NB: STAY TUNED – a 7-part video on the Transition Tax, with
John Richardson & Karen Alpert will be posted in the next couple of days.
NB: For anyone with time to spare/the interest/needing specifics to make the point regarding the “intention” of the law, here are some of the relevant House/Senate hearings and/or documents:
Oct 3, 2017 Full Committee Hearing -Senate Finance
Nov 6 – 9, 2017 H W & M Markup
Nov 13, 2017 Open Executive Session to Consider an Original Bill Entitled the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act Sessions also continued Nov 14, 15, 16 with videos at the page)
Supporting Document Markup – Senate Finance Committee
Another day, another set of articles and comments where the #TransitionTax & #GILTI are being stuffed down the throats of expatriates who have their own small corporations. The proliferation of articles on this issue, all proclaiming the U.S. can now inflict a deeper cut into the retirement savings of non-residents, is infuriating. The first two articles at least expressed the idea that these provisions might affect non-resident U.S. taxpayers.
Max Reed , posted on November 3, 2017:
As part of this transition, the new rules impose a one-time 12% tax on income that was deferred in a foreign corporation. Although perhaps unintentional, since US citizens will not benefit from a territorial model, the new rules impose a 12% tax on any cash that has been deferred since 1986.
This provision was not designed to catch individuals (I think), and certainly not Americans abroad – they are collateral damage. it’s incredibly unfair.
When I saw the House version, I expected that individuals would be exempted after a sober second (or third) thought. Or at least individuals living abroad would be exempted. But seeing a parallel provision in the Senate version makes me expect the worst.
Seems fairly obvious that the biggest clue that the #TransitionTax IS NOT meant to apply to small CFC’s is that they are not “transitioned” from a worldwide system to a territorial one. This is so basic it is hard to believe nobody just calls these people out on this. How many tax professionals watched all of the House/Senate hearings? Many of us did, all hoping to hear that the move to territorial would include individuals; or at least some mention of us. There simply was nothing to suggest that this tax applied to anyone except large multi-national corporations.This provides the context in which the law was conceived. It should be considered just as thoroughly as the plain reading that professionals claim catches expats in the net. Just exactly who is really making the law here?
Now, on to the two prominent articles of the week. The Financial Post has U.S. tax reform to bring double taxation to some Canadians by Julius Melnitzer. Mr. Melnitzer is well-known for making huge distortions of reality. Canadians are familiar with the fact that he perpetuated “the biggest personal loan fraud in Canadian banking history.”
The biggest personal loan fraud in Canadian banking history was the work of a wealthy, respectable London, Ontario lawyer, Julius Melnitzer. When he left the board of Vanguard Trust, a small firm with which his law firm had been dealing, he just happened to take a copy of the corporate seal that Vanguard had used, among other purposes, to attest to the validity of certain forms which it issued in lieu of custom-designed share certificates. Melnitzer’s first trick was to create fake shares by simply typing in the share amounts and stamping the certificates with the company seal. He created five certificates representing a total of almost 900,000 shares. Then he used these “shares” as collateral for personal lines of credit. He also forged financial statements of a company that his father had founded, in which Melnitzer owned 20% of the shares, along with a pledge from the company that it would guarantee Melnitzer’s debts. Using the Vanguard shares and the phoney loan guarantees Melnitzer received a total of $5.6 million in lines of credit from five major Canadian banks. The scam went on for years. Each time a bank would start to press him for repayment, he would threaten to take his business elsewhere. He would also request a letter of recommendation from one bank, then use it to obtain funds from its competitors. A few years later, the banks pressed him to either pay up or come up with better collateral. Emboldened by the fact that no one had questioned the veracity of the forged documents, he decided to do the second.
Melnitzer went to a small local printing company that his law firm had done business with for years. He told them he was representing a client charged with using forged stock certificates to get loans at banks. He wanted to prove in court that printing technology had improved so much, even a small shop like theirs could do a credible job. When the company agreed, he ordered single shares of five blue-chip companies in the name of his daughter to avoid suspicion. He then altered them to put in his own name and bumped up the amounts until they had a face value of about $30 million. Not only did the great majority of the financial institutions he dealt with accept these in the place of the initial collateral, but some even significantly increased his line of credit. Alas, when an officer at National became suspicious about how Melnitzer’s personal wealth had risen so quickly, the officer asked bank experts to inspect the stock certificates. Melnitzer was arrested three days later.
Julius Melnitzer, a London, Ont., lawyer, was brilliant in the courtroom and had a stable of powerful clients, including some of the province’s biggest landlords. Thanks to a tip from an observant middle manager at a bank, the police discovered Melnitzer had printed up more than $100 million worth of stock certificates bearing blue-chip names like Exxon Corp. and used them to secure around $67 million in loans from several banks. He also bilked several friends out of more than $14 million by getting them to invest in a bogus property deal in Singapore. In 1992, Melnitzer pleaded guilty to 43 counts of fraud. He was sentenced to nine years in jail but was out on day parole after a couple of years and full parole in 1995. Melnitzer is now a well-known and respected Canadian legal affairs writer.
