If you Decide to Comply, DON’T choose a Homelander Tax Compliance Professional

I was very surprised to receive the following email on Friday evening. I cannot recall ever getting anything like this before. I will not identify the author because it is not proper to publicly share an email without the permission of the sender. It is not anyone I have ever heard of before and I doubt any of you have either. It took me a while to decide if I would answer or not. I tried to put my reaction aside after all, why be surprised that a tax compliance professional would demonstrate so little awareness outside of his/her experience. In the end, I simply could not ignore how I felt. I replied and have decided to publish the email without naming its author and my response.

I wish I had pointed out to this person that technically, due to the Canadian IGA (or likely any Model I agreement), that there are no harsh penalties that have been implemented. A professional who is truly conversant with this situation should have stated this better. Does such a statement show a conscious attempt to confuse the expat, assuming penalties from FBAR, OVDP etc will come to mind? Could it be a reference to the idea that Form 8938 is a harsh penalty all on it’s own? (As a matter of torture, most definitely….) Or is the practitioner just sloppy? (Maybe we could get this person to rule on all the “plain language” misapplications we hear of….retroactive 877A, anyone?).

I also wish I had challenged the statement that “the program is working.” There is nothing to suggest that the majority of non-resident (or resident, for that matter) Americans have become compliant. The numbers quoted in the statistics for the OVDP are nowhere near 9 million and we know some of those who came forward are Homelanders. For some interesting figures regarding compliance please see Professor William Byrnes’ “Is FATCA Much Ado About Nothing“? . Prof. Byrnes states “The IRS War on the FBAR is simply not working.” (“The IRS received 807,040 FUBARS FBARs in 2012; compliance with FBAR filing appears to be declining.”) Every tax compliance professional should be required to read this report. It would go a long way in curtailing the inflammatory language we experience, intended to confuse & frighten and assumes we are all idiots.

I also should have challenged the nonsense about ICE not allowing visas of former citizens being allowed to enter the U.S. This amounts to the usual threat of the Reed Amendment. Does ICE have the power to override the State Department?

I am simply astonished at the arrogance of this person. What to say of the obvious limited exposure of such an “expert.” (I have never heard anyone suggest that there are bank problems in Canada). Mentioning OVDP and not Streamlined. Who on earth does this person think he/she is?

My USC/resident-CPA sister strongly suggests I complain to the appropriate accountancy board.

And the unmitigated gall of implying I should send clients………good gawd………

*******

(emphases are mine)

If this is the Patricia Moon who has given up her US citizenship because of FATCA, then this is for you. I have seen your “protests” regarding FATCA and filing US tax returns. You stated that you were delinquent in your filings, and that you caught yourself up and then renounced your citizenship.

You are one of the very reasons that FATCA with its harsh penalties was implemented. I have been practicing in the international tax area, specializing in US expatriates, for over 31 years. I am the chairman of a state CPA Society’s International Tax Committee, and have an international reputation in this area. Over my 31 years’ time I have prepared and/or reviewed several thousand tax return. I have seen dozens of people such as yourself , people who are American citizens, and enjoy the benefits of being an American citizen, while failing to fulfill the obligations that come with citizenship – namely filing a US tax return and paying any tax due. One cannot enjoy the benefits of American citizenship without complying with the responsibilities.

Since FATCA has been implemented, there have been citizens such as yourself who have renounced their citizenship. I understand from a couple of US Customs & Immigration attorneys that I work with that ICE often won’t allow visas to come back to the US, sometimes even for vacations, to former US citizens. However, a much larger number of persons have come forward and are now filing tax returns and complying with the responsibilities of being a US citizen.

So the law has worked. It is accomplishing its intended goals. I personally have worked with several formerly noncompliant individuals to “get them legal” through the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program.

Staying legal is not a difficult process. It requires filing a US tax return every year. Often there is no tax due from it, as the foreign tax credits and the foreign earned income exclusion will reduce or eliminate the tax on all but US-sourced income.

Giving up citizenship is a drastic step when compliance is so easy. It is like amputating your arm because you have a hang nail.

And, from my experience, most larger banks WILL continue to work with Americans abroad. Very few are closing American accounts. In Canada, for example, I know that BMO Harris actually promotes accounts for Americans. I have several clients in Canada who bank with them. RBS Bank, Banque Scotia, TD Mortgage Corporation, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, and many others.

Just my thoughts. Feel free to give my name to any individual who wants to become legal, but does not want to go to the extreme that you did.

Thank you.

*******

My response:

Your email is extremely offensive and demonstrates that you understand this situation from one point of view and one only.

Perhaps you are unaware of the fact that the large majority of expats living outside the US for decades were simply unaware of any requirement to file taxes and information returns. The U.S. made no attempts to educate or notify people of these requirements. Surely you have known people who were “non-willful.” I certainly hope you did not put any persons such as these in the OVDP/OVDI.

Your comment “You are one of the very reasons that FATCA with its harsh penalties was implemented” is curious, given I did not owe any tax. I was a stay-at-home mother with an annual income that never exceeded $11,000 CAD from doing the books for my husband’s company. An annuity inherited from my parents was transferred at a later time and I most certainly paid the tax that was due.

As to “I have seen dozens of people such as yourself, people who are American citizens, and enjoy the benefits of being an American citizen….”

  • I had not lived in the United States for thirty years and was/am a law-abiding, tax compliant citizen/resident of Canada
  • I was not “enjoying the benefits of being an American citizen”
  • If you are referring to having the right of return, there is nothing particularly unique there; the majority of countries on earth allow their citizens to return
  • And I certainly am in no need of the Marines coming to save me in Canada (a “benefit” that one would have to pay for, were it even relevant to those living in first-world countries).

If by “benefit” you mean having access to “the greatest country on earth” I will tell you that a component of renouncing involved my observations about Abu Gharib, Guantanamo, the assassination of American citizens by drone without due process and other actions that frankly made me ashamed to have ever been an American citizen. In other words, your assertion that my renunciation was “like amputating your arm because you have a hang nail” simply does not cover all that was involved. Not the least of which, was my Canadian family and how they felt about the effect of U.S. policy on their lives. My husband resented any account information being turned over to FINCEN (given the fact it was his money)and it was a huge issue in the marriage.

I have remained active in this movement having renounced over 6 years ago. I don’t gain anything personally by volunteering a huge portion of my life to this. I am fully conversant with what is required regarding compliance. It is not always simple and it is very expensive. You fail to mention facts such as:

  • the U.S. would expect capital gains tax on the sale of our personal residence for a gain greater than $250k
  • the U.S. treatment of Canadian mutual funds as PFICs is particularly punitive and would require 8621 every year
  • the U.S. insistence that my country’s tax-deferred vehicles designed to help save for education, disability and non-RRSP uses are foreign trusts requiring 3520 and 3520A every year; all of these plans mirror similar programs in the US (529s, ABLE and Roth IRAs)
  • had I been signed on my husband’s company (I wasn’t) we could have found ourselves subject to an annual 5471 and the particularly abusive Transition Tax

I personally have no desire whatsoever to go to the United States. I don’t care what CBP and ICE do. It doesn’t frighten me at all. A Canadian does not need a visa to visit the U.S. anyway.

None of us have ever claimed that obtaining bank accounts or mortgages is difficult in Canada. This is a situation that primarily affects Europeans and it is very, very real. I know many people who have been severely impacted by it. It was perversely disingenuous for Judge Rose claim in the Bopp FATCA ruling, that this was not due to FATCA but to independent action of the banks.

Over the years I have encountered many people such as yourself, who seem to think they are entitled to inflict their opinions and judgments about character based upon presumptions made about U.S. expectations. I wonder if it could ever occur to you that there are other places and people in the world who do not base the value of their existence upon opinions such as you have expressed. I find it difficult to believe you would end asking me to send you clients. I trust this will be the end of any communication.

Regards,

Patricia Moon
Secretary-Treasurer
xxx-xxx-xxxx
Alliance for the Defence of Canadian Sovereignty &
Alliance for the Defeat of Citizenship Taxation

Part 7: Responding to the Sec. 965 “transition tax”: Why the transition tax creates a fictional tax event that allows the U.S. to collect tax where it never could have before

 

cross posted from citizenshipsolutions

    by John Richardson
 

Introduction

This is the seventh in my series of posts about the Sec. 965 Transition Tax and whether/how it applies to the small business corporations owned by taxpaying residents of other countries (who may also have U.S. citizenship). These small business corporations are in no way “foreign”. They are certainly “local” to the resident of another country who just happens to have the misfortune of being a U.S. citizen.

Continue reading Part 7: Responding to the Sec. 965 “transition tax”: Why the transition tax creates a fictional tax event that allows the U.S. to collect tax where it never could have before

Part 5: Responding to the Sec. 965 “transition tax”: Shades of #OVDP! April 15/18 is your last, best chance to comply!

cross posted from citizenship solutions
    by John Richardson

I suggested to John that some might not understand why a similarity between OVDP and the Transition Tax was being made. He asked me to introduce the post to make sure it was clear that the U.S. government has demonstrated that confiscation is the name of the game (NOT tax).

Some of you may wonder why a connection is being made between the OVDP program and the Transition “Tax.” The reason is very simple. We need to change the language. We need to call it what it really is. In the beginning, people were too frightened to understand what the OVDP really was. It took years before it was clear it was nothing less than confiscation. Fortunately, we knew prior to the passage of the Tax Jobs Cut Act that the Transition “Tax” was a blatant confiscatory provision.

