Update – My thoughts “The Morning After” – September 7, 2019:
After having digested this for a day (it was announced the afternoon of September 6/19), I offer the following additional thoughts:
Practical value: I think that this IRS announcement/program has value. It may be that those who have renounced would NOT want to come into compliance (although there are certainly some who would – just to bring closure). But, the IRS announcement makes clear that this procedure is available to those who have not yet renounced/relinquished and wish to do so in the future. The point is that these future relinquishers can:
1. Come into tax compliance and have up to $25,000 USD in tax forgiven; and
2. Come into tax compliance without getting a Social Security number. This has the potential to be enormously helpful to a lot of people (but this is a minority view). It’s a way to make the compliance/renunciation process easier and less expensive (tax forgiveness) than it has been to date.
Of course, this will anger the thousands who have previously come into compliance, paid taxes and gone to the trouble of getting a Social Security number.
IRS Motivation: Much of the discussion in social media has revolved around the question of: “Why would the IRS offer this program at all? What’s in it for the IRS (especially if they are forgiving taxes)? I don’t know and nobody outside Treasury/IRS knows. But, my guess is that this is a political response from US Treasury to the problems that FATCA is causing with foreign banks. Viewed prospectively, this provides a clearer path for accidental Americans (living outside the USA) to renounce U.S. citizenship. Although renunciation (which does have tax consequences) does NOT require tax compliance, most people seem to think that it does. Also, this is a clear response from Treasury/IRS to the problems that foreign banks are having with FATCA compliance. In other words: I do NOT think that this has anything to do with helping accidental Americans. I do think that it to assist foreign banks with the problems they are having with accidental Americans. Note that the relinquishment date – March 18, 2010 – is tied to the date that FATCA was enacted. But, what do I know?
Now on to the post as originally written …
Breaking news – just released today – September 6, 2019
In what appears to be a response to how FATCA issues affect “accidental Americans” living outside the United States, the IRS has introduced a procedure providing limited tax relief, penalty relief and certainty for accidental Americans who need to renounce U.S. citizenship in a FATCA world. The problem is described in this recent article by Helen Burggraf at American Expat Finance. Note that March 18, 2010 was the date that the HIRE Act (of which FATCA was a revenue offset) was enacted – making it clear that this relief is tied to FATCA and NOT to “citizenship-based taxation” per se.
In a nutshell, it appears (I will read this in more detail again) to say that:
1. Have NEVER filed a 1040 U.S. tax return
2. Have relinquished/renounced U.S. citizenship after March 18, 2010
3. File the five tax years in the year prior to relinquishment
4. File a tax return in the year of relinquishment
5. Have a net worth of less than 2 million USD at the time of relinquishment AND at the time of filing*
6. Have a total of less than $25,000.00 in U.S. tax liabilities over the five year period
7. Have an average U.S. tax liability of less than approximately 165,000 USD for the five preceding years*
8. Certify that their failure to file was non-willful.
can file, avoid paying the U.S. taxes owed and NOT be a covered expatriate.
*These mirror the general requirements to not be a covered expatriate.
This is of value for a limited (but probably numerically large) group of people. The benefits appear to be:
1. Forgiveness of tax up to $25,000.00
2. The opportunity to exit the U.S. tax system cleanly and avoid covered expatriate status.
This is likely to upset those who previously went to the trouble of coming into compliance to expatriate. Note that the procedures are not available to anybody who has EVER filed a 1040.
I will write more on this later. But, for the moment here is the announcement from the IRS News Room:
09 | 6 | 19
IRS announces new procedures to enable certain expatriated individuals a way to come into compliance with their U.S. tax and filing obligations
WASHINGTON – The Internal Revenue Service today announced new procedures that will enable certain individuals who relinquished their U.S. citizenship to come into compliance with their U.S. tax and filing obligations and receive relief for back taxes.
The apply only to individuals who have not filed U.S. tax returns as U.S. citizens or residents, owe a limited amount of back taxes to the United States and have net assets of less than $2 million. Only taxpayers whose past compliance failures were non-willful can take advantage of these new procedures. Many in this group may have lived outside the United States most of their lives and may have not been aware that they had U.S. tax obligations.
Eligible individuals wishing to use these relief procedures are required to file outstanding U.S. tax returns, including all required schedules and information returns, for the five years preceding and their year of expatriation. Provided that the taxpayer’s tax liability does not exceed a total of $25,000 for the six years in question, the taxpayer is relieved from paying U.S. taxes. The purpose of these procedures is to provide relief for certain former citizens. Individuals who qualify for these procedures will not be assessed penalties and interest.
The IRS is offering these procedures without a specific termination date. The IRS will announce a closing date prior to ending the procedures. Individuals who relinquished their U.S. citizenship any time after March 18, 2010, are eligible so long as they satisfy the other criteria of the procedures.
These procedures are only available to individuals. Estates, trusts, corporations, partnerships and other entities may not use these procedures.
The IRS will host an on-line webinar in the near future providing additional information and practical tips for making a submission to the Relief Procedures for Certain Former Citizens.
Relinquishing U.S. citizenship and the tax consequences that follow are serious matters that involve irrevocable decisions. Taxpayers who relinquish citizenship without complying with their U.S. tax obligations are subject to the significant tax consequences of the U.S. expatriation tax regime. Taxpayers interested in these procedures should read all the materials carefully, including the FAQs, and consider consulting legal counsel before making any decisions.
See the following link for more information: