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

cross-posted from citizenshipsolutions


by John Richardson

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

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

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

Part A – Why certain aspects of the Exit Tax should be repealed

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

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

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

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

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

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

Specific request: The S. 877A Exit Tax should be repealed.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

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

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

Hands Down this is the Worst Academic Piece About FATCA ever Written

 

 

Profesor Paul Caron, on his TaxProfBlog posted the following article:
CONSIDERING “CITIZENSHIP TAXATION”:
IN DEFENSE OF FATCA
20 Fla. Tax Rev. 335 (2017):
by Young Ran (Christine) Kim

 

If any description could possibly be demonstrated over & over in this piece it would be the term “offensive.”  I confess to a hard-edged bias against academia, likely for the same reasons as most people; i.e., the rather noticeable and consistent lack of everyday common sense. Even in my own field (piano performance, where a doctorate is called a DMA not a Phd) there is a prevalence of people who may be perfectly schooled in the accuracy of Baroque ornaments, precise methods of articulation in Classic-period pieces or any number of other tedious accomplishments yet their actual playing (which is the whole point of a performance degree vs an academic one) is so devoid of vitality and inspiration it is enough to make one weep. I don’t know if the same exists in all disciplines but one thing that does apply here is a complete (and I mean complete) lack of awareness on the part of the author, of the harshness of how these theories play out on the lives of REAL people. What would make much more sense would be to address these problems head-on rather than justify “concepts” through a lot of theoretical jargon.

 

The following comment says it well:

 

The people affected by “citizenship-based taxation” are U.S. citizens and Green Card holders who live outside the USA and are “tax residents” (and often citizens) of other nations. The paper discusses (sort of) “citizenship-based taxation” as an abstract concept without considering the brutal effects that it has on the people subjected to it. The acknowledgement of the difficulties with pensions, retirement planning, foreign spouses, mutual funds, CFC rules, etc. (the reality of citizenship taxation) is most notable in its absence. And no, FBAR and Form 8938 (as obnoxious as they may be) are reporting requirements and not the specific tax rules (PFIC, etc.) that affect Americans abroad. I suspect that this paper will be subjected to the criticism that it so richly deserves.

Posted by: John Richardson | May 26, 2017 1:14:02 PM

While this criticism can be equally leveled at the members of Congress who passed FATCA, the Treasury Department personnel who wrote the regulations and last but not least, the heartlessness of many tax compliance practitioners, there is something especially repugnant about those pontificating from their ivory towers, proclaiming that FATCA, citizenship-based taxation, global transparency and all the rest of it, are worth the grief being caused.

Ms Kim indicates her paper finds its origins in Ruth Mason’s recent article, Citizenship Taxation, [89 S. Cal. L. Rev. 169 (2016),

A major difference between the two is that Ms Mason basically sees citizenship taxation in a negative light while Ms. Kim attempts to find it as a natural basis to support FATCA.

She addresses three main arguments; the fairness argument, the efficiency argument and the administrative argument.
 

I.) THE FAIRNESS ARGUMENT

 

Individual taxpayers’ obligations to file Foreign Bank Account Reports (FBAR) or report under the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) are not seriously onerous. The fact that citizenship taxation along with FBAR and FATCA enhances global transparency further supports the case for citizenship taxation……..because the rules have been improved through various exceptions and substantially high reporting threshold amounts.

Ms. Kim asserts that the obligation to file FBARS is not “seriously onerous.” The very real threat of a non-willful penalty of $10,000 per account per year (or worse for “willful) is certainly enough to strike the fear of God in even the most reticent individual. The idea that this reality is not considered when evaluating FBAR is beyond reasonable. Articles about FATCA often cover only the reporting done by the FFI’s. However, the other component is the requirement to file 8938’s which duplicate information from the FBAR and can incur serious penalties. The average person is not able to complete an 8938 and will have to pay to have a professional do it. Nowhere in this article does the author address the issue of compliance costs for individuals which can easily be $2500 a year for someone owing no tax and involve 50 or more pages of returns. Not onerous? Furthermore, there are simply NO FIGURES yet, to make any claim that FATCA “enhances global transparency.” Professor William Byrnes describes
the oft-quoted figure of $10 billion. This amount has absolutely NOTHING to do with FATCA; it is largely comprised of penalties and interest collected through the OVDI programs (and does not even represent actual tax recovered). While the FATCA thresholds are higher, please, the threshold for FBAR remains at $10,000, the same figure when the Act was created in 1970 – 47 YEARS AGO!
 

FOCUSING ON THE ABILITY TO PAY PRINCIPLE

First, consent theory argues that taxing nonresident citizens is justified because retaining citizenship represents consent to such taxation.

 
One cannot consent to something one doesn’t even know about. Is the author completely unaware of the history underlying the persecution of expats once Treasury/Justice went after the Swiss banks in 2008? There are still likely more Americans abroad who remain unaware of the obligation to file taxes and worse yet, the oppressive information returns with penalties simply for not filing a piece of paper (i.e. no tax due). For those who do know and who retain citizenship, keeping it is much a matter of confusion and fear and could hardly be described as “consenting to taxation.”

 

Second, benefit theory attempts to justify citizenship taxation as an obligation of nonresident citizens in return for the benefits they receive from the government.

This argument is so ridiculous at this point it is hard to believe it remains part of the discussion. Cook v Tait is nearly 100 years old and does not address the large changes globalization has produced. There is the endless  nonsense of hearing how “The Marines will come to rescue you,” after which you receive a full bill. How many living in first-world countries have any need for “rescue?” And last but not least we “owe” the U.S. for consular services (for which we pay, dearly in the case of renouncing – $2350 or $50 USD to notarize a single page). All tiresome and nowhere near justifiable for being taxed “the same” as Homelanders.

 

Third, social obligation theory

the underlying assumption of this theory is that people have an obligation to pay taxes to support the members of the society to which they belong in accordance with their ability to pay taxes, which should be measured by their worldwide income.

I remember my reaction to Prof Michael Kirsch’s comments (at the ACA Program in Toronto, May 2014, “CBT vs RBT”)regarding polity and such. It seemed ridiculous to me to consider those of us living outside the United States as being a member of that society in any meaningful way. In my own life, now 35 years outside the U.S.(over half my life), the only times I identified as a “member ” of U.S. society was when defending against strong anti-American sentiment (the first few years away) and national tragedies such as 911. I cannot see any way that those infrequent occurrences defined me as being an American more than being a Canadian.  I would say a more meaningful and valid way to apply the social obligation theory is whether or not I support policies that promote the social welfare of those around me, whether or not I give the homeless guy I see everytime I go to the bank, a bit of money so he can buy some lunch. IOW, except in an idealistic or nostalgic way, one can really only measure his/her “social obligation” based upon what they come face-to-face with, i.e., where they live.

 

Due to the different factors affecting the ability to pay, such as difference in the standard of living or amenities between places, “it would be fairer to calculate a person’s ability to pay by reference to the place where she lives rather than to the place where she holds her citizenship.”

“actually tax them alike,” which would require the repeal of the foreign-earned income exclusion and the allowance of unlimited foreign tax credits, including foreign consumption taxes, as well as the implicit taxes and subsidies to compensate the differences.

 

While all expats readily understand the reality that they are NOT “taxed the same” as Homelanders, the idea of being able to adjust all these factors to the number of foreign countries with all the differences in structure etc., absolutely discourages any realistic notion that this could ever be accomplished. Current retirement-oriented plans such as the Australian Super; the lack of recognition of tax-deferred vehicles registered by governments being treated the same as their US equivalents; requiring capital gains tax on the sale of principle residences which are tax-free in the countries where they are located ; and above all else, the obscene “savings clause,” all speak to the built-in bias the US has for anything “foreign” and its pronounced tendency to punish people for making use of non-US instruments. Add the effect of the Patriot Act, which makes it impossible to even open a US account with a foreign address and a non-resident American understandably lacks the will to try and weave one’s way through all these complicated, impossible-to-delineate requirements and procedures. The fact that the IRS does not clarify ambivalent sections such as §877A as well as the fact that no two compliance professionals can be counted on to give the same opinion is proof positive that disparate tax systems simply cannot be adjusted “fairly.”
 

when its critics condemned the new obligations to file FBARs and FATCA as an excessive compliance burden for nonresident citizens created by the Bank Secrecy Act.

There are no “new” obligations to file FBARs; they have been required (and unenforced) since 1970 and are part of Title 31. FATCA was NOT created by the Bank Secrecy Act. It comprises part of the H.I.R.E. Act (2010) and is part of 26 U.S.C. § 1471–1474, § 6038D.

II.) THE EFFICIENCY ARGUMENT

citizenship taxation may distort both Americans’ and non-Americans’ citizenship decisions, is not convincing

American citizenship renunciation rate is not particularly serious compared to other countries

residence-based taxation confronts an additional hurdle on top of enforcement difficulties: determining the residence of the individuals. Determining residence by considering all facts and circumstances creates problems beyond enforcement difficulties. The facts-and-circumstances test itself contains inherent problems when compared to a bright-line test

….and to what extent renunciation is treated as immoral and/or illegal, and so on.

The idea that citizenship taxation does not affect the decisions of Americans abroad concerning their citizenship is patently absurd. Without question, citizenship taxation IS THE MAIN REASON anyone renounces. Not because of tax per sé (don’t even think of trying to scare with the Reed Amendment) but rather, due to all the complications of trying to match two different tax systems. Add the non-financial issues such as the stress on marriages (to “aliens”), passing U.S. citizenship on one’s children, etc. etc. It has become a nightmare not worth living and something to escape if one can.

Ms. Kim devotes a long section to establishing the idea that the renunciation rate of U.S. citizens is “not particularly serious.” Again, we have someone indicating that unless the numbers are large, whether compared to that of other countries, the proportion of renunciations to the numbers of those abroad or to the number of entering immigrants, there is nothing being lost here. If that is the case, then the U.S. has virtually nothing to lose by simply letting these people go without all the forms, swearing under penalty of perjury and so on. One might occasionally consider that Americans abroad were once the best ambassadors the country could have. Now those tables are turned and some are more anti-American than any “alien” could ever be. Nothing like betrayal to warm the heart.

Regarding determination of residency, it is interesting that all 191 other countries of the world are able to surmount this difficult obstacle, which will be even more pronounced once CRS is operative. The “bright line test” which I presume means using citizenship rather than residency to base reporting on, is not truly useful given the fact that only the U.S. (Eritrea does not count) does this. When a U.S. citizen is living abroad with dual citizenship, with no determinant indicia, ask any bank how easy it is to establish whether or not one is a U.S. citizen. If it were clear, one would not see so many institutions refusing to serve Americans.

The Expatriation Act of 1868 gives all Americans the right to give up their citizenship if they so desire. It is not an issue of illegality. When a country treats its own citizens in the manner we have experienced from 2009 onwards (particularly the Accidental Americans who are not American in any normal understanding of the term), who is there to even suggest renunciation is immoral?

III.) THE ADMINISTRATIVE ARGUMENT

ENFORCEMENT DIFFICULTIES

Citizenship taxation has been criticized as difficult to enforce on nonresident citizens abroad….Determining residence by considering all facts and circumstances creates problems beyond enforcement difficulties

Next to failing to point out the outrageous 30% withholding “sanction” inflicted on every other country of the world, this has to be the weakest argument in this paper. The fact that the U.S. cannot effectively collect anything outside of the country is the number one reason people feel safe in remaining “under the radar.” After the initial scare of 2009/2011 seeing that the people hurt the worst were those who tried to do the right thing, people started considering the reality that being identified (“caught”) may amount to virtually nothing for a number of reasons. First of all, the majority of expats who are not compliant are NOT wealthy tax cheats with foreign accounts in order to deprive the U.S. of tax revenue. They are first of all, compliant where they live, which speaks volumes. Secondly, they have these “foreign” accounts in order to live their lives. This is in no way comparable to Homelanders who are guilty of tax evasion when they stash money in tax havens (and let’s not forget Delaware, Nevada, South Dakota and Wyoming, shall we?). The Revenue Rule still stands; even the 5 countries with Mutual Collection Agreements (Canada, Denmark, Sweden, France and the Netherlands)WILL NOT collect on those who were citizens of their countries at the time the tax was incurred. Canada WILL NOT collect FBAR penalties. With regard to fear about crossing the border, if one is not in the U.S. system, there is nothing for the IRS to report to DHS or CBP etc. All these things may change over time but as it stands now, the most IRS can do to most people, is send them a letter asking them to pay. EXACTLY WHAT IS THE POINT OF HOLDING ON TO CBT IF THERE IS NO WAY TO COLLECT?

Is the Compliance Burden Actually Onerous?

the IRS has provided the OVDI that a U.S. taxpayer can utilize to avoid criminal sanctions for the failure to report the existence of, and income earned on, a foreign account on tax returns as well as for the non-filing of the FBAR. In exchange for avoiding criminal sanctions, taxpayers will generally be subject to a 27.5% penalty on the highest aggregate value of their undisclosed offshore assets.86 In addition, for non-willful violators, IRS provides Streamlined Filing Compliance Procedures (SFCP), a program that was expanded in 2014 to cover a broader spectrum of U.S. taxpayers residing abroad and to provide penalty relief. Therefore, nonresident citizens who no longer have a strong economic and social connection with the United States or happenstance Americans are no longer likely to be subject to the severe FBAR penalties.

To suggest that OVDI and Streamlined “make everything alright” is to avoid the real issue altogether which is that citizenship taxation is simply wrong. No other country on earth “claims” its citizens for life. (Eritrea does not count). No other country on earth taxes its citizens after they abandon residence. No other country on earth applies an Exit Tax on assets that were acquired prior to obtaining residence in that country. There are reasons why no other countries do any of the things associated with citizenship taxation. It’s high time the United States stop this appalling abuse of human rights.