The “Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program.” An “amnesty” program. Nine years and many destroyed lives have exposed it for what it really was. No one could really have considered it “voluntary.” The IRS and the tax compliance community certainly presented as one’s only option. In 2011, we did not have the advantage of what we know now; the limitations of being discovered, the extremely difficult/unlikely ability of the IRS to collect. People who had no tax liability among other atrocities, were fined from 20 – 27.5% of their assets. There was no taxable event. This revolved around not filing a piece of paper. FBAR. An appropriate term used was “The FBAR Fundraiser.” Another word would be confiscation. IOW, OVDP was NOT about TAX.

Some words have powerful associations. Sometimes those associations grow into clichés. We are all familiar with the association that anyone who has left America is rich has done so to avoid tax. We have been working at this since late 2011. Seven years. No amount of trying to educate via comments on online articles etc. has put a dent in this erroneous and damaging perception. Recently, some of us have started replacing “citizenship taxation” with “non-resident taxation.” Non-resident taxation describes what it really is and dissociates from the idea that a patriotic citizen (American) should pay it. It appeals to the notion that reasonable people accept i.e., that one pays taxes (only) where one lives. It may take time but the value of changing the language in this situation, is obvious.

To refer to this new requirement as a “tax” is to immediately justify it as being reasonable. Take the Canadian government for example. It’s position is that the U.S. has the right to tax it’s own citizens and that Canada has no business interfering with that. Thus the IGA. Nevermind that the majority of the people affected are Canadian citizens and residents FIRST.

So what’s wrong with the term “Transition Tax?” As we all know, any expat with a “foreign” corporation will be unable to transition to a territorial system as will major multinationals . So to call it a “transition” is completely erroneous. As for “tax”, a general notion is that a tax is connected with delivery of services or benefits i.e., there is some relationship between the exchange of income for services. It is nothing short of bizarre to levy a 30-year retroactive tax on a group of people who were not residents, nor receiving anything in exchange for surrendering a considerable portion of what is primarily, their retirement pensions.

A phrase John has used repeatedly to describe the Transition “Tax” is “the confiscation of the retirement pensions of the citizens and residents of other countries.” That’s what it really is. Like the OVDP, it is a punitive tool that destroys the lives of long-term expats. We need to get that message across.

****

    by John Richardson

Introduction

This is the fifth in my series of posts about the Sec. 965 Transition Tax and whether/how it applies to the small business corporations owned by tax paying residents of other countries (who may also have U.S. citizenship). These small business corporations are in no way “foreign”. They are certainly “local” to the resident of another country who just happens to have the misfortune of being a U.S. citizen.

The purpose of this post is to argue that (as applied to those who do not live in the United States) the transition tax is very similar to the OVDP (“Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Programs” which are discussed here. Some of initial thoughts were captured in the post referenced in the following tweet:

The first four posts about the “transition tax” were:

Part 1: Responding to The Section 965 “transition tax”: “Resistance is futile” but “Compliance is impossible”

Part 2: Responding to The Section 965 “transition tax”: Is “resistance futile”? The possible use of the Canada U.S. tax treaty to defeat the “transition tax”

Part 3: Responding to the Sec. 965 “transition tax”: They hate you for (and want) your pensions!

Part 4: Responding to the Sec. 965 “transition tax”: Comparing the treatment of “Homeland Americans” to the treatment of “nonresidents”

*A review of what what the “transition tax” actually is may be found at the bottom of this post.

This post is for the purpose of the arguing that, as applied to those who live outside the United States, payment of the “transition tax” in 2018, is the financial equivalent to participation in 2011 OVDI (“Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program”.

 

Seven Reasons Why The U.S. Transition Tax as applied to “nonresidents” is similar to the “Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program As Applied To “Nonresidents” Continue reading Part 5: Responding to the Sec. 965 “transition tax”: Shades of #OVDP! April 15/18 is your last, best chance to comply!

Part 2: The transition tax: Is “resistance futile”? The possible use of the Canada U.S. tax treaty to defeat the “transition tax”

 

cross-posted from citizenshipsolutions blog

by John Richardson

Beginning with the conclusion (for those who don’t want to read the post) …

For the reasons given in this post, I believe that there are grounds to argue that the imposition of the Sec. 965 “transition tax” on Canadian resident/citizens DOES violate the Canada U.S. tax treaty. It is my hope that this post will generate some badly needed discussion on this issue.

If you are an individual who believes you may be impacted by the “transition tax”, you should consider raising this issue with the Competent Authority. I would be happy to explore this with you.

Need some background on the Sec. 965 “U.S. transition tax”?

The following tweet references a 7 part video series about the Internal Revenue Code Sec. 965 “Transition Tax” created by John Richardson and Dr. Karen Alpert.

(Video 6 gives examples of what various approaches to “Transition Tax Compliance” might look like.)

