NB: While ADCT respects ACA’s positions and appreciates their lobbying efforts, this post in no way serves as an endorsement of their submission regarding RBT.

It bears repeating that no group approached Congress during the tax reform process and specifically requested RBT. Many chose to support RO’s effort (TTFI) assuming it more likely to succeed given Congress was clearly intent upon changing corporations to a territorial model.

ACA’s approach to RBT has been described by some as CBT with a carve-out (for those who are already compliant). It does not address the issues of Accidental Americans; becoming compliant for the express purpose of renunciation, etc.


by Charles M Bruce
ACA’s Legal Counsel and Of Counsel to Bonnard Lawson-Lausanne

with contributions from Jonathan Lachowitz, Chairman, ACA, Marylouise Serrato,
Executive Director, ACA, and Jacqueline Bugnion, Former Director, ACA.

On the day President Trump signed the The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) , Mr. Bruce issued this letter (found on the ACA website).


What happened?
Changes in the basic rules for Americans abroad were not made.
There are strong indications that Congress will soon return to the subject of tax law changes to make corrections in what was done and to address issues that were postponed. A couple of days ago Chairman Brady said, “I’m going to recommend that we do have some form of tax reconciliation in future budgets because there are still areas of the tax code I think . . . can be improved, including retirement savings, education, and streamlining,” Brady said. “And we had a number of good ideas from our members we weren’t able to accommodate. Plus, I think we’ll have to continue to modify the international code over time.”

What has not changed?

  • The basic foreign earned income and housing cost amount exclusion (FEIE) has not changed
  • The 3.8% net investment income tax to fund Medicare and The Affordable Care Act, remains in place and continues to apply in a way that, for Americans abroad, exposes them to double taxation because they are not allowed to credit foreign taxes against it.

There are some serious problems.
(a) The new participation exemption system adversely affects Americans abroad by not providing the dividends received deduction and yet taxing an individual on the deemed distribution.

(b) Special reduced rates for so-called “passthroughs” do not benefit Americans abroad that earn from a passthrough foreign income.

(c) Foreign real property taxes can no longer be deducted under the Act.
What are the good points?
Overall, the visibility of the subject of taxation of Americans abroad has greatly increased. The House Republican Blueprint for tax changes, developed early on, said that legislators would consider “appropriate treatment of individuals living and working abroad in today’s globally integrated economy.” Ways and Means Chairman Brady said that Congress is thinking about changes in the way American individuals abroad are taxed. Lawmakers, he added, take seriously the call for a shift from a citizen-based income tax system to a residence-based system that would only tax people on the income they earn in the U.S. Finance Committee
Chairman Hatch’s corporate integration proposal called for reconsideration of the taxation of nonresident citizens. Individual Members, such as, Representative Holding (Republican-North Carolina), have said that changing the way Americans overseas are taxed is high on their list of priorities. Late in the process, there was a very good floor colloquy between Representative Holding and Chairman Brady on the need to take up this subject afresh in the near future.

One of the most positive things that happened was that ACA successfully developed the best, most comprehensive baseline set of data for detailing the taxation of Americans abroad. This baseline information did not previously exist. It required five months of work by ACA and its independent revenue estimator, District Economics Group (DEG). Utilizing this information, ACA has been able to greatly refine its description of a possible approach to changes in the law and
to run revenue estimates. All of this shows that enactment of RBT can be made revenue neutral. This is an extremely important outcome. ACA has always said that for RBT to be adopted, it must be revenue neutral, tough against abuse, and fair for everyone, meaning among other things that no one would be worse off. ACA’s numbers-crunching shows that RBT can be adopted and the, at the same time, section 911 can be left in place.
What’s next?
Congress did not consider RBT and reject it. It’s noteworthy that no Member or committee arrived at the point where an RBT/territoriality-for-individuals proposal was put by a Member on the table, drafted in legislative language and “scored” for its revenue effects.Republican interest groups, as well as other groups such as Democrats Abroad, AARO, and FAWCO, all talked with many Members and “knocked on many doors”. They deserve great credit for their efforts……. However, the big, high-visibility subjects, including changes in the international tax rules for corporations, commanded most of the attention of decision-makers.Also, the approaches to these subjects, including the various versions of proposed changes in the corporate tax rules, resulted in a constantly changing landscape and made it difficult to insert residency-based taxation alongside them.
The effect of work on the other subjects can be seen from the fact that many effects on Americans abroad were simply overlooked or not fully appreciated until very late in the game, if it (sic) all.

ACA believes that Members, including Chairman Brady, Chairman Hatch, Representative Holding, and others, are sincere in saying that they want to change the tax rules for Americans abroad. We don’t think they would’ve made the statements they did if this was not the case.

In light of what was not addressed in TCJA and some of the overlooked outcomes, ACA strongly believes NOW IS THE TIME FOR CONGRESS TO HOLD HEARINGS ON THE TAX TREATMENT OF AMERICANS ABROAD. These can lay out the existing rules, including the rules added by TCJA. The Joint Committee on Taxation, the lead committee on matters having to do with tax, can construct its own baseline for dealing with the subject. ACA is making the results of the ACA/DEG study available. Hearings can also identify the key topics, including, for example, treatment of tax havens, various anti-abuse topics, etc. All the interested parties can present their views. It’s an opportunity for everyone generally to “get on the same page” or say why they choose not to be on that page. Of course, there will be differences in opinion as to what changes should be made. ACA suggests that the hearings be held by the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Tax Policy. It looks to Members, both Republicans and Democrats, who have historically taken an interest in the subject to support hearings.
On the Transition Tax:

The Merry-go-Round of Unintended Consequences
No Evidence of Intent to Apply the Transition Tax to Small Business Corporations of #Americansabroad
ADSC-ADCT Letter to US Congress
Seven Simple Points to be made re Transition Tax and CFCs
It’s the Subpart F Rules Stupid

ACA Papers:

submission to the Senate Finance Committee April 2015

Side-By-Side Analysis: Current Law; Residency-Based Taxation

Representative Holding’s comments: