After Five Decades of Abuse, Enough is Enough!

 
cross-posted from Brock
Posted on February 12, 2012 by Just Me
 
Forget about the notion that CBT has been with us since the Civil War. Forget about the absurd conclusion of Cook v Tait. The real beginning of our story started 55 years ago on October 16, 1962. This was the beginning of the U.S. government’s campaign of punishment for Americans who dare to live abroad.

Many people have often said that the only way to get the U.S. to understand our situation is to focus not on harms, or fairness, or Constitutionality. Doing that just fuels the clichés and “alternative facts” about all the fatcats abroad, cheating on taxes. Instead, as Roger Conklin tried to do, the Congress, new Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and POTUS should realize that these policies have resulted in a trade deficit for 55 years.

Finally, it merits at least some mention that fifty years ago, before these extra fiscal and financial reporting burdens were put on the shoulders of overseas Americans, and while they were still fully able to compete with the citizens of other countries in the same foreign markets, the United States had enjoyed more than sixty-seven years of unbroken trade surpluses with the rest of the world. During the subsequent decade, after this new toxic tax burden was imposed on those living and working abroad, the U.S. foreign trade position began to weaken, as many had predicted, and a trade deficit appeared for the first time in the 20th Century in 1971. As the tax burden on overseas Americans became increasingly heavy and increasingly incomprehensible, these deficits soon became a permanent fixture of U.S. trade performance, and we are now in our 36th straight deficit year with the cumulative amount of these trade deficits now exceeding $8 trillion.

It is not very obvious so far that the current Administration in Washington , despite the enthralling campaign promises that were made in 2008, has any serious interest in leveling the worldwide playing field for trade. The results for the first eleven months of 2011 already show an impressive deficit for this most recent year of more than $500 billion, which is the worst trade performance of the last three years, and this deficit still grows each and every day at a rate in excess of $1.5 billion. The aggregate trade performance for the first three years of the current administration is now a negative $1.4 trillion! (Update: Year over year, the trade gap for 2011 was up 11.6% to $558 billion.)

This history of the sad and incomprehensibly self-destructive behavior of the United States during the past 50 years, which is unique among all of the major trading nations of the world today, is well worth reading and contemplating.

As has been stated many times before, major world powers don’t always decline due to destruction coming from outside. They sometimes infect themselves with terminal obsessions from within that, alas, seem to then become incurable. This doesn’t have to happen this time to Uncle Sam, but to avoid it something rather urgent needs to be done before it becomes too late.

This is something our oft-criticized fellow expats at ACA understood and have fought for decades. Andy Sundberg is the author of the report which comprises the main portion of this post. Read the entire report and decide if all coming to this situation in the last five years understand the history of this problem better or are entitled to criticize other actions in hindsight. In a recent private email group discussion, a story that came out might offer a useful perspective:

A teacher once told me he was curious why geese always flew in a “V.” So he looked it up and found that the one in the front led until he no longer could and he moved to the back being replaced by the next and so on. In that way they reached their destination.

So no matter whether you come from ACA 50 years ago, or DA, or RO, or AARO, FAWCO, Brock 5 years ago or American Expatriates 3 years ago, we are all trying to get tax reform in order to right this situation once and for all. Each has a part to play in this unfortunate situation. This is much more in keeping with this post’s resolution:
 
So Let Us Now All Rise Up, Join Together to Throw off These Shackles, and Take Appropriate Action to Prepare for a Much More Positive Future for All of Us, our Heirs and for Our Country.
 
 

“ENOUGH IS ENOUGH”

AFTER FIVE DECADES OF ABUSE

IT’S TIME FOR A CHANGE

  

THIS COMING OCTOBER WE WILL MOURN

THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY

OF THE DEATH OF

A LEVEL PLAYING FIELD

FOR OVERSEAS AMERICANS

AND NOW IT’S TIME TO GET IT BACK

 

Reproduced by permission of Andy Sundberg, Fellow and Secretary, the Overseas American Academy , Geneva , Switzerland , 16 January 2012. Continue reading “After Five Decades of Abuse, Enough is Enough!”

Dewees 2: Why did he participate in the 2009 #OVDP Horror Show?

cross posted from citizenship solutions

In an earlier post I explained why the Canada Revenue Agency assisted the IRS in collecting a $133,000 U.S. dollar penalty on a Canadian resident. The bottom line was that he was presumably NOT a Canadian citizen and therefore did NOT have the benefits of the tax treaty. This post is to explain where the penalty came from in the first place.

Will you walk into my parlour?’ – #Americansabroad and IRS “amnesty” offers in the 2009 #OVDP

It has been widely reported that a U.S. citizen residing in Toronto, Canada since 1971, paid a $133,000 U.S. dollar penalty for failing to file IRS forms disclosing that he was running a business through a Canadian corporation. How did this fly get caught in the spider’s web?

The Spider and the Fly is a poem by Mary Howitt (1799–1888), published in 1829. The first line of the poem is “‘Will you walk into my parlour?’ said the Spider to the Fly.” The story tells of a cunning Spider who ensnares a naïve Fly through the use of seduction and flattery. The poem is a
cautionary tale against those who use
flattery and charm to disguise their true evil intentions.