A reminder of what the possible imposition of the “transition tax” would mean to certain Canadian residents

Interesting article that demonstrates the impact of the U.S. tax policy of (1) exporting the Internal Revenue Code to other countries and (2) using the Internal Revenue Code to impose direct taxation on the “tax residents” of those other countries.

Some thoughts on this:

1. Different countries have different “cultures” of financial planning and carrying on businesses. The U.S. tax culture is such that an individual carrying on a business through a corporation is considered to be a “presumptive tax cheat”. This is NOT so in other countries. For example, in Canada (and other countries), it is normal for people to use small business corporations to both carry on business and create private pension plans. So, the first point that must be understood is that (if this tax applies) it is in effect a “tax” (actually it’s confiscation) of private pension plans!!! That’s what it actually is. The suggestion in one of the comments that these corporations were created to somehow avoid “self-employment” tax (although possibly true in countries that don’t have totalization agreements) is generally incorrect. I suspect that the largest number of people affected by this are in Canada and the U.K. which are countries which do have “totalization agreements”.

2. None of the people interviewed, made the point (or at least it was not reported) that this “tax” as applied to individuals is actually higher than the “tax” as applied to corporations. In the case of individuals the tax would be about 17.5% and not the 15.5% for corporations. (And individuals do not get the benefit of a transition to “territorial taxation”.)

3. As Mr. Bruce notes people will not easily be able to pay this. There is no realization event whatsoever. It’s just: (“Hey, we see there is some money there, let’s take it). Because there is no realization event, this should be viewed as an “asset confiscation” and not as a “tax”.

4. Understand that this is a pool of capital that was NEVER subject to U.S. taxation on the past. Therefore, if this is a tax at all, it should be viewed as a “retroactive tax”.

5. Under general principles of law, common sense and morality (does any of this matter?) the retained earnings of non-U.S. corporations are first subject to taxation by the country of incorporation. The U.S. “transition tax” is the creation of a “fictitious taxable event” which results in a preemptive “tax strike” against the tax base of other countries. If this is allowed under tax treaties, it’s only because when the treaties were signed, nobody could have imagined anything this outrageous.

6. It is obvious that this was NEVER INTENDED TO APPLY TO Americans abroad. Furthermore, no individual would even imagine that this could apply to them without “Education provided by the tax compliance industry”. Those in the industry should figure out how to argue that this was never intended to apply to Americans abroad, that there is no suggestion from the IRS that this applies to Americans abroad, that there is no legislative history suggesting that this applies to Americans abroad, and that this should not be applied to Americans abroad.

7. Finally, the title of this article refers to “Americans abroad”. This is a gross misstatement of the reality. The problem is that these (so called) “Americans abroad” are primarily the citizens and “tax residents” of other countries – that just happen to have been born in the United States. They have no connection to the USA. Are these citizen/residents of other countries (many who don’t even identify as Americans) expected to simply “turn over” their retirement plans to the IRS???? Come on!

Some of theses thoughts are explored in an earlier post: “U.S. Tax Reform and the “nonresident corporation owner”: Does the Section 965 “transition tax apply”?

And now, on to our “regularly scheduled programming”: The possible use of the U.S. Canada Tax Treaty to as a defense to the U.S. “transition tax”

In Part 1 of this series, I wrote: “Responding to the Section 965 “transition tax”: “Resistance is futile and compliance is impossible“. I ended that post with a reminder that the imposition of Section 965 “transition tax” on Canadian residents has (at least) four characteristics:

1.The U.S. Transition Tax is a U.S. tax on the “undistributed earnings” of a Canadian corporation; and

2. Absent deliberate and expensive mitigation provisions, the U.S. transition tax contemplates the “double taxation” of Canadian residents who hold U.S. citizenship.

3. The “transition tax” is a preemptive “tax strike” against a corporation in Canada. Historically Canada would have the first right of taxation over Canadian companies.

4. The U.S. Transition Tax creates a “fictitious” taxable event. It is not triggered by any action on the part of the shareholder.

The purpose of this post is to argue that the Canada U.S. tax treaty may be a defense to the application of the Section 965 “Transition Tax”

Part A – Exploring what a “Subpart F” inclusion really is

Part B – The Canada U.S. Tax Treaty: Relevant provisions

Part C – Impact of the “Savings Clause”

Part D – The Interpretation of the tax treaty: WHO interprets the treaty and HOW is the treaty to be interpreted

_________________________________________________________________________

Continue reading Part 2: The transition tax: Is “resistance futile”? The possible use of the Canada U.S. tax treaty to defeat the “transition tax”

Part 1: Responding to The Section 965 “Transition Tax”: “Resistance is Futile” but “Compliance is Impossible”

 

