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.

INTERVIEW HERE

 

 


 
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

 

 

 

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.”
 

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.

 

cross-posted from Tax Connections

UPDATE February 2,2018
For more on how an expat can have higher U.S. taxes than a comparably situated Homeland American, please see here.
 
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”:

“Taxes due are usually nothing because of the foreign income exclusion and foreign tax credits or incredibly high because of that the type of income is one that was disfavored by Congress.”

Two general thoughts:

1. It is true that many Americans abroad do not have to send a check to the IRS to pay U.S. taxes. This does NOT necessarily mean that U.S. tax is not owing. Remember that FTCs are a mechanism to pay taxes that ARE ACTUALLY OWED. One pays a tax that would otherwise be owed by using the FTC. What is astonishing about the situation of Americans abroad is that:

Absent the tax mitigation provisions afforded by the FTC rules and the FEIE (“Foreign Earned Income Exclusion”), their U.S. tax bill might be higher than the tax bill of a comparably situated Homeland American!! In other words, the rules of the Internal Revenue Code operate so that Americans abroad (because they have a non-U.S. financial footprint) will have higher U.S. taxes than a comparably situated Homeland American.

A good example of this would be the sale of a principal residence. The fact that their mortgage is in foreign currency frequently means that Americans abroad would pay a tax on the sale of the principal residence even if there is no capital gain on the property.

2. Americans abroad are subject to all kinds of things that I would call fake income. Again this is due to the fact that they live outside the United States. I define “fake income” as income that is specifically created where there really isn’t any. Examples would include:

– phantom gains on foreign currency transactions (see the example of the discharge of the mortgage above)

– Subpart F income because they carry on business through small business corporations that are in their country of residence (but foreign to the USA)

– PFIC “taxation” (interpreted to apply to non-U.S. mutual funds)

– the consequences of using the “married filing separately” category (because they are frequently married to non-U.S. citizens)

– more expensive divorce (because of the rules governing marriage to a non-U.S. citizen)

– and probably more

The bottom line is this:

U.S. citizens who attempt to live outside the USA will be punished for it by the Internal Revenue Code.

cross-posted from citizenshipsolutions

by John Richardson

Update January 2018: This post has been updated with some new links and discussion

Part I is here.

Part II is here.

Part III is here.

Part IV is here.

*******

Taxation of #AmericansAbroad in the 21st Century: “Country of birth” Taxation vs. “Country of Residence” Taxation- Part V (Final)

What the U.S. calls citizenship-based taxation is actually a U.S. claim that it has the right to impose “worldwide taxation” on the residents and citizens of other countries.

Specifically the U.S. claims the right to impose taxation on:

1. Who: residents and citizens of other countries; and on

2. What: income earned in other countries or property situated in other countries.

(The U.S. also taxes U.S. corporations on profits earned in other countries when those profits are taxed by those other countries. This has led to “inversions” which are the corporate equivalent to renouncing U.S. citizenship. Note that the 2017 “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” has resulted in “partial territorial taxation” for certain U.S. corporations.)

Under the guise of what the U.S. calls “citizenship-based taxation, it actually taxes people who are neither U.S. citizens nor people with an actual residential connection to the United States and are “tax residents” of other countries.

The two obvious examples are:

A. Permanent residents of the United States (AKA Green Card holders) who do NOT live in the United States (having either moved away or in some cases having never moved there – see the story of Gerd Topsnik); and

B. Non-citizens who are NOT Green Card holders. The obvious example are people who have lost their U.S. citizenship for immigration purposes but are still treated as taxable U.S. property for tax purposes. The S. 877A Expatriation rules clearly contemplate this reality. Furthermore, there are certain U.S. tax treaties that specifically allow the U.S. to tax people who were but are non longer U.S. citizens. (Furthermore, the “savings clause” found in all U.S. tax treaties “saves” the right of the United States to impose full taxation on its citizens.)

My point is that the U.S. has long since separated the idea of being “taxable U.S. property” from being a U.S. citizen for nationality purposes.

Therefore, although birth in the U.S. makes one a U.S. citizen, a U.S. birth should NOT make one taxable U.S. property for life. Surely citizenship should mean more than taxation.

The U.S. is laying claim to people because they were born in the USA. There is no reason why it has to. They just do it because they think they can. The U.S. is the only developed country in the world that attempts to control the lives of its citizens (under the guise of taxation) when they move from the United States. This is an intolerable and grossly unfair policy.

The discussion and debate at the Toronto Conference on “U.S. Citizenship-based taxation” demonstrated that citizenship should be neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for taxation. Taxation should be based on some kind of voluntary connection to the United States. It is submitted that those in Categories:

(A) Border babies

(B) Those who move from the U.S. with their parents as children

(C) Those non-U.S. residents who were born outside the U.S. to U.S. citizen parents

(D) People who left the U.S. as young adults, have never returned to the U.S., and have accumulated all of their economic assets outside the U.S.

do NOT have any connection to the U.S. that could possibly justify U.S. taxation. In each of these cases, taxation is NOT based on a connection to the U.S., but only on the circumstance of a U.S. birthplace! Can it really be that the United States of America is the only advanced country in the world where:

The circumstances of your birth determine the outcome of your life?

To tax those who are not residents of the United States solely because they were born in the United States:

Is unjust and is inhumane. People do NOT choose where they were born!

What about the person in Category (E) above? This is the U.S. citizen and resident who leaves the United States temporarily with the intention of returning. This is the ONLY kind of U.S. citizen that could rationally be subjected to U.S. taxation while living temporarily outside the United States. But, to tax even this person is incompatible with the realities of the modern world.

Citizenship imposed vs. citizenship chosen

The current practice of U.S. “place of birth taxation” is much more analogous to a “property interest” that a country has in it’s citizens than a voluntary commitment to the engagement that should characterize good citizenship. It is respectfully submitted that “citizenship” should imply a voluntary connection to a country and not a form of “ownership” where the citizen exists only to serve the government.

John Richardson

 

cross-posted from citizenshipsolutions

by John Richardson

Update January 2018: This post has been updated with some new links and discussion

Part I is here.

Part II is here.

*****

PART III

Legal Status of Citizen vs. The Engagement Required By Citizenship

Is the “legal status” of being a citizen sufficient? Is there a difference between the “legal status” of being a citizen and the “voluntary engagement” that is required by “true citizenship”? The “legal status” of being a citizen may NOT be voluntary. But, the voluntary engagement required by “citizenship” is voluntary.

The legal status of “citizen” vs. the voluntary engagement of “citizenship”

There is a difference between the “legal status” of being a citizen and the voluntary engagement with the community that is required for meaningful “citizenship”. To put it another way: Citizenship involves more than the “legal status” of being a citizen. As President Obama said in his 2013 State Of The Union Address:
 

“We are citizens. It’s a word that doesn’t just describe our nationality or legal status. It describes the way we’re made. It describes what we believe. It captures the enduring idea that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another and to future generations; that our rights are wrapped up in the rights of others; and that well into our third century as a nation, it remains the task of us all, as citizens of these United States, to be the authors of the next great chapter in our American story”

It is clearly true that many people born in the U.S. and NOT living in the U.S., have the “legal status” of being a citizen, but have not accepted the voluntary engagement that is required for meaningful “citizenship”. The story of London Mayor Boris Johnson (who was born in the U.S.) is a case in point.

Does the “legal status” of being a citizen justify imposing taxes on a person who does NOT live in the country?

The U.S. currently takes the position that the “legal status” of being a citizen is sufficient to impose taxes on a person who does not live in the U.S. Some of those with the legal status of U.S. citizen were born in the U.S. (making them 14th amendment citizens) and some were born outside the U.S. (making them citizens by an Act of Congress). There are many categories of people born in the U.S.

Five Possible Categories of Those Deemed to be U.S. Citizens Abroad and Their U.S. Connection

Those Born In The U.S. – 14th Amendment Citizenship – Who at a young age are taken by their parents to live outside the United States

The vast majority of U.S. citizens acquired U.S. citizenship because they were born in the U.S. The U.S. is aggressively taking the position that the following types of people, born in the U.S., but residents in other countries, with no economic connection to the U.S. are required to pay taxes to the U.S.:

A. Border babies: Those who were born in the U.S. and returned to Canada within months. (If their parents were Canadian citizens those border babies (who were dual citizens from birth) can renounce their U.S. citizenship without paying an Exit Tax. If their parents were U.S. citizens (meaning the children were not a dual citizens from birth) they are NOT permitted to relinquish U.S. citizenship without being subject to the Exit Tax.)

B. Children born in the U.S. who permanently left the U.S. with their parents as children (before reaching the age of majority) and who never returned to the U.S. They have never worked in the U.S. and have no connection to the U.S.

Members of Group A or Group B do not have and have never had a “voluntary connection” to the U.S. that could convert their “legal status” of citizens to the “voluntary acceptance” of the obligations of “citizenship”. Their birth in the U.S. and their moving from the U.S. were the results of decisions made by their parents. It’s hard to see how the “legal status” of being a U.S. citizen, is sufficient to require the payment of taxes to the U.S. Surely a demonstration of a “voluntary connection” to the U.S. should be required before an obligation to pay taxes is triggered.

Those born outside the U.S. – They choose neither their parents nor where they are born

C. In certain cases, the children of U.S. citizens who are born outside the U.S. are considered to be U.S. citizens. Examples include (but are not limited to), those born in Switzerland to U.S. parents. U.S. laws for the transmission of citizenship from U.S. citizen parents to children born abroad, have a long and complicated history. In fact – “American Citizens Abroad” – was founded to facilitate the acquisition of U.S. citizenship for children born abroad to U.S. citizen parents.

It is clear that that those born outside the U.S. have no connection whatsoever to the U.S. At most they have a connection to a U.S. citizen (that may or may not have a connection to the U.S.)

Those who choose to leave the United States as Young Adults Adults

D. U.S. citizens who were “Born In The USA” but who moved to other nations as young adults (not forced to move with their families), have developed their careers outside the U.S., married, had children and raised their families outside the U.S., done their financial and retirement planning outside the U.S., never had an economic connection to the U.S., and whose lives are have become citizens of their countries of residence.

Many in this group may have left the U.S. under unclear circumstances. Some may have left the U.S. with the intention of returning, some with no thoughts on whether they would return, and some with the clear intention of never returning. Regardless of their intention when leaving the U.S., many gradually become citizens (in a legal and voluntary sense) of their new countries and gradually lost any connection to the U.S. that they may have had.

Members of this group (especially in Canada and Western Europe) fully consider themselves to be primarily citizens of their new countries and no longer U.S. citizens. Example: “You know you are Canadian when you start rooting for Canada over the U.S. in hockey.”

Adults who moved from the USA with the intention of returning to the United States

E. U.S. citizens who move outside the U.S. for short periods of time with the full expectation and understanding that they are returning to the U.S. They live outside the U.S. as Americans and typically neither become citizens of their country of residence, nor disconnect from the U.S. In other words, they are truly “U.S. citizens abroad”. Their situation is very different from those described in Categories A, B, C and D. They have more than the “legal status” of being U.S. citizens. They have a voluntary connection to the U.S.

Citizenship-based taxation and a voluntary connection to the U.S.

It is clear that many of those with the “legal status” of U.S. citizen (Categories A, B, C, and D) do NOT have the “voluntary” (or any other) connection to the U.S. that could reasonably justify U.S. taxation.

The fact that those in Category (E) have a voluntary connection to the U.S. does NOT mean that good tax policy would subject them to U.S. taxation. It does mean that (if citizenship requires a connection to the United States that this is the group which might be subject to “citizenship-based taxation”).

Therefore a “Voluntary connection” to the U.S. is a necessary but NOT a sufficient condition for the taxation of Americans abroad

Is “citizenship-based taxation” justified even with respect to Americans abroad who DO have a voluntary connection (Category E) to the U.S.? It’s hard to understand the justification. No other country imposes taxes on its citizens abroad. Americans abroad already pay taxes in their country of residence. No scholar has ever explained exactly what it is about a “voluntary” connection to the U.S. that justifies taxation. Life is full of “voluntary connections” that do NOT require the payment of taxes. What is it about a “voluntary connection” (by way of citizenship) to the U.S. that means Americans abroad should be taxed at all, or (worse yet) taxed according to the same rules as U.S. residents?

 

cross-posted from citizenshipsolutions by John Richardson

Update January 2018: This post has been updated with some new links and discussion.

Prologue – The “Story Of The Century

Since July 1, 2014, the United States via threats threats of the FATCA Sanction, has begun a “world wide hunt” for people born in the United States
(or are otherwise deemed to be “U.S. tax subjects”). A compilation of my posts describing the mechanics, effects and costs of FATCA and the FATCA IGAs is available in “The Little Red FATCA Book“. FATCA has spawned litigation against both the U.S. and Canadian Governments. A discussion of the “Alliance For The Defense Of Canadian Sovereignty” FATCA lawsuit against the Government of Canada is available here. Some thoughts on the “U.S. FATCA Legal Action” lawsuit against the U.S. Government are here. Both lawsuits have been vigorously defended by the respective Governments. The U.S. lawsuit may have reached the end of its viability (lack of standing and various procedural issues). The Canadian lawsuit continues.

With respect to those “Born In The USA”, the U.S. legal “claim of tax jurisdiction” is two-fold:

1. Those born in the United States (unless they have relinquished U.S. citizenship” for both tax and nationality purposes) are U.S. citizens.

2. Citizens of the United States are subject to the provisions of the Internal Revenue Code regardless of where they live in the world. The Internal Revenue Code (“IRC”) includes but is not limited to the obligation to pay taxes according to U.S. tax rules. The “IRC” also includes a wide range of “penalty laden reporting requirements“. The “IRC” also strongly discourages (through penalties and sanctions) participation in non-U.S. pension plans, non-U.S. investments (including non-U.S. mutual funds), the use of “non-U.S. business corporations” and (incredibly) non-U.S. spouses. (Even the divorce of a U.S. citizen and non-citizen is likely to be significantly more expensive.) As a result, the “extra-territorial application of the “IRC”) has the effect of exercising U.S. “control” over the lives of it’s citizens who do NOT live in the United States. Therefore, it is clear that the “extra-territorial” application of the “IRC” both (1) imposes the full force of the “IRC” on the resident/citizens of other countries and (2) has the effect of imposing the U.S. cultural values mandated in the “IRC” on those other countries. One can identify a list of the “10 Commandments” which are imposed on Americans abroad in an FBAR and FATCA world.

(Note that with the exception of U.S. citizens and “permanent residents”, as per Internal Revenue Code Sec. 7701(b), an actual physical connection to the United States is required to establish U.S. tax residency.)

As the article referenced in the above tweet makes clear, many people “claimed” by the United States as “tax residents”have never had any connection to the United States except that they were born there. The article includes:

Awad Al-Zahrani, whose son has US citizenship, said he would give it up.

“My son got the passport since he was born there while I was studying in the country back in 2000. At the time, the Saudi embassy had told me that it would not be a problem for him to hold two passports. Now that we have to pay taxes, though, we’ll be giving the US passport up.”

Abdulrahman Al-Habib, head of journalism studies at KAU, argues that Saudis who were born in the US should be exempt from paying taxes.

“We should establish a unified center to help Saudis clear their former tax registers,” he said.

US Consul-General Todd Holmstorm,however, confirmed that US citizens should pay income tax and called on their international counterparts to help them eliminate tax evasion.

“The tax law is designed to combat evasion through increasing transparency in the financials of US taxpayers,” he said.

Mr. Holmstorm’s bio indicates that his career has had a Canadian connection in Ottawa, Canada. His comments in the above article imply that he believes that those (1) born in the U.S. who (2) do not live in the U.S. and (3) do not pay taxes to the U.S. are guilty of “tax evasion”. Strong language indeed. Yet, these are his words which clearly reflect the attitude and policy of the U.S. Government.

 
 

 

 
The following was written by John Richardson and is a section of a larger piece yet to be published. I will provide the link at the time it is available and of course, have permission to publish this.

When I first read this, two things occurred to me. The OVDP/OVDI process represented a penalty for a failure to report. A failure to report is not a transaction to be recorded or that can be measured in relation to tax that is owed. The “in lieu of FBAR” penalty. The percentage was a figure set by the Treasury Dept with no clear connection to anything other than the value of an asset. So one agreed to allow a certain level of confiscation not based upon any amount of tax owed. The other issue with OVDP/OVDI was that it was an incredible deal for “whales”-that percentage represented far less than what they would have paid all-told. The transition tax is a gift for multi-nationals; moving to a territorial system, they will not pay what they would have been required to pay were they to repatriate the income that they will now, never be required to do.

Notably the Transition Tax is part of reforms to international taxation. The centerpiece of the reforms is that for US corporate shareholders of foreign companies there will no longer be US taxation of foreign earnings. (In other words, the US has forced corporations to move in the direction of territorial taxation). The transition tax is imposed as a mechanism to fund territorial taxation. Corporate shareholders are subject to the Transition tax and receive the benefits of territorial taxation. Individual shareholders (including possibly Americans Abroad) are subject to the Transition tax but do not receive the benefits of territorial taxation. Americans Abroad, who carry on business through non US corporations may be required to fund the move to territorial taxation (unlike corporate shareholders) and will continue to be taxed and taxed in an even more punitive way.

Of course, referring to OVDP/OVDI &/or the Transition Tax as a “gift refers only to multi-national corporations or people of wealth. For “minnows” OVDP/OVDI was an absolute abomination. The Transition Tax, should it apply to small CFC’s ( read “individuals”), will provoke the largest number of renunciations whether official or via “feet”.

This is an absolute breaking point in our process. Now that the rate on liquid assets is highter (15%), once the calculations are done, the effective rate applied to individuals will be over 18%. It will not be a matter of refusal as much as the simple inability to pay it. No one can continue to contribute to financial suicide, law or not.

**************

Why the proposed transition tax, if applied to individual U.S. shareholders living abroad, is analogous to the “Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP)”


by John Richardson

Significantly, the “transition tax” is NOT based on any income realization event. It is based only on the fact of legally earned retained earnings, which are subject to taxation in the country where they were earned.

The transition tax is a calculation based on an “account balance” – specifically the “retained earnings” account balance on the greater of two dates.

It is a mandatory payment which is based on the value of a “foreign asset”.

Therefore, the “transition tax” as applied to Americans abroad has characteristics that are more like “OVDP” than an income tax (which would be based on a realization event).

In any case, the “transition tax” is nothing more than an asset confiscation with nothing in return.

The application of the “transition tax” to Americans abroad would raise U.S. “citizenship-based taxation” to a new and UNPRECEDENTED level of unfairness and obscenity