More here

The Canada U.S. tax treaty does NOT protect Canadians from U.S. tax liability but does mean that Canada will NOT assist the U.S. in collection!

cross posted from citizenship solutions

Can the common law “revenue rule” be used to stop the enforcement of U.S. “citizenship taxation” on non-U.S. residents?
What the United States calls “citizenship taxation” is actually U.S. taxation of certain citizens and residents of other countries. The U.S. claims the right to impose full U.S. taxation on the “world income” of certain people who do NOT even live in the United States
.

Prologue: In August of 2017 it was widely reported that the Canada Revenue Agency had assisted the IRS in enforcing a massive penalty ON A CANADIAN RESIDENT levied under the U.S. Internal Revenue Code. The penalty was imposed on that Canadian resident was for failing to report to the IRS, that he had been carrying on a Canadian business, through a Canadian Controlled Private Corporation. At the time of collection, the penalty was for approximately $133,000 U.S. dollars!

Q. How did this happen? A. He entered the 2009 IRS OVDP (“Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program”). Those who entered #OVDP were basically “signing up” to pay penalties to the IRS. Those interested in reading about the horrific treatment of another Canadian resident, who tried to “do the right thing” by entering OVDP should read this.

For the rest of the story, please see here .

Wisdom of “Three Monkeys” explain why: Although there is little support for “citizenship-based taxation” repeal is difficult

cross-posted from citizenshipsolutions


 
 
 
 
 

by John Richardson

Wisdom of “Three Monkeys” explain why: Although there is little support for “citizenship-based taxation” repeal is difficult

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The uniquely American practice of “imposing direct taxation on the citizen/residents of other nations” (“citizenship-based taxation”) has NO identifiable group of supporters (with the exception of a few academics who have never experienced it and do not understand it).

The Uniquely American practice of imposing direct taxation on the citizen/residents of other nations has large numbers of opponents (every person and/or entity affected by it). In addition to the submissions of Jackie Bugnion, “American Citizens Abroad“, “Democrats Abroad“, Bernard Schneider there is significant opposition found in the submissions of a large number of individuals. It is highly probable that the submissions come from those who are attempting compliance with the U.S. tax system.

The “imposition of direct taxation” on the “citizen/residents of other nations” evolved from “citizenship-based taxation”. “Citizenship-based taxation” was originally conceived as a “punishment” for those who attempted to leave the United States and avoid the Civil War. I repeat, it’s origins are rooted in PUNISHMENT and PENALTY and not as sound tax policy.

In 1924, the U.S. Supreme Court in Cook v. Tait upheld the U.S. practice of “citizenship-based taxation”. This means only that (assuming the validity of the decision almost 100 years later), the U.S. has the right to impose “punishment and penalty” (Justice McKenna actually said that “government by its very nature benefits its citizens”) in the form of “citizenship-based taxation”. This does NOT mean it’s a good idea to do so. Cook v. Tait should be considered in terms of (1) the evolution of citizenship and (2) the evolution of taxation.

The United States has (at least in theory) been imposing direct taxation on Americans abroad (who are mostly the citizen/residents of other
countries) for over 100 years. During this period, there has been no serious discussion about ending this unfair and destructive practice.
See the following article in the New York Times (from the Titanic era) – March 7, 1914.

NYT
March 1914

The United States has “gotten away with this” for so long because there was no attempt to inform about or enforce it until the election of Barack Obama. The Obama era will be remembered for FATCA and the attempt to enforce “citizenship-based taxation”. U.S.
“citizenship-based taxation” is now being used to attack the sovereignty of other countries and transfer capital from those countries to the United States.

Because few knew about “citizenship-based” taxation, there was historically very low compliance and little or no attempt at IRS enforcement, on “nonresident Americans”.

Anecdotal evidence suggest that there is still low compliance and few attempts at IRS enforcement on “nonresident Americans”.

Why is it so difficult to get this horrible law (that is damaging to everybody except members of the “tax compliance” industry) repealed?

The wisdom of “The Three Monkeys” explains why.

“See no evil”: Few people even know about U.S.
“citizenship-based taxation”. What you can’t see you can’t know.

1. Almost NOBODY (including – some but not all – U.S. based tax
professionals) even knows that the U.S. imposes taxation based U.S.
citizenship (which is conferred by a U.S. place of birth”). It is simply unknown to the overwhelmingly majority of Americans (how could their country do something as stupid as this?). For a country where citizens are defined primarily as taxpayers (“taxation-based citizenship”), there is little attempt to educate the masses.

2. Citizenship-based taxation is NOT explicitly required anywhere in the Internal Revenue Code. It’s true. The Internal Revenue Code mandates taxing “individuals”
and taxing “nonresident aliens”
(“nonresident aliens on U.S.
source income only). (This suggests that “nonresidents” are NOT required to pay tax to the USA.) It is ONLY through “Treasury regulation”, that “individual” is defined as “citizen or resident”. I kid you not. Read the Internal Revenue Code yourself.

3. Those who do know that the U.S. imposes taxation based on “citizenship” often, equate “citizenship” with “residency”. They think
that:

“citizens are residents” and that “residents are citizens”

On April 26, 2017 at the FATCA hearings in Washington, D.C., Representative Connolly said:

“All countries tax their citizens” when he really meant “All countries tax their residents”.

In other words, the U.S. population and Congress actually believe the United States has “residence-based taxation”! Well, everybody knows that “U.S. residents” are subject to U.S. taxation. But few know (and it would never occur to them), that U.S. citizens who establish residence in another country, are still required to pay taxes to the United States!

“Hear no evil”: Those who know about “citizenship-based taxation” don’t know how CBT actually operates – by subjecting people who live in a “foreign country” to the Internal Revenue Code – as though they live in the United States.

4. “Citizenship-based taxation” is discussed ONLY by academics. I have yet to see A SINGLE paper written by a U.S. based “academic” who understands or even mentions the “Alphabet Soup” list of problems faced by Americans abroad which include: FBAR, FATCA, CBT, PFIC, CFC and Forms 5471, 8621, 8938, 3520/3520A, etc. At most they have some “vague idea” that “citizenship” should include the requirement to pay U.S.
taxes. They do NOT discuss this issue in practical terms that hint at what it really means.

In other words: Those who know of or advocate citizenship-based taxation simply do not understand the problems that it causes.

5. Those who support or tolerate “citizenship-based taxation”, see the problem in terms of Americans leaving the United States (if they have the “wherewithall”) and NOT as Americans leaving the United States and then having becoming subject to BOTH the U.S. tax system and the tax system of their country of residence. In many cases they don’t even seem to understand that all countries require you to pay tax if you live there! In other words, they see this as a “mobility issue” and NOT as “trying to live your life issue outside the USA issue”.

(This is why it is ESSENTIAL that this deplorable state of affairs NOT be described as “citizenship-based, taxation” but be described as “taxing the residents of other
countries
!)

6. “Expatriate taxation” is a narrow and highly specialized area of practice. It is complex and has a long “learning curve”. It is therefore not surprising that many U.S. based tax professionals do NOT understand its practical implications. Many of them do not have the skills to inform and advise Americans abroad.

“Speak no evil”: It is almost impossible to get anybody to “listen to” and “speak about” the problem. It is hard to get the attention of Congress

7. Those impacted by CBT (“Homelanders abroad” and the “citizen/residents” of other nations) do not have political representation in the United States. (Of course it is questionable whether Homeland Americans have political representation either. Such is the reality of a two-party system that dominates the political process.) For the most part, legislative change in the USA is accomplished ONLY through “lobbying” and “money”.

Bottom line – U.S. legislators fall into two
categories:

First, those who don’t know what CBT is – that the U.S.
is imposing taxation on “Homelanders abroad” and the “citizen/residents of other countries”; and

Second, those who are not “paid to care” whether the U.S. is imposing taxation on “Homelanders abroad” and the “citizen/residents of other countries”.

8. The U.S. political system makes it difficult to pass any law. This means that it is both hard to pass new laws and hard to get rid of old bad laws.

9. Congress and Treasury are completely indifferent to “Homelanders abroad” and the “citizen/residents” of other countries. (Indifference being one of the worst forms of abuse.) Therefore, when Congress makes a law or Treasury makes a regulation there is NO consideration given to the effects on persons outside the United States. This indifference would be reasonable if U.S. tax laws did NOT have “extra-territorial application”. But, the indifference is unreasonable when U.S. tax laws do have “extra-territorial application”.

10. The “tax compliance community” is uniquely positioned to advocate for the repeal of “citizenship-based taxation”. Yet it does not do so.
(The repeal of “citizenship-based taxation” would hurt their business
interests.) I am not aware of any tax professionals who have or are actively lobbying for (not even letters to House Ways and Means in 2013 and Senate Finance in 2015) for a move to “residence-based taxation”.

Perhaps “clients” should pressure their “tax professionals” to lobby (either individually and/or through their professional associations) for the repeal of U.S. “extra-territorial taxation”.

Is a Congressional change in the law really needed?

11. The Internal Revenue Code authorizes and requires a large number of Treasury Regulations. I believe it is possible for Treasury to end “citizenship-based taxation” by simple regulation.

Meanwhile the only rational response to this deplorable state of affairs is captured in the thought that:

All roads lead to renunciation!

John Richardson

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?”

Why is the United States imposing full U.S. taxation on the Canadian incomes of Canadian citizens living in Canada?

Cross-posted from citizenshipsolutions

by John Richardson

This is post is “based on” (not identical to) one of two submissions that I submitted in response to Senator Hatch’s request for submissions regarding tax reform.

__________________________________________________________

Why is the United States imposing full U.S. taxation on the Canadian incomes of Canadian citizens living in Canada?

The Internal Revenue Code mandates that ALL “individuals” , EXCEPT “non-resident aliens”, are subject to full taxation, on their WORLDWIDE income, under the Internal Revenue Code. The word “individuals” includes U.S. citizens regardless of where they live and regardless of whether they are citizens and residents of other countries where they also pay tax. This means that, by its plain terms, the United States imposes full taxation on the citizens and residents of other nations, because they are also (according to U.S. definitions) U.S. citizens. The United States is the only country in the world that has a definition of “tax residency that mandates full taxation based ONLY on citizenship.

How “U.S. citizenship” and U.S. “taxation” interact

Principle 1: The United States is one of the few countries in the world that confers citizenship based SOLELY on birth on its soil.

Principle 2: The United States is the ONLY country in the world that imposes full taxation ON THE WORLD INCOME of its citizens, REGARDLESS OF WHERE THE U.S. CITIZEN LIVES IN THE WORLD.

Bottom line: The United States is the ONLY country in the world that imposes full taxation, on WORLDWIDE income, based ONLY on the “place of birth”!

A practical example: A person whose only connection to the United States is that he was born in the United States, who lives in Canada (and may have never lived in the United States and whose only income is earned in Canada), is required to pay U.S. tax on that income.
This resident of Canada is treated AS THOUGH HE WAS A U.S. RESIDENT.
NOTE ALSO THAT THIS INDIVIDUAL IS REQUIRED TO PAY TAX TO CANADA! He is subject to “double taxation”. (This “double taxation” is only partially mitigated through “foreign tax credits”, tax treaties and the “foreign earned income exclusion”.)

Therefore: What academics and government officials refer to as “citizenship-based taxation” (they really don’t understand its practical effects) is PRIMARILY “place of birth taxation” and therefore a convenient way to impose U.S.
taxation on the citizens and residents of other countries. As a blog devoted to “citizenship taxation” (noting the difference between the theory and reality) points out:

“A supporter of citizenship taxation is someone who THINKS about “citizenship taxation”. An opponent of citizenship taxation is anybody who has tried to LIVE under citizenship taxation.”

How did this happen? It certainly didn’t start this way!

The evolution of “U.S. citizenship”

The result of legislative change and various U.S. Supreme Court decisions (primarily Afroyim ) has meant that “U.S. citizenship” is far easier to obtain and far harder to lose.

Furthermore, as people become more and more mobile, it is not unusual for somebody to have been “Born In The USA” but live outside the USA.
Global mobility is now the rule, rather than the exception.

The evolution of U.S. taxation and the Internal Revenue Code

The Internal Revenue Code has become more and more complex and impacts more and more activities of daily life.
Because “U.S. citizens” (even though they are citizen/residents of other
countries) are subject to U.S. taxation, they have been tremendously impacted by the “creeping complexity” of the Internal Revenue Code (which applies equally to ALL Americans wherever they may live).

This “creeping complexity” has evolved slowly through the years. The problems have been exacerbated because Congress does NOT consider that when amending the Internal Revenue Code they are impacting the lives of tax paying residents of other nations (who happen to be U.S. citizens).
Congress is “indifferent” to the plight of Americans abroad (indifference being one of the worst forms of abuse).

Through the years, slowly and consistently …

The evolution of the Internal Revenue Code combined with ease of retaining U.S. citizenship has built a “fiscal prison” (legislative brick by legislative brick), in which to keep the tax paying residents of “OTHER NATIONS”, who just happen to have been born in the United States.

Tax Reform 2017

The United States is “making noises” about “tax reform”. Senator Orrin Hatch requested submissions from “steak stake holders” on what should be included in tax reform. He has clearly received (as did the Ways and Means Committee in 2013 and the Senate Finance Committee in 2015) many suggestions advocating the repeal of “citizenship-based taxation”.

As noted at a site compiling the submissions of those affected by U.S.
extra-territorial taxation
:
Continue reading “Why is the United States imposing full U.S. taxation on the Canadian incomes of Canadian citizens living in Canada?”

When government turns predator

 

This was the very first post at the Isaac Brock Society, published there on December 10, 2011 by the founder of Brock, Petros. At the time, there was outright terror in the expat community. Horror stories from the 2009 OVDP were coming out. Threats from Shulman (then IRS Commissioner), the media and primarily, the tax compliance industry were non-stop. Confusion and fear reigned and it was like being in a perpetual OMG moment……….

Over 5 years later there is little to suggest much has changed. It would take a major shift, such as passing tax reform that included a switch to RBT for me to even consider the U.S. government has anything less than outright malice for Americans living outside the country. The year is half-over and health care reform is still the focus. There will be no hope for change in 2018 due to the midterm elections.

There have been a few minor concessions-Streamlined was improved and offers foreign filers penalty-free filing as long as there is “reasonable cause.” However, we now have passport revocation for unpaid taxes of $50k and over; extended OVDP with the in-lieu of penalty of 27.5% of the highest aggregate value of OVDP assets (50% if the foreign financial institution is already under investigation by the IRS); attempts to pass the EXPATRIOT ACT; adjustment resulting in increase of FBAR penalties to reflect inflation (without similar treatment for the $10k threshold); two years of FATCA reporting have taken place; threats that the Streamlined Program will be discontinued; collection agencies are coming after us, the list goes on and on.

Though this comment will provoke the compliance community, one thing apparent now, is the IRS seems to have no real way to collect unless one comes forward. And we can see those who have done so, are the ones hurt the most. It is obvious that the majority of expatriates are NOT filing (out of a total of 9 million, approximately 1 million are). There are situations where some can remain hidden, depending to a point on one’s risk-tolerance. Outward resistance remains; the Canadian IGA suit is moving toward the second trial; the Bopp suit will be refiled; ADCT is on hold until we see whether there is RBT or not. And the Accidental Americans in France have begun their fight to bring forth litigation there and/or in the EU courts.

At any rate, I have always considered the post below to be a sort of rallying cry, a call to wake up to the fact that the U.S. government is indeed a predator to be dealt with…..

UPDATE

This recent comment of Andrew over at Brock says it all:

This entire story is and continues to be sickening. I too am so grateful to have renounced several years ago and to have been able to completely extricate myself from this web of nightmares. Sadly, friends and business contacts haven’t been so lucky and many of them are now embroiled in protracted legal cases, with demands that they pay millions, even though they, in two cases, have never lived in the United States and were total “accidentals” one having spent twelve days there after birth and never returned, the other only five days! Still, the corrupt system has gone after them both and they are fighting it as hard as they can. One thing both of them have said is that thy won’t pay anything, no matter what the threats. One, who has business interests in no less than sixteen countries will cut off all activity with the U.S. and stop all investment from his associates into the U.S. arm of their business.
If I didn’t witness all of this for myself I wouldn’t believe that it could be possible, but then, look at the U.S. today and the state of how it is governed. Who could believe that is possible? The best advice, stay away from that place and advise others to do the same.

*******
When Government Turns Predator by Petros

Honest US citizens are being turned into prey by the IRS, the victims a hunt for tax evaders. It is the natural, if lamentable, product of the urge to power our Founders warned us against.

More than two centuries ago, George Washington stated:

Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.

Over the years, General Washington’s prescience has been demonstrated as government usurped and abused power. The myth that government serves the people should be shattered by now. Increasingly, government behaves as the master, not as the intended servant.

Oppression abounds, but nowhere is the raw abuse of power and coercion more possible and evident than in the Internal Revenue Service. They are the most dangerous member of the government gang. Now they have another tool to bully and expropriate wealth from innocents — US citizens living abroad.

Early in his presidency, Barack Obama pledged to add 800 new IRS agents to punish tax evaders with overseas accounts. In an effort, presumably designed to curtail and punish tax evasion on the part of wealthy Americans, legislation aimed at criminals now threatens the income and savings of the law-abiding.

Background

The Bank Secrecy Act became law in 1970 and implemented the Foreign Bank Accounts Report (FBAR) to monitor money laundering. The FBAR law required that US persons owning or having signing authority over foreign bank accounts report this information to the US Treasury Department. It was not much enforced for the obvious reason that a criminal does not willingly divulge incriminating information. During the first three decades of FBAR, there was widespread ignorance and disregard for the law.

In 2003, the Treasury Department handed over enforcement to the IRS. In 2004 non-willful non-compliance increased to a $10,000 fine per account per annum. Willful non-compliance allows criminal charges, a prison sentence, and fines of $100,000 or 50% of bank account’s contents, whichever is more (see Shepherd, p. 10).

The IRS has implemented two Voluntary Disclosure Programs I (2009) and II (2011), in which they waive criminal charges provided that all back taxes and penalties have been paid, along with an FBAR penalty of 20% (in 2009) or 25% (in 2011) of the account’s highest balance over the last six years. The penalty is lower (12.5%) for balances under $75,000. Persons who were unknowingly US citizens face a 5% penalty (see FAQ 52).

In 2010, Congress passed FATCA (Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act) which forces foreign banks to report on American clients, even if doing so would violate the banking and privacy laws of their country. Implementation of FACTA will be coerced by withholding 30% of US income from banks not in compliance.

The arrogance and brutality of the legislation is apparent. The penalties are severe and disproportionate. Economic blackmail of foreign banks is disgraceful. All of these actions will have repercussions, probably not intended.

US Citizens Abroad

US citizens living abroad must open a foreign bank account because commerce is done in the local currency. All who do are potentially in violation of the FBAR law. Most were unaware of the FBAR requirements; but now that the IRS has rattled its FBAR saber, taxpayers abroad are in a quandary.

Wealthier citizens spend thousands of dollars on accountants and tax lawyers to try to put themselves into compliance with the least financial damage. The average citizen not in compliance has limited options. His choices include:

  1. Do Nothing The IRS doesn’t know about you, so continuing to keep a low profile and ignore the law might be the best route. This option may become impossible once FACTA comes into force.
  2. File FBAR Forms IRS FAQ 17 of the 2011 Voluntary Disclosure Program states that filers who have complied with all taxes and filing requirements except FBAR should not enter the program but simply file the delinquent forms by August 31, 2011 with a letter of explanation. They promise that no penalties will apply to such persons. But given the severe threats of punishment issued to anyone failing to comply, many wonder whether the IRS will accept the excuse of ignorance of the FBAR requirement.
  3. Enter 2011 Voluntary Disclosure Program: Some US citizens who entered the 2009 Voluntary Disclosure Program and were otherwise in compliance with US tax laws, found that the IRS intended to apply to them the full 20% penalty (see, e.g., hereand here).
  4. Renounce Citizenship Many US citizens living overseas have lives fully integrated into their new country. They comply with the local tax laws and often possess dual citizenship. Compliance with US tax laws and FBAR are a nuisance and liability that they may be able to live without.

Renunciation of citizenship is not riskless. Such a decision will set citizens free from future liability, but may subject them to IRS penalties for prior non-compliance. In addition, for covered expatriates, those having two million in assets or $145,000 in average annual tax liability over the last five years, an exit tax is also required.

