Taxation of #AmericansAbroad in the 21st Century: “Country of birth” Taxation vs. “Country of Residence” Taxation- Part I

 

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.

 
 

I am an American citizen -do I have to pay taxes for life? How do I get rid of American citizenship?

 
cross posted from Quora
 

If I have an American citizenship, am I stuck paying taxes to them for life unless I get rid of the citizenship? How do you get rid of the citizenship?
 


by John Richardson
 

U.S. Citizens are subject to extreme regulation wherever they live in the world…
 


 
U.S. AKA American citizenship is very different from all other citizenships in the world. It is a difficult citizenship to maintain if you do NOT actually live in the United States. The reason is that the United States is the only (I am not counting Eritrea) country that requires ALL if its citizens to abide by the rules in the Internal Revenue Code, regardless of where they live in the world. I note that some of the answers to this question confirm that U.S. citizens are subject to U.S. taxation whether they live in the United States or not. Although U.S. citizens are subject to U.S. taxation regardless of where they live in the world, the requirements in the Internal Revenue Code are about much more than taxation. Here are some ways that the Internal Revenue Code imposes requirements that are not specifically about taxation:

  1. The requirements of the Internal Revenue Code also include a very large number of “penalty laden” reporting requirements. (A U.S. citizen resident in Canada was recently fined $120,000 by the IRS for failing to disclose that he was running a small consulting business through a Canadian corporation.) Furthermore, although this requirement is found in the Bank Secrecy Act and not the Internal Revenue Code, U.S. citizens living outside the United States are required to report their “local” bank accounts (including those shared by a non-U.S. spouse) to the Financial Crimes Division of U.S. Treasury (FinCEN).
  2. The rules of the a “foreign” mutual fund and subject to punitive (in some cases the gains could be taxed at rates approaching 100% of the gains).
  3. The rules of the Internal Revenue Code treat “non-U.S. citizen” spouses differently from U.S. citizen spouses. Although not specifically stated the effects of this differential treatment appears to assume that a spouse who is NOT a U.S. citizen exists only at best as an opportunity for money to leave the U.S. financial system and at worst a form of tax evasion.

I could go on, but you get the point. The Internal Revenue is NOT only about taxation. It is about enforcing life and investment choices (and ultimately U.S. cultural values) that do NOT recognize that U.S. citizens living in other countries also have tax obligations to those other countries. The effect of (1) being subject to the restrictions imposed by the Internal Revenue Code and (2) being subject to taxation in their country of residence.
 
How is U.S. citizenship obtained …

One can become a U.S. citizen by either “birth” (either born in the USA or in certain cases born to a U.S. citizen outside the United States) or by “naturalization” (a choice made after birth). Most countries do NOT confer citizenship simply by virtue of birth in the country.

Interestingly, the United States is the ONLY country that both:

Imposes citizenship because one was born in the United States; and
Imposes a comprehensive tax code based on citizenship.

Therefore, those born in the United States are required to obey ALL the rules of the Internal Revenue Code (whether based directly on taxation or reporting …) for life.
 
 
In a Global World, there are many U.S. citizens who are citizen/residents of other countries …

The big problem is that under the guise of “citizenship-based taxation” the United States is imposing full taxation (and the requirements of the Internal Revenue Code) on people who are citizens and tax paying residents of other countries. Think of it! For more discussion of this issues see:

Why is the United States imposing full U.S. taxation on the Canadian incomes of Canadian citizens living in Canada?
 
 
But, there are actually two kinds of U.S. citizenship and ALL U.S. citizens are “dual citizens” …

The first kind of U.S. citizenship is citizenship for the purposes of nationality. This is the what most people understand citizenship to be. This is what is meant when one enters a country with a passport. U.S. citizenship for nationality purposes gives one the right to “enter the United States”, to live in the United States, to vote in the United States, etc.

The second type of U.S. citizenship (first created in 2004) is citizenship for the purposes of the Internal Revenue Code. Let’s call this “tax citizenship” which means that you are considered to be subject to regulation and taxation by the Internal Revenue Code. Significantly one can cease to be a U.S. citizen for the purposes of “nationality” (no right to live and work in the United States), but still be a U.S. citizen “tax citizen” meaning that you are still subject to the requirements of the Internal Revenue Code. (This is a very difficult situation to be in. Incidentally Green Card holders have exactly the same kind of problem. They can lose their right to live in the USA but still be subject to the rules in the Internal Revenue Code.)
 
 
Relinquishing both kinds of U.S. citizenship – breaking the bonds of nationality and the requirements of the Internal Revenue Code …

Since June 16, 2008 (there was a different set of rules prior to that date) a “Certificate of Loss of Nationality” (“CLN”) is required to cease to be both a U.S. citizen for the purposes of “nationality” and for the purposes of “taxation”. A CLN is acquired by either formally renouncing U.S. citizenship or by applying to the State Department for a (“CLN”) based on another kind of relinquishing act. Here is a blog post that I wrote about that describes the issue in a general way:

Renunciation is one form of relinquishment – It’s not the form of relinquishment, but the time of relinquishment
 
 
Are U.S. citizens renouncing U.S. citizenship to avoid the payment of U.S. taxes?


 
In my experience no. Because of various tax mitigation rules (foreign tax credits and foreign earned income exclusion) many U.S. citizens abroad do NOT owe U.S. taxes. In fact very few of the people who I assist with renunciation owe U.S. taxes. Therefore, the notion that people renounce U.S. citizenship to avoid U.S. taxes is a a myth. As Ted Sorenson wrote for President Kennedy:

“For the great enemy of truth is very often not the lie–deliberate, contrived and dishonest–but the myth–persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic.”

People do renounce U.S. citizenship to escape the regulatory aspects of the Internal Revenue Code that make it very difficult to live productive lives outside the United States
 
 
Caution!!! Caution!! – Since June 16, 2008 relinquishing U.S. citizenship may subject you to the draconian Exit Tax rules found in S. 877A of the Internal Revenue Code!!!

Anybody contemplating relinquishing U.S. citizenship needs to be cautious. You need to understand what the possible U.S tax implications of renlinquishing/renouncing U.S. citizenship would be FOR YOU with YOUR SPECIFIC tax and FINANCIAL PROFILE. This is NOT a “one size fits all” kind of exercise. To learn how the S. 877A Exit Tax rules work see:

Renouncing US citizenship? How the S. 877A “Exit Tax” may apply to your Canadian assets – 25 Parts
 
 
Do you have to be compliant with the requirements of the Internal Revenue Code to relinquish/renounce U.S. citizenship?

The answer is NO YOU DO NOT! But, a failure to be compliant with the rules in the Internal Revenue Code for each of the five years prior to renouncing/relinquishing would make you subject to the S. 877A Exit Tax rules.
 
 
In closing …

As you might have guessed, I spend a significant part of my professional life helping people terminate their relationship to the United States (both citizens and Green Card holders). I have written this detailed answer to correct a lot of the incorrect information found in various sources. That said:

Under NO circumstances should this answer construed to be legal advice or any other kind of advice. Furthermore, laws are subject to change and you should NOT assume that the information I have given is even correct. You should NOT relay on this answer and absolutely should seek a competent advisor who will help you understand your situation and come to an appropriate decision for you.
 
Further information:

Citizenship Counselling For U.S. Citizens in Canada and Abroad
 
*****
 
About the Author John Richardson

John Richardson
Toronto citizenship lawyer: FATCA U.S. tax + renunciation of citizenship
Lawyer 1982-present
B.A., LL.B., J.D. (Of the bars of Ontario, New York and Massachusetts)
Co-chair of the Alliance for the Defence of Canadian Sovereignty and the

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

Republicans Overseas July 5, 2016 Appeal of U.S. FATCA Lawsuit Dismissal

 
 

cross-posted from: Isaac Brock Society

by Stephen J. Kish

The Plaintiffs (of which I am one of seven) of the Republicans Overseas United States FATCA lawsuit, filed, on July 5, 2016 in U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, a “Brief” arguing that the U.S. District Court erred in dismissing the FATCA lawsuit.

We are suing: United States Department of the Treasury, United States Internal Revenue Service, and United States Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. SEE THE BRIEF.

“The district court held that no Plaintiff has standing for any of the eight counts (Dismissal Order, RE 42), even with added plaintiffs and facts in the proposed Amended Complaint (RE 32-1).”

“Preliminarily, note that while the Government asserts interests in fighting tax evasion, money laundering, and terrorism, Plaintiffs are ordinary people abroad seeking freedom from serious harms from challenged provisions and IGAs. Plaintiffs are not alone. An extensive, careful survey,[from Democrats Abroad…]”

“The Government has other, successful tools to catch scofflaws without the unconstitutional, intrusive, bulk-data-collection approach of the challenged provisions and IGAs that so harm ordinary Americans.”

“Taxpayer information was recently stolen from the IRS itself because the IRS has not prevented hacking of its own systems and theft of taxpayer information.”

“Thus, people do have a reasonable expectation of privacy from the U.S. and foreign governments in their bank accounts under the situations at issue here. They reasonably do not expect the bulk, blanket reporting of information under challenged provisions and IGAs, including to foreign governments, without any hint of wrongdoing and without judicial oversight, the lack of which makes such searches “per se unreasonable.”18 So Plaintiffs have a cognizable privacy interest.”

“…Plaintiffs rely on no third-party standing, though they provide information about relevant third parties to demonstrate how FATCA negatively affects their lives and relationships. Rather, they rely on their own interests, especially the constitutionally protected interest in not disclosing information they do not want to disclose.”

“The district court said that because Plaintiffs harms, particularly problems in getting banking services for essential everyday-living accounts,20 are not fairly traceable to government action, Plaintiffs lack standing to challenge provisions motivating FFIs not to provide services to Americans abroad….So the argument is not that, e.g., the IRS persuaded some bank to deny services to Plaintiffs Crawford or Kuettel, but that FFIs don’t accept Americans’ accounts because of FATCA/IGA burdens. Where a provision/agreement harms a person by causing FFIs to deny services (or by disrupting marital joint accounts or the ability to open an account in a minor’s name), that harm is fairly traceable to the government responsible for the provision/agreement.”

“The law on causation for standing recognizes such indirect harm. For example, Plaintiffs affected by FATCA/IGAs have standing for the reasons stated regarding Count 1 because the FFI Passthrough Penalty is designed to punish noncompliance by account holders. And Plaintiffs would like to be noncompliant because they are burdened by FATCA/IGAs, which they believe are unconstitutional, but cannot be recalcitrant because of the Passthrough Penalty.”

“Furthermore, Plaintiffs alleged that they reasonably fear that they will be subject to the Willfulness Penalty for willful failure to file FBARs, indicating that they are filing FBARs. The FBAR report is a trap for the unprepared, uninformed, unwary, imposing this excessive penalty on those who know of the report but for some reason fail to get it done.”

“Moreover, Plaintiffs’ harms will be redressed by requested relief as to this Count. See Part I.C. Any notion that they must await a penalty or enforcement action is erroneous because one need not await enforcement to challenge unconstitutional provisions/agreements. And Plaintiffs would not file FBAR reports—and so become subject to this penalty—but for the challenged provision. So Plaintiffs have standing for Count 6…”