OVDI. Time to stand up and say “NO!”
 
The following points would work for any country; just change the numbers in point 1 and “Canadian” to your country (generally) and the ministers’ names to yours.
 
1. There are approximately one million Canadian citizens who are resident in Canada and are also U.S. citizens (mostly Canada/U.S. dual citizens – with the U.S. citizenship conferred on them because of a U.S.
birthplace).

2. It’s safe to say that a significant number of these “dual citizens” are “small business owners”, who carry on business through Canadian Controlled Private Corporations.

3. It is possible and likely that many of these “small business” owners have (since 1986 or the date of incorporation) accumulated earnings.
These accumulated earnings operate as their “retirement pensions” ( a fact that has been widely discussed with Finance Minister Morneau and Prime Minister Trudeau as part of their discussions on Canadian tax reform).

4. The United States imposes taxation on individuals based ONLY on U.S.citizenship (even if the person lives in Canada). The United States is the only advanced country in the world to impose “citizenship-based taxation”. The United States is the ONLY country in the world that BOTH:
1. Confers citizenship based on birth in the country AND 2. imposes “worldwide taxation” based on citizenship.

5. Many of the Canadian Controlled Private Corporations owned by Canadians with dual citizenship are deemed under the Internal Revenue Code of the United States, to be “U.S. shareholders”, of what are called “controlled foreign corporations”. To repeat, from a U.S. perspective the Canadian shareholders of Canadian Controlled Private Corporations, may be considered to be the “U.S. shareholders” of “Controlled Foreign Corporations”.

6. The United States is in the middle of a process of amending the Internal Revenue Code. It appears that both the House and Senate versions of the bill, include a provision that would require the “U.S. shareholder” of a “controlled foreign corporation” to include directly in his/her personal income, a percentage of the total amount of the “retained earnings” of the “controlled foreign corporation” (which could well be a Canadian Controlled Private Corporation”). This percentage would be based on the amount of the retained earnings which have accumulated since 1986. See for example Sec. 14103 of
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

(See the section starting on page 375 with Sec. 14103 beginning on page391.)

7. Although it is not completely clear that this provision would apply to the Canadian shareholders of Canadian Controlled Private Corporations, the “literal reading of Sec. 14103 suggests that it may.

Certainly there have been (and this is where the danger lies) some tax professionals who are adamant that this would apply.

Conclusion:

It is extremely important that this danger be understood by all “stake holders” in Canada. This would include Finance Minister Morneau and members of the small business community in general.

Some discussion of this problem may be found here.

.

 

 

This post is based upon a comment of USCitizenAbroad at Brock. It makes a very important point that all of us should keep in mind generally but especially if the Tax Reform Bill passes with the insidious clause concerning taxing the retained earnings of small CFCs (which really isn’t INTENDED but………..)
 
USCitizenAbroad says:
November 18, 2017 at 8:55 am
 

@Plaxy quoting @Badger writes:

badger: “What is with the reverence for or tacit acceptance of US
law on Canadian sovereign autonomous soil?”

Exactly. Why accept US law, US/Canadian duals residing in Canada?

Stop filing and renounce.

__________________________________________________________________

After having watched the proceedings at both the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committees, I can say with absolute confidence that:

– the members of the these committees don’t even understand how these provisions affect Homeland Americans

– have no consciousness that the USA has “citizenship-based taxation”
that would apply to people living outside the United States

– do NOT understand the technicalities of how “territorial taxation” for corporations is being implemented

– have no understanding that there is a “transition tax” and/or that it could possibly apply to the owners of Small Business Corporations living outside the United States.

There is no possibility that the “transition tax” could possibly have been intended to apply to the small business corporations owned by Canadian citizens resident in Canada.

BOTH Mr. Reed and Mr. Nightingale state their views that the application of the “transition tax” to CCPCs is NOT intended; but

The plain wording of Sec. 4004 (by making the statute apply to individual U.S. persons as defined in the subpart F rules which reference back to the definitions in Sec. 7701) means that it would apply to any U.S. citizen (regardless of where he has “escaped to”) anywhere in the world.

Please remember that the U.S. legislators:

– equate citizenship with residence (didn’t you know that a citizen is a resident and a resident may or may not be a citizen)

– don’t know there is a world beyond the USA

– are therefore NOT thinking at all about the application of U.S. law outside the USA

Also, again I make the point that the Internal Revenue Code does NOT anywhere explicitly mandate “citizenship-based taxation” – referring only to “individuals” and then allowing the inference that “individuals”
include “citizens”. My point is only that the application of U.S. tax laws outside the USA is not something that is even on the radar in Washington.

Also, to the extent that U.S. laws impact Americans abroad, they are NOT enforced directly by the USA anyway. The USA has downloaded enforcement to the banks and tax compliance professionals. Think about it this way:

FATCA is enforced NOT by the USA directly but by the banks. Yes, your friendly neighborhood bank is a FATCA enforcement agent.

U.S. CBT is enforced ONLY by the compliance industry. If you stay away from the tax professionals you will not be within their “enforcement area” … The ONLY people with U.S. tax problems are those who have attempted U.S. tax compliance. Leaving aside the complicated legal/moral/ethical issues of “to comply or not to comply” (tax compliance people are amoral) the individuals who have been brutalized are those who have attempted compliance. The people who must renounce are those who have complied. Those Americans abroad who want to retain U.S. citizenship do so by NOT attempting compliance.

So, where are we now?

The early commenters from the compliance industry are saying: Bad luck, although NOT intended, this new and exciting instrument of confiscation applies to you. Okay, they should also add to their “news bulletin”
that: Because they are compliance “professionals” that they will NOT sign the returns of anybody who does NOT pay this tax.

This poses an interesting question:

What is a poor compliant person, dependent on his tax professional, doesn’t believe this tax applies to him and needs professional help to do? Completing his return (that form 5471 is not easy for an individual to do). Will you let your friendly neighborhood tax professional force you to turn your retirement fund over to the IRS?

The question it seems to me is this:

Is there a duty to obey a law that clearly was NEVER intended to
apply to you and can be construed to apply to you ONLY because of
the literal wording? That is the question.

This is the question that should have been asked in some other interesting contexts which include:

Were the PFIC rules really intended to apply to the Canadian mutual funds owned by Canadian residents?

Were the S. 877A Exit Rules intended to apply to those who clearly relinquished prior to 2004?

Were OVDP and OVDI appropriate compliance options for Americans abroad who have lived for many years outside the USA?

Were the CFC rules intended to apply to Americans abroad, etc. …

Are you going to allow your assets to be confiscated yet again?

When the “Call Of The Condor” becomes the “Law Of The Land”

Neither the IRS nor Congress really know how these laws apply (or not) outside the USA. What happens is that the compliance industry becomes the single most important vehicle for determining how these laws are to be interpreted. Once enough tax people start behaving in a certain way, the others are sure to follow. Put it another way: In general (and I am not referring to either Mr. Reed or Mr. Nightingale) tax professionals know less about this than you do. So, if you call a tax professional and
ask:

“Does the Sec. 4004 “transition tax” apply to Canadian business
corps” they will just ask their associate”. Yes, it really is that
bad. So, I would NOT rely on “tax professionals” to give you good
advice on how these laws might or might not apply to Americans
abroad.

But, to get back to my original question:

Is there a duty to obey a law that clearly was NEVER intended to
apply to you and can be construed to apply to you ONLY because of
the literal wording? That is the question.

I expect that different people will have different answers to this question. But, I don’t think that the “tax professionals” are worth asking. After all, they can’t sign your returns unless you comply with their interpretation of the law.

I have previously explored this issue in the following comments (which I am including here so that I can find them again later):

http://isaacbrocksociety.ca/2017/11/02/here-is-the-2017-u-s-house-tax-cuts-and-jobs-act-bill-does-it-help-or-harm-us/comment-page-9/#comment-8045126

http://isaacbrocksociety.ca/2017/11/02/here-is-the-2017-u-s-house-tax-cuts-and-jobs-act-bill-does-it-help-or-harm-us/comment-page-9/#comment-8045126

http://isaacbrocksociety.ca/2017/11/02/here-is-the-2017-u-s-house-tax-cuts-and-jobs-act-bill-does-it-help-or-harm-us/comment-page-14/#comment-8049389

isaacbrocksociety.ca/2017/11/02/here-is-the-2017-u-s-house-tax-cuts-and-jobs-act-bill-does-it-help-or-harm-us/comment-page-25/#comment-8053507

And on the compliance choice …

http://isaacbrocksociety.ca/2017/11/02/here-is-the-2017-u-s-house-tax-cuts-and-jobs-act-bill-does-it-help-or-harm-us/comment-page-16/#comment-8049549

 

It appears that we are very likely at a breaking point in this intolerable situation faced by expatriates as regards U.S. application of citizenship-based taxation. Tax reform does not happen often. It is critical that relief for expats occur in the current legislation. Many of us simply will not be around in 30 years for the next shift. It will be completely unacceptable if there is no transition (at the very least) to territorial taxation for individuals. Some people may be forced at this point to renounce if only to put a stop on future tax liability. Some will not choose to become compliant simply because it is expensive, they have no ties to the U.S., no intent to go there, etc.

In addition, there is a very dangerous aspect (the “transition tax”) that appears in both the House and Senate bills; it is arguable that it does NOT apply to small corporations owned by US citizens residing outside the United States. The biggest danger here, is that it may remain unclear. We have seen what has happened in a number of situations when this is the case. Some examples are:

1) People who relinquished citizenship decades ago (and who do not have a CLN) have been told they are still U.S citizens. Not by the State Department, not even by the IRS. And not even by the banks per sé. It is the position of many members of the tax compliance community. This is completely unacceptable and no expat should accept such a conclusion without investigating the citizenship aspects of the situation.

2) Accidentals have been told the same thing; they are Americans and must become tax compliant. Again, not directly by the US government (as in “coming after them) but by members of the tax compliance community. This is also unacceptable and no one should become compliant without a complete examination of whether it is in his/her best interests (or not).

3) People who did NOT belong in the OVDP/OVDI programs were put there by tax professionals with hideous and tragic results. The law says one has to file, nowhere does the law say one had to enter one of those programs. If anybody should have known that, it would be the tax compliance community.

4)The IRS has not given a ruling on whether or not 877A is to be applied retroactively. This is another area where tax compliance professionals have decided it is the law. This is definitely NOT in the best interest of anyone renouncing their citizenship and most definitely should not be applied to anyone who renounced/relinquished before it became law.

5)One of the most egregious and limiting situations involves owning foreign mutual funds. There is nothing to support the practice of treating non-US mutual funds as PFICs. Again, guess who insists on this treatment?

All of the above points are as unacceptable as is a lack of change for Americans abroad in tax reform. We have had enough.
 
THIS HAS TO STOP
 
We, as a community, have to make a conscious decision that what they say does not apply to us, is not in our best interests. The application of U.S. law outside of its borders is highly questionable, and should not override the laws of the countries we are residents of. (The IGAs do not represent approval/acceptance of US policy; they are merely proof of what happens when the US threatens to destroy the economies of other nations). “It’s U.S. law.” This is always the argument used to justify application of these ridiculous actions, often with absurd results. Penalties, FATCA “outing” us, application of the Reed Amendment (or worse, the ExPatriot Act if it ever passes)- all can be quite frightening if applied as the tax community claims. Yet there is nothing to suggest that these things are realities. The only people who have been harmed by these things are the ones who are/or tried to comply.

It is time to resist not only the idea that U.S. law should run our lives but also, that the tax community should determine what courses of action we should take. We need to be consistent in our message on this, on FB, in tweets, blogs etc. No more. No more. No more…………

**********

Shortly before the House of Representatives released the Markup for H.R. 1 a Canadian tax lawyer Max Reed authored an article (also here ) claiming that:

New punitive rules that apply to US citizens who own a business. Currently, most US citizens who own a Canadian corporation that is an active business don’t pay tax on the company’s profits until they take the money out. The House plan changes this. It imposes a new, very complicated, set of rules on US citizens that own the majority of a foreign corporation. The proposal would tax the US citizen owner personally on 50% of the entire income of the Canadian corporation that is above the amount set by an extremely complex formula. At best, this will make the compliance requirements for US citizens that own a business extremely complicated and expensive. At worst, this will cause double tax exposure for US citizens who own a Canadian business on 50% of the profits of that business.
Imposition of a 12% one-time tax on deferred profits. Under the new rules, the US corporate tax system is transitioning to a territorial model. As part of this transition, the new rules impose a one-time 12% tax on income that was deferred in a foreign corporation. Although perhaps unintentional, since US citizens will not benefit from a territorial model, the new rules impose a 12% tax on any cash that has been deferred since 1986. Take a simple example to illustrate the enormity of the problem. A US citizen doctor moved to Canada in 1987. She has been deferring income from personal tax in her medical corporation and investing it. Now, 12% of the total deferred income since 1986 would be subject to a one-time tax in the US. That may be a significant US tax bill.
It is unclear what, if anything, will be enacted. However, US citizens in Canada – particularly those that own a business – should pay close attention as their tax situation could get significantly worse. Renouncing US citizenship may become an increasingly attractive option.

There has been much discussion of whether or not this is going to happen (assuming a tax reform bill containing these measures actually is passed).
A very good argument for why this should NOT apply to #AmericansAbroad is
here.

The following comment appeared today on Brock. It reiterates the position that the “transition tax” cannot be viewed as applying to Americans abroad who own small corporations. We can expect that tax professionals are going to claim it does. Start now to learn why it doesn’t make sense and why no one should listen to the notion they owe a tax to the US based upon this new “tax reform.”
 
USCitizenAbroad
November 14, 2017 at 7:16 pm
 
@ Patricia Moon

With respect to the discussion of whether there is a tax on the retained earnings of Canadian Controlled Private Corporations:

First, pick this discussion of the changes to the territorial tax system for corporations at the 35 minute mark here:

https://www.finance.senate.gov/hearings/continuation-of-the-open-executive-session-to-consider-an-original-bill-entitled-the-tax-cuts-and-jobs-act

There is NO evidence of any intention to apply the “transition tax” to anything other than large corporations and certainly not to small business corporations owned by Americans abroad.

Second, an interesting summary was published by the Toronto law firm Oslers which talks about U.S. tax reform and makes NO reference to a possible tax on the retained earnings of CCPCs.

TaxAuthorities/US Tax Reform for Busy Canadians

Note no mention that this could affect CCPCs owned by Canadians:

” Foreign minimum tax – Current taxation of “Foreign high returns”:

Under this provision, a U.S. parent corporation would be subject to
current U.S. taxation (at the new 20% rate) on 50% of its controlled
foreign corporations’ (CFCs’) “high returns.” Tax would be required
to be paid on these imputed income streams regardless of whether the
corresponding earnings were actually distributed to the U.S. parent.
“Foreign high returns” are the excess of the CFC’s net income over a
baseline return (7% plus the federal short-term rate) on the CFC’s
adjusted tax bases in depreciable tangible property, reduced by
interest expense included in the CFC’s net income. “Foreign high
returns” would be defined to exclude certain types of income (including
“effectively connected income,” income from the disposition of
commodities produced or extracted by the taxpayer, and income subject
to tax at an effective rate of at least 18%). This provision, which
cuts against the theory of a “pure” territorial tax system, was
designed to counterbalance incentives that may otherwise linger for
U.S. companies to locate high return generating assets/activities (like
intangible property) in offshore locations.”

My feeling is that regardless of the language that this was not intended to apply to Americans abroad.

What should be done:

The danger is that the compliance community will make the law by interpreting this to apply beyond its obvious intention. The obvious solution is to NOT use the services of any tax firm who interprets the law as applying to CCPCs. After all, it was the compliance firms who created the notion that Canadian mutual funds are PFICs.

 

For some time an idea has been considered by ADCT and the letter below is the result of that idea. We have yet to tap into another community who is in a unique position to possibly offer us help – the tax compliance community. There are plenty who have voiced their opposition to FATCA, who think CBT is an abomination, etc. So why not ask them to join us?

We will be sending this letter to a “known” group of professionals which may expand in the future. In the meantime, please consider asking your tax accountant, lawyer or advisor to consider it.

*******


 
 
From The Desk of John Richardson

October 18, 2017

Greetings:

Re: Tax Reform as an opportunity to end the U.S. practice of imposing direct taxation on people who live in other countries.

(If you do not have time to read, please go directly to the last page of this letter.)

I am writing to you personally, on behalf of the millions of “hard working” American citizens living outside the United States and on behalf of the “Alliance For The Defeat Of Citizenship-Based Taxation”. American citizens living outside the United States are “Ambassadors For American Values”.

You are receiving this letter because you have been identified as a person who assists Americans abroad with tax, retirement planning, investment counselling, basic financial planning or a combination of the above. You are well aware of the devastating impact that the current rules of “citizenship-based taxation” have on the lives of “every day people” who have chosen to live outside the United States.

As you are aware, the United States is engaged in a process of tax reform. The last major tax reform was in 1986 (how the world has changed). Tax Reform 2017 appears to be a continuation of the work done by the House Ways and Means Committee (2013) and the Senate Finance Committee (2015). A discussion of “International Tax Reform” has featured prominently in these discussions.

Most of the discussion of changes in “international taxation” has been about changes in the rules governing corporations. There is a growing consensus that the U.S. system of “worldwide taxation” is damaging to corporations. As a result, momentum has been building towards changing corporate taxation from “worldwide taxation” to some form of “territorial taxation”. What “territorial taxation” (subject to the specifics) means in broad terms is that:

U.S. corporations would NOT be subject to taxation on profits earned outside the United States.
 
 
 
Individual (DNA) U.S. citizens are ALSO currently subject to a system of “worldwide taxation”.

The effects of being subject to a system of “worldwide taxation” based ONLY on “citizenship” (all other countries impose taxation based on residence) are:

1. U.S. citizens living in other countries are subject to the Internal Revenue Code, as though they lived in the United States, even though they do NOT live in the United States.
2. U.S. citizens living in other countries are subject to taxation on their “worldwide income” which includes income earned in their country of residence.
3. U.S. citizens living in other countries, who own financial assets or have pension plans locally in those countries are required to treat those “local” assets as “foreign” for the purpose of “reporting” to the IRS. This creates the possibility of “every day people” being subjected to punitive taxation and reporting penalties for attempting to live an “every day lives”.

