Topsnik 2 : Green Card Expatriation And The Exit Tax

 

reposted from Tax Connections Blog

Written by John Richardson | Posted in International

John Richardson
 
 

Introduction – Introducing Gerd Topsnik

“This case will be seen as the first of an (eventual) series of cases that determine how the definition of long term resident applies to Green Card holders. The case makes clear that if one does NOT meet the treaty definition of resident in the second country, that one cannot use that treaty to defeat the long term resident test. A subsequent case is sure to expand on this issue. Otherwise, the case confirms that the S. 877A Exit Tax rules are alive and well and that the 5 year certification test must be met to avoid non-covered status.”

Topsnik may or may not be a bad guy. But even “bad guys” are entitled to have the law properly applied to their facts. It would be very interesting to know how the court would have responded if Topsnik had been paying tax (a nice taxpayer) in Germany as a German resident.

This is part of a series of posts on: (1) tax residency, (2) the use of treaty tiebreakers when an individual is a tax resident of more than one jurisdiction and (3) how to use treaty tiebreakers to end tax residency in an undesirable tax jurisdiction.

This is the second of the two Topsnik posts. Topsnik 1 focused on the tax residence of Green Card Holders.

This post – Topsnik 2 – focuses on the expatriation of Green Card Holders and under what circumstances and in what manner they may be subjected to the S. 877A Exit Tax. The text of Topsnik 2 is here:

TopsnikOpinion2016

The Teachings of Topsnik 2

Green Card Holders ARE U.S. tax residents

Once again, the case confirms that one does NOT abandon the Green Card simply by moving from the United States. The Green must be either taken away by the Government, abandoned by the Green Card Holder, or be the result of a treaty election.

Tax Residence: The case confirms that the U.S. Germany Tax Treaty (as is true of all other treaties) requires that one be a tax resident, as defined by the treaty, to get any benefits of a treaty.

These benefits of being a tax resident of Germany (as defined by the treaty) potentially INCLUDE:

the right to be treated as a tax resident of Germany as well as being treated as tax resident of the United States
the right to use the tax treaty tie breaker (assuming that he is a tax resident of both countries) to make him ONLY a tax resident of Germany
the right to have the years that he is a tax resident of Germany NOT count toward determining whether he is a long term resident of the United States (Internal Revenue Code 877(e)(2)
Topsnik was not a tax resident of Germany as defined by the U.S. Germany tax treaty.

Applicability of the S. 877A Exit Tax:

Abandoning the Green Card by filing the I-407 is an expatriating act. Because, Topsnik was NOT a tax resident of Germany as defined by the tax treaty, he could NOT argue that he was NOT a long term resident (within the meaning of Internal Revenue Code 877(e)(2). As a result, Mr. Topsnik’s (1) expatriating by abandoning his Green Card, coupled with (2) the fact that he was a long term resident, meant that he could prevent the S. 877A Exit Tax ONLY if he was NOT a covered expatriate.

The failure to certify 5 years of tax compliance is a sufficient condition for being a covered expatriate:

Subparagraph (C) provides that a person is a covered expatriate if such individual fails to certify under penalty of perjury that he has met the requirements of this title for the 5 preceding taxable years or fails to submit such evidence of such compliance as the Secretary may require.

Notice 2009-85, sec. 8, 2009-45 I.R.B. at 611, explains that for purposes of certifying tax compliance for the five years before expatriation pursuant to section 877(a)(2)(C):

– 21 All U.S. citizens who relinquish their U.S. citizenship and all longterm residents who cease to be lawful permanent residents of the United States (within the meaning of section 7701(b)(6)) must file Form 8854 in order to certify, under penalties of perjury, that they have been in compliance with all federal tax laws during the five years preceding the year of expatriation. Individuals who fail to make such certification will be treated as covered expatriates within the meaning of section 877A(g)

Because Mr. Topsnik was a covered expatriate he was subject to the S. 877A Exit Tax:

All of the property that he owned on his date of expatriation was deemed to have been sold on the day before his expatriation. This resulted in an Exit Tax payable to the IRS.

IRS Notice 2009-85 is NOT a regulation and is therefore NOT binding:

Section 877A(i) provides that the Secretary shall prescribe regulations as may be necessary and appropriate to carry out the purposes of the section. Such regulations have not been yet been provided. Instead, the IRS has promulgated guidance regarding this section in Notice 2009-85, 2009-45 I.R.B. 598. We are not bound by Notice 2009-85, supra, see Compaq Computer Corp. v. Commissioner, 113 T.C. 363, 372 (1999), but it is an official statement of the Commissioner position and we may let it persuade us, see Nationalist Movement v. Commissioner, 102 T.C. 558, 583 (1994), 37 F.3d 216 (5th Cir.1994).

Summary

The 2016 Topsnik decision reminds us tax residence in both countries (as defined by the treaty) is necessary to invoke treaty tiebreaker rules. In addition, in order to avoid covered expatriate status (making one subject to the S. 877A Exit Tax) one must file Form 8854 certifying 5 years of tax compliance

Furthermore the case reminds us that the S. 877A Exit Tax is real, alive, well and brutal confiscatory.

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”

#IRS abuse of Americans Abroad – The greater the effort! The greater the punishment!

This post is from the RenouceUScitizenship blog.

serenity

 God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

We are now more than two years into the Obama/Geithner/Shulman/IRS assault on U.S. Citizens Abroad. It is commonly accepted that the origin of the assault has been – what can now be understood to be – a clear, deliberate, and conscious decision of the Obama administration. That decision is  to equate the day-to-day bank accounts of U.S. citizens abroad with the offshore accounts used by Homelander tax cheats. It’s no longer possible to believe the administration and the IRS are unaware of what they have done. There are  signs that the IRS is slowly trying to change the  rules, change the policies, and change the enforcement. That said, one gets the feeling that the IRS is motivated by considerations of “processing efficiency” and not by considerations of “fairness and justice”.

Two important aspects of the problem are:

1. All bank accounts outside the United States are considered to be “sacred instruments” of tax evasion. Not even the IRS is stupid enough to believe this. Therefore, it’s clear that the IRS is at least threatening (how do you like your freedom now?) to use the day-to-day bank accounts of  U.S. citizens abroad as an  “FBAR Fundraiser“. The IRS is using the  retirements plans of U.S. citizens in their country of residence, to levy fines for failure to file Form 3520. The IRS is using the fact that middle class U.S. citizens invest in mutual funds to subject them to impossible compliance costs and more threats of penalties. This has been documented by Taxpayer Advocate and ignored by the IRS.  We know this. What is different is that in 2011, there was a sense that this “must be some kind of mistake”. It must be “some kind of misunderstanding”. Only a fool would believe that today. The only sane way to view this today is as follows:

The Obama administration is deliberately using penalties and threats of penalties to confiscate the assets of U.S. citizens abroad. Don’t believe it? What’s Form 8938? This is not about taxation. It is about confiscation. But you know that. But, this is not the purpose of this post.

2. The purpose of this post is to explore an aspect of  this that has not been adequately discussed. In the same way that it is a mistake to treat all “non-U.S. banks accounts” the same. It is a mistake to think that the impact of all of this is the same on all. In fact, the people who are the hardest hit  are those U.S. citizens abroad who have tried the hardest.

Group 1 – Those Who Have Been In The U.S. Tax System

This group has  been filing their U.S. tax returns, to the best of their abilities. They are in the system. They are now “low hanging fruit”.  The fact that they have been filing all these years means that they are likely very financially responsible, very aware, very law abiding people. That’s the good news. The bad news is that they are also people who by vritue of having tried to save for retirement have assets that the U.S. wants to confiscate. Obviously this includes the PFIC mutual fund problem.

The problem of owning mutual funds is two-fold:

First, mutual funds are not subject to rules of taxation. They are subject to rules of confiscation.

Second, that in order for the IRS to confiscate them, one must first comply with all kinds of reporting requirements that are impossible to understand and are far too expensive for the average person.

