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”!
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!
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”.
THE SITE IS WIDELY READ BY TAX PROFESSIONALS AND WE SHOULD LET THEM KNOW WHAT WE THINK ABOUT THIS
by John Richardson
It’s tax reform season and Senator Orrin Hatch wants to hear from you (again).
As reported on the Isaac Brock Society and other digital resources for those impacted by U.S. taxes, you have until July 17, 2017 to tell Senator Hatch what you think needs to be changed in the Internal Revenue Code. After great deliberation, it occurred to me that people who either are (or are accused of being) U.S. citizens or Green Card holders living outside the United States, might want the USA to stop taxing them. After all, they already pay taxes to the countries where they reside. This is your opportunity to “Let your voices be heard” (well maybe).
Speaking of “tax reform”: Introducing Jackie Bugion
Jackie Bugnion is a U.S. citizen who has lived in Switzerland for many years. She has been a tireless advocate for “residence based taxation”. She worked with “American Citizens Abroad” for many years and has recently retired. She was recently honoured with the Eugene Abrams award by ACA – an event that was the subject of a post at the Isaac Brock Society – that described her many achievements (over a long career).
Jackie has returned with her 2017 submission to Senator Hatch.
Submission to Chairman Hatch’s request for tax reform proposals
Adopt residence-based taxation (RBT) for Americans resident overseas
The Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee have both cited the need to review the way that the United States taxes its citizens and green card holders who reside overseas. The current policy known as citizenship-based taxation (CBT) is increasingly called into question as it taxes Americans on their worldwide income irrespective of their residence, domestic or overseas. I am an American citizen who has resided overseas for 52 years, as my husband is a foreigner. I have personally observed the devastating consequences of CBT on Americans abroad and strongly urge Congress to adopt residence-based taxation (RBT).
What is RBT? Under RBT, the U.S. would tax its citizens and green card holders who reside abroad the same way that the U.S. currently taxes non-resident aliens, i.e. through taxation of U.S.-source income only. FDAP (Fixed, Determinable, Annual, Periodic) income would be taxed largely through withholding at source by the paying agent. Effectively connected U.S.-source earned income would be reported on Form 1040NR and taxed under U.S. income tax rules. Foreign-source income would not be taxable.
RBT would apply to all bona-fide overseas residents. RBT would be immediate and automatic, but would not be open to residents of Puerto Rico or to military and diplomatic personnel stationed abroad. As an obvious anti-abuse measure, RBT would not be available to residents of designated tax havens. RBT would not be compulsory; Americans abroad for a short period of time, such as academics on sabbatical, may opt to stay under CBT.
The rules for RBT are already in place as they apply to foreigners with U.S.-source income. Withholding taxes on FDAP U.S.-source income would lead to automatic, efficient tax collection. In fact, withholding tax at source would in certain circumstances shift taxation from foreign countries to the U.S.
Shifting from CBT to RBT would be close to tax revenue neutral. Analysis of the IRS 2555 statistics, relating to the foreign earned income exclusion reported by overseas Americans, shows that a significant share of wages and salaries of the highest income groups is U.S.-source, and hence would continue to be taxed by the U.S. under RBT. The top 1% income group account for more than 50% of all taxes paid. In addition, the U.S. today under CBT renounces most claim on tax liability on foreign earned income, by allowing foreign tax credits and the foreign earned income exclusion. These two factors and few minor ones, lead to a neutral tax revenue situation. Any possible difference between CBT and RBT would be utterly insignificant in the U.S. budget – less than 0.001% – so small that it could swing either way.
IRS enforcement costs under the current international tax system are disproportionate to revenue. The international tax forms create burdensome filing costs for taxpayers and create heavy administrative costs for the IRS; this is terribly inefficient when the vast majority of overseas taxpayers owe no U.S. tax.
Tax collected currently under CBT, other than that linked to U.S.-source income, comes from unacceptable instances of double taxation. Incompatibilities between the U.S. tax code and foreign tax systems lead to double taxation. The outrage of Boris Johnson, at the time Mayor of London, when the U.S. taxed the capital gain on the sale of his U.K. home illustrates this issue very well. There are numerous examples of differences between U.S. and foreign tax systems which penalize Americans abroad. To cite just a few:
IRS does not recognize foreign pension funds and therefore taxes all contributions; it treats income generated over the years as coming from a PFIC fund, guaranteeing a negative return.