To appreciate the uncertainty and duress faced by US citizens living abroad, a couple of hypothetical situations are useful. International tax lawyer Phil Hodgen partly inspired the following hypothetical cases:

Hypothetical Case 1: Jim lives in a foreign country and has dutifully filed a US income tax return each year, but was unaware of FBAR filing retirements. Jim operates eight accounts: four retirement accounts (which he reported on his annual tax returns), two trading accounts, a checking account and a high interest savings account. The highest balance in these accounts is $1,000,000 over the last six years. His current balance is $800,000 after the market dip.

Jim doesn’t know what to do. After great worry, he enters the Voluntary Disclosure Program. The IRS assesses Jim a $250,000 FBAR penalty. In order to pay the penalty, Jim must withdraw funds from his retirement accounts forcing an additional tax liability of $100,000 on the income. Jim is no longer able to retire because his $800,000 has been reduced to $450,000, solely as a result of IRS capriciousness.

Hypothetical case 2: Nancy is a teacher and mother of three, married to a citizen of the foreign country where she has lived for fifteen years. She dutifully filed her taxes in the US, but never knew about FBAR. A friend entered the Voluntary Disclosure Program and was assessed $14,000. She contemplates the renunciation of American citizen, because her foreign husband owns a successful business and Nancy is a signer on business accounts. She fears exposing her husband’s business to the IRS and also fears that upon her death, the IRS will seek its pound of flesh from her estate. She renounces citizenship, though it breaks her heart.

Abuse Of the Law

FBAR was initially a harmless and little known embarrassment for the United States. It began as an ineffective attempt to stop money laundering. Like so many other laws (RICO, Homeland Security, etc.), it began with what some believed noble purposes, only to morph into a tyranny imposed upon law-abiding citizens. It is now a tool capable of arbitrary and oppressive expropriation of the wealth of millions of US citizens living abroad.

An insolvent government is a dangerous government. It is akin to a wounded and cornered animal. When conditions become really difficult, it is likely to do anything to survive. Arbitrariness in the interpretation of any law is dangerous to freedom, but especially so when government’s primary concern is survival rather than justice.

There are many reasons to be critical of FBAR. The following two will illustrate:

  1. Excessive fines: Ayn Rand said “The severity of the punishment must match the gravity of the crime.” This basic principle of human rights, enshrined in the Eighth Amendment, forbids excessive fines. It is immoral for the IRS to intimidate innocent citizens. Any law so uncertain that it could result in a loss of 50% of your wealth, depending upon the whims of the IRS, is not a law. It is government-sanctioned extortion.
  2. Guilt Presumed: The Fourth Amendment protects (or was supposed to) citizens against arbitrary fishing expeditions by government. Probable cause is required. The FBAR requirements circumvent this Fourth Amendment right, in effect saying: “You will volunteer to open the door to your house and let us look inside. If you don’t, we will fine and/or imprison you.” The IRS demands bank information based on a presumption of guilt even though holding funds in a foreign bank account is no crime.

Unintended Consequences

The term unintended consequences, a convenient euphemism for stupid policy or law, is appropriate. Some of the foreseeable outcomes are the following:

  1. An avalanche of US persons will renounce their citizenship. In July 2010, the State Department implemented a $450 fee for making a renunciation before a consular officer, presumably to exact additional income and possibly (highly unlikely) deter some from making the decision.
  2. Foreign banks and investors may decide doing business with the US is not worth the trouble of compliance with FACTA, particularly as the US economy collapses and the global economy shifts to the East.
  3. US Citizens abroad already find it challenging to open bank accounts both in US and in their countries of residence. This annoyance makes it more difficult for American companies and their employees to engage in foreign missions, business and trade.
  4. US citizens are already shunned from positions in foreign companies which do not want their banking details revealed to the United States Treasury Department.

Conclusion

The Bank Secrecy Act, passed in 1970, is an example of law designed for one purpose being expanded to be used against innocent citizens. Regardless of its good intentions, it is now a tyranny used to extort wealth from otherwise legal, law-abiding US citizens living abroad.

It represents a classic case of how government usurps freedom. What level of morality must government have to think they are entitled to shake-down hard-working citizens?

Monty Pelerin has never lived abroad or had a foreign bank account. He has friends who do and hopes that exposing this State plunder will cause it to cease in this and other parts of our lives.

NB: The preceding article appeared first at the American Thinker on April 5, 2011, then at Monty Pelerin’s World. Monty Pelerin is a retired economist who writes under a pen name. In March, I approached Monty asking if he would publish under his pen name an article on FBAR. He agreed and then we co-wrote the article and he kindly gave me no credit because I feared the long arm of the IRS. Then, Monty submitted it to the American Thinker. Now that I am out in the open with my IRS concerns, I’ve decided I can reproduce it here. So I want to thank Monty for his extraordinary help when nearly no one in the mainstream media or even conservative blogs were talking about this injustice which the IRS has afflicted upon millions of Americans – Petros

The Biggest Threat to America Does NOT Lie Outside its Borders

 

 

The biggest threat to America does NOT lie outside its borders. The biggest threat to America is the Internal Revenue Code and its absurd rules governing international taxation (the taxation of U.S. citizens and U.S. corporations on revenue generated outside the United States). The bottom line is that the Internal Revenue Code has (not is) destroyed the ability of U.S. citizens and corporations to compete outside the United States.
by John Richardson
 
This is because of the peculiarly U.S. practice of:

1. Who the USA taxes: Taxing all U.S. citizens who live in other countries and pay taxes to those other countries (every heard of double taxation?) Why is the USA attempting to impose taxes on the residents of other nations?