In practical terms this means that a U.S. citizen living in France (who is subject to full taxation in France), is ALSO subject to taxation on his/her French income by the United States. In addition, because that U.S. citizen living in France is subject to all of the rules of the Internal Revenue Code, that individual is also subject to a collection of “penalty laden” reporting requirements that make full U.S. tax compliance difficult and costly. The cost of U.S. tax compliance for U.S. citizens living in other countries must be considered in terms of both “Direct Costs” and “Opportunity Costs”.

“Direct Costs”: U.S. citizens living in other countries are likely to be subjected to punitive taxation on the normal instruments of financial planning because their vehicle for financial planning is (although local to them) foreign to the United States. In addition, the cost of tax return preparation (when competent help is available) is often very high.

“Opportunity Cost”: Compliance with the Internal Revenue Code means that U.S. citizens living in other countries will often NOT be able to benefit from the financial and retirement planning opportunities available to their neighbours who are NOT U.S. citizens. For example, Australia has a public Superannuation plan. It appears that U.S. tax laws would deprive U.S. citizens living in Australia from benefitting from this plan.
 
 
 
“Role of Tax Treaties”: It’s important to recognize that in many cases these problems are not alleviated by U.S. tax treaties. In fact the problems are exacerbated by U.S. tax treaties which contain a “savings clause” which “saves” the right of the United States to impose taxation on (U.S. citizen) residents of other countries, according to the rules of the Internal Revenue Code.

The time has come to end this “relic of the past” which began as a form of deliberate punishment during the Civil War (yes in the 1800s) and continues to be a punishment today.

Significantly, the definition of “U.S. citizen” includes people who have NO CONNECTION to the United States and are residents and citizens of other countries!!!

It’s not Taxation Without Representation it’s Taxation Without Connection

It’s also important to note that the rules of U.S. “citizenship-based taxation” apply to the “citizens and residents” of other countries, who just happen to also be U.S. citizens because they were born in the United States. In many cases, these people have no connection to the United States (sometimes not even knowing that they are considered to be U.S. citizens). In other words, the United States is currently imposing direct taxation on the foreign incomes of people who do NOT live in the United States!

Previous advocacy, comments and requests – from “U.S. tax compliant” Americans abroad

In 2013 a large number of the comments from individuals submitted to the House Ways and Means Committee came from Americans abroad who were trying to comply with U.S. tax requirements.

In 2015 a large number of the comments from individuals submitted to the Senate Finance Committee came from Americans abroad who were trying to comply with U.S. tax requirements.

These submissions and comments may be found at:

http://www.box.com/citizenshiptaxation

A collection of very specific comments from those personally affected have been collected in the 195 page “book” found here:

https://app.box.com/v/citizenshiptaxation/file/28745871102
 
 
 

A rare display of bi-partisan unity

In 2017 a number of organizations, from across the political spectrum, including Republicans Overseas, Democrats Abroad and American Citizens Abroad have requested a change from the rules that require U.S. citizens living outside the United States to pay U.S. tax on their income earned outside the United States. Although the specific proposals advanced by these groups vary in the details, they all request that:

U.S. citizens living outside the United States, who are therefore tax residents of another country, should NOT be subject to the rules of the Internal Revenue Code that apply to Homeland Americans.

No person should be treated as a “tax resident” of more than one country! The time has come to correct this injustice. U.S. tax laws should be amended so that the United States does not impose U.S. taxation on the:

Non-U.S. source income earned by people who do NOT live in the United States.
 
 
 
So, what am I requesting you to do?

I intend to send a simple request to the various committees working on tax reform, which simply focuses on the result sought with the following request:

“Please amend the Internal Revenue Code so that the United States no longer claims the right to impose U.S. taxation on non-U.S. source income which is earned by people who do NOT live in the United States. For example: The United States should not be imposing U.S. taxation on the French income earned by a resident of France.”

This petition is supported by the following professionals (lawyers, accountants, investment advisors, etc.) who work with non-residents who are subject to U.S. taxation on their foreign income.

This petition is supported by the following professionals:

John Richardson – lawyer

Your name – capacity

All other names – capacity

If you simply reply to this email with your name and capacity, I will add your name to the petition. It’s that simple.

Thank you for your consideration and assistance.

John Richardson

http://www.citizenshiptaxation.ca

citizenshiptaxation@gmail.com

cross posted from citizenshipsolutions

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

More recently …

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

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

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

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

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

When law becomes a substitute for morality

reblogged from the renounceuscitizenship wordpress blog

Today I’ve decided that I would like to go back and reblog some of the best expat posts from the last five years. For lack of a better title, I am going to call it the “A Blast From the Past Series.” This week I am going to focus on the disconnect between law and morality.

Every now and then I realize that people are still coming into awareness and that they do not realize a lot of what has gone on; how long some of us have been involved in this and most importantly, why some of us are so vehemently resistant and unyielding when it comes to evaluating the U.S. government, the tax compliance industry and so on. I guess some of us are afraid that this long period of lassitude may give a false sense of “safety.”