Here is a historical analogy to the IRS treatment of U.S. citizens abroad who have mutual funds:

Jesus was forced to carry his own cross (paying the cross-border professionals to complete the forms) to his crucifixion (the confiscation rules will take it all).

Now, I know that at this moment, at least some readers are howling at the last sentence.  Really! What that tells me is that you:

A. Have not tried to be U.S. tax compliant;

B. Have not tried to use mutual funds to invest for retirement;

C. Probably do NOT feel strongly that one should be tax compliant;

D. Probably are far enough enough away from retirement age so that you can make up the losses.

Just try living this reality!

The people most hurt by this are the people who have tried the hardest to comply with the law. I remind you that it was not until OVDP started in 2009 that the IRS enough knew now to deal with mutual funds and not until 2010 that the ruling came from an IRS counsel (that the cross-border professionals are using to deem mutual funds as vehicles of confiscation).

Group 2 – Those Who Tried To Fix Any Past Compliance Problems

It has become increasingly clear that those who entered OVDP or OVDI were simply suckered. After the vicious and frightening propaganda of the summer of 2011, many people were terrorized into entering OVDI. The lawyers were there to usher them in. They are now locked into the program (although there is some indication that some will be moved to “Streamlined Compliance”). Those who waited appear to have better compliance options.

Of course, by December 2011, the IRS had issued the infamous FS which made it clear that, one didn’t need a formal program of voluntary disclosure. Of course, that didn’t stop the IRS, with full knowledge that minnow were being terrorized into the program,  from resurrecting (another Biblical analogy) the corrupt OVDP program in 2012.

My point is a simple one: those who tried to become compliant by entering the OVDP programs have been the hardest hit. The main reason has nothing to do with taxes. It has nothing to do with compliance. It is the fact that many of them have heard nothing from the IRS. Reminds of the Steven Miller (a cousin of his perhaps) song:

Those who entered OVDI have been living in fear and anxiety since entering the program. What have they heard from the IRS? In many cases, nothing.

IRS Bait and Switch Tactics in OVDP and OVDI

One would think the terms of the OVDP programs were abusive enough. But, the IRS didn’t stop there. In 2009 the IRS changed the terms of the program after people had entered the programIn 2013 the IRS kicked a group of people out of the program after accepting them into the program. It is now certain that:

Any lawyer who advises a client to enter the OVDP program should be disbarred!

The only benefit to the OVDP program was certainty of result and now that certainty has been forever compromised. As a letter from the New York State Bar suggests, who could possibly trust the IRS? The trust issue was recently highlighted by former IRS lawyer Steven Mopsick on this blog. (See also the Mopsick Trilogy – a series of posts about OVDP and its impact on U.S. citizens abroad and Green Card Holders.)

So, what’s a law abiding person who believes he is supposed to be tax compliant supposed to do?

I am writing this post in response to a series of comments at the Isaac Brock Society. The post was about PFICs and it generated a number of comments. The interesting comment stream starts here. We are confronted with a situation of a frightened, confused U.S. citizen abroad, who really wants to be tax compliant, did his best to save for retirement, like the IRS knew nothing about the perils of mutual funds, and must now choose between:

A. Financial ruin – all his money must to to the IRS and compliance costs

B. Non-compliance – but having to live as a “tax cheat”

The problem is that this is exactly the situation of many U.S. citizens abroad who have have lived commendable responsible lives. It is worth noting that neither the IRS nor the U.S. government has ever AND TO THIS DAY DOES NOT make any real effort to educate U.S. citizens about their tax responsibilities! The IRS defines “education” as “threats or penalties”. I feel for the children of Douglas Shulman and Steve Miller (if they have any).

I am going to reproduce this comment stream and invite suggestions on how what people like this should do.

  1. @USCitizenAbroad, @Kalc, @Bubblebustin

    “What would you expect a U.S. person with many years of fillings in the system to do?”

    That is exactly the issue. This whole PFIC thing makes me SO ANGRY and FRUSTRATED!
    I don’t see ANY good answer for such persons. No matter what option you look at it spells financial disaster, especially for people who are at or near retirement age. They cannot afford
    to lose all of the money they have invested over many years just to now become “compliant” (i.e.pay big bucks to have some accountant fill dozens of 8621s, pay back taxes, interest, and penalties and more taxes and interest after they sell the PFICs) and they do not have any other regular source of revenue to replace such a loss.

    “If you are a Canadian citizen without US assets, you are protected. Don’t tell your FI if you happen to have been born in the US. Don’t have more than 1 million in one account.”

    It’s not so simple. If you’ve had a long term relationship with your financial advisor, he likely may already know that you are a USC. Many mutual fund portfolios contain a mixture of US and non- US assets, so you likely may have some in your portfolio already. What should you do? Sell them and then what?
    How do you deal with them on the following year’s tax return? FATCA kicks in way below having 1 million in one account.

    “I do NOT believe that the Government of Canada understands this problem in its entirety. Would you be willing to collect these comments (including the one about the interaction between PFICs and SubPart F),”

    I agree totally. If the government of Canada DID understand all the implications and what a horrendous financial burden this will create for U S persons in Canada, when their financial institutions turn over the data about their TFSAs, RESPs, PFICs, and other investments via FATCA, I think they would not be so ready to sign an IGA. Those persons will be financial bankrupted if the IRS gets their data and goes after them. And when these people are left bankrupted, it will be the Canadian government that will have
    to help support them because we all know that the US government won’t do anything for USCs abroad.

    So, please, please do everything that you can to inform them (Kevin Schoom and others) of what are all the implications if they go down the FATCA compliance path. I think this PFIC problem has certainly not been given enough visibility with our government. It is incredulous to me that the IRS could make a policy change in 2010 about Canadian mutual funds without a formal regulation and then apply it retroactively. This is just WRONG and the Canadian govenment needs to stand up for us and fight this.

    Sorry for the rant, but this issue makes me crazy. Reading what USCitizenAbroad suggested as the only solution for the most financially responsible citizens today just makes me feel more depressed about an already depressing situation. Yes, it does help to be able to talk about it here with others but the reality that is looming in the near future if FATCA kicks in as planned is just too awful.

  2. @Albatross

    Here are the solutions:

    Solutions From The Government of Canada

    Any IGA would exempt from its application lawful residents of Canada regardless of their citizenship. Put it another way, the U.S. can’t both have FATCA and citizenship-based taxation. Is this possible? Not unless this issue is really understood which is not.

    Solutions From U.S. Persons Abroad – Take Charge Yourself

    You and I agree that the ones with the biggest problems are the ones who are entrenched in the system. Their options are:

    1. Do not sell their PFICs. The problems kick in when they are sold. Continue to treat the distributions the way you have always treated them on your tax return. Repeat: It’s the sale that triggers the very worst of the problems.

    2. The time has come to recognize that you will never be able to be U.S. tax compliant. Just not possible unless you pay the staggering costs of compliance and all the fines associated with trying to plan for retirement. I would stay away from the lawyers who will scare you to death. Just keep living your life. Don’t do anything that will trigger taxable events. The advice that most accountants and lawyers give is: sell your PFICs. For those who have had them for the long term, that is the worst possible advice. You do NOT sell them. You hold them and simply pay tax on the distributions the way you always have. That’s the best case scenario. Include the income on your taxes.

    3. RRSPs – This may be the exception to my suggestion for holding the PFICs. Assuming that because they are in an RRSP that the sale inside the RRSP is NOT a taxable event, then perhaps you get rid of those (but get competent advice for taking that step).

    4. Don’t listen to the F_____ cross border professionals. Most of them have really not thought this through plus they have trouble separating their interest from your interest.

    5. If all else fails, hide behind the treaty.

    6. Become a Canadian citizen if you are not already. Then start lobbying the Cdn government to pass law saying that all naturalized Canadian citizens were Canadian citizens from birth. This will protect their own tax base and their citizens from the U.S. exit tax.

    7. Just accept that the US considers you to be a criminal. Hell, people live like that all the time. Of course, you should stay out of the U.S. You might even learn to like it. Dress the part. Pick up the language. Learn to talk that way. It might be fun for you. You might get the respect that you think you are lacking. Pick a criminal to model yourself on – say Barack Obama.

    8. If none of these work, and you have Supart F income, then, well you know my suggestion.

    Curious what you think of those suggestions?

  3. @USCitizenAbroad

    For those entrenched in the system, surely renouncing is still a better option than continuing to have to deal with this BS year after year. At least that frees you from the ongoing obligation. Yes, I accept that it may leave issues from the past and may not be a great idea for those that have a need or desire to set foot in the US in the future.

    Yes, there is still an issue with the 8854 compliance, but there is still a choice on how to play that game, depending on the circumstances and risk tolerance.

  4. @USCitizenAbroad,
    Thanks for your comments on my posting. Here are my thoughts on your suggestions. I’ve included a
    few questions I have on some points you raised.

    Solutions from the Government of Canada
    Yes, I agree that this would be a great solution, but I don’t believe they do understand it.

    Solutions From U.S. Persons Abroad – Take Charge Yourself
    1. Yes, I agree that it makes no sense to sell the PFICs as that will trigger a nightmare.

    2. Yes, the lawyers and accountants that I’ve talked to have all said to sell ALL the PFICs, but of course they don’t have to worry about paying the costs associated with doing so. I concur that there is thus NO
    way to ever be tax compliant in this scenario, unless of course the tax code changes.

    “You hold them and simply pay tax on the distributions the way you always have. That’s the best case scenario. Include the income on your taxes.”
    QUESTION: So I infer from your suggestion that one should not bother with now filing 8621′s and the
    complicated calculation of “income” derived from them, but just continue to include the actual interest or
    dividends or capital gains distributions you receive from the mutual funds on your tax return. Is that what you are suggesting? As soon as you look at filing 8621s for each mutual fund you are talking BIG bucks
    to have an accountant prepare it and these forms are way too complex for the average taxpayer to attempt.
    QUESTION: What happens when FATCA kicks in and the FFI or CRA turns over the details of these funds to the IRS? Won’t they then identify them as PFICs and come screaming for all they back taxes, 8621 forms, etc? Is that where your suggestion 5 comes in?

    3. Don’t know about the RRSPs. This would require more research. For now these are not as
    important since the tax is deferred by 8891.

    4. Agreed.

    5. “If all else fails, hide behind the treaty” Not sure just how one can hide behind the treaty. Can you
    clarify what you mean here?

    6. Definitely a Canadian citizen. Ideas how we can get the Canadian government to pass such a law?

    7. Yes, definitely safer to stay out of the US. Not really a big hardship on that point for many of us.

    8. I didn’t really understand the Subpart F business completely but sure hope it doesn’t apply. I’d hate to think that that would be the only solution.

    I’d be interested in your further comments and answers to my questions above. Your comments are always very informative. I appreciate having the means to exchange thoughts with people like you who do understand this complex and horrendous issue.

    It is clear that this person is in a situation where he completely compromises his financial security by allowing the cross-border professionals and the IRS to confiscate his assets or he must live with the knowledge that the U.S. considers him to be a “tax cheat”, somebody who is worthy of a “FATCA Hunt” or possibly a Whistle Blower’s Retirement Plan.

    It is impossible to live with either scenario.

    The first scenario subjects one to a total rape and having to live with the consequences the rest of your life.

    The second scenario, if not dealt with properly, has the potential to change your own “self image”. On this point though I would say:

    To be considered a criminal by the U.S. government is like being called ugly by a frog. To be a criminal is to have a certain moral stature. In the U.S. there is no correlation between law and morality – in fact, law has become a substitute for morality.

    At a minimum, leaving aside the financial issues, the emotional stress and damage is more than a person who was financially responsible can bear. So, those U.S. citizens abroad who are nearing their retirement years and have most of their wealth in mutual funds must choose one of two options. Tax compliance is possible only in a logical sense. In a practical sense, for many U.S. citizens abroad, tax compliance is not possible.  This is perfectly understandable when issues of “taxation” are confused with “confiscation”.

    The current U.S. Canada Tax Treaty, as I understand it, does NOT require Canada to assist the U.S. in the collection of taxes on Canadian residents, if the person was a Canadian citizen at the time the “debt” arose. This is information  of possible relevance. It doesn’t mean you don’t owe the money. It just means Canada won’t help the U.S. collect it. I presume that that those renouncing U.S. citizenship would be able to use the treaty to shield them from possible Exit Tax Enforcement. But, to use the treaty is to live with another layer of worry!

    The best solution is always to renounce. At this point the only reason to NOT renounce is because you think the U.S. will move to Residence Based Taxation.  Who knows? Tax reform is on the agenda. U.S. citizens abroad made a number of excellent submissions to the Ways and Means Committee. I don’t know about you. But, there are NO circumstances under which I would want to be a U.S. citizen.

    I am writing this post at time when:

    1. Canada is considering a FATCA IGA with the U.S. I hope Canada understands what it will do to one million Canadians by turning them over to the IRS.

    2. Generalized IRS abuse of taxpayers is under way in Washington. It is possible that this post has relevance to that issue.

    3. Congress is considering moving to Residence Based Taxation. That would solve ALL of these problems.

    In closing, to all U.S. citizens abroad who worked so hard to save for your retirement …

    God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
    The courage to change the things I can,
    And wisdom to know the difference.

    This is for real. You must accept that the U.S. government is not what you thought it was. It has made a conscious decision to attack you, your families and your assets.

    Courage is the willingness to proceed in the face of fear. In this case it requires you to face up to a decision with no good outcome. You must choose between being destitute or being tax compliant. “American  exeptionalism” means you cannot have both.

    Wisdom means finding a way to move beyond this frightening chapter in your life. Look at it this way: there are parts of the world where people have never experienced life without U.S. tyranny. The good news is that you do NOT live in the United States.

    On that note, I will conclude with a thought from Winston Churchill. His wife did not approve of his drinking. One night he came home and she said:

    Winston, you are drunk.

    Winston thought about it a minute and said:

    Yes, I am drunk. But you are ugly and tomorrow I will be sober.

    Put it this way, you can renounce your U.S. citizenship. Every day, for the rest of their lives, Homelanders will wake up in the Homeland!

All the Side Effects of being a “covered expatriate” Green Card Holder

 

reposted from CitizenshipTaxation FB Group
 

Gary Clueit:

As a long-term GC holder with no way to escape “covered expatriate” status, the article doesn’t really cover all the insidious side-effects. For example, determining the $2M net worth threshold does not cover any assets you might have had before moving to the US, or assets due to bequests from relatives that have never set foot in the US. Even after paying the exit tax on the “deemed sale” of everything you own worldwide, you will have to pay actual capital gains when you do actually sell. And every penny of any bequest or gift you make to someone resident in the US (i.e. a child or grandchild, even if they are not US citizens) is then further taxed at 40% (that they have to pay) with no limit. So, for example, if your net worth is $2.5M on the date of expatriation (i.e. covered expat), you pay the exit tax. Say your wealth increases to $250M AFTER you leave the US – if your heirs live in the US (again, whether citizens or not) and you leave that wealth to them, the entire $250M estate will be taxable to them at 40% regardless of the fact that 99% of your wealth at the time of death was created outside the US.
Even if GC holders decide to stay in the US, they are perpetually screwed. Besides never being allowed to vote (not really an issue since one never desired to be a citizen), though they are still expected to pay taxes on worldwide income. The worst comes at death:
US citizen spouses can transfer or gift an unlimited amount between each other. If you are the spouse of a GC holder the maximum transfer is $149,000 annually.
Upon death, a citizen can leave an unlimited amount to their spouse. If your spouse is a GC holder, the max is just over $5M. If you spouse is a nonresident alien, the maximum is $60,000. Amounts above that are subject to 40% estate tax.
There is also the possibility of being caught up in double estate tax issues when you die.
This is the ultimate in taxation without representation – one of the founding principles behind the creation of the US. Tea parties were held!