U.S. legislates double taxation in the cases of the NIIT and the Additional Medicare Tax since neither allow foreign tax credits. This is particularly cynical since these taxes aim to finance U.S. medical care; Americans abroad pay into their foreign health programs and are excluded from the Affordable Care Act.
Some countries have a wealth tax on all net assets instead of a capital gains tax on securities investments. The U.S. taxes the capital gains, but does not allow foreign tax credits against this income.
Definitions of what is an income tax and what is a social security tax varies enormously from country to country, with onerous tax consequences for U.S. citizens abroad.
All OECD countries, except the U.S., have replaced sales taxes by VAT, which can range up to 20% of the price of goods and services purchased. The U.S. does not recognize VAT paid as compensation for the U.S. tax liability, even though it does accept deduction of U.S. state sales tax.
Entrepreneurs in countries without a totalization agreement are subject to double contributions to social security, in the foreign country and in the U.S.
Beyond the immediate issue of taxation, moving from CBT to RBT would have major advantages for Americans abroad, at essentially no cost or lost revenue to the U.S.:
CBT tax law and related FATCA asset and revenue reporting requirements amount to a bank lockout for Americans abroad. FATCA reporting rules imposed by the U.S. on foreign financial institutions, accompanied by draconian penalties for non-compliance, strongly discourage foreign banks from accepting American citizens as clients. In addition, the U.S. Patriot Act know-your-client requirements have effectively cut off Americans abroad from access to U.S. financial institutions. It is difficult to function without a bank account in today’s world.
FBAR and Form 8938 reporting requirements shut off employment and investment opportunities for Americans abroad. The FBAR requirement to report bank accounts with only signature authority eliminates jobs in financial positions. Foreign employers refuse to have their accounts reported to the United States, and such reporting is illegal in many countries. Form 8938 requires foreign companies in which an American holds 10% ownership to report this ownership to the IRS. This measure has shut out entrepreneurial and partnership opportunities for Americans overseas.
Consequently, the number of renunciations of U.S. citizenship is skyrocketing from a few hundred in 2008 to well over 5,000 in 2016. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. The blatant discrimination and unfair treatment of Americans abroad at the hand of their own government has created massive anger and frustration in the overseas community of more than 8 million Americans. The financial burden of compliance is far in excess of reporting requirements for U.S. residents and easily runs into the thousands of dollars, which is all the more ludicrous when the vast majority have no U.S. tax liability.
Adopting RBT meets three of the four tax reform objectives cited by Senator Hatch.
First, it provides relief to middle-class individuals and corrects major unfairness.
Second, it removes impediments and disincentives for savings and investments.
Third, it makes Americans abroad and therefore the United States more competitive in the global economy while preserving the tax base.
I thank you for your attention to the above.
American Citizens Abroad, Inc. (ACA, Inc.) is proud to confer its Eugene Abrams Award for 2017 on Jackie Bugnion.
The Abrams Award, named for Eugene B. Abrams, ACA Executive Director from 1992-1994, honors Americans abroad who have contributed outstanding volunteer service to their community. This year, it is being presented to an American abroad who has been of invaluable service to the overseas American community around the world.
Mrs. Bugnion served on the ACA Board and Executive Committee for 12 years, from 2003 to 2015, and she was the driving force behind the development of Residency-Based Taxation (RBT), writing detailed RBT proposals, visiting lawmakers and giving speeches on several different continents. She was instrumental in creating relationships with key legislators and the tax writing committees on Capitol Hill, and she wrote policy papers which helped establish ACA as the premier thought-leader on issues affecting the community of Americans living and working overseas.
…….ACA and ACAGF owe a great debt of gratitude to Mrs. Bugnion for her years of service to the organization. She always had excellent insight into the problems facing Americans overseas and worked tirelessly to find practical solutions to these problems. Jackie’s dedication and commitment to the cause of Americans overseas and her committed focus to the issues of overseas taxation and compliancy issues helped bring RBT to the forefront of discussions in Washington.
The following are a set of videos, interviews and reports that demonstrate how clearly Jackie understands the problems of Americans abroad and her no-nonsense approach to fixing them.
CFA SOCIETY SWITZERLAND SPONSORS DEBATE – FATCA, THE WORLDWIDE END OF BANK SECRECY? JUNE 25-26, 2012 GENEVA & ZURICH
ACA DIRECTOR JACKIE BUGNION TALKS ABOUT #FATCA WITH JENNIFER CORDINGLEY OF DUKASCOPY TV – NOVEMBER 15, 2012
This short interview with Jennifer Cordingley of Dukascopy is very concise and you won’t find a better one anywhere. This is the one to convince your family and friends-no hysterics or complaining, just, “this is what it is” (and “oh by the way, its terrible“).
