Seven Simple Points to be Made Re: Transition Tax and CFCs

 


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

Some discussion of this problem may be found here.

.

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.

Relinquished before 2004? Applying for CLN now? What are the IRS consequences?

reposted from Maple Sandbox .

Posted on March 6, 2013 by Pacifica777 .

There’s no question with renunciation (Immigration and Nationalities Act, s. 349(a)(5)).  You are relinquishing your citizenship and notifying the US government of it at the same time, and that’s the date your US citizenship ends.

But what if you relinquished your citizenship by a different method of INS, s. 349(a), such as taking citizenship in another country with the intent to relinquish your US citizenship (349(a)(1))?

The State Department is clear.  No matter when you notify the US govt of your relinquishment, once your CLN application is approved, your US citizenship ended on the date you actually relinquished it (that is the date your performed the relinquishing act, eg. naturalised as a citizen of another country — this date is indicated as your expatriation date on the the CLN.)

The IRS, however, according to s. 877A(g)(4) of the US Tax Code, considers the date of your relinquishment for IRS purposes is not the date of your actual relinquishment but the date you notified the US government of it (your consulate meeting).  This was not the case prior to 2004, however [the relevant section was 7701(n) in 2004 and it was replaced by 877A in 2008].

So, what if you relinquished your US citizenship long ago, but only recently learned of US law and policy changes which make it important to be able to prove you are not a US citizen, and wish to obtain Certificate of Loss of Nationality (a document you probably never even heard of before)?  What if the current law regarding IRS and citizenship termination did not exist at the time you relinquished?  Logic  leads one to the conclusion that laws passed after a person ceases to be a citizen are irrelevant.  The IRS has never made a definitive statement on this issue, however their instructions for the 8854 (expatriation tax form) are only directed at people with expatriation dates “after June 3, 2004.”

Tax lawyers Michael J. Miller and Ellen Brody have just published an excellent article on this matter, Expats Live in Fear of the Malevolant Time Machine, in which they point out the legal, as well as common sense, absurdity of a retroactive application position.  It’s very clear reading with useful references to legislation and case law as well.

The Devil is in the Details When it Comes to the U.S. Exit Tax

reposted from isaac brock society
 

A very   interesting discussionabout the Exit Tax has been taking place at Brock this week. In particular, the comment below from USCitizenAbroad highlights some of the major differences between the U.S. Exit Tax and the more benign Departure Tax that occurs in Canada and Australia. It cannot be overstated how punitive and destructive the U.S. Exit Tax is and anyone contemplating renouncing, should be certain to be familiar with all aspects of it; do a preliminary set of returns and an accurate accounting of all assets including pensions. While anyone can renounce at a Consulate before filing tax and information returns, anyone who is close to being “covered” should get counselling before taking such a step.

******

USCitizenAbroad says says:

@Watcher makes the point that:

As you see, then, the devil is very much in the detail. These latter two things have no analog in the Canadian exit tax. So… the US is not the only country to have an exit tax, but the exit tax it does have is one of the worst. And very likely the actual worst.

@Karen notes that:

On the Exit Tax – Australia also has an exit tax similar to Canada’s. When you cease to be a tax-resident of Australia you have a choice – pay capital gains tax on your current unrealised gains OR defer the tax until you sell the asset, at which time you pay tax to Australia on your entire realised gain, even the gain that accrued after you left Australia (Australian real property may be treated differently as most treaties would allow Australia to tax non-residents on real property gains where the property is located in Australia).

With respect the comments that compare the U.S. “Exit Tax” with “Departure Taxes” levied by other countries confuse the issue.

The “departure tax” imposed by Canada is a tax imposed based on a change in “residence”. The U.S. S. 877A Exit Tax is a tax imposed based on a change in “citizenship” in the case of “citizens” and a change in “immigration status” when applied to Green Card holders.

In the case of “Green Card Holders” the U.S “Exit Tax” (provided that it is applied when the Green Card Holder BOTH moves from the USA and surrenders the Green Card at the same time) is somewhat like the Canadian departure tax. It does however apply to more items and it applies to items that have no connection to the United States.

In the case of U.S. citizens, the U.S. Exit Tax is in NO way connected to residence in the United States. It does NOT apply at the time the a U.S. citizen moves from the United States. It applies at the time that they decide that they do NOT want to be a U.S. citizen and renounce U.S. citizenship. This means that it mainly applies to assets (both capital assets and pensions) that have no connection whatsoever to the United States. To put it simply the way the U.S. Exit Tax rules operate is that the United States uses it as a a mechanism to (in effect) confiscate the non-U.S. assets.

In addition, as @Neill, @Heidi and others have noted the confiscation is RETROACTIVE confiscation. In other words, the law appeared in 2008 (so NO Neill did NOT agree to this by moving to the USA) trapping assets that existed at that time. As @Heidi puts it:

NO ONE coming to the US could possibly expect to become a prisoner of the ‘freest country in the world’

Wrong, the simple fact is that there are many Green Card Holders who are now “in prison in America”.

Furthermore, as some comments have noted the application of the S. 877A rules has the practical effect of subjecting those assets to double taxation. And as @Watcher notes, there is NO realization event to pay the Exit Tax.

@Watcher concludes with:

the US is not the only country to have an exit tax, but the exit tax it does have is one of the worst. And very likely the actual worst.

The U.S. is NOT the only country that imposes taxation when one breaks “tax jurisdiction” with a country. But, because all other countries use “residence based taxation”, the U.S. IS the only country that has an Exit Tax based on a change in personal characteristic “citizenship or immigration status”. The pure evil of the Exit Tax flows from the pure evil of a system of citizenship-based taxation. Because there is NO other country that uses citizenship-based taxation, there is no other country that can have an “Exit Tax” that is based on a change in citizenship.

Therefore:

On the one hand to compare the Canadian Departure Tax to the U.S. Exit Tax is an incorrect comparison; and

On the other hand, (since many commenters seem to be making the comparison), some thoughts on the suggestion the U.S. Exit Tax is the worst.

When the U.S. S. 877A Exit Tax is compared to Exit Taxes imposed by current and past regimes, it is clear that the U.S. Exit is by far the worst by today’s standards.

But, the U.S. Exit Tax is also by far the worst by historical standards. The Exit Taxes imposed by the nastiest regimes in history (say during the World War II era) made NO attempt to confiscate assets acquired after the person left the country. As @Karen put its:

The US exit tax is, as others have said, much worse. At least with the Canadian and Australian versions, assets purchased after leaving the country are not included.

So, yes there is NO doubt that the U.S. 877A Exit Tax is the nastiest in history.

@Nononymous the S. 877A Exit Tax is unjust whether one complies or not, whether it is paid or not and whether one “feels the injustice” or not. The fact that an accidental American ignores the issue, is completely irrelevant to the injustice of the tax.