Without resorting to outright fearmongering, there are a number of things that may not happen (tax reform) or that will change (discontinuation of the Streamlined Program) etc. Our main reason for being involved in this from the very beginning, was to get the word out, to do our own research/take responsibility for educating ourselves and others about this hideous situation. I think it is important for people to understand how this situation has played out since the beginning……..

One of the worst aspects of everything happening today is the growing lack of morality in the world. I mean this in the “big” sense of the word; something which is on the mind of every human being as we watch America turn from being an open and welcoming society into one moving toward closed borders, over-the-top surveillance, etc. Today the Secy of Homeland Security literally said he was considering separating (illegal) parents from their (American-born) children. Unbelievably cruel and totally unnecessary. And the reinstatement of the “travel ban” which has been tweaked a bit but cannot possibly be seen for anything except what is clearly is – a move to keep Muslims out of America.

What does this have to do with us? Everything. Because when you see your government behaving like this, you are forced to evaluate two things:

1) Can YOU trust them?
2) Is there any reason to reject them/protect yourself given the unusual situation expats find themselves in?

In addition to being scared out of my mind and full of doubt whether to renounce or not (late 2011), what I could not ignore was my observation of how the U.S. was behaving outside the law. Clear, undeniable abuse of the law. Invading Pakistani airspace (I don’t care what the reason, that is not supposed to be done); the horrid abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib ; the assassination of Americans without due process and worst of all, holding men at Guantanamo Bay for as long as 12 years without charge, torture, etc. I did not find it difficult to believe the U.S. would think nothing of destroying our retirement by forcing me to sell my home to pay FBAR fines. It was a no-brainer.

Everyone has to come around to this decision on their own terms. All the more reason however, to take a long hard look at what has gone on over the last five years (which should influence whatever decision you choose to make).

Some of the people mentioned in this post you may not be aware of:

renounceuscitizenship – in addition to his/her own blog, one of most influential authors at the Isaac Brock Society from the beginning. Has an uncanny ability to predict long in advance, how things are going to move and a piercing, unbending analytical approach to assessing the source of our issues. Originator of the Renounce & Rejoice meme.

Steven J. Mopsick – aka “30 year IRS Vet” – a former IRS attorney who took part in a lot of the early conversations at Brock. The relationship was friendly at first and eventually disintegrated due to the natural friction between someone from a compliance point-of-view and those who did not intend to buckle under. A nice gentleman of whom was said “You can take the man out of the IRS but you cannot take the IRS out of the man.”

JustMe a much-beloved expat who suffered two-plus long years having entered the 2009 OVDP program, trying to make things right. He coined many of our expat idioms: “LCUs (Life Credit Units – how much of your life lost trying to deal with this); FATCAnatics (you can guess); CC&W (Complain, Comply & Warn-his explanation of what he was doing!),DATCA, GATCA, and so on. After he requested the help of the Taxpayer Advocate, he spent quite a long time devoting himself to our cause and taught a lot of us how to do Twitter, learn html, you name it. He finally needed to put it aside (I am sure his wife was happy about this!) and is much missed……..

Former Secretary of the Treasury Timothy F. Geitner aka “Turbo Tax Timmy” – who hadn’t paid social security or self-employment taxes on income received from the International Monetary Fund from 2001 to 2004; the IRS audited Geithner for tax years 2003 and 2004, which resulted in him paying back taxes and interest–but no penalties–totaling $16,732. Geithner voluntarily amended his 2001 and 2002 returns only after Obama expressed interest in nominating him to the Treasury post. The total bill this time: $25,970. He also failed to get proper verification for three individuals who worked for his family. As a prior Treasury employee who prior to Secy position, had run the NY Federal Reserve, one has to wonder how he could fail to understand social security or SE tax. This was infuriating to expats suffering through the OVDP/OVDI penalties. As well, former Congressman Charlie Rangel (D-NY), a sponsor of FATCA, headed the powerful House Ways and Means Committee that writes the nation’s tax laws, was censured by the House of Representatives in December for ethics violations.A chief violation included his failure to pay 17 years’ worth of taxes on rental income from the Dominican Republic property. GRRRRRRR! (still burns……..)
****************

tombstones

The following tweet appeared as a post at the Isaac Brock Society and generated a collection of comments.

To provide some context:
Steven J. Mopsick wrote a post which was a report of his experience at a recent FATCA conference. He was impressed by how the attendees were exploiting the business opportunity (inadvertently referring to them as “steakholders”) that FATCA has created for the compliance industry. Interestingly, Mr. Mopsick specifically makes the point that:

The focus of the conference was strictly on FATCA from the standpoint of complying financial institutions. Most of the participants did not even know about and individual’s duty to file FBAR’s, Foreign Asset Statements (form 8938) and there was very little talk about privacy concerns, fears about the dangers of an emerging international banking data base system, or how Canadian politicians were doing in shaking their lap dog image as pawns of the US government.

In other words: the focus was on the law of FATCA with no consideration of the morality, unintended consequences or effect on society as a whole. (Most law students would kill to have a prof like this!) To put it another way, the important consideration is the law itself. The fact of the law itself is the only issue. The values that underlie the law are irrelevant.
“Just Me” in his usual “wit and wisdom” commented that:

This is the Truism I take away from Steven: “The people around the world who stand to profit from FATCA are not thinking much about government intrusions into the private lives of the world citizens.”

“Them’s the FATCAs FACTs”, as they say.

Although, they may think it is a ‘business and growth opportunity’ others see it as a pending financial disaster for the World’s economy. Who is right? I think the latter, but we shall see. I could be wrong.

FATCA and US fiscal imperialism threaten to sink global economy

In all due respect to 30 year IRS vet, I think he may have his perspectives twisted (which comes from his background?) when he thinks that profiting off the backs of the government regulatory tit is “free enterprise/free market system at work.” Rather, it represents the worst of unprincipled and amoral aspects of human nature at work. These actions are not based upon free enterprise/free markets, but on artificial markets based upon dubious legal assertions.

Free markets do not require or accept extortion as their engine of enterprise.

I can think of other examples of so called free enterprise ~70 years ago, where other“hard-working, serious, responsible business men and women who were on their way up in their companies” were probably attending conferences on how to ramp up manufacturing and supply of cattle cars for another freight train in another era that he would not be so willing to celebrate. He would not like that comparison, and maybe it is a bit hyperbolic, but the same human nature principle is at work.

More recently, there was an army of war profiteering “hard-working, serious, responsible business men and women” contractors, attending conferences in Vegas to learn how suckling off the “free enterprise” of ‘War Contracting Gone Wild’ could benefit their companies. They didn’t want to get left out of the ‘business and growth opportunity’that an amoral and unnecessary war provided. What if the government threw a contractor party to support its misguided war effort at that time, and no one came? I blame the compliant and willing contractors co-enablers as much as the government initiators for the sad legacy we left in Iraq.

Maybe in fairness to Steven, what he is saying, is yes, human nature is responding to an artificial market that would NOT exist, except for US hubris, financial imperialism and extra-territoriality. I don’t think I would be citing the FATCA Compliance Industrial Complex’s (FCIC) “hard-working, serious, responsible business men and women” as an example of ‘supply and demand’ in action that Adam Smith would identity or praise.

Although I certainly agree that “Free markets do not require or accept extortion as their engine of enterprise”, the Mopsick post raises an even larger issue. Mr. Mopsick has and continues to make an enormous contribution to the discussion of FATCA, FBAR and U.S. tax compliance in general. Some of the best thinking on these topics may be found in the “Mopsick Trilogy” – a series of posts that he wrote about the compliance problems facing US citizens abroad. His posts are a unique blend of raising questions and answering questions. In this case, his post has raised an important issue.

The issue is that, in the America of today, laws have become a substitute for morality. A society where laws have become a substitute for morality, is a society that is past the point of “no return”. This is where “Form Nation” – AKA The United States of America – finds itself today.

“Form Nation” – A country structured by laws and not by men

In the beginning we had the ten commandments which were expressions of the fundamental principles of justice. The ten commandments reflected principles which were for the common good. Gradually legislatures began to create laws. In the early stages of society, these laws were specific applications of fundamental principles of justice and for the most part these laws continued to be for the common good.

What is in the common good is not necessarily what is good for specific individuals. Those specific individuals who control the political process have strong incentives to act in their interest at the expense of the public interest.

Once legislatures saw how easy it was to create laws, they began to create laws which were NOT for the common good but were to benefit specific individuals at the expense of the common good. That’s how the Internal Revenue Code and regs grew to 17,000 pages. It’s simply incredible. Mr. Romney pays low tax on his “carried interests” and U.S. citizens abroad pay confiscatory taxes on their mutual funds “PFICs”. Not only is this unfair, but it’s a wonderful example of how laws are passed to benefit the individual at the expense of the common good.

But, it gets far worse. Who exactly are the legislatures? Democracy in the “Form Nation” of today is controlled by two private clubs. You will recognize them as the Democratic and Republican parties. Not only are they private clubs, but they have the intellectual dishonesty to rely on public funding for their existence. Their job is to campaign and to stay in power. Why? Because they will profit from being power. Those of you who have seen the Movie Chicago will remember Mama Morton singing “reciprocity“.

