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.

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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?

 
This post appeared at reddit. It is interesting that while the Consulate in Montreal asked “why we did not want to apply for citizenship of our son” several years later, there had been no efforts to impose or force it. This gentleman explains it as pressure however, the lack of any follow-through by the Consulate suggests strongly that the U.S. simply cannot or will not impose citizenship on persons born outside the U.S., simply because they are eligible for it.

It should also be considered that while it is commonly understood that the INA establishes certain situations that define when one can be a citizen, it does not say that one must. The underlying assumption is that one would automatically want to be a U.S. citizen but this does not constitute a “law.” There is no reason to assume U.S. law has power over individuals who are citizens and residents of other countries.

 

Pressure to have kids become US citizens by consulate in Montreal (self.expats)

submitted 14 hours ago * by UncutExpat American living in Montreal
 

I’m a US expat living in Montreal for many years. My wife is Canadian and we have two kids born here (who have Canadian passports). My wife’s also an accountant who does tax returns (Canadian and US). She told me that if our kids are also US citizens, then our paperwork for US tax returns is more complex.

We have education funds for both kids, so we need to legally declare that revenue to the US. They need at least a tax ID number, so we want to fill IRS W-7. That form requires certified copies to the of the supporting documents, and the information shown on the form is as follows:

You may be able to request a certified copy of documents at an embassy or consulate. However, services may vary between countries, so it is recommended that you contact the appropriate consulate or embassy for specific information.

For our first son, several years ago, we were able to get the certified copies in Montreal (for $50), but it was not easy. We had to speak with three different people at the consulate who asked us why we did not want to apply for citizenship of our son. At first I thought it was really none of their business, but by the end of the last meeting, I politely said I would do the US citizenship application if someone paid for my wife’s time with the additional paperwork that would be required for the next 18 years at least! The whole deal took more than 3 hours.

This time, for our second son, we only had to see two people (who asked us the same pressuring questions as before). The second person finally told us (after speaking to a colleague when we explained it was for accounting reasons that we did not want to apply for citizenship now) that since the form was 4 pages, it would cost $200.00 for the certified copies ($50 per page). We asked why it was so much, and they told us the policy had changed since the last time. We politely declined and left, realizing the whole episode was a waste of time. We often visit Boston or other cities, and it can be done there in an IRS office.

Just wondering if anyone else had such annoyances, and how they solved the problem. Needless to say, I’m not happy with this policy of the consulate (and actually wonder what is the benefit to the US, given that immigration is a big issue these days).

EDIT: the Tax ID is needed mostly for me to claim them as dependents (it’s not much of a deduction, as we don’t pay much income tax to the US now — however, it could be worth it in the future and my accountant says it’s a red-flag to suddenly claim children as dependents when they weren’t on last year’s return). Also, if my kids grow up in Canada and never want to move to the USA, they’ll be stuck with an obligation to declare their income every year as long as they have a US passport (huge paperwork burden with no real benefit).

 

 

Cross-posted from Quora

I was born in Canada by an American mother, so am I an American citizen?

 
Answer by John Richardson , Lawyer (1982-present)

Anybody concerned with the answer to this question should (1) do the appropriate research and (2) get the appropriate advice.

Unless you live in the United States or want to live PERMANENTLY in the United States, you would NOT want U.S. citizenship. U.S. citizens are subject to U.S. taxation on ALL OF THEIR WORLDWIDE INCOME, even if they do NOT live in the United States. In fact U.S. citizens living outside the United States who are “tax residents” of other countries are always “subject(s)” (pun intended) to two tax systems.

The question is: “I was BORN IN CANADA to an AMERICAN mother, so am I an American citizen?” Note that if you were born in Canada you are born in another country where U.S. laws (as much as they would like them to) do NOT presumptively apply. The U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act is the statute that defines who is an American citizen and who is NOT an American citizen.

Here is my answer which is written in a way to encourage caution and to NOT just listen to the first “accountant” (what would an accountant know about this anyway?) or lawyer or immigration consultant.

The answer is “maybe”. It depends. Your approach to this question depends on whether you want to be a U.S. citizen or do not want to be a U.S. citizen.

For those born in Canada and who WANT to be U.S. citizens:

The U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act has specific rules that say under what circumstances a person born to an American mother outside the USA “shall” be a U.S. citizen. The answer is dependent on the mother having a certain number of years of actual physical presence in the United States. (The one year “continuous presence” test was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 2017 decision of Morales-Santanya).

Therefore, if you want to be an American citizen you would have to establish the existence of specific facts and present those facts to the U.S. State Department and ask them to issue you a U.S. passport. Note that you are NOT entitled to a U.S. passport until those specific facts are proven to the satisfaction of the State Department.

For those born in Canada who do NOT want to be U.S. citizens:

There are some in the tax compliance industry (what do they know about citizenship law anyway?) who have marketed the idea that U.S. citizenship can be imposed on people born in Canada (and other countries) even if they have never considered themselves to be U.S. citizens.

Can the USA forcibly impose U.S. citizenship on people who were NOT “Born In The USA”? What if one was born to an American mother in China (a country that does NOT allow “dual citizenship”). Can the USA forcibly impose U.S. citizenship on that citizen of China?

If you have accepted that you are a U.S. citizen and have traveled on a U.S. passport (and that kind of stuff) then you would NOT be able to defend the accusation of U.S. citizenship. But, if you have done NONE of those things and just happened to have been born outside the United States to an American mother, then your situation is probably different. You are arguably in a position where you would have the “right” to U.S. citizenship (under U.S. law if you want) but NOT the obligation to accept U.S. citizenship (because you were born in a country where the USA does not have jurisdiction).