When Law Becomes a Substitute for Morality & Causes Cruel & Unneccesary Harm

 

if you cant trust

 
Another comment deserving its own post

USCitizenAbroad says
March 13, 2017 at 7:08 am
@Karen and all

Thank you for collecting and posting these stories.

Our Stories

I would like to offer some general observations (of which Shaun is one of many examples) and suggest some lessons which are largely based on Shaun’s story in particular.

Shaun’s Story

It seems to me that the lesson(s) from Shaun’s story are simple. So, let’s summarize them:

1. Those Australians who have entered the U.S. tax system need to renounce as quickly as possible (hopefully before they are “covered expatriates”) and probably even if they are “covered expatriates”.

Anybody who doesn’t get this does not understand the U.S. tax system. (Not that anybody understands the system.)

2. Because of the prevalence of Superannuation in Australian society, those who are NOT in U.S. tax compliance should not be too quick to enter the U.S. tax system (better clarification on the tax status of one’s particular Superannuation – they are NOT all the same) – is needed.

3. Under NO circumstances should anybody in Australia engage the services of a U.S. based CPA or lawyer. The simple reality is that these “specific life forms” (1) Don’t give care about you in the least (2) don’t understand your local tax system (3) subconsciously believe that you are a “tax cheat” (because all Americans are) and (4) are required to view the world entirely through the “perverted prism” of the Internal Revenue Code (which presumes that anything that is “Not U.S” (not one of “us”) exists ONLY for the purpose of defrauding the U.S. Treasury.

Remember that when it comes to the Internal Revenue Code and Americans abroad:

– Americans abroad are deemed to actually live inside the USA; and

– the assets of Americans abroad are deemed to be foreign (even though they are really local to the individual)

4. It is painfully obvious that Shaun would have been far better off if he had NEVER entered the U.S. tax system. This is hindsight. He could never have understood where this was going. Truth is that things have changed a great deal over his 30 years in Australia. But, Shaun has provided a great lesson to Australian citizens and residents who are NOT in the system.

The lesson is this:

For Americans abroad in general, but for Australians in particular (think Super), the consequences of entering the U.S. tax system lead to far worse results than the consequences of NOT entering it. It’s pretty simple. Shaun lost the following:

– his retirement
– his health
– his happiness (you can be sure that he carries with him anger and resentment)
– he has probably become a very negative person
– if he has an Australian spouse (or still has one) it is likely that this has impacted his family in a big way

Shaun is unique. Although it doesn’t specifically say that he has filed U.S. taxes for 30 years, it is clear that he has filed U.S. taxes for many many years. Poor Shaun. He filed because filing “is the law”. Yes, it’s the law. Shaun probably thought that there was some connection between law and morality or law and “doing the right thing”.

There is no connection between law and morality. Filing U.S. taxes is “obeying the law” and obeying unjust and immoral laws. A great American writer (by the name of Thoreau) wrote a book (considered to be subversive in the land of the free) on this topic. It’s called “Civil Disobedience”. Read it sometime. (He discusses the relationships among: laws, unjust laws and compliance with unjust laws.)

Clearly Shaun (and others who have exhibited this kind of “life time” compliance while living outside the USA) are “model citizens”. Yet they have been proven to have been “model fools”. Through compliance with these laws, they have destroyed their lives.

The U.S. tax system, enforced by the tax professionals (who usually don’t know what they are doing anyway) is such that:

It’s far more punitive to be in the U.S. tax system than not be in it. There are a number of reasons for this, but we see how Shaun loses his life savings by trying to comply (doing the “right thing”).

Believe, me Shaun has lost a lot more than his money. Year ago I wrote a couple of posts based on theme that:

“It’s not what they take from you, it’s what they leave you with”.

Collective psychotherapy – U.S. citizens outside U.S. – Not what they take from you, it’s what they leave you with

followed by:

The agony of U.S. citizenship for U.S. citizens living outside the U.S.

Take particular note of the comments (including one from MarkPineTree who was Dr. Marcio Pinheiro whose anxiety over Mr. FBAR made the last few years of his life a “living hell”). See a tribute to him at:

http://isaacbrocksociety.ca/2015/08/18/another-brock-warrior-down-in-memory-of-marcio-v-pinheiro/

Finally, this story is a sad, sad reminder that those who have been most hurt by the predatory and immoral practice of U.S. “place of birth taxation” are the ones who tried hardest to comply.

The Tax Compliance Industry might say:

“Resistance is futile!!!!”

Those who have tried hard to comply will say:

“Compliance is impossible”

Put it this way:

“It’s very clear that “compliance is impossible”. But, it’s not clear that “resistance is futile”. The proof is rather simple:

Seven out of eight Americans abroad recommend non-compliance and every one of them is in a better state than our friend Shaun!

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

 

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.
 
*****

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.

When law becomes a substitute for morality

When law becomes a substitute for morality

reblogged from the renounceuscitizenship wordpress blog

Today I’ve decided that I would like to go back and reblog some of the best expat posts from the last five years. For lack of a better title, I am going to call it the “A Blast From the Past Series.” This week I am going to focus on the disconnect between law and morality.

Every now and then I realize that people are still coming into awareness and that they do not realize a lot of what has gone on; how long some of us have been involved in this and most importantly, why some of us are so vehemently resistant and unyielding when it comes to evaluating the U.S. government, the tax compliance industry and so on. I guess some of us are afraid that this long period of lassitude may give a false sense of “safety.”

Without resorting to outright fearmongering, there are a number of things that may not happen (tax reform) or that will change (discontinuation of the Streamlined Program) etc. Our main reason for being involved in this from the very beginning, was to get the word out, to do our own research/take responsibility for educating ourselves and others about this hideous situation. I think it is important for people to understand how this situation has played out since the beginning……..

One of the worst aspects of everything happening today is the growing lack of morality in the world. I mean this in the “big” sense of the word; something which is on the mind of every human being as we watch America turn from being an open and welcoming society into one moving toward closed borders, over-the-top surveillance, etc. Today the Secy of Homeland Security literally said he was considering separating (illegal) parents from their (American-born) children. Unbelievably cruel and totally unnecessary. And the reinstatement of the “travel ban” which has been tweaked a bit but cannot possibly be seen for anything except what is clearly is – a move to keep Muslims out of America.

What does this have to do with us? Everything. Because when you see your government behaving like this, you are forced to evaluate two things:

1) Can YOU trust them?
2) Is there any reason to reject them/protect yourself given the unusual situation expats find themselves in?

In addition to being scared out of my mind and full of doubt whether to renounce or not (late 2011), what I could not ignore was my observation of how the U.S. was behaving outside the law. Clear, undeniable abuse of the law. Invading Pakistani airspace (I don’t care what the reason, that is not supposed to be done); the horrid abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib ; the assassination of Americans without due process and worst of all, holding men at Guantanamo Bay for as long as 12 years without charge, torture, etc. I did not find it difficult to believe the U.S. would think nothing of destroying our retirement by forcing me to sell my home to pay FBAR fines. It was a no-brainer.

Everyone has to come around to this decision on their own terms. All the more reason however, to take a long hard look at what has gone on over the last five years (which should influence whatever decision you choose to make).

Some of the people mentioned in this post you may not be aware of:

renounceuscitizenship – in addition to his/her own blog, one of most influential authors at the Isaac Brock Society from the beginning. Has an uncanny ability to predict long in advance, how things are going to move and a piercing, unbending analytical approach to assessing the source of our issues. Originator of the Renounce & Rejoice meme.

Steven J. Mopsick – aka “30 year IRS Vet” – a former IRS attorney who took part in a lot of the early conversations at Brock. The relationship was friendly at first and eventually disintegrated due to the natural friction between someone from a compliance point-of-view and those who did not intend to buckle under. A nice gentleman of whom was said “You can take the man out of the IRS but you cannot take the IRS out of the man.”