Cross-posted from the citizenshipsolutions blog

by John Richardson

Introduction and background …

“This legislation is being interpreted by a number of tax professionals to mean that individual U.S. citizens living outside the United States are required to simply “fork over” a percentage of the value of their small business corporations to the IRS. Although technically “CFCs” these companies are certainly NOT foreign to the people who use them to run businesses that are local to their country of residence. Furthermore, the “culture” of Canadian Controlled Private Corporations is that they are actually used as “private pension plans”. So, an unintended consequence of the Tax Cuts Jobs Act would be that individuals living in Canada are somehow required to collapse their pension plans and turn the proceeds over to the U.S. government” -John Richardson

I have previously suggested that the Section 965 “transition tax” should not be interpreted to apply to Americans abroad. This argument was based largely on a “lack of legislative intention” coupled with the fact that individuals (whether in the USA or living abroad) do NOT get the benefits of the transition to “territorial taxation”.

These are difficult times for many Canadians who are the owners of Canadian Controlled Private Corporations. Canadian residents use Canadian Controlled Private Corporations (“CCPCs”) to operate small businesses and to create pension plans for their retirement. Importantly a Canadian corporation meets the definition of a “CCPC” only if it is controlled by residents of Canada. By definition all “CCPCs” are local to their owners. The use of “CCPCs” reflects the reality of Canadian tax laws going back to 1972. Governments the world over are taking steps to ensure that corporations cannot be used for the deferral or avoidance of taxation.

The election of the Trudeau Liberals resulted in the Government of Canada taking an interest in “Tax Reform” (or at least “tax reform” in relation to Canadian Controlled Private Corporations. On February 27, 2018 Finance Minister Morneau delivered the Liberals third budget. Although not widely publicized, the budget including major changes in how the passive income of CCPCs is to be taxed in Canada.

Of course those “CCPC” owners who have U.S. citizenship must also deal with the U.S. tax system. Interestingly, both the Government of Canada and the Government of the United States have the owners of “CCPCs” on their radar.

Canada – On the “Home front” (meaning in Canada) the Liberal Government of Justin Trudeau and Finance Minister Bill Morneau are targeting the “retained earnings” in their corporations. Specifically they believe that “retained earnings” that were subject to the lower small business tax rate provide an unfair tax deferral, resulting in more capital to invest, which allows for the creation of additional passive income. The February 27, 2018 Canadian budget is a direct response to this perception.

The United States – The “Homeland” has just passed the TCJA (“Tax Cuts Jobs Act”). One provision of the TCJA amended Internal Revenue Code Section 965 to impose a one time tax on the “United States shareholders” of “Deferred Foreign Income Corporations” (a “DFIC”). This tax is based on the “undistributed earnings” of corporations. The application of this tax to U.S. citizens living outside the United States is newsworthy, is debatable (and is being debated). The application of the Section 965 “transition tax (assuming the applicability of the tax to Canadian resident owners of “CCPcs”), would be a direct, retroactive tax on the “retained earnings” of Canadian Controlled Private Corporations. Notably these “retained earnings” were NEVER subject to U.S. taxation before (it’s retroactive). The mechanism that the U.S. Government is using to impose direct taxation on the retained earnings of “CCPCs” is to (1) attribute the corporate undistributed earnings to the individual shareholder and (2) impose taxation directly on the individual shareholder. For “Tax Geeks” (and those who want boring cocktail conversation), from a U.S. perspective this process of income attribution is called “Subpart F” income. (You can learn all about it by reading Internal Revenue Code Sections 951 – 965). I emphasize that a Subpart F inclusion (by definition) attributes corporate income to a “shareholder” without any realization event whatsoever.
Continue reading Part 1: Responding to The Section 965 “Transition Tax”: “Resistance is Futile” but “Compliance is Impossible”

Comment #2 on “Think You Can Leave the U.S. – Think Again

 

 


 

“There is something fundamentally wrong with a country where compliance with its laws
forces you to (eventually) renounce your citizenship.”

 
This post is based on a comment by John Richardson. The comment is a response to
a post by laurainparis on the Thom Hartmann blogsite.

Laura, you conclude your last comment with:

“In asking his question Thom demonstrates the importance of how the United States treates it citizens when they leave the country. He demonstrates that this is an important question not just for Americans who live outside the US, but for ALL Americans, regardless of where they live. Because anyone who thinks they can leave the country, anyone who comforts themselves with this idea – anyone who asks the question “why don’t more Americans leave?” – they are deluding themselves. There is no freedom for Americans. Americans are not free to live normal lives outside the US, unless they are financially and emotionally prepared to STOP BEING AMERICANS (that is, renounce their citizenship). The word “ironic” doesn’t begin to describe the situation. The words “impossible” and “tragic” do.”

A tragic situation indeed.