I am not aware of a single instance where a U.S. court has ruled that people born outside the United States are required to be U.S. citizens.

In any case, if you were NOT born in the USA, you do not have the objective characteristics that would raise the question of “U.S. citizenship” anyway.

This issue has been discussed at the Isaac Brock Society and other sites. The following post provides some of the “analytical tools” to consider the question.

Help: Can the United States IMPOSE US citizenship on those born outside the US?

If you have read this far you might find the following video of interest:

U.S. citizenship and the Government of Australia

The question of “dual citizenship” and whether somebody IS a “dual citizen” was of practical relevance in Australia in 2017. Basically, seven (at least) Australian politicians were accused of being “dual citizens” (making them ineligible to serve in Australia’s legislative body). This “farce” provides a real world example of why it would matter if somebody born outside the USA to an American other would be an American citizen. See the following:

Australian Greens Senator @LarissaWaters resigns because of her CANADIAN place of birth. Too bad she was born in Canada (with images, tweets) · expatriationlaw

 

Burning Down Barns is not Wrong Because it is illegal; it is illegal Because it is Wrong

 


 

Every #Americanabroad (along with his/her “alien” family) understands all too well the reality of the betrayal perpetrated by the U.S. government in the fight against “tax evasion.” To have it then furthered by the country of residence changing the law in order to allow it is a further betrayal. One does not feel betrayal unless one has been wronged.
 
The government would have one think that it is walking the moral high road, taking upon itself the noble fight of searching out those who rob everyone else because they are not “paying their fair share.” Isn’t it just and right to do so? On the surface it would apppear it is but the problem becomes twofold. First, it has to be devised well-enough to actually produce the results it seeks to achieve and second, while doing so, certain rules of fairness about how the attempt is applied are required. Every kid on a playground learns this and readily understands when the rules are broken.
 

It is easy enough to see that the FATCA hunt has huge “design problems.” First off, the U.S. indicia are all items that suggest one lives in the Homeland. There is nothing to “weed out” those who aren’t American but don’t have CLN’s (and that doesn’t mean you are an American). Banks turning in people below the thresholds is truly wasteful as those people are so unlikely to owe tax. The crowning glory however, is that there is no simple way for the IRS to get money from people outside the country unless they willingly send it. I cannot think of any aspect of FATCA that would suggest it is well devised.
 
kids fightingTwo groups of kids are on the playground. The more agressive kids’ part of the playground is on their side of a line dividing the space. The other kids have their space on the other side of the line. One of the bullies comes up to the edge and says somebody on the other side really is one of them and tries to forcefully pull them over. There is no reason other than the bully wants something that isn’t his. What would happen? The other side would probably try to prevent the exchange, even if they are smaller and unlikely to win the fight. But everybody knows who started it and which side of the line the kid really belongs on. Then an adult shows up and all kinds of nonsense starts being spewed to try and muddle the issue because admitting wrong is not going to happen.
 
There is no way that an Accidental American belongs on the “American” side of the line no matter how much the U.S. whines and bellows it is so.
There is no way that anyone who chose to leave for education, marriage or employment and is living in another country in tune with the laws there, can be seen to “belong” to the U.S.
 
What are they going to do? A sort of reverse of what may happen soon in the U.S.? Where they kick out “illegal” adults and purposely separate them from their (American) children? Have everybody shipped back? They probably ARE mean enough but the fact is, that costs money. Lots of it.
 
The 14th Amendment, the 16th Amendment, Cook v Tait and all of it, belongs to those people who are on the U.S. side of the line. All the “laws” and arguments about polity and old case law just muddles the real issue. The fact of life is:
 
Everybody else has a right to be on their side of the line.
 
So everytime a condor hits you with that “It’s U.S. law” or “Until it’s changed it has to be obeyed” don’t allow them to drag you into arguing. It’s just plain dumb and so are they for thinking they can fool (or shame) you with such stupid arguments.
 
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Brock founder Peter Dunn/Petros says it quite eloquently. Re-blogged from the Isaac Brock Society March 31, 2015

We are living a crisis of morality in which leaders have difficulty distinguishing between what is right and wrong. Today, political leaders facing a legal obstacle to their agenda believe that all they have to do is change the law. So if the government stealing from people is illegal, all that one needs to do is change the law and call it “civil forfeiture“, and suddenly it becomes morally acceptable.

I recall reading a few years back a National Post article that brought up the question of lawmaking and morality came up.  Fortunately, Mark Steyn, cites the money quote from George Jonas:

Back in the Trudeaupian golden age, you may recall, the great man’s barnstorming transformation of Canada was momentarily halted by a storm about barns. It emerged that some overzealous officers of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police had burned down barns belonging to Quebec separatists. The press was briefly exercised over this, but M. Trudeau gave one of his famous shrugs and airily remarked that, if people were so upset by the Mounties burning down barns illegally, perhaps he’d make the burning of barns by the Mounties legal. As the great George Jonas commented:

“It seemed not to occur to him that it isn’t wrong to burn down barns because it’s illegal, but it’s illegal to burn down barns because it’s wrong. Like other statist politicians, Mr. Trudeau seemed to think his ability to set out for his country what is legal and illegal also entitled him to set out for his citizens what is right and wrong. He either didn’t see, or resented, that right and wrong are only reflected by the laws, not determined by them.

The Honourable Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada, is a moral embarrassment. Before he forced the FATCA IGA into law, it was illegal for the government of Canada, based on national origin discrimination, to give the financial information of Canadian citizens to a foreign government. But it is still wrong to do so, and it doesn’t matter how many laws Harper forces through Parliament, it will remain wrong.