THIS ARTICLE FURTHER AIMS TO DEFEND the administrability of citizenship taxation in conjunction with the Foreign Bank Account Reports (FBARs) and the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA).

FBAR-absolutely not the way it is being conceived of now. FBAR, created in 1970 was aimed at uncovering money being laundered in smuggling, the drug trade and terrorism. It also was not originally conceived of being applied to those outside the U.S. Once the DOJ/Treasury departments went after the Swiss banks, they realized they could stretch the intent of FBAR to apply to non-resident Americans and the penalty regime thickened.

The criticism… has continued even after the U.S. government committed to enter into Intergovernmental Agreements (IGAs) in an attempt to address those concerns

A huge oversight on the part of the author. FATCA was without question an extraterritorial imposition on other countries. Only the United States would be as uncivil as to suggest imposing a 30% withholding charge on their allies and trading partners. The U.S. appeared not to understand that other countries could not comply even if they wanted to as privacy laws prevented the level of reporting required by FATCA. Banks would be sued were they to comply. To suggest that the US committing to the IGAs was a gracious act is revolting. Under the guise of being rooted in tax treaties, the IGAs simply bypassed what should have been required; that Congress ratify such agreements and implement legislation to do so. There is nothing in FATCA that warrants the creation of the IGAs. The U.S. downloaded ALL of the costs of compliance to the other countries. There is no mention of any penalties for the U.S. failing to comply. The U.S. made only the vaguest promises of reciprocity. It is simply unbelievable that the immorality of taking capital out of other nations is considered acceptable by the United States.

IV>) FATCA:MERITS AND CONCERNS

The OECD’s AEOI and the U.S. FATCA are two important developments, but FATCA plays a more important role.
First, FATCA provided critical momentum
Second, FATCA facilitates multilateral implementation of AEOI by creating an extensive network with more than 100 countries in the world, at the center of which is the United States.

This is unsubstantiated nonsense. First of all, it is bizarre to say FATCA “plays a more important role” Who gains from FATCA other than the United States? So far, nobody. The United States is at the Center of AEOI/CRS? The US has not even signed on to CRS. There are huge differences that matter greatly. The OECD AEOI/CRS agreements are determined by the countries involved; the terms of residency are established by those exchanging the information. FATCA is vastly different in that the United States alone determines who is/is not a “US Person” “US Citizen” irrespective of the status of such a person to the other country. And so far, the U.S. is not “paying its fair share” by requiring its banks to implement the same systems and legislation required (imposed) by FATCA. The IGAs do not constitute “acceptance” by other countries. To think otherwise is ridiculous. One could not possibly view such stipulations as reasonable.

criticism that…. FATCA exposes taxpayers’ private information to potential abusive use by foreign tax authorities.

This is a matter of real concern to Americans abroad living in some of the more troubled areas of the world-or those living Colombia in South America and particularly in some of the Middle East countries. Ironically enough, the U.S. has had some of the worst breaches of security and leakage of private information; certainly this is disturbing and worrisome.

Ms. Kim’s discussion of the Bopp FATCA lawsuit I will leave to someone else.

Second, opponents of FATCA and EOI argue that an EOI system removes a country’s unilateral control over its own tax policy, resulting in the forfeiture of sovereign autonomy. Although such argument has withered since the U.S. government entered into IGAs with other countries, it was strongly asserted by Canadian opponents of FATCA when the IGA Implementation Act included in Bill-31 was debated in Canadian Parliament.

How outrageous to suggest a foreign country does not have the right to have unilateral control over its own tax policy. The proof is in the pudding. The U.S. would never allow the equivalent. The IGA’s are the proof.
I have watched the video of the Canadian FINA hearings on FATCA many, many times. It is not possible to convey the absolute disgust we have for the majority Conservative government which minimized completely, the capitulation that occurred with the implementation of the IGA. It was nothing more than protecting the banks, without any regard to the effect it would have on Canadian citizens resident in Canada.

However, a government’s control over its tax policy is more severely harmed when a country segregates itself from the global community and loses the ability to enforce effectively its own tax laws against its taxpayers with interests in foreign jurisdictions

More unsubstantiated nonsense. This is an opinion completely unsupported up by any facts.

A Case for American Exceptionalism

conclusion, if FATCA makes the world better off by enhancing global transparency on tax information, then this may serve as another support for citizenship taxation, as well as an example of constructive exceptionalism.

While all of us raised in America understand unconsciously what exceptionalism is, it truly takes living outside the country to appreciate how incredibly arrogant and offensive it is. It is questionable whether FATCA “makes the world better off….” that a questionable tenet should “serve as a support for the imposition of citizenship taxation.” It is nothing short of reprehensible that the author should suggest what the U.S. has done is “constructive” or in any way justifies the gross aberration of power demonstrated by the creation of FATCA.