There is no direct representation in Congress or in the Administration for Americans residing overseas in Washington D.C., yet U.S. law seriously impacts the lives of Americans overseas through rules related to transmission of citizenship to children born overseas, through specific penalizing measures related to Social Security payments, and, in particular, through its unique citizenship-based taxation whereby the United States continues to impose its tax regime on Americans living outside of the country, even though they pay taxes where they reside. Most recently, in 2010, Congress passed the FATCA legislation (Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act), which makes it very difficult for Americans abroad to maintain bank accounts in the country where they live.
ACA DIRECTOR JACKIE BUGNION TALKS ABOUT OVERSEAS AMERICAN WEEK ON DUKASCOPY TV – MARCH 6, 2013
Jackie is in the studio with Dukascopy TV journalist Natalie MacDonald to discuss Overseas American Week (OAW). In addition to describing the purpose of OAW, she outlines major issues for expats; tax, banking-(specifically, inability to obtain U.S. accounts while having a foreign address due to the Patriot Act), citizenship and voting. She also delves into the lack of representation due to low percentages of concentration in districts, with the only additional support of the Americans Abroad Caucus headed by Rep. Christine Maloney. The attempt (HR 597) to set up a presidential, bi-partisan committee to address all of these issues is mentioned. As well as the fact that as of the video (March 2013), there has not been a study done concerning overseas issues, in over 35 years. In that time-frame, the issues have become far more complex. She also points out problems with Social Security & WEP and Medicare; as well as the fact that if arrested overseas, Americans do not have the protections of the Vienna Convention; no right to legal counsel, etc, in spite of the fact that the U.S. signed the Convention.
JACKIE BUGNION SUBMISSION TO INTERNATIONAL TAX REFORM WORKING GROUP (W&M) APRIL 10, 2013
ACA DIRECTOR JACKIE BUGNION TALKS ABOUT UPDATES ON RESIDENCE-BASED TAXATION (RBT) ON DUKASCOPY TV (JULY 2013)
This interview with Monica Gibson (Dukascoy) focuses on RBT highlights; if adopted, RBT would produce more revenue than the current CBT system; it would reduce costs to the IRS and would be better for US business by increasing competitiveness abroad. The fact that a US employee costs two times the cost of hiring a foreigner hurts the U.S. in this global economy and she asks “who better is there to represent the interests of American than Americans themselves”?
The possibility of tax reform is mentioned due to the Ways and Means request for submissions. ACA’s report as well as a very supportive report from JCT as well as the SFC paper,
INTERNATIONAL COMPETITIVENESS -Senate Finance Committee Staff Tax Reform Options for Discussion all point to a strong case for RBT.
In this video Jackie speaks passionately about the fact that lives are being destroyed; that “destroyed” is not too strong a word to use. She in fact claims that the situation is “very dramatic.” It is amazing that persons like herself, Nina Olson etc are incredibly clear about this and someone like Mr. Stack claims that such aspects/effects of FATCA are “myths.”
JACKIE BUGNION SPEAKS ABOUT THE FOREIGN EARNED INCOME EXCLUSION WITH BENJAMIN JONES ON DUKASCOPY TV JAN 9 2014
Here Jackie discusses what the FEIE really is (a “fix” for CBT) and tries to clear up common, stubborn misconceptions (i.e., that Americans abroad get a “tax break”). The FEIE is “low-hanging fruit” and always in jeopardy. Making the case for FEIE is simple; without it, anyone in a low tax country will be severely affected and those in high-tax countries (where 80-90% of Americans abroad live) will simply switch to the FTC. She discusses what happened when the FEIE was repealed due to The Tax Reform Act of 1976. Tens of thousands of Americans in the Middle East, particularly in engineering and the oil fields, received tax bills that were higher than the income they made. Consequently they came home, businesses were lost and the export markets were lost. Though the legislation was repealed retroactively, the damage had been done. This was discussed often by Roger Conklin most effectively in his submission to the Ways & Means Committee .For the first time in nearly 100 years, the trade balance turned negative. The reality is that the low-tax people would leave and enter the unemployment rolls in the U.S. and the U.S. would not receive an extra penny from the high-tax people. Jackie mentions an ACA paper The 911 Mirage .