2. What income are they taxed on: Using a system of “worldwide taxation” (meaning that the USA imposes taxation on income earned in other nations).

Time out for a second –
(1) this means that the USA taxes U.S. citizens who DO NOT even live in the USA on income NOT ASSOCIATED with the USA!
(2) U.S. corporations who have the gall to attempt to do business outside the USA are subject to taxation on those profits
(when corporations based in other countries are not – Hello!!! Talk about giving a competitive advantage to non-U.S. companies)

3. How (what are the U.S. tax rules that apply to U.S. citizens abroad?) are citizens a taxed on this “foreign income”. Answer according to U.S. tax rules that as though the income was earned in America. Because, Americans abroad live their lives outside the USA (committing “personal finance abroad”) they are subject to the punitive U.S. tax rules that apply to anything “foreign” (including the penalty laden reporting requirements. This results in U.S. citizens abroad being technically being subject to higher U.S. taxation than Homeland Americans! (Things like the foreign tax credits are designed to mitigate the actual U.S. tax owed.)

Bottom line: The Internal Revenue Code has (not is) completely destroyed the ability of U.S. citizens and corporations to exist and profit outside the United States. Perhaps some people think that this is okay. But, most will realize in a global world that this is a bad bad bad thing.

Therefore (coming back to tax reform) the USA needs to do the following:

1. Stop attempting to impose taxation on the residents of other nations (that just happen to be U.S. citizens). Stop the U.S. practice of “citizenship-based taxation” and move to a system of “residence/territorial based taxation”.

2. Stop discriminating against its own corporations by imposing taxation on their economic activity outside the United States. America: STOP punishing your own corporations! They are run by Americans. Their shareholders are Americans. Why does the Internal Revenue Code hate them so much?

The discussion of the “border adjustment tax” in this article is a bit of a red herring. It is irrelevant to the fundamental tax reform that is actually needed.

But, for the record (if it matters):

The border adjustment tax is just a way to punish imports to the USA. It will simply make imports more expensive to every day people. There has been an ongoing debate about this idea for months.

What we KNOW about a border adjustment tax: It will raise the cost of imports to the USA

What we DON’T KNOW about the Border Adjustment Tax: Whether somehow the decrease in demand for imports (because they are now more expensive) will somehow result in adjustments to exchange rates that will somehow result in price adjustments.

Furthermore, the border adjustment tax would (likely ) violate international trade agreements.

Yes, it’s time to get with the “tax reform program”. It’s time for the USA to

(1) STOP attempting to tax economic activity that is unrelated to the USA (move to territorial taxation) and
(2) stop attempting to impose taxation on the residents of other nations (stop citizenship based taxation).

There are reasons why individuals are renouncing U.S. citizenship and U.S. corporations are inverting.

Will these changes to the system of “international taxation” happen? Maybe and maybe not. Was it Winston Churchill who said:

You can always count on Americans to do the right thing – after they’ve tried everything else.”

Anti #FATCA BRIC nations building political clout and alliance

 

We all spend tons of time wondering what individual effort might bring down FATCA. Will the Congress come to its senses and pass the Meadows/Rand bills to repeal FATCA? Will Nigel Green & Jim Jatras achieve a lobbying miracle? Could it be possible that the Appellate Court will come up with a different finding than Judge Rose in the “Bopp” case? Or will the Canadians be successful in striking down their IGA with other countries deciding they will do the same? Will the Treasury Secretary indicate that #AmericansAbroad are exempt from FATCA? Or somehow Treasury changes its mind and allows for Same Country Exception?

To the best of my recollection, when the post below was published NONE of the actions mentioned above had started. If somebody had predicted any of them (never mind all of them), I expect we would have thought they were nuts. It has seemed so overwhelming and so hopeless from the start. Yet we fought back from the very beginning, starting simply at first; researching information and making decisions on our own terms, being unwilling to just follow blindly what we were told by the IRS, the compliance community and so on. Little by little groups began planning how to approach their ideas of taking the battle to the next level. Everyone should be proud that so much has been done under such dire circumstances, the expat grassroots movement is alive & well!

Of course, there are always other currents flowing alongside all that is happening and usually the best results are the ones that are not planned per sé but come about as the interplay of all the factors as they work themselves out. Clearly, one of the most powerful would be the demise of the U.S. as the world’s biggest bully, police officer and holder of the most powerful reserve currency. Of course many Western business/financial leaders dismiss this idea as pure folly. Impossible they say. However, look at the bank collapses of 2008. Would financial officers not have reacted the same, “Impossible” ?

Did we not react the same when we first started out? Impossible ?

There is reason to believe the BRICS nations might well succeed at creating a system that can bypass what the U.S. currently “owns”; the USD as the world standard reserve currency.

This will be the first of a few posts regarding BRICS. We truly may be witnessing the fall of the American Empire and the rise of a new ruling entity.

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Originally posted on the RenounceUSCitizenship blog March 24, 2013

 

Earlier this year I wrote that “Peaceful resistance to FATCA will result in a new financial order“. An article by Geoffrey York of the Globe and Mail suggests this may be starting to happen.