JustMe a much-beloved expat who suffered two-plus long years having entered the 2009 OVDP program, trying to make things right. He coined many of our expat idioms: “LCUs (Life Credit Units – how much of your life lost trying to deal with this); FATCAnatics (you can guess); CC&W (Complain, Comply & Warn-his explanation of what he was doing!),DATCA, GATCA, and so on. After he requested the help of the Taxpayer Advocate, he spent quite a long time devoting himself to our cause and taught a lot of us how to do Twitter, learn html, you name it. He finally needed to put it aside (I am sure his wife was happy about this!) and is much missed……..

Former Secretary of the Treasury Timothy F. Geitner aka “Turbo Tax Timmy” – who hadn’t paid social security or self-employment taxes on income received from the International Monetary Fund from 2001 to 2004; the IRS audited Geithner for tax years 2003 and 2004, which resulted in him paying back taxes and interest–but no penalties–totaling $16,732. Geithner voluntarily amended his 2001 and 2002 returns only after Obama expressed interest in nominating him to the Treasury post. The total bill this time: $25,970. He also failed to get proper verification for three individuals who worked for his family. As a prior Treasury employee who prior to Secy position, had run the NY Federal Reserve, one has to wonder how he could fail to understand social security or SE tax. This was infuriating to expats suffering through the OVDP/OVDI penalties. As well, former Congressman Charlie Rangel (D-NY), a sponsor of FATCA, headed the powerful House Ways and Means Committee that writes the nation’s tax laws, was censured by the House of Representatives in December for ethics violations.A chief violation included his failure to pay 17 years’ worth of taxes on rental income from the Dominican Republic property. GRRRRRRR! (still burns……..)
****************

tombstones

The following tweet appeared as a post at the Isaac Brock Society and generated a collection of comments.

To provide some context:
Steven J. Mopsick wrote a post which was a report of his experience at a recent FATCA conference. He was impressed by how the attendees were exploiting the business opportunity (inadvertently referring to them as “steakholders”) that FATCA has created for the compliance industry. Interestingly, Mr. Mopsick specifically makes the point that:

The focus of the conference was strictly on FATCA from the standpoint of complying financial institutions. Most of the participants did not even know about and individual’s duty to file FBAR’s, Foreign Asset Statements (form 8938) and there was very little talk about privacy concerns, fears about the dangers of an emerging international banking data base system, or how Canadian politicians were doing in shaking their lap dog image as pawns of the US government.

In other words: the focus was on the law of FATCA with no consideration of the morality, unintended consequences or effect on society as a whole. (Most law students would kill to have a prof like this!) To put it another way, the important consideration is the law itself. The fact of the law itself is the only issue. The values that underlie the law are irrelevant.
“Just Me” in his usual “wit and wisdom” commented that:

This is the Truism I take away from Steven: “The people around the world who stand to profit from FATCA are not thinking much about government intrusions into the private lives of the world citizens.”

“Them’s the FATCAs FACTs”, as they say.

Although, they may think it is a ‘business and growth opportunity’ others see it as a pending financial disaster for the World’s economy. Who is right? I think the latter, but we shall see. I could be wrong.

FATCA and US fiscal imperialism threaten to sink global economy

In all due respect to 30 year IRS vet, I think he may have his perspectives twisted (which comes from his background?) when he thinks that profiting off the backs of the government regulatory tit is “free enterprise/free market system at work.” Rather, it represents the worst of unprincipled and amoral aspects of human nature at work. These actions are not based upon free enterprise/free markets, but on artificial markets based upon dubious legal assertions.

Free markets do not require or accept extortion as their engine of enterprise.

I can think of other examples of so called free enterprise ~70 years ago, where other“hard-working, serious, responsible business men and women who were on their way up in their companies” were probably attending conferences on how to ramp up manufacturing and supply of cattle cars for another freight train in another era that he would not be so willing to celebrate. He would not like that comparison, and maybe it is a bit hyperbolic, but the same human nature principle is at work.

More recently, there was an army of war profiteering “hard-working, serious, responsible business men and women” contractors, attending conferences in Vegas to learn how suckling off the “free enterprise” of ‘War Contracting Gone Wild’ could benefit their companies. They didn’t want to get left out of the ‘business and growth opportunity’that an amoral and unnecessary war provided. What if the government threw a contractor party to support its misguided war effort at that time, and no one came? I blame the compliant and willing contractors co-enablers as much as the government initiators for the sad legacy we left in Iraq.

Maybe in fairness to Steven, what he is saying, is yes, human nature is responding to an artificial market that would NOT exist, except for US hubris, financial imperialism and extra-territoriality. I don’t think I would be citing the FATCA Compliance Industrial Complex’s (FCIC) “hard-working, serious, responsible business men and women” as an example of ‘supply and demand’ in action that Adam Smith would identity or praise.

Although I certainly agree that “Free markets do not require or accept extortion as their engine of enterprise”, the Mopsick post raises an even larger issue. Mr. Mopsick has and continues to make an enormous contribution to the discussion of FATCA, FBAR and U.S. tax compliance in general. Some of the best thinking on these topics may be found in the “Mopsick Trilogy” – a series of posts that he wrote about the compliance problems facing US citizens abroad. His posts are a unique blend of raising questions and answering questions. In this case, his post has raised an important issue.

The issue is that, in the America of today, laws have become a substitute for morality. A society where laws have become a substitute for morality, is a society that is past the point of “no return”. This is where “Form Nation” – AKA The United States of America – finds itself today.

“Form Nation” – A country structured by laws and not by men

In the beginning we had the ten commandments which were expressions of the fundamental principles of justice. The ten commandments reflected principles which were for the common good. Gradually legislatures began to create laws. In the early stages of society, these laws were specific applications of fundamental principles of justice and for the most part these laws continued to be for the common good.

What is in the common good is not necessarily what is good for specific individuals. Those specific individuals who control the political process have strong incentives to act in their interest at the expense of the public interest.

Once legislatures saw how easy it was to create laws, they began to create laws which were NOT for the common good but were to benefit specific individuals at the expense of the common good. That’s how the Internal Revenue Code and regs grew to 17,000 pages. It’s simply incredible. Mr. Romney pays low tax on his “carried interests” and U.S. citizens abroad pay confiscatory taxes on their mutual funds “PFICs”. Not only is this unfair, but it’s a wonderful example of how laws are passed to benefit the individual at the expense of the common good.

But, it gets far worse. Who exactly are the legislatures? Democracy in the “Form Nation” of today is controlled by two private clubs. You will recognize them as the Democratic and Republican parties. Not only are they private clubs, but they have the intellectual dishonesty to rely on public funding for their existence. Their job is to campaign and to stay in power. Why? Because they will profit from being power. Those of you who have seen the Movie Chicago will remember Mama Morton singing “reciprocity“.

If you have the money you can get the ear of a Congressman. If you don’t you can’t. If you are the mutual fund industry you can lobby to get the PFIC laws passed. If you are the Romney’s of the world (and I still believe Romney would have been a better president) you can lobby to get your “carried interest” laws passed. As Fareed Zakaria has noted, the system is corrupt at it’s core. A large part of the problem is the way the political system works in the United States. There is nobody who represents the voters. The elected representatives (and they are not really elections because of a lack of choice on the ballot) are in business for themselves. Their business is in passing laws that benefit themselves or their clients. This is the only reason that the IRC and regs grew to 17,000 pages. To put it simply: elected representatives are in the business of making laws.

It’s laws, laws and more laws!

The United States of today is burdened by so many laws that:

– everybody is in violation of some law (show me the man and I will show you the crime);

– the complexity of the laws means that people cannot even understand what they are required to do (the FBAR rules are a weird combination of the enabling statute, the regs and the form itself);

there are fewer and fewer laws where “mens rea” (the intent to commit the crime) is necessary for a conviction;

– people are forced to pay lawyers for an opinion on what they may be required to do (lawyers have become the modern day “priests”);

– the sheer volume of laws means that enforcement is largely discretionary (will the IRS enforce FBAR penalties or not?);

– the focus on laws leads to a presumption of criminality (the fact that US citizens abroad are subject to so many laws means they must be guilty of something);

– the moral foundation (if any) of the law becomes irrelevant. The original purpose of the law becomes irrelevant. All that matters is the mechanical application of the law. Nobody ever imagined that PFIC rules, Foreign Trust rules or the FBAR rules would be used to unleash a “reign of terror” on US citizens abroad. On the “Homelander Front”, do you really believe that Martha Stewart deserved incarceration? Of course, the good old USA has the highest rate of incarceration in the world.

Laws have become a replacement for morality. Laws are the only standard for morality.

If you are not in violation of the law, you are not immoral.

If you are in violation of the law you are immoral.

(If the U.S. is really concerned about the “crime rate” then maybe it should reduce the number of laws.)

Conclusion: The US does not have laws that are fair.

“Form Nation” – A country governed by those who decide when to apply the laws and in relation to whom! (A government of tyrants)

In the context of the laws, the laws are not applied equally

President Obama commented that Mr. Geithner should not be punished for a mistake commonly made. It was okay for Timothy Geithner, a man with the money to get accurate tax advice, to file inaccurate tax returns. It is NOT okay for US citizens abroad to fail to file or to file inaccurate tax returns.

Conclusion: The US does NOT have fair application of the law.

1. The United States of today is country where laws are passed by members of private clubs, which have no incentive to benefit the common good and every incentive to benefit themselves at the expense of the common good.

2. The laws are so numerous that every person in the United States is in violation of something.

3. The laws that passed carry no presumption of morality and simply have no moral force.

4. The laws (regardless of content) are enforced in an unpredictable and unfair way.

The result is that people live in terror of the government.

As Jefferson said:

When people fear the government there is tyranny. When government fears the people there is liberty.

So, what’s all this got to do with #FATCA and the Mopsick post?

FATCA is the “gift that keeps on giving” (well to the compliance industry that is). As Mr. Mopsick confirms, the concern of the industry in on the fact of the law. What does it say? What does it require? As Mr. Mopsick reports:

Many readers of this blog will be disappointed to hear this report. The people around the world who stand to profit from FATCA are not thinking much about government intrusions into the private lives of the world citizens. That is the furthest thing from their minds. These folks were all good students, in effect, knowing full-well that there was a new body of rules and regulations on the table which they needed to learn and master.

The implication is that the “good students”, those “hard-working, serious, responsible business men and women who were on their way up in their companies”, the “best and the brightest” (are they really that bright?) should be concerned with embracing the new morality, getting in tune with the “new world” caring about the implications of their conduct. That’s exactly what happens when law becomes a substitute for morality. Just Me compares this mentality to another time in history when he notes that:

I can think of other examples of so called free enterprise ~70 years ago, where other“hard-working, serious, responsible business men and women who were on their way up in their companies” were probably attending conferences on how to ramp up manufacturing and supply of cattle cars for another freight train in another era that he would not be so willing to celebrate. He would not like that comparison, and maybe it is a bit hyperbolic, but the same human nature principle is at work.

Interesting analogy. What is the purpose of FATCA? What are the moral underpinnings of FATCA? Has anybody ever asked the question? Clearly nobody in the world of the FATCA compliance industry. They would be afraid of the answer!

But, that’s what happens when law becomes a substitute for morality. Many of you are concerned about what reason to give for renouncing your U.S. citizenship.

Why not just say:

I do not wish to be a citizen of a country where law has become a substitute for fairness and morality!
 

TOMORROW : Burning Barns Down is not Wrong Because it is Illegal – It is Illegal Because it is Wrong

The ACA RBT Proposal is a “carve out” within CBT

 


 
This post is based upon a comment made at the Isaac Brock Society concerning American Citizens Abroad’s new (Febrary 2017) proposal on replacing citizenship-based taxation with residency-based taxation.

See the bottom of the post for information on how you can join the discussion.
 
carve out
 
USCitizenAbroad says:

The ACA proposal is painful to read. But, it is an opportunity to dialogue with ACA and others who are engaged in the process of tax reform and its application to Americans abroad. I wonder if a separate site/Facebook group or something could be dedicated to the specific issue of “Tax Reform and Americans Abroad”. But, anyway …

The specifics of the proposal are a diversion from what I believe is the real issue. The real issue is the assumptions that ACA (and to be fair) the vast majority of Americans abroad bring to the table.

ACA proceeds from the operating assumption that American citizens are nothing but slaves to the U.S. Government and the IRS. ACA has absolutely bowed down to the United States of America and acknowledged the absolute servitude of Americans to Congress and the IRS. ACA has done this NOTWITHSTANDING THE FACT that most Americans abroad do not (and apparently will not) file U.S. taxes, FBAR and the other components that have stripped Americans of their liberties. (Donald Trump would probably say that those who do not file are “smart”. Why? Because the rules of U.S. style CBT are so punitive that in most cases it is safer to not file at all. Well, assuming you can even understand what is asked of you.)

Because ACA begins by accepting the principle of slavery, they then begin by asking for a “carve out” for certain slaves. These are slaves who have been particularly good and compliant slaves. The principle of “carve out for exceptional slaves” was last seen in the FATCA same country exemption proposal.

Understand the following two points:

1. FATCA SCE was a proposal that was absolutely in support of FATCA, but asked for an exemption for ONLY those Americans abroad who could demonstrate compliance with their tax slavery.

2. The current proposal (RBT not) ABSOLUTELY ACCEPTS CBT AS THE OPERATING PRINCIPLE, but asks for an exemption for those who have been particularly compliant with CBT. Because of the emphasis on “compliance, compliance, compliance” there is NO relief for Accidental Americans (and similarly situated people). The proposal makes NO mention of dual citizens and to what extent dual citizenship should play a role. As the Titanic is going down, ACA is proposes to save “tax compliant” (the good slaves) Americans from going down.

To be clear (as the “Change you can believe in” guy used to say):

This is NOT a proposal for residence-based taxation. This is a proposal for “taxation-based citizenship” with an exemption for certain groups of people. Therefore, under NO CIRCUMSTANCES should this be referred to as an RBT proposal. This is a proposal to worship at the altar of taxation-based citizenship, but exempt the “high priests” from the burdens.

That said, as a practical matter, if you can fit yourself into the one of “taxation-based citizenship” exemptions, it does provide benefits. But, as @Eric notes, this proposal will institutionalize “taxation-based citizenship”.

More, on the specifics later.

FURTHER INFORMATION ON THE ACA PROPOSAL AND DISCUSSION:

The document is here
 
Discussions are happening at Brock and
at the ACA Facebook page
https://www.facebook.com/americancitizensabroad/posts/10154429235779072
 
ACA is soliciting everyone’s questions and comments and ADCT encourages ALL expatriates, their families and friends (especially if living in the Homeland) to read the proposal and to provide feedback

info@americansabroad.org and/or

here

Dual Citizens of Sweden, France, Netherlands, Denmark & Canada take note! Your Country WILL NOT Collect for the U.S.

Last week in my email was a link to an article by Michael J DeBlis (unable to determine whether it was the father or the son). It runs in my memory that prior to the launch of the Tax Connections website, the younger Michael had started a blog that was specifically about expatriate issues and many of us joined and took part. He seemed particularly sympathetic and supportive of our plight and one who I would never have labelled a “condor.” And this post is in no way meant to be demeaning.

Imagine my surprise to read this:

Consider the following example. Pierre is a dual citizen of the U.S. and Canada who presently resides in Montreal. He has fastidiously filed U.S. and Canadian tax returns for the last ten years. Following an audit of his 2012 U.S. tax return, the IRS determined that there was a $ 20,000 deficiency and mailed him a notice of deficiency. Pierre timely filed a protest but Appeals found in favor of the IRS. Having failed to file a petition with the tax court, that deficiency soon became a $ 20,000 assessment.

The IRS now seeks to collect on its claim by imposing a tax lien on real estate owned by Pierre in Canada. Essentially, what the U.S. government is attempting to do is cajole collection officials from the Canadian Revenue Agency (Agence du revenue du Canada) to do its dirty work for it: namely, to collect Pierre’s unpaid U.S. taxes by enforcing an IRS tax lien on property located within Canada.

