Last week in my email was a link to an article by Michael J DeBlis (unable to determine whether it was the father or the son). It runs in my memory that prior to the launch of the Tax Connections website, the younger Michael had started a blog that was specifically about expatriate issues and many of us joined and took part. He seemed particularly sympathetic and supportive of our plight and one who I would never have labelled a “condor.” And this post is in no way meant to be demeaning.
Imagine my surprise to read this:
Consider the following example. Pierre is a dual citizen of the U.S. and Canada who presently resides in Montreal. He has fastidiously filed U.S. and Canadian tax returns for the last ten years. Following an audit of his 2012 U.S. tax return, the IRS determined that there was a $ 20,000 deficiency and mailed him a notice of deficiency. Pierre timely filed a protest but Appeals found in favor of the IRS. Having failed to file a petition with the tax court, that deficiency soon became a $ 20,000 assessment.
The IRS now seeks to collect on its claim by imposing a tax lien on real estate owned by Pierre in Canada. Essentially, what the U.S. government is attempting to do is cajole collection officials from the Canadian Revenue Agency (Agence du revenue du Canada) to do its dirty work for it: namely, to collect Pierre’s unpaid U.S. taxes by enforcing an IRS tax lien on property located within Canada.
As incredible as this might sound, reliance upon a foreign taxing authority for assistance in collecting a tax judgment against a citizen of the requesting country is entirely permissible under the terms of the U.S.-Canadian Treaty. Of course, such a request must be accompanied by documents firmly establishing that the taxes have been finally determined.[ix]
Therefore, the Canadian Revenue Agency would have no choice but to enforce the lien and to collect the unpaid taxes. But what if Pierre filed a motion in a Canadian court to have the tax lien imposed by the Canadian Revenue Agency, at the behest of the IRS, set aside? Not surprisingly, the court would refuse Pierre’s request on the grounds that the imposition of the tax lien was proper under the terms of the treaty.
The reason for my surprise was that it is a well-known fact not only in Canada, but among expats in general, that Canadians are lucky because Canada will not collect tax for the U.S. on people who were Canadian citizens at the time the tax was incurred. Nor will the CRA collect FBAR penalties as they are not a tax, falling under Title 31 of the U.S.C. Most of us had become aware of that when our-then Finance Minister, the late Jim Flaherty had stated unequivocably that Canada would not collect for the U.S. under these two circumstances. So I decided to post a comment.
Thanks for this article, particularly for outlining the limits of what can/cannot be done with regard to the border. While the officers can be bullies, along with knowing very clearly, the limits of the Reed Amendment, this is good information to have. Canada and Denmark both have provisions that state they will not collect for that US citizens/persons that are also, their own citizens. In the case of the US-CDN Treaty: Article XXVIA 8) No assistance shall be provided under this Article for a revenue claim in respect of a taxpayer to the extent that the taxpayer can demonstrate that: a) Where the taxpayer is an individual, the revenue claim relates either to a taxable period in which the taxpayer was a citizen of the requested state …………. So the CRA would not collect for the US in Pierre’s case, since he is dual and a citizen of Canada. While the boundaries for the revenue rule may be fading, it is still alive and one which the late Finance Minister, Jim Flaherty, reiterated many times while voicing his shock that the US would expect FATCA to be implemented in Canada. It is very clear that FBAR penalties, which are not part of Title 26 and therefore not covered under the Treaty, also would not be collected by the Canada Revenue Agency. The Canadian courts have refused to enforce claims of the US against Canadian citizens. I presume the Canadian government would honor XXVIA for US citizens/persons who are permanent residents of Canada who are not Canadian citizens. What I am afraid we will see, in spite of past rulings, is that the IRS will attempt to collect from Canadian bank branches in the US with corresponding branches in Canada. I have been told that this does happen by compliance people in spite of court rulings etc. However, it seems to me a bank would be liable to be sued, since presumably, PIPEDA (privacy laws) would in this case, apply to the US citizen/person even though it is overridden by the IGA when the bank sends info to the CRA. We have all seen how the compliance industry tends to enforce the “law” even when the IRS etc, has not provided guidance (which also, is not necessarily, the “law”). An example of this is putting someone who relinquished US citizenship decades ago, into the system according to 877A. Tax lawyers have tended to dismiss past citizenship laws that as far as can be seen, are not automatically changed retroactively. This is completely unacceptable. It is largely useless to Canada to have the right to collect on Canadian citizens resident in the United States due to the fact that once a Canadian is a permanent resident of another country, they are no longer liable for tax in Canada. This is also the reason that FATCA is of very little value to Canada.
You may be interested in a few of the court cases mentioned (indirectly) above: United States of America v. Harden (1963), 41 D.L.R. (2d) 721 Supreme Court of Canada https://scc-csc.lexum.com/scc-csc/scc-csc/en/item/7322/index.do 68 O.R. (2d) 379; 1989 Ont. Rep. LEXIS 206 RE VAN DEMARK ET AL. AND TORONTO-DOM http://uniset.ca/other/cs6/68OR2d379.html Chua v. Minister of National Revenue, 2000 DTC 6527 (FCTD http://ca.vlex.com/vid/chua-v-minister-of-national-revenue-38618242
I received a message asking if I could confirm the information concerning Canadians at this post on the CitizenshipTaxation FB group.I became involved in the conversation and remembered that I had recently learned that Denmark also had such a clause protecting its citizens in the US-Denmark Treaty. So I wondered if it could be the same for the other three countries that have a Mutual Assistance in Collection clause in their treaties with the U.S. namely, Sweden, France and the Netherlands. It didn’t take too long to find that they do indeed have the same type of clause. I was dumbfounded. Why had we never heard this before? I was careful to look at the Protocols because some of the Treaty dates are over 20 years old; there was nothing to suggest the conclusion was incorrect. I also had a couple of professionals take a look and they agreed.
So this is A VERY BIG DEAL. If you are a dual citizen of DENMARK SWEDEN FRANCE the NETHERLANDS or CANADA and were a citizen at a time when the U.S. claims you owe U.S. tax, your country WILL NOT ASSIST THE U.S. in collecting U.S. tax. !!!!!!!!
Then I wondered about FBAR and where that might be confirmed since it is not specifically stated in the Treaty. I googled and found a link to a comment of mine that I have no memory of posting:
25 July 2012 T.I. 2011-0427221E5 – FBAR penalties
Principal Issues: Whether US FBAR penalties are included in “revenue claims” defined in Art.XXVI-A(1) of the Canada-US Treaty.
Reasons: FBAR penalties are not civil penalties in respect of taxes covered under Art.II of the Treaty.
25 July 2012 T.I. 2011-0427221E5 – FBAR penalties
July 25, 2012
Re: Civil Penalties and Article XXVI-A
We are writing in response to your letter of November 7, 2011, in which you asked for our comments in respect of the application of Article XXVI-A of the Canada-United States Tax Convention (1980) (Treaty).
You have described a hypothetical situation involving an individual who is a citizen of the United States (U.S.) by right of birth, and a Canadian citizen by way of naturalization prior to 1995. The individual is a resident of Canada for purposes of the Income Tax Act (Act) and the Treaty. We are to assume that the individual has failed to file Form TD F90-22.1 Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts with the U.S. Department of the Treasury as required under the U.S. Bank Secrecy Act. As such, the individual has been assessed a civil penalty (FBAR Penalty) in the U.S. for the failure to file Form F90-22.1.
In this regard, you have asked whether the FBAR Penalty could be considered a civil penalty that is included in a revenue claim as defined at paragraph 1 of Article XXVI-A of the Treaty, and if so, whether paragraph 8 of Article XXVI-A would preclude the collection of the FBAR Penalty by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) on behalf of the U.S. Government.
The CRA has previously indicated that Canada would assist the U.S. Government in the collection of interest and penalty in respect of U.S. taxes owing pursuant to Article XXVI-A of the Treaty. However, paragraph 8 of Article XXVI-A provides that Canada will not assist in the collection of a revenue claim from the U.S. Government in respect of an individual who is a Canadian citizen, such as the individual described in your hypothetical situation.
In addition, we are of the view that a civil penalty, such as the FBAR Penalty, which is imposed under the U.S. Bank Secrecy Act, is not a penalty in respect of U.S. taxes owing. Therefore, it is our view that an FBAR Penalty is not an amount that would be considered a revenue claim pursuant to the definition at paragraph 1 of Article XXVI-A.
We trust that our comments will be of assistance.
Income Tax Rulings Directorate
Legislative Policy and Regulatory Affairs Branch
Then I started wondering about FATCA. The “reassurance” we receive constantly from the Canadian government is that FATCA does not result in any new tax etc, that it is just an information exchange. Which begs the question, why is the information being collected if there won’t be any “new” taxes? In this regard:
Andrew Bonham, “FATCA and FBAR Reporting by Individuals: Enforcement Considerations
from a Canadian Perspective” (2012) 60:2 Canadian Tax Journal 305-54, at 345.
Still, as noted above, the minister has the discretion to refuse assistance in collection. Certainly from a public policy standpoint, it must be relevant that the Crown, in providing collection assistance on a FATCA revenue claim, would in many cases be acting against its own taxpayers in the enforcement of a claim founded upon information obtained in a manner that may not be constitutional under the laws of Canada. The Crown is not obliged to do anything contrary to the public policy of Canada in collecting a revenue claim under the treaty. This last point is analogous to the common-law public policy defence discussed above.
However, it is also quite possible, and perhaps probable, that FATCA is in equal part both an information-gathering tool and a revenue-generating tool. It is for this reason that FBAR will never go away. With information garnered from FATCA FFI reports, penalties can be levied under both FATCA and FBAR if an individual fails to file. However, as we have noted, the long arm of the IRS cannot reach Canada with respect to FBAR, and as further posited, it is likely that FATCA penalties would also be unenforceable in Canada. From the US perspective, the best-case scenario would see all financial institutions around the globe complying with the strictures of the disclosure requirement. Armed with the massive list that would be generated from such compliance, the IRS would merely have to check names against received disclosures and levy fines against those individuals who had not complied. Carrying this scenario further, the IRS could then, after the exhaustion of all administrative appeal periods and recourse, approach the minister of national revenue with a list of individuals owing FATCA penalties and ask that those penalties be enforced by the CRA under the terms of the Canada-US tax treaty. It is assumed that in a large number of cases, a notice from the IRS to an individual noting lack of FATCA compliance would not be responded to, and in those cases, a penalty of $50,000 would be levied, thereby raising a very significant amount of revenue.
Finally, although the revenue rule and the penal/public-law rule would currently preclude Canadian courts from assisting in collection, the ever-expanding role of judicial comity may one day see a repeal of these rules, or at least a relaxation of their strictures. Should that occur, the United States would be in a position to resort to principles of public international law as a basis for enforcement, even against dual citizens. In such a case, it may well be open to defendants to argue that the mere fact of their US citizenship should not, in and of itself, be enough to satisfy the real and substantial connection test—especially in cases where the defendant has had little or nothing to do with the United States and has certainly derived no benefit from his or her US citizenship.
A lot of interesting possibilities are discussed in the article above and it is definitely worth reading. While there are no guarantees that these Treaties will not change in the future, the advantage of this information now is:
- if you are in an unsure situation at the moment, this is something that is as much a part of your situation as your “U.S. Person-ness” and can be a great help in deciding what your risk level is
- if you are not compliant & not yet a citizen of the 2nd country, you might consider applying for citizenship now
- you can help get this information out to other members of your expat community
Lastly, here are the actual wordings in the treaties involved; I am only including the Article/paragraphs that pertain to this idea.
• Income Tax Treaty – 1994
• Protocol – 2005
1. The Contracting States undertake to lend assistance and support to each other in the collection of the taxes to which this Convention applies, together with interest, costs, and additions to such taxes.
4. The assistance provided for in this Article shall not be accorded with respect to the citizens, companies, or other entities of the State to which the application is made, except as is necessary to insure that the exemption or reduced rate of tax granted under this Convention to such citizens, companies, or other entities shall not be enjoyed by persons not entitled to such benefits.
• Income Tax Treaty – 1994
• Protocol – 2004, 2009
19 ARTICLE XII
Paragraph 5 of Article 28 (Assistance in Collection)
of the Convention shall be deleted and replaced by the following:
“The assistance provided for in this Article shall not be accorded with respect to citizens, companies, or other entities of the Contracting State to which application is made.”
Assistance in Collection
1. The Contracting States undertake to lend assistance and support to each other in the collection of the taxes to which this Convention applies (together with interest, costs, and additions to the taxes and fines not being of a penal character) in cases where the taxes are definitively due according to the laws of the State making the application.
5. The assistance provided for in this Article shall not be accorded with respect to citizens, companies, or other entities of the Contracting State to which application is made
except in cases where the exemption from or reduction of tax or the payment of tax credits provided for in
paragraph 4 of Article 10 (Dividends) granted under the Convention to such citizens, companies, or other entities has, according to mutual agreement between the competent authorities of the Contracting States, been enjoyed by persons not entitled to such benefits.
Article XII of the Protocol replaces paragraph 5 of Article 28 (Assistance in Collection) of the Convention. The change revises paragraph 5 so as to remove the now obsolete reference to the provision of paragraph 4 of Article 10 (Dividends) of the existing Convention prior to amendment by the Protocol related to the “avoir fiscal.”
Assistance And Support in Collection
1. The States undertake to lend assistance and support to each other in the collection of the taxes which are the subject of the present Convention, together with interest, costs, and additions to the taxes and fines not being of a penal character.
4. The assistance provided for in this Article shall not be accorded with respect to the citizen, corporations, or other entities of the State to which application is made, except in cases where the exemption or reduced rate of tax granted under the Convention to such citizens, corporations or other entities has, according to mutual agreement between the competent authorities of the States, been enjoyed by persons not entitled to such benefits.
INCOME TAX TREATY 2000
1. The Contracting States undertake to lend assistance to each other in the collection of taxes referred to in Article 2 (Taxes Covered), together with interest, costs, additions to such taxes, and civil penalties, referred to in this Article as a “revenue claim.”
8. No assistance shall be provided under this Article for a revenue claim in respect of a taxpayer to the extent that the taxpayer can demonstrate that a) where the taxpayer is an individual, the revenue claim relates to a taxable period in which the taxpayer was a citizen of the requested State, and b) where the taxpayer is an entity that is a company, estate or trust, the revenue claim relates to a taxable period in which the taxpayer derived its status as such an entity from the laws in force in the requested State.
Article XXVI A
Assistance in Collection
1. The Contracting States undertake to lend assistance to each other in the collection of taxes referred to in paragraph 9, together with interest, costs, additions to such taxes and civil penalties, referred to in this Article as a “revenue claim”.
8. No assistance shall be provided under this Article for a revenue claim in respect of a taxpayer to the extent that the taxpayer can demonstrate that
(a) where the taxpayer is an individual, the revenue claim relates to a taxable period in which the taxpayer was a citizen of the requested State, and………
1. Subparagraph 8(a) of Article XXVI A (Assistance in Collection) of the Convention shall be deleted and replaced by the following:
(a) Where the taxpayer is an individual, the revenue claim relates either to a taxable period in which the taxpayer was a citizen of the requested State or, if the taxpayer became a citizen of the requested State at any time before November 9, 1995 and is such a citizen at the time the applicant State applies for collection of the claim, to a taxable period that ended before November 9, 1995; and
2. Paragraph 9 of Article XXVI A (Assistance in Collection) of the Convention shall be deleted and replaced by the following:
9. Notwithstanding the provisions of Article II (Taxes Covered), the provisions of this Article shall apply to all categories of taxes collected, and to contributions to social security and employment insurance premiums levied, by or on behalf of the Government of a Contracting State.
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