Some Green Card holders and #Americansabroad living in Belgium are like Alice in her "Adventures In Wonderland". You see they have @taxresidency in the USA, but when they move to Belgium they "changed" to NOT being "residents of the United States" and are denied certain benefits. pic.twitter.com/M99FxLi2su
— John Richardson – lawyer for "U.S. persons" abroad (@ExpatriationLaw) November 27, 2022
I was recently alerted to a provision in the US Belgium Tax Treaty (a similar but not identical provision also appears in the US UK Tax Treaty – which I have explored in this earlier post.). Normally all US Citizens and Green Card holders are defined as “US Residents” under US tax treaties. The US Belgium Tax Treaty (and the US Uk Tax Treaty) contain an interesting exception to the general principle that US citizens and Green Card holders are “US Residents” under the Tax Treaty. Think of it as a “residency carve out”. The purpose of this post is to describe this “carve out” and explore the (some) practical implications of what this means. Interestingly it is one more example of how the US tax treatment of Americans abroad depends on their country of residence.
Just when you think the US tax treatment of Americans abroad couldn’t be worse, the US never ceases to amaze. Seriously, this is the tax treaty version of “Shock and Awe”! It demonstrates that any general discussion about tax treaties is, well just “general”. One must always understand the specific provisions of the specific treaty. Before, anybody gets overly upset, no need to worry. Even those US citizens who do get the benefits of the US Belgium tax treaty don’t (because of the “saving clause”) get much. Nevertheless, the US Belgium Tax Treaty affords a good opportunity to read tax treaties carefully. It also provides a good reminder that the “saving clause” excludes US citizens from most benefits of the tax treaty (even when US citizens meet the residency requirements of the treaty). Finally, this analysis reinforces how carefully tax treaties must be read. Does a provision talk about “citizens”, “nationals”, “residents” …?
The Readers Digest Version Of This Post
US citizens and Green Card holders are US tax residents wherever they live in the world. Most US tax treaties define citizens and Green Card holders as US tax residents. Yet, there are some treaties that “may” not define “US Persons Abroad” as “residents of the United States”. The treaties that “may not” define Green Card holders and citizens as “residents of the United States” include Belgium and the UK. It appears that Green Card holders are the biggest losers. That said, the Belgium and UK tax treaties demonstrate that “US Persons Abroad” may receive fewer tax treaty benefits than resident Americans. Significantly this means that there are certain US tax treaties that actually discriminate against US citizens and Green Card Holders who live outside the United States without a residential nexus to the United States.
Although perhaps enacted without considering the impact on “US Persons Abroad”, this demonstrates (yet again) how attempts to curb certain abuses create negative consequences for Americans abroad because and only because of citizenship taxation. We have seen these consequences in conjunction with the 877A Exit tax rules, the PFIC rules, Subpart F, the Transition Tax, GILTI and now “treaty shopping”.
Surely, this is one more example of the clear principle that US citizens abroad are subjected to a more punitive tax system than resident Americans.
It is absolutely essential that the United States end citizenship taxation and transition to residency based taxation that completely severs US citizenship from US tax residency..
For those who want to better understand this …