As incredible as this might sound, reliance upon a foreign taxing authority for assistance in collecting a tax judgment against a citizen of the requesting country is entirely permissible under the terms of the U.S.-Canadian Treaty. Of course, such a request must be accompanied by documents firmly establishing that the taxes have been finally determined.[ix]

Therefore, the Canadian Revenue Agency would have no choice but to enforce the lien and to collect the unpaid taxes. But what if Pierre filed a motion in a Canadian court to have the tax lien imposed by the Canadian Revenue Agency, at the behest of the IRS, set aside? Not surprisingly, the court would refuse Pierre’s request on the grounds that the imposition of the tax lien was proper under the terms of the treaty.

The reason for my surprise was that it is a well-known fact not only in Canada, but among expats in general, that Canadians are lucky because Canada will not collect tax for the U.S. on people who were Canadian citizens at the time the tax was incurred. Nor will the CRA collect FBAR penalties as they are not a tax, falling under Title 31 of the U.S.C. Most of us had become aware of that when our-then Finance Minister, the late Jim Flaherty had stated unequivocably that Canada would not collect for the U.S. under these two circumstances. So I decided to post a comment.

Patricia Moon
2016-10-26 18:51:10
Thanks for this article, particularly for outlining the limits of what can/cannot be done with regard to the border. While the officers can be bullies, along with knowing very clearly, the limits of the Reed Amendment, this is good information to have. Canada and Denmark both have provisions that state they will not collect for that US citizens/persons that are also, their own citizens. In the case of the US-CDN Treaty: Article XXVIA 8) No assistance shall be provided under this Article for a revenue claim in respect of a taxpayer to the extent that the taxpayer can demonstrate that: a) Where the taxpayer is an individual, the revenue claim relates either to a taxable period in which the taxpayer was a citizen of the requested state …………. So the CRA would not collect for the US in Pierre’s case, since he is dual and a citizen of Canada. While the boundaries for the revenue rule may be fading, it is still alive and one which the late Finance Minister, Jim Flaherty, reiterated many times while voicing his shock that the US would expect FATCA to be implemented in Canada. It is very clear that FBAR penalties, which are not part of Title 26 and therefore not covered under the Treaty, also would not be collected by the Canada Revenue Agency. The Canadian courts have refused to enforce claims of the US against Canadian citizens. I presume the Canadian government would honor XXVIA for US citizens/persons who are permanent residents of Canada who are not Canadian citizens. What I am afraid we will see, in spite of past rulings, is that the IRS will attempt to collect from Canadian bank branches in the US with corresponding branches in Canada. I have been told that this does happen by compliance people in spite of court rulings etc. However, it seems to me a bank would be liable to be sued, since presumably, PIPEDA (privacy laws) would in this case, apply to the US citizen/person even though it is overridden by the IGA when the bank sends info to the CRA. We have all seen how the compliance industry tends to enforce the “law” even when the IRS etc, has not provided guidance (which also, is not necessarily, the “law”). An example of this is putting someone who relinquished US citizenship decades ago, into the system according to 877A. Tax lawyers have tended to dismiss past citizenship laws that as far as can be seen, are not automatically changed retroactively. This is completely unacceptable. It is largely useless to Canada to have the right to collect on Canadian citizens resident in the United States due to the fact that once a Canadian is a permanent resident of another country, they are no longer liable for tax in Canada. This is also the reason that FATCA is of very little value to Canada.

and

Patricia Moon
2016-10-26 23:10:13
You may be interested in a few of the court cases mentioned (indirectly) above: United States of America v. Harden (1963), 41 D.L.R. (2d) 721 Supreme Court of Canada https://scc-csc.lexum.com/scc-csc/scc-csc/en/item/7322/index.do 68 O.R. (2d) 379; 1989 Ont. Rep. LEXIS 206 RE VAN DEMARK ET AL. AND TORONTO-DOM http://uniset.ca/other/cs6/68OR2d379.html Chua v. Minister of National Revenue, 2000 DTC 6527 (FCTD http://ca.vlex.com/vid/chua-v-minister-of-national-revenue-38618242

I received a message asking if I could confirm the information concerning Canadians at this post on the CitizenshipTaxation FB group.I became involved in the conversation and remembered that I had recently learned that Denmark also had such a clause protecting its citizens in the US-Denmark Treaty. So I wondered if it could be the same for the other three countries that have a Mutual Assistance in Collection clause in their treaties with the U.S. namely, Sweden, France and the Netherlands. It didn’t take too long to find that they do indeed have the same type of clause. I was dumbfounded. Why had we never heard this before? I was careful to look at the Protocols because some of the Treaty dates are over 20 years old; there was nothing to suggest the conclusion was incorrect. I also had a couple of professionals take a look and they agreed.

So this is A VERY BIG DEAL. If you are a dual citizen of DENMARK SWEDEN FRANCE the NETHERLANDS or CANADA and were a citizen at a time when the U.S. claims you owe U.S. tax, your country WILL NOT ASSIST THE U.S. in collecting U.S. tax. !!!!!!!!

Then I wondered about FBAR and where that might be confirmed since it is not specifically stated in the Treaty. I googled and found a link to a comment of mine that I have no memory of posting:

25 July 2012 T.I. 2011-0427221E5 – FBAR penalties

Principal Issues: Whether US FBAR penalties are included in “revenue claims” defined in Art.XXVI-A(1) of the Canada-US Treaty.

Position: No.

Reasons: FBAR penalties are not civil penalties in respect of taxes covered under Art.II of the Treaty.

https://www.taxinterpretations.com/tax-topics/treaties/article-26a#node-326646
25 July 2012 T.I. 2011-0427221E5 – FBAR penalties

XXXXXXXXXX
2011-042722
P. T.
(613) xxx-xxxx
July 25, 2012

Dear XXXXXXXXXX:

Re: Civil Penalties and Article XXVI-A

We are writing in response to your letter of November 7, 2011, in which you asked for our comments in respect of the application of Article XXVI-A of the Canada-United States Tax Convention (1980) (“Treaty”).

You have described a hypothetical situation involving an individual who is a citizen of the United States (“U.S.”) by right of birth, and a Canadian citizen by way of naturalization prior to 1995. The individual is a resident of Canada for purposes of the Income Tax Act (“Act”) and the Treaty. We are to assume that the individual has failed to file Form TD F90-22.1 Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts with the U.S. Department of the Treasury as required under the U.S. Bank Secrecy Act. As such, the individual has been assessed a civil penalty (“FBAR Penalty”) in the U.S. for the failure to file Form F90-22.1.

In this regard, you have asked whether the FBAR Penalty could be considered a civil penalty that is included in a “revenue claim” as defined at paragraph 1 of Article XXVI-A of the Treaty, and if so, whether paragraph 8 of Article XXVI-A would preclude the collection of the FBAR Penalty by the Canada Revenue Agency (“CRA”) on behalf of the U.S. Government.

Our Comments

The CRA has previously indicated that Canada would assist the U.S. Government in the collection of interest and penalty in respect of U.S. taxes owing pursuant to Article XXVI-A of the Treaty. However, paragraph 8 of Article XXVI-A provides that Canada will not assist in the collection of a revenue claim from the U.S. Government in respect of an individual who is a Canadian citizen, such as the individual described in your hypothetical situation.

In addition, we are of the view that a civil penalty, such as the FBAR Penalty, which is imposed under the U.S. Bank Secrecy Act, is not a penalty in respect of U.S. taxes owing. Therefore, it is our view that an FBAR Penalty is not an amount that would be considered a “revenue claim” pursuant to the definition at paragraph 1 of Article XXVI-A.

We trust that our comments will be of assistance.

Yours truly,

Robert Demeter
Section Manager
for Director
International Division
Income Tax Rulings Directorate
Legislative Policy and Regulatory Affairs Branch

Then I started wondering about FATCA. The “reassurance” we receive constantly from the Canadian government is that FATCA does not result in any new tax etc, that it is just an information exchange. Which begs the question, why is the information being collected if there won’t be any “new” taxes? In this regard:

Andrew Bonham, “FATCA and FBAR Reporting by Individuals: Enforcement Considerations
from a Canadian Perspective” (2012) 60:2 Canadian Tax Journal 305-54, at 345.