The Wisdom of Countries that Welcome Diversity

Recently I received a paper from an expat in Australia-it is a submission to the Ways and Means Committee. I am very impressed with it and shortly thereafter came across this article at the NYT.

Both Canada and Australia choose to take a positive approach and encourage the immigration of those who have studied in their countries; the citizenship process is fast-tracked. The U.S. on the other hand, has an extremely difficult regime which makes the path to citizenship much more difficult. As with other policies we are aware of, the U.S. once again, shoots itself in the foot with it’s exclusionist attitude. Add to that, President Trump’s Executive Order effective today, will likely prevent some who are already studying in the U.S., the ability to return and continue with their studies. The following groups of people find themselves barred from entry into the United States:

  • suspended entry of all refugees to the United States for 120 days
  • barred Syrian refugees indefinitely
  • blocked entry into the United States for 90 days for citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen
  • barred green card holders from those countries from re-entering the United States

It is fairly well-known in the expatriate community that USCIS has no information for new immigrants warning them of what is involved in citizenship-based taxation and the ramifications of it should they desire to return to their home countries one day, without renouncing their U.S. citizenship. The more likely “hit” they will take, are the FBAR and FATCA provisions with the emphasis on reporting foreign accounts and assets. This is particularly obscene in that many of these students will have accounts in their home countries solely for sending money back to help their families. So perhaps the students who will NOT come to/remain in the U.S. are, for the moment, more blessed than they can possibly appreciate, by not entering/remaining in the U.S.

Those who are “more in the know” or have connections that alert them, are lucky to have access to Canadian and Australian schools and citizenship. These students as well as the countries they choose, represent a reasonable and mature approach that matches the direction of the rest of the world – globalization. Given I have the permission of the author, I am reproducing this paper in its entirety.

International students studying in America and the ramifications

of the Foreign Accounts Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) on the higher education sector
Comments to the U.S. House Committee on Ways and Means
Don Maisch PhD

January 15, 2017

Dear Committee Members

I am writing to the Committee from Australia about one particular issue involving an unintended consequence of the Act, which apparently has not been considered in any cost/benefit analysis to date. My concern is that there exists the possibility of a significant adverse effect on the major income stream for the American higher education/university sector, in relation to attracting international students to continue their education in American educational institutions.

Overview

As of the Fall of 2015, total international student enrolment in both public and private educational institutions in the U.S. was 1,043,839 with the highest numbers from China and India, Saudi Arabia and South Korea, followed by Canada, Japan Taiwan and Vietnam. Previous years show an increasing number of students from these countries (and others) attending American educational institutions.1

According to a 2015 report by the U.S. Department of Commerce, the increasing numbers of international students attending U.S. educational institutions has had a significant impact on the American economy, adding more than $30.5 billion to the economy. The report found that 72 percent of all international students are funded from sources outside of the U.S., coming from personal and family sources as well as assistance from their home country governments or universities. 2
Besides being an important funding source for higher education institutions, many students, after graduation would like to gain employment in America, a fact not lost on the previous Obama Administration which wanted science/tech international students to be able to put their skills to use in America, not overseas. Obama stated at the time: “In a global marketplace we need all the talent we can attract…We don’t want the next Intel or the next Google to be created in China or India. We want those companies and jobs to take root here”.3 How the incoming Trump Administration views this remains to be seen. In an article written in Forbes (June 2015) by Evangeline Chan, an immigration attorney, she points out that restrictions on the number of H-1B visas available for graduate foreign students with a bachelor’s degree or higher is forcing this pool of skilled people to have to leave the U.S. As of 2015 only 85,000 H-1B visas were available while there were 233,000 applications.

According to Chan, “Our communities have become more global but our immigration system has not kept up”4.
These are highly skilled US higher educated potential migrants who are willing to live and work in America, most likely eventually getting a green card or citizenship. What is an unknown however, is how many of these potential migrants would like to leave open the possibility of, sometime in the future, being able to return to their home countries to live and work. After all, they would be highly sought after by U.S. corporations, with branches in these countries, who recognise the advantages of hiring people with extensive local knowledge.

International students in Australia

Despite Australia’s relatively small population of around 24 million, it is the third most popular destination for international students (approximately 300,000 in 2014). By 2015 this was a $15 billion industry and is Australia’s third largest ‘export’ following iron ore and coal. Skilled students are encouraged to stay in Australia after graduation and are considered as an important source of migration, which can address skill shortages and contribute to Australia’s long-term economic prosperity.5 As of February 2016 the international education sector in Australia had risen to a $20 billion export industry with data showing that international students were making a significant contribution to the economy.6 This is further confirmed by a 2015 extensive analysis on the value of international education to Australia by Deloitte Access Economics. They found that it was the professional, scientific and technical services which benefited the most from the international education sector. Deloitte estimated that Australia’s current stock of international students would contribute 130,000 skilled migrants to the Australian workforce after graduation. Other benefits included:

• Economic benefits stemming from increased entrepreneurship, knowledge exchange and international collaboration;
• Economic benefits derived from trade and investment links and soft diplomacy both in Australia and in source countries; and
• Social benefits flowing from improved cultural literacy, stronger cultural linkages and enhanced cultural capital in both Australia and in source countries.7

One of the issues raised by the Deloitte report was the volatility in international enrolments due to an increasing number of countries now competing for international students.8 It is important to point out here that the income generated from foreign students has become an essential part of maintaining the financial viability of the higher education sector in both the U.S. and Australia.

The FATCA risk factor for the U.S. higher education sector

In this increasingly globalized world, where a number of countries are competing for a bigger slice of the ‘international student’ cake, and in which Australia is competing with the U.S. for Asian students, FATCA will inevitably affect both countries but in opposite ways.

As the Committee is well aware of the controversy surrounding the provisions of the Foreign Accounts Tax Compliance Act I need not go into it here, other than briefly examining how it can ensnare unwary former international students into becoming a “US person for tax purposes” if they later decide to return to their home country.

• Most foreign students in the U.S. have an F-1 student visa. After graduation, he or she can remain in the U.S. for a period of 12 months for training, internships or employment related to their field of study. This is called Optional Practice Training (OPT).
• If the former student has obtained a degree in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics) field, then they would be permitted to remain for an additional period of 17 months.
• Then the former student has 60 days to depart from the U.S. If they then depart back to their home country they would not be subject to the FATCA provisions and would not be considered a “U.S. person for tax purposes.
• However, if they instead, qualify and apply for a H-1B temporary work visa (limited availability, as explained earlier) in preparation for a “green card” which then allows them to live and work in the U.S., or they later take up U.S. citizenship, they will have a significant tax problem if in the future they decide to leave the US to live and work elsewhere.
• This possibility is not being explained to prospective foreign students who apply to study in America.

Under FATCA, “U.S. persons” for tax purposes includes dual nationality citizens, Green Card holders (regardless of country of residence) and U.S. residents, or Deemed Residents, regardless of citizenship. In addition, a U.S. person is anyone born or naturalised in the U.S., foreign born people with a parent whom is a U.S. citizen, anyone who visits the U.S for an extended amount of time (180 days). Note that a Green card holder is still considered a U.S. person if they fail to surrender it when leaving the U.S. This is still the case if an un-surrendered Green Card has expired. For tax purposes it never expires unless surrendered.

A Possible Scenario under the FATCA Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA):

After graduation from a U.S. university an Indian born (or Chinese, or Canadian, etc.) student gains a H-1B visa and gains employment in a American tech company. He goes on to get a Green Card and soon after, full U.S. citizenship. Some years later, as an American citizen (U.S. person), he decides to return to his nation of birth to take up employment with an Indian company working in his field of expertise. However, he soon finds that as a “U.S. person” the company will not hire him in any position of authority for to do so could expose the company’s finances to investigation by the American IRS. He then finds that he cannot open a bank account because the bank is refusing to take on “U.S. Persons” as clients because of the onerous requirements placed on reporting financial details to the IRS. He marries an Indian woman who is not pleased to learn that, as a spouse of a “U.S. person” the IRS wants to see all her financial details as well. They then have a child, and much to their horror, they find that their child (and any subsequent children) is considered to be a “U.S. person” by the American IRS because the child has a parent who is a US citizen.9 He decides to renounce his US citizenship to be free of this quagmire but finds that it is very difficult process costing many thousands of dollars to do so. He then is given a tax demand from the IRS for “Exit Taxes” based on the value of all his assets – in American dollars10. He finally frees himself of the quagmire after several years of worry and at significant expense. He then is informed that, even though he has renounced U.S. citizenship the IRS still considers his child a US citizen who will have to start filing complicated U.S. tax returns when turning 18 if the young adult wants to continue to live outside the U.S. As with what the father found, his child will find that living outside of America as an adult U.S. citizen is a significant liability. The only solution to this for the young adult is to either move to the U.S. and live out his life there, or go through the complicated process of renouncing after the age of 18, as his father had done. Trying to solve all this for his family reminded the father of that lyric from The Eagles song, “Hotel California”, which he remembered from his university days: You can check out any time you like / But you can never leave…

The all–important question for the American international student education sector is this:

If prospective foreign students were given the full facts on the possible future impacts of the FATCA IGA, if they stay in the US after finishing their education to take up employment, would they consider it worth the risk of being ensnared by FATCA, when much safer alternatives exist, such as studying and working in Australia? If so, what is bad for America may turn out to be very good for Australia.