If you have the money you can get the ear of a Congressman. If you don’t you can’t. If you are the mutual fund industry you can lobby to get the PFIC laws passed. If you are the Romney’s of the world (and I still believe Romney would have been a better president) you can lobby to get your “carried interest” laws passed. As Fareed Zakaria has noted, the system is corrupt at it’s core. A large part of the problem is the way the political system works in the United States. There is nobody who represents the voters. The elected representatives (and they are not really elections because of a lack of choice on the ballot) are in business for themselves. Their business is in passing laws that benefit themselves or their clients. This is the only reason that the IRC and regs grew to 17,000 pages. To put it simply: elected representatives are in the business of making laws.

It’s laws, laws and more laws!

The United States of today is burdened by so many laws that:

– everybody is in violation of some law (show me the man and I will show you the crime);

– the complexity of the laws means that people cannot even understand what they are required to do (the FBAR rules are a weird combination of the enabling statute, the regs and the form itself);

there are fewer and fewer laws where “mens rea” (the intent to commit the crime) is necessary for a conviction;

– people are forced to pay lawyers for an opinion on what they may be required to do (lawyers have become the modern day “priests”);

– the sheer volume of laws means that enforcement is largely discretionary (will the IRS enforce FBAR penalties or not?);

– the focus on laws leads to a presumption of criminality (the fact that US citizens abroad are subject to so many laws means they must be guilty of something);

– the moral foundation (if any) of the law becomes irrelevant. The original purpose of the law becomes irrelevant. All that matters is the mechanical application of the law. Nobody ever imagined that PFIC rules, Foreign Trust rules or the FBAR rules would be used to unleash a “reign of terror” on US citizens abroad. On the “Homelander Front”, do you really believe that Martha Stewart deserved incarceration? Of course, the good old USA has the highest rate of incarceration in the world.

Laws have become a replacement for morality. Laws are the only standard for morality.

If you are not in violation of the law, you are not immoral.

If you are in violation of the law you are immoral.

(If the U.S. is really concerned about the “crime rate” then maybe it should reduce the number of laws.)

Conclusion: The US does not have laws that are fair.

“Form Nation” – A country governed by those who decide when to apply the laws and in relation to whom! (A government of tyrants)

In the context of the laws, the laws are not applied equally

President Obama commented that Mr. Geithner should not be punished for a mistake commonly made. It was okay for Timothy Geithner, a man with the money to get accurate tax advice, to file inaccurate tax returns. It is NOT okay for US citizens abroad to fail to file or to file inaccurate tax returns.

Conclusion: The US does NOT have fair application of the law.

1. The United States of today is country where laws are passed by members of private clubs, which have no incentive to benefit the common good and every incentive to benefit themselves at the expense of the common good.

2. The laws are so numerous that every person in the United States is in violation of something.

3. The laws that passed carry no presumption of morality and simply have no moral force.

4. The laws (regardless of content) are enforced in an unpredictable and unfair way.

The result is that people live in terror of the government.

As Jefferson said:

When people fear the government there is tyranny. When government fears the people there is liberty.

So, what’s all this got to do with #FATCA and the Mopsick post?

FATCA is the “gift that keeps on giving” (well to the compliance industry that is). As Mr. Mopsick confirms, the concern of the industry in on the fact of the law. What does it say? What does it require? As Mr. Mopsick reports:

Many readers of this blog will be disappointed to hear this report. The people around the world who stand to profit from FATCA are not thinking much about government intrusions into the private lives of the world citizens. That is the furthest thing from their minds. These folks were all good students, in effect, knowing full-well that there was a new body of rules and regulations on the table which they needed to learn and master.

The implication is that the “good students”, those “hard-working, serious, responsible business men and women who were on their way up in their companies”, the “best and the brightest” (are they really that bright?) should be concerned with embracing the new morality, getting in tune with the “new world” caring about the implications of their conduct. That’s exactly what happens when law becomes a substitute for morality. Just Me compares this mentality to another time in history when he notes that:

I can think of other examples of so called free enterprise ~70 years ago, where other“hard-working, serious, responsible business men and women who were on their way up in their companies” were probably attending conferences on how to ramp up manufacturing and supply of cattle cars for another freight train in another era that he would not be so willing to celebrate. He would not like that comparison, and maybe it is a bit hyperbolic, but the same human nature principle is at work.

Interesting analogy. What is the purpose of FATCA? What are the moral underpinnings of FATCA? Has anybody ever asked the question? Clearly nobody in the world of the FATCA compliance industry. They would be afraid of the answer!

But, that’s what happens when law becomes a substitute for morality. Many of you are concerned about what reason to give for renouncing your U.S. citizenship.

Why not just say:

I do not wish to be a citizen of a country where law has become a substitute for fairness and morality!
 

TOMORROW : Burning Barns Down is not Wrong Because it is Illegal – It is Illegal Because it is Wrong