For Mr. Melnitzer’s point of view see here.
So why am I making such a big deal out of Mr. Melnitzer’s background? Irony. Hypocrisy. Disgraceful. Despicable. Along with government and the tax compliance community, the media is guilty of presenting only one side of the picture, consistently. We are labelled as “tax cheats” “scofflaws” and so on for not filing pieces of paper we knew nothing about. This man, who cheated banks out of $67 million, his friends out of $14 million, is promoting a questionable point of view that seriously affects the lives of millions of expats. Sorry, I cannot consider him a “well-known and respected Canadian legal affairs writer.”
The article quotes Roy Berg on the Transition Tax issues and Paul Seraganian on estate tax issues. An example of the Transition Tax issue:
A doctor who is a dual citizen practising in Canada,
with $2M of accumulated earnings in a private Canadian corporation,
would have a one-time U.S. tax liability of $300,000 this year
Roy Berg, director, U.S. tax law, Moodys Gartner
“A one-time tax liability of $300,000.” Incredible. Just a “fact.” Doesn’t matter at all how immoral this tax is in the first place. Doesn’t matter that this likely represents the doctor’s retirement savings. He/she likely worked very hard to earn that.This is a real-life person, not a hugely wealthy individual such as a corporate CEO who makes far more than $2 million a year in bonuses alone. It’s not small potatoes to confiscate that from a non-resident “U.S.” person. A Canadian citizen and resident. It is unbelievable that anyone, in any country would simply accept that U.S law applies outside it’s borders. It seems to me that “tax professionals” need to think carefully about what they are doing, who they are hurting and their role in what is truly an amoral regime at best and an immoral regime at worst. And people affected by this should think long and hard about parting with such amounts. I sincerely hope renunciations will be off the charts next year. One can at least be certain that “unofficial” renunciations, people “just walking with their feet” (as in non-compliance) will continue. There is a limit to the value of anything and U.S. citizenship is quickly becoming something non-residents simply cannot afford to keep.
It is patently clear that Congress was not thinking about the impact of tax reform on non-resident US citizens. None of the discussion in the lead-up to tax reform, or in the committee hearings, indicated that Congress intended to punish the citizens and residents of other countries who happen to be claimed by the US as citizens. Nothing written by the IRS so far has indicated that they believe this applies to non-resident individuals – every example in the IRS notices has specifically looked at corporate shareholders. The only indication that this might apply to non-resident individual shareholders is from the tax compliance industry that stands to earn a large amount of fees on attempts to comply with this extra-territorial over-reach by the US.
If applied to non-resident individuals, the “transition” tax would be a pre-emptive grab at the tax base of Canada and every other country where US emigrants and Accidental Americans are living. The “deferred foreign income” that would be confiscated is money that was never subject to US tax, and is only claimed by the US because of a fictional “deemed repatriation”. Think about what that really means – the US is pretending that US emigrants are “repatriating” funds back to a country where they don’t live, and that they may no longer really identify with. The only good that could possibly come from this is the long overdue realisation that US taxation of the citizens and residents of other countries is contrary to the national interests of those countries and contrary to normal international practice.
The comments section is still open; please go over and make your views known.
The other major article this week is at the Financial Times.
You can see the article on the
citizenshiptaxation facebook group
Americans abroad hit by Trump’s new repatriation tax rules
by Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson in New York – FEBRUARY 4, 2018
John Richardson comments:
(A previous comment of John’s is here . )
@Mitchell @WBY @Brian Lillis @Monte
@Mitchell gives us an excellent description of the reality of this situation.
We are dealing with a situation where the “tax compliance community” says: “Resistance is futile” and the reality is “compliance is impossible”.
What will be people do? Those who have long term relationships with “tax compliance people” are probably in the worst situation. They will be under enormous pressure to transfer their pensions (in reality this is how these corps are often used) to the IRS. These people will be confused, frightened and “easy prey”for the amoral individuals who populate the industry. I saw one explanation of the “transition tax” from a highly regarded tax firm that noted that they must search their client base for “victims”.
Notably, this is also taking place against a backdrop where VERY FEW “tax professionals” even understand how this (so called) tax works and how to work with it (or against it).
It is laughable that the only way any individual could even know that this exists is because of the combined efforts of the media and the “tax compliance industry” (frankly the last group of people I would trust).
I would also like to stress that members of the tax compliance community do NOT know more about this than the individuals impacted. Sure, they may be able to calculate the tax better (assuming that it applies to Americans abroad at all.) But their insight into this is limited by the thought (if you want to call it a thought):
The law is the law – the intent of the law was irrelevant – the unintended consequences are irrelevant.
The unfortunate truth is this:
People are going to have to choose between following the advice from their tax professional that “the law is the law” and retaining their life savings.
It will be interesting to see what happens.