Still, as noted above, the minister has the discretion to refuse assistance in collection. Certainly from a public policy standpoint, it must be relevant that the Crown, in providing collection assistance on a FATCA revenue claim, would in many cases be acting against its own taxpayers in the enforcement of a claim founded upon information obtained in a manner that may not be constitutional under the laws of Canada. The Crown is not obliged to do anything contrary to the public policy of Canada in collecting a revenue claim under the treaty. This last point is analogous to the common-law public policy defence discussed above.

However, it is also quite possible, and perhaps probable, that FATCA is in equal part both an information-gathering tool and a revenue-generating tool. It is for this reason that FBAR will never go away. With information garnered from FATCA FFI reports, penalties can be levied under both FATCA and FBAR if an individual fails to file. However, as we have noted, the long arm of the IRS cannot reach Canada with respect to FBAR, and as further posited, it is likely that FATCA penalties would also be unenforceable in Canada. From the US perspective, the best-case scenario would see all financial institutions around the globe complying with the strictures of the disclosure requirement. Armed with the massive list that would be generated from such compliance, the IRS would merely have to check names against received disclosures and levy fines against those individuals who had not complied. Carrying this scenario further, the IRS could then, after the exhaustion of all administrative appeal periods and recourse, approach the minister of national revenue with a list of individuals owing FATCA penalties and ask that those penalties be enforced by the CRA under the terms of the Canada-US tax treaty. It is assumed that in a large number of cases, a notice from the IRS to an individual noting lack of FATCA compliance would not be responded to, and in those cases, a penalty of $50,000 would be levied, thereby raising a very significant amount of revenue.

Finally, although the revenue rule and the penal/public-law rule would currently preclude Canadian courts from assisting in collection, the ever-expanding role of judicial comity may one day see a repeal of these rules, or at least a relaxation of their strictures. Should that occur, the United States would be in a position to resort to principles of public international law as a basis for enforcement, even against dual citizens. In such a case, it may well be open to defendants to argue that the mere fact of their US citizenship should not, in and of itself, be enough to satisfy the real and substantial connection test—especially in cases where the defendant has had little or nothing to do with the United States and has certainly derived no benefit from his or her US citizenship.

A lot of interesting possibilities are discussed in the article above and it is definitely worth reading. While there are no guarantees that these Treaties will not change in the future, the advantage of this information now is:

  • if you are in an unsure situation at the moment, this is something that is as much a part of your situation as your “U.S. Person-ness” and can be a great help in deciding what your risk level is
  • if you are not compliant & not yet a citizen of the 2nd country, you might consider applying for citizenship now
  • you can help get this information out to other members of your expat community

Lastly, here are the actual wordings in the treaties involved; I am only including the Article/paragraphs that pertain to this idea.

SWEDEN
• Income Tax Treaty – 1994
• Protocol – 2005

ARTICLE 27

Administrative Assistance

1. The Contracting States undertake to lend assistance and support to each other in the collection of the taxes to which this Convention applies, together with interest, costs, and additions to such taxes.

4. The assistance provided for in this Article shall not be accorded with respect to the citizens, companies, or other entities of the State to which the application is made, except as is necessary to insure that the exemption or reduced rate of tax granted under this Convention to such citizens, companies, or other entities shall not be enjoyed by persons not entitled to such benefits.

FRANCE

• Income Tax Treaty – 1994
• Protocol – 2004, 2009

19 ARTICLE XII
Paragraph 5 of Article 28 (Assistance in Collection)
of the Convention shall be deleted and replaced by the following:

“The assistance provided for in this Article shall not be accorded with respect to citizens, companies, or other entities of the Contracting State to which application is made.”

ARTICLE 28
Assistance in Collection

1. The Contracting States undertake to lend assistance and support to each other in the collection of the taxes to which this Convention applies (together with interest, costs, and additions to the taxes and fines not being of a penal character) in cases where the taxes are definitively due according to the laws of the State making the application.

5. The assistance provided for in this Article shall not be accorded with respect to citizens, companies, or other entities of the Contracting State to which application is made except in cases where the exemption from or reduction of tax or the payment of tax credits provided for in
paragraph 4 of Article 10 (Dividends) granted under the Convention to such citizens, companies, or other entities has, according to mutual agreement between the competent authorities of the Contracting States, been enjoyed by persons not entitled to such benefits.

Article XII of the Protocol replaces paragraph 5 of Article 28 (Assistance in Collection) of the Convention. The change revises paragraph 5 so as to remove the now obsolete reference to the provision of paragraph 4 of Article 10 (Dividends) of the existing Convention prior to amendment by the Protocol related to the “avoir fiscal.”

NETHERLANDS

ARTICLE 31
Assistance And Support in Collection

1. The States undertake to lend assistance and support to each other in the collection of the taxes which are the subject of the present Convention, together with interest, costs, and additions to the taxes and fines not being of a penal character.

4. The assistance provided for in this Article shall not be accorded with respect to the citizen, corporations, or other entities of the State to which application is made, except in cases where the exemption or reduced rate of tax granted under the Convention to such citizens, corporations or other entities has, according to mutual agreement between the competent authorities of the States, been enjoyed by persons not entitled to such benefits.

DENMARK

INCOME TAX TREATY 2000

ARTICLE 27
Administrative Assistance

1. The Contracting States undertake to lend assistance to each other in the collection of taxes referred to in Article 2 (Taxes Covered), together with interest, costs, additions to such taxes, and civil penalties, referred to in this Article as a “revenue claim.”

8. No assistance shall be provided under this Article for a revenue claim in respect of a taxpayer to the extent that the taxpayer can demonstrate that a) where the taxpayer is an individual, the revenue claim relates to a taxable period in which the taxpayer was a citizen of the requested State, and b) where the taxpayer is an entity that is a company, estate or trust, the revenue claim relates to a taxable period in which the taxpayer derived its status as such an entity from the laws in force in the requested State.

CANADA

Article XXVI A
Assistance in Collection

1. The Contracting States undertake to lend assistance to each other in the collection of taxes referred to in paragraph 9, together with interest, costs, additions to such taxes and civil penalties, referred to in this Article as a “revenue claim”.
8. No assistance shall be provided under this Article for a revenue claim in respect of a taxpayer to the extent that the taxpayer can demonstrate that
(a) where the taxpayer is an individual, the revenue claim relates to a taxable period in which the taxpayer was a citizen of the requested State, and………

Article 22
1. Subparagraph 8(a) of Article XXVI A (Assistance in Collection) of the Convention shall be deleted and replaced by the following:

(a) Where the taxpayer is an individual, the revenue claim relates either to a taxable period in which the taxpayer was a citizen of the requested State or, if the taxpayer became a citizen of the requested State at any time before November 9, 1995 and is such a citizen at the time the applicant State applies for collection of the claim, to a taxable period that ended before November 9, 1995; and

2. Paragraph 9 of Article XXVI A (Assistance in Collection) of the Convention shall be deleted and replaced by the following:

9. Notwithstanding the provisions of Article II (Taxes Covered), the provisions of this Article shall apply to all categories of taxes collected, and to contributions to social security and employment insurance premiums levied, by or on behalf of the Government of a Contracting State.

How the “assistance in collection” provisions in the Canada US Tax Treaty facilitates “US citizenship based taxation”

cross-posted from Citizenshipsolutions

The above tweet references the comment I left on an article titled: ”

Why is the IRS Collecting Taxes for Denmark?

which appeared at the “Procedurally Speaking” blog.

The article is about the “assistance in collection” provision which is found in 5 U.S. Tax Treaties (which include: Canada, Denmark, Sweden, France and the Netherlands). I am particularly interested in this because of a recent post at the Isaac Brock Society.

This post discusses the “assistance in collection” provision found in Article XXVI A of the Canada U.S. Tax Treaty. The full test of this article is:

Continue reading “How the “assistance in collection” provisions in the Canada US Tax Treaty facilitates “US citizenship based taxation””