In my opinion FATCA constitutes a significant financial risk to the American foreign student higher education sector and this should be taken into account in your deliberations over FATCA and the wisdom of maintaining citizenship-based taxation.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Don Maisch PhD
____________________________________________________________

1 Project Atlas, http://www.iie.org/Services/Project-Atlas/United-States/International-Students-In-US#.WHW9RZL4mUc
2 Institute of International Education, http://www.iie.org/Research-and-Publications/Open-Doors/Data/Economic-Impact-of-International-Students
3 Fox News, Obama Administration Lets More Foreign Students Stay in U.S. for Jobs, Raising Competion Concerns, http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2011/05/17/dhs-allows-foreign-students-extended-stay.html
4 Chan E, Our Immigration Policies Are Telling Foreign Students To ‘Get Out’ After They Graduate, Forbes / Opinion, http://www.forbes.com/sites/realspin/2015/06/08/graduating-congratulations-now-get-out/#4305b47312d0
5 Group of Eight Australia, International students in higher education and their role in the Australian economy. https://go8.edu.au/publication/international-students-higher-education-and-their-role-australian-economy
6 Dodd T., Education revenue soars to become Australia’s $20 billion export,
http://www.afr.com/news/policy/education/education-revenue-soars-to-become-australias-20-billion-export-20160203-gmke3k
7 Australian Government document prepared by Deloitte Access Economics, The value of international education to Australia, https://internationaleducation.gov.au/research/research-papers/Documents/ValueInternationalEd.pdf
8 ibid.
9 U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Citizenship Through Parents, https://www.uscis.gov/us-citizenship/citizenship-through-parents
10 Exit tax and further taxation of citizens who renounce,
http://web.archive.org/web/20121023090722/http://renunciationguide.com/Exit-Tax-on-Renunciants.html#MarkToMarketTax

US Intention to Pursue Enforcement in Spite of Foreign Law

cross posted from the Isaac Brock Society

Philadelphia Tax Conference Wednesday, November 2, 2016:

“We will pursue enforcement of a Bank of Nova Scotia summons when a domestic entity has dominion or control over records located outside the United States, even where the domestic entity asserts that production may be a violation of foreign law, if our interest in combatting tax evasion substantially outweighs the interest in foreign jurisdictions in allowing banks to preserve the privacy of their customers.

Bank of Nova Scotia summons

V. CONCLUSION

Absent direction from the Legislative and Executive branches of our federal government, we are not willing to emasculate the grand jury process whenever a foreign nation attempts to block our criminal justice process. It is unfortunate the Bank of Nova Scotia suffers from differing legal commands of separate sovereigns, but as we stated in Field:
In a world where commercial transactions are international in scope, conflicts are inevitable. Courts and legislatures should take every reasonable precaution to avoid placing individuals in the situation [the Bank] finds [it]self. Yet, this court simply cannot acquiesce in the proposition that United States criminal investigations must be thwarted whenever there is conflict with the interest of other states.
In re Grand Jury Proceedings. United States v. Field, 535 F.2d at 410.

For the reasons stated above, the judgment entered by the district court is

AFFIRMED.

*****

I am not at all suggesting that minnows would have any need to be overly fearful. Given our government’s recent “throwing us under the bus”, I have little faith they will do anything to fight this if it becomes larger in scope.

If a bank acted outside of the tidy IGA arrangement and was involved in the exchange of private taxpayer information to the IRS (a PIPEDA violation-even if against US Persons), wouldn’t the bank open itself up to being sued?

I think it is totally possible Harden, Van deMark etc, may not be of much help given the overall shift regarding extraterritorial tax…..

********

Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Caroline D. Ciraolo Delivers Keynote Address at the American Bar Association’s 27th Annual Philadelphia Tax Conference
Philadelphia, PA United States ~ Wednesday, November 2, 2016
Remarks as prepared for delivery

Excerpts concerning “offshore” efforts:

In addition, since 2008, the department, working with our colleagues in IRS Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), charged more than 160 U.S. accountholders with tax evasion and willful failure to report foreign accounts and more than 50 individuals who assisted in this criminal conduct. We also reached resolutions with nine foreign financial institutions outside of the Swiss Bank Program and continue to pursue investigations of entities located within and outside Switzerland.

Our criminal offshore enforcement efforts have encouraged participation in the IRS offshore voluntary disclosure programs, through which more than 55,000 taxpayers have come into compliance and paid nearly $10 billion in tax, interest and penalties since 2009. In addition, filing of Reports of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBARs) has increased from 332,000 reports for calendar year 2007, to over a million reports for 2015.

Our civil trial attorneys also furthered our offshore tax enforcement efforts, seeking the issuance of John Doe summonses to identify U.S. taxpayers whose identities are unknown and who are engaged in violations of the internal revenue laws and initiating summons enforcement proceedings to assist the IRS in conducting its examinations and determining the accurate tax due. The information we seek is often located in the United States; however, as we recently demonstrated in a district court in Miami, we will pursue enforcement of a Bank of Nova Scotia summons when a domestic entity has dominion or control over records located outside the United States, even where the domestic entity asserts that production may be a violation of foreign law, if our interest in combatting tax evasion substantially outweighs the interest in foreign jurisdictions in allowing banks to preserve the privacy of their customers.

Our civil trial attorneys also are actively engaged in suits involving penalties assessed for failing to file FBARs. These suits include affirmative litigation to collect unpaid penalties, and defensive litigation raising a variety of issues. We have approximately three dozen cases involving FBAR issues pending, the vast majority of which include a willfulness penalty for at least one of the years at issue. These suits have raised issues related to the computation of the penalty, burden of proof, service of process abroad, definition of a foreign account, corresponding assessments on spouses, venue, jurisdiction, and challenges under the Administrative Procedures Act.

UPDATE

I was curious what Ms. Ciraolo was referring to “recently in Miami” was about; not sure this is it but it is related.


Switzerland Defeated, the U.S. Turns Against Accounts in Other Countries

 
NB-note use of the word “defeated” – the country of Switzerland is “defeated” – Really….the mindset is unreal……
 
Two weeks prior to the Cayman guilty pleas in New York (March 9, 2016), in a different offshore banking prosecution in Miami, DOJ requested that a federal court issue a “Bank of Nova Scotia” summons to UBS in Miami. The summons demanded the records of a UBS account in Singapore belonging to a U.S. taxpayer in China. In the past, DOJ has repeatedly used “John Doe” summonses against foreign banks (including in Switzerland, Belize, India and the Caribbean) to obtain information about a broad class of U.S. taxpayers unknown by specific name. “Bank of Nova Scotia” summonses have not been used as frequently until now. They derive from a court case where a U.S. court compelled a branch of Scotiabank in Miami to disclose information to DOJ regarding a Scotia branch in the Cayman Islands, notwithstanding Cayman’s secrecy laws.

In the present case, UBS will argue that Singapore’s bank secrecy laws prevent UBS from providing the account records to DOJ. The parallel argument applied, of course, to accounts at UBS in Switzerland when DOJ prosecuted UBS in 2008. And yet, Swiss bank secrecy failed for UBS (and its U.S. clients) in 2009. Because of UBS’ substantial presence in the U.S., it was forced to settle with DOJ or else face penalties against UBS’ banking licenses and assets within the United States. For the same reason, we can expect that, just like the Swiss account records, the UBS Singapore account records will ultimately be handed over to DOJ.

Notwithstanding UBS’ vulnerability with respect to its U.S. assets, it is unlikely that the state of Singapore would risk its financial reputation to protect non-compliant accounts. Singapore makes a significant amount of money from legitimate international banking and finance and would not jeopardize this by being “blacklisted” as an uncooperative tax haven, as it was a decade ago. To this end, in 2014 Singapore signed FATCA, whereby Singapore financial institutions report information about U.S. account owners to the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore, which in turns furnishes the data to the IRS. In addition, a new Singapore regulation requires banks to identify all accounts that may harbor the proceeds of tax evasion, and close them. Failure to abide by this new law will result in criminal charges for the Singaporean bankers.

It is of course no surprise that DOJ and the IRS are pursuing undisclosed accounts in Cayman and Singapore. The U.S. has not limited its enforcement activity to non-compliant accounts in Switzerland alone. Within the last couple of years, DOJ has moved against banks and financial institutions in the Caribbean (CIBC First Caribbean, Stanford Bank and Butterfield Bank in the Bahamas, Barbados and elsewhere), Belize (Belize Bank International Limited and Belize Bank Limited), Panama (Sovereign Management) and India (HSBC India). We expect that other financial institutions, in other jurisdictions, are being investigated as well.

The settlement by some one hundred Swiss banks with DOJ, whereby in exchange for paying fines and naming U.S. account holders the banks avoid prosecution, has now freed up manifold resources at DOJ and IRS to examine and prosecute other financial institutions beyond Switzerland. Moreover, the account information handed over by the Swiss banks when settling with DOJ provided DOJ with a road map of funds leaving Switzerland and where these funds went, the so-called “leaver accounts”. DOJ and IRS are especially driven to investigate and prosecute these account holders, as they show an added level of intent to deceive the IRS. Many of the leaver accounts went to jurisdictions like Dubai, Israel, Singapore, Hong Kong and Panama. These jurisdictions are now targets of DOJ investigation.