Another complication has developed due to the Net Investment Income Tax (funds for the Affordable Care Act aka “Obamacare”). Here one has to ask whether this was a deliberate act of Congress to punish Americans abroad. This 3.8% tax on passive income is a Chapter 2 tax (from the Internal Revenue Code) rather than a Chapter 1 tax. Chapter 2 taxes are ineligible for the FTC. This is clearly sheer discrimination that Homelanders do not face. Also, those who are self-employed are required to remit 0.9% of their income for Social Security; may sound minuscule but represents an actual 6% rise in social security taxes. There is a reference made to the new expansion of ACA into the United States as the ACA Global Foundation.
ACA’s TAXATION OF AMERICANS ABROAD IN THE 21ST CENTURY:CITIZENSHIP-BASED TAXATION VS RESIDENCE-BASED TAXATION
TORONTO ONTARIO CANADA MAY 2 2014
RADIO INTERVIEW WITH GOLDSTEIN ON GELT – ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT EXPAT TAXES, WITH JACKIE BUGNION SEP 13 2015
JACKIE BUGNION RETIRES FROM ACA – SPRING 2015
John Richardson comments on his reaction to the news that Jackie was retiring:
On May 7, 2015 I received notification that Jackie Bugnion had submitted her resignation to the Board of ACA “American Citizens Abroad“. I read the notification with a combination of sadness and total appreciation for the incredible efforts that Jackie has made in advocating for the rights of Americans Abroad. Jackie was largely responsible for organizing the “Citizenship Taxation Conference” (featuring the debate between Michael Kirsch and Bernard Schneider) that took place in Toronto on May 2, 2014. Some of you may have had the privilege of meeting her there. It’s unlikely that she could be replaced by any one individual.
In my humble opinion Jackie has done more than any single individual in both:
Helping Americans Abroad in day-to-day practical ways; and
Leading the broader educational initiative which I believe will lead to the United States transitioning from CBT to RBT.
While the task is far from over, I am pleased to know that ACA has managed to get RBT on the table of tax reform. As you know the Senate Finance Committee has taken a positive stand on this. The number of public submissions on tax reform to the Senate Finance Committee in April 2015 showed significant input from Americans abroad. There were 350 submissions to the “international” group compared to 450 for the “personal” group. When related to the interested populations – 7 million vs 250 million, this demonstrates a major input from overseas. Congress is sensitive to this level of participation.
Last but not least, some quotes from those who have worked with Jackie, all appreciative of her long service to Americans abroad via ACA. Some of us perhaps, have not really been around long enough (i.e., we were just Americans living in our new countries, completely oblivious to all this…….) to truly appreciate all that people such as Andy Sundberg, (boy, was he ever handsome), Roger Conklin (a very kind soul) and now Jackie have done for us. The best thing we can do is learn from their examples; of putting our all into getting this situation reconciled so our kids and grandkids will not have to deal with this………..
“Jackie is a real worker. There are projects that require a big effort and a great deal of attention to detail, and Jackie would commit big blocks of time to working on something and making it a success. This was true of the Residency-Based Taxation project and the Canadian conference a few years ago. Things don’t happen by themselves. Jackie made things happen, and I was always amazed and appreciative.”
— Charles Bruce, Chairman, American Citizens Abroad Global Foundation
“Jackie has a brilliant mind and an incredible command of detail, and I’ve been present in meetings where she blew away legislators with her detailed knowledge of the issues. Her proposals were always incredibly well researched and totally pragmatic. ACA would not be where we are today without Jackie’s expertise.”
— Anne Hornung-Soukup, Director, American Citizens Abroad Global Foundation
“Jackie selflessly invested in developing the deep subject knowledge needed to propose improvements that now benefit millions of people she will never meet. She embodies the altruism upon which the United States was founded.”
— Roland Crim, Director, American Citizens Abroad, Inc.
Your work for “American Citizens Abroad”, as an organization, has been tireless, relentless, purposeful and generous. Your contribution to ACA’s many achievements has been extraordinary. Your influence will continue long after your retirement. But, that’s on the ACA organizational level.
For individual Americans abroad, your contributions have far exceeded your many accomplishments on the ACA level. Your greatest contributions have not been what you have done. Rather your greatest contribution has been who you are as in individual.
As an individual you have represented the finest of American values: a generosity of spirit, a beacon of hope and a consistent and stable compassion.
To put it simply, you have cared. It’s who you are.
On behalf of all American citizens living outside the United States, I thank you.