What’s most interesting and tragic is that:

The ones who try the hardest to comply with the U.S. rules are the ones who ultimately are forced to renounce. I have assisted a very large number of people in renouncing their U.S. citizenship (and thereby ending U.S. jursidction over them). A high percentage of people I have assisted are people who:

1. Have tried for years to comply with the “alphabet soup” series of laws and reguations that govern the lives of Americans abroad; and

2. Realize that compliance is no longer possible.

The only remaining Americans abroad will be “noncompliant” Americans abroad

In the long run, the only Americans abroad who will be able to retain their U.S. citizenship are those who do NOT attempt compliance with these laws. There is something fundamentally wrong with a country where compliance with its laws forces you to (eventually) renounce your citizenship. This is a problem that has escalated over time.

U.S. citizens abroad are living under siege.

A wonderful expression of the evolution of the problem comes from Jackie Bugnion in
her submission
to the House Ways and Means Committee on Tax Reform. Writing in 2013 she said:

“In 1776, the United States declared independence because the mother country on the other side of the ocean was imposing taxes on the colonies for the benefit of England. Resentment started when Britain tried to enforce the Navigation Act after 1763. Resentment increased with the Stamp Act in 1765, a way for Britain to tax the colonies. The British Tea Act of 1773 led to the Tea Party and we all know the outcome – the American Revolution and independence crying out “no taxation without representation”.

Today, the estimated 7 million Americans resident abroad, of whom the majority are long-term overseas residents in high tax OECD countries, face a comparable situation. Their representation in Congress is non-existent in reality. Americans abroad amount to only 1 to 2% of the votes in any particular state; Congressmen and Senators have ignored their tax issues. The unjustified myth that Americans abroad are wealthy and disloyal restricts a rational approach to the problems because of political image issues.

Citizenship-based taxation (CBT) has existed ever since the federal income tax was adopted. Despite CBT being an anomaly involving double taxation, taxation of phantom gains and explicit tax code discrimination, it was grudgingly tolerated by Americans abroad because it was essentially voluntary, most often involved little tax or no U.S. tax liability and basically was not enforced. In particular, the FBAR filing requirement was so obscure that even the big four accounting firms were not aware of the filing obligation dating from 1970 and failed to inform Americans abroad of the need to file the FBAR.

Since 2001, a series of legislative events have radically changed the situation:

  • In 2001, the Patriot Act made anything foreign suspect, including Americans residing overseas.
  • In 2004, Congress, under the Jobs Act, drastically increased the FBAR civil and criminal penalties to confiscatory levels, creating a disguised form of taxation on assets held overseas.
  • In 2006 administration of the FBAR reports was transferred to the IRS for enforcement.
  • In 2006 the Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act (TIPRA) extended the Bush tax cuts and included a compensatory revenue raising provision that reduced the benefit of the foreign earned income exclusion, limited the foreign housing allowance and pushed Americans overseas into higher tax brackets, thereby increasing U.S. tax liabilities for many Americans abroad.
  • In 2008 the law relating to renunciation of U.S. citizenship was revised under Section 877A and introduced an Exit Tax on wealthy individuals (defined as “covered”). The law also provided that Americans who inherit from estates of former “covered” U.S. citizens are subject to U.S.
    inheritance tax with no exclusion. This outrageous discriminatory provision aims to discourage renunciation of citizenship, but in fact penalizes children of former U.S. citizens for an act they did not commit. In practice, it encourages the children to also renounce their U.S. citizenship.
  • In 2009 the IRS launched its initiative against tax evasion linked to foreign assets through the Overseas Voluntary Disclosure Programs and a threatening public relations campaign. While it justifiably targeted U.S. resident tax evaders, it simultaneously trapped Americans abroad who necessarily have foreign assets. The IRS’s one size fits all policy and bait and switch tactics led to abuses of Americans abroad which inspired sharp criticism from the National Taxpayer Advocate.
  • In 2010 FATCA was slipped into the HIRE bill with no debate in Congress and no cost/benefit
    analysis. FATCA aims to provide the door that closes the fiscal trap by requiring foreign financial institutions to report to the IRS on assets held overseas by U.S. persons. It effectively cuts off many Americans from foreign financial institutions which find it too onerous to maintain American clients. FATCA creates a barrier to free movement of capital and people.
  • In 2012 S.3457 proposed to grant the IRS the authority to have a U.S. passport cancelled or not issued if the IRS determined that the individual owed $50,000 or more U.S. tax.
  • In 2012 the Ex-patriot Act, S.3205, proposed to deny any “covered” expatriate re-entry into the United States, with retroactive effect for ten years prior to enactment of the law. The Reed
    Amendment of the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act already
    allows the United States to deny entry of former citizens into the United States.
  • In 2013, S.268 was introduced; it compounds difficulties created by FATCA.
  • In 2013 the Senate Finance Committee included in its tax reform recommendations a provision which would grant the IRS authority to cancel a U.S. passport for tax collection purposes.

This stream of legislation and proposals categorizes Americans abroad as suspected criminals seeking to escape U.S. taxes. Congress has outdone George III and has turned the United States into a fiscal prison, including legislation which is deemed anti-constitutional under the Fifth Amendment1 and is contrary to Articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.2
The foundation of the U.S. fiscal prison is citizenship-based taxation. Americans working and living abroad carry a ball and chain of dual taxation throughout their entire lives up to and including death.

Americans abroad already pay taxes in the country where they reside and receive governmental services.

The additional U.S. tax obligation creates inevitable incompatibilities and discrimination and even requires Americans abroad to break foreign exchange control laws to pay U.S. taxes.

A revolution among long-term overseas residents is now underway. Five years ago, Americans abroad never talked about renunciation of citizenship. Today, it is a common topic in the press and among the community abroad. For more and more individuals, renunciation is the only solution to an intolerable situation created by the U.S. imposing its laws beyond its borders. The United States is literally destroying the community of Americans abroad, which plays an essential role in representing U.S. interests and goodwill overseas. The United States is shooting itself in the foot.

While the absolute number of renunciations, currently around 2,000 a year, is insignificant compared to the average annual U.S. citizenship naturalizations of 680,000, renunciations have multiplied seven times over the last four years. So far we have seen only the tip of the iceberg if CBT remains in force.

Today’s situation leads to serious hidden prejudice for the United States. U.S. exports are far below where they should to be because citizenship-based discourages U.S. companies from deploying U.S. citizens overseas to sell U.S. products; the law makes them too expensive. U.S. tax law and FATCA create insurmountable barriers for small and medium-sized companies to establish beachheads abroad to develop exports. The loss represents millions of U.S. jobs, hundreds of billions of dollars of exports, billions of dollars of U.S. tax revenue, and an unsustainable trade and budget deficit. Americans married to a foreign spouse, who represent about a third of the Americans resident abroad, now hesitate to register their children born abroad with the U.S. Embassy. The hot thing among young adults in their twenties is to renounce U.S. citizenship; they are aware of the impossible web of U.S. regulations that restrict job opportunities and personal freedom. Pushing away the young generation of Americans abroad is an immense loss to the United States. In prior generations, many highly educated multi-lingual American children returned to the United States, founded companies and created jobs in the U.S.

Adopting RBT will stop this revolution immediately. RBT law needs to be drafted in the spirit to allow free movement of individuals to leave and return to the United States, to reinforce the competitiveness of Americans and the United States overseas, to provide a simple, non-penalizing transition to RBT for the community of Americans already overseas, to ensure that Americans abroad are not subject to FATCA and FBAR, to adapt existing bilateral tax treaties and enter into new tax treaties so that withholding tax rates on U.S. source income are reasonable and to ensure that Americans abroad who have the majority of their assets in the United States (retirement funds, pension funds, real estate) are not disadvantaged under RBT with regard to either income or estate taxes.

I thank you for the opportunity to comment and hold high hopes that your bi-partisan efforts will lead to the constructive tax reform so necessary for Americans residing abroad.

Sincerely yours,
Jacqueline Bugnion”

 

What is Tax Residency? – Episode 2 with John Richardson & Olivier Wagner

 
“Tax residence American style” AKA : Imposing “worldwide taxation” on those with @taxresidency in other countries

The issue of tax residence has gained so much attention since the “crackdown” on non-resident US Persons began in 2009. It is commonly understood that you pay taxes to the country/state/city-town that you reside in. (For an interesting comparison of differences between countries please see this incredible list compiled by the OECD). It simply does not occur to anyone that they would be required to pay taxes to a foreign government.

However, the United States claims jurisdiction due to citizenship. One does not even have to have touched foot in the U.S., according to U.S. law. Of course, due to the viciousness of the U.S. “FBAR Fundraiser” many people began to resist whether of anger or fear.

Not much has changed* , in spite of all the factors that have contributed to this debacle (and debacle it is, what could one expect when a country tries to take what is someone else’s, based on an idea of fake residence?).

For a detailed discussion concerning the determination of tax residence and related factors, please see here.

In this interview, John Richardson speaks with Olivier Wagner about tax residency and how a seemingly simple concept has become so terribly important in the 21st century. At the 38 minute mark, we talk about how to describe U.S. “tax residence”.


INTERVIEW HERE

What is Tax Residency? – Episode 1 with John Richardson & Olivier Wagner

 

 


 
The issue of tax residence has gained so much attention since the “crackdown” on non-resident US Persons began in 2009. It is commonly understood that you pay taxes to the country/state/city-town that you reside in. (For an interesting comparison of differences between countries please see this incredible list compiled by the OECD). It simply does not occur to anyone that they would be required to pay taxes to a foreign government.

However, the United States claims jurisdiction due to citizenship. One does not even have to have touched foot in the U.S., according to U.S. law. Of course, due to the viciousness of the U.S. “FBAR Fundraiser” many people began to resist whether of anger or fear.

