U.S. CBT is Enforced ONLY by the Compliance Industry

 

 

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

NO Evidence of Intent to apply the “”Transition Tax” to Small Business Corporations of #AmericansAbroad

 

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.

Time to Reach Out to Another Community for Support Regarding Tax Reform

 

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

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

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

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