The article is well worth reading.  Note the following commentary and excerpts:

Continue reading “Anti #FATCA BRIC nations building political clout and alliance”

In four years, about 1% of diaspora non-filers chose to come into compliance through Streamlined: IRS

This is cross-posted from Brock. The author, Eric is a long-time writer there who composes excellent analytical posts, particularly concerning the inaccurate numbers of expatriations.

There was a discussion today that made me think of putting this particular post up. This post clearly demonstrates that in spite of all the scares – the FBAR Fundraiser aka OVDP 2009, & the FAQ 35 Bait & Switch, OVDI 2011, OVDP 2012, , OVDP 2014 the FATCA Hunt; the endless clamoring of condors, the media and folks like Shulman and Koskinen going on about The Reed Amendment, the Expatriot Act, “Quiet” Disclosures, 877A is retroactive and last but not least, if you don’t have a CLN you haven’t lost your US citizenship – none of it has made a particularly huge dent on non-compliance of Americans abroad. It is literally making me physically ill to reference all this – a vicious cycle of fines, penalties, interest, scaremongering, & whatever else can be thought of to persecute those who are simply presumed to be guilty i.e., Americans abroad. There can be no doubt whatsoever, that this is intentional. Even with the more-or-less guarantee of no penalties via Streamlined, only a very small number are choosing to become compliant. There are likely many reasons; people have begun to see what the IRS can/cannot do in terms of collection (or even detection); people are no longer willing to enter the U.S., etc. I like to think that some of our efforts to help educate people outside the bubble of American exceptionalism, U.S. Law über alles etc has contributed to opeople making up their minds based upon reason rather than reaction. If I had thought I could avoid filing/renouncing perhaps I would have chosen that too. Yet, large numbers of people remain who were literally destroyed by this shameless persecution and there will be more people who will ruin their lives out of ignorance based upon the falsehood that filing is in their best interests. It is for them that we need to continue…….

Sora Fon The tragedy of “self assessment”, self-enforcement and draconian penalties created to enforce honesty while leaving loopholes for those with influence and wealth. It is all I can do to tell the many indigent US Persons abroad I see, who could never face enforcement or confrontation abroad by an IRS interested only in collections, that (apologies to FDR) the only thing they have to fear is fear itself.

TM Yes and should one publicly caution anyone about coming into the system, there is an immediate swooping of threatening condors always quick to claim one doesn’t know what one is speaking about, what a terrible person you are to advise breaking the law, they will find everybody and blah blah blah.

Sora Fon Just saw this quote which I have to repeat: “A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves.” — Edward R. Murrow

TM Agreed. It is why we MUST NOT remain silent.

Some of you may be aware of the nonsense Keith Redmond has endured by emphasizing on Twitter that if one is not in the tax system, it may be best not to enter it.
Excerpted from a post on Brock:

I was very surprised to see some of the Tweets on Twitter when Keith Redmond tried to warn Accidentals not to put themselves into the US tax system. It is interesting that without any proof as to the ability of IRS able to collect via QI, he presumes it and treats Keith in a manner I found inappropriate and unprofessional. I believe the point of contention was to prove that actual Accidental Americans had been “outed” due to QI. This was not provided, nor has it been since that time. There were others that ganged up in more “attacks” that I will not put up here. Brock/Wed Rally Tweeps will remember this extremely unpleasant incident.

If there is no repeal of #FATCA and a move to RBT, it will be clear that resistance will become more and more prevalent. I personally would love to see massive, visible civil disobedience. At the very least, the government can count on seeing the low numbers discussed in the post below.
*************************
Posted on February 18, 2017

On Thursday, the IRS released their “Dirty Dozen Tax Scams” for 2017, among which they listed “unreported offshore accounts”. They go into more detail in IR-2017-35:

Since the first Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP) opened in 2009, there have been more than 55,800 disclosures and the IRS has collected more than $9.9 billion from this initiative alone.

In addition, another 48,000 taxpayers have made use of separate streamlined procedures to correct prior non-willful omissions and meet their federal tax obligations, paying approximately $450 million in taxes, interest and penalties. The IRS conducted thousands of offshore-related civil audits that resulted in the payment of tens of millions of dollars in unpaid taxes. The IRS has also pursued criminal charges leading to billions of dollars in criminal fines and restitutions.

Works of the U.S. government are not objects of copyright, which is a boon for stenographers who mislabel themselves as “journalists”: they can just cut-and-paste the U.S. government’s viewpoint on the issues into their magazines without thinking about it, or attempting any analysis.

Anyway, US$450 million is an average of about US$9,400 per Streamlined participant. Not as big as the $13,000 per head they extracted from minnows with two-digit annual tax deficiencies under the 2009 OVDP, but still a sizeable sum from the perspective of the individual.

I’m sure there’s some poor deluded souls in the IRS and the Joint Committee on Taxation staff who are salivating at the thought of getting nine grand per head out of the rest of the millions of diaspora non-filers too — that might help them turn those mythical FATCA revenue estimates into reality. If that’s their aim, however, then forty-eight thousand over four years is a rather slow start.

Continue reading “In four years, about 1% of diaspora non-filers chose to come into compliance through Streamlined: IRS”