Not much has changed* , in spite of all the factors that have contributed to this debacle (and debacle it is, what could one expect when a country tries to take what is someone else’s, based on an idea of fake residence?).

For a detailed discussion concerning the determination of tax residence and related factors, please see here.

In this interview, John Richardson speaks with Olivier Wagner about tax residency and how a seemingly simple concept has become so terribly important in the 21st century.

Listen here

 

 

The Attributes of Immoral Laws or How the Internal Revenue Code Applies to Non-Resident Taxpayers

 

cross-posted from Tax Connections

After the latest IRS Medic podcast, Tax Connections published a post by Anthony Parent.

Perhaps the most unifying statement of the post is:

A part of our interview that really stands out to me is when Attorney Richardson referred to the current system of global taxation and compliance as immoral.

John Richardson answers :

As a person who lives “offshore”, and attempts to assist individuals who are “tax residents” of other countries (Canada and others), I am a keen observer of the damage (perhaps “carnage”) that the Internal Revenue Code inflicts on people who do not live in the United States.

As a law student I had little interest in the philosophy of law. As a person who sees how the extra-territorial application of laws impacts the lives of ordinary people, I recently had the following memory.

Many years ago I was introduced to Professor Lon Fuller’s (of Harvard law school fame) book titled “The Morality of Law”. In Chapter 2 he describes “The Morality That Makes Law Possible”. It is a fascinating and relevant read. He identifies the following (among others) as characteristics of immoral laws:

– retroactive laws
– laws that lack clarity
– contradictory laws
– laws requiring the impossible
– laws that are not constant through time – laws where the law is applied in a manner that is inconsistent with it’s intent (FBAR anyone?)

Professor Fuller was writing in the early 1970s. Looks to me as though the application of the Internal Revenue Code to “tax residents” of other countries, was specifically designed to include all of these immoral attributes.

Funny how rereading Professor Fuller’s book many years (at least one generation) later reminded me of the great American writer Mark Twain:

“When I was 14 my father was so ignorant I couldn’t stand to with him. By the time I turned 21, I was amazed at how much my father had learned in 7 years.”
 

Imposing Tax & Reporting Obligations on the Citizens & Residents of Other Countries is Immoral

Latest Podcast Guest: Tax Attorney John Richardson

 

cross-posted from Tax Connections

After the latest IRS Medic podcast, Tax Connections published a post by Anthony Parent.

Perhaps the most unifying statement of the post is:

A part of our interview that really stands out to me is when Attorney Richardson referred to the current system of global taxation and compliance as immoral.

John Richardson answers :

With the respect to the following excerpt as evidence of the “immorality”:

“Imposes compliance obligations on tax residents of other countries.”

Notice that that says “compliance” obligations. This includes but is certainly not limited to “tax obligations”.

The Internal Revenue Code is written so that EVERY INDIVIDUAL in the world EXCEPT “NONRESIDENT ALIENS” is required to comply with the Internal Revenue Code in its entirety. This requirement is without regard to where you live in the world. So, in determining how the Internal Revenue Code applies to an individual, one would simply ask whether the person is a “nonresident alien”. If not, the the Internal Revenue Code applies in its full force. This means that the full force of the Internal Revenue Code applies to individuals who are citizens and residents of other countries who just happen to have been born in the United States. (U.S. citizenship is automatically conferred on those who were “Born In The USA”).

Think of it. The U.S. has actually exported the Internal Revenue Code around the world. The Internal Revenue Code is used to impose direct taxation on people who are BOTH citizens and “tax residents” of other countries! Note that is the Internal Revenue Code (in its full force) that applies.

Whether you are a seasoned tax professional or doing your first tax return, you know full well that that compliance with the Internal revenue code requires much more than the payment of U.S. tax. It requires compliance with a range of penalty laden and intrusive reporting obligations. It also punishes those who “commit personal finance abroad” and/or attempt financial and retirement planning outside the United States.

As mentioned in the video, all tax systems are expressions of the cultural values of the country. So, the application of the Internal Revenue Code to other countries, means that the U.S. (via its tax system) is actually exporting and attempting to impose U.S. cultural values (or lack thereof) on the citizens and residents of other countries. The video used the example of imposing the Internal Revenue Code on residents of Muslim countries. This is a big problem that can lead only to trouble. (See for example a recent article written by Virginia La Torre Jeker that suggests conflicts between the Internal Revenue Code and Sharia law.)

The United States and Eritrea are the only two countries in the world that attempt to impose “worldwide taxation” on the residents of other countries. Interestingly, Eritrea imposes only an excise tax. It does not export its reporting requirements and create “fake income”. It is a far more gentle system than that imposed by the United States.

Frankly, to compare the Eritrea to the United States (in this regard), is an insult to Eritrea.