Monthly Archives: June 2023

Professor @Gabriel_Zucman Discusses US Taxation Of Americans Abroad and FATCA

On June 19, 2023 the Global Progressive Caucus of Democrats Abroad hosted Professor Gabriel Zucman to discuss “Fair Share Taxation And Tax Enforcement”. You may know that Professor Zucman is a strong advocate of wealth taxation. Senator Warren (in the specifics of her proposed wealth tax) appears to be a disciple of Professor Zucman’s views.

During the presentation Professor Zucman reinforced his view that “Fair Share Taxation” should include a wealth tax. Interestingly he recommends that FATCA be replaced by the CRS.

But, most interestingly he expressed his view that the current U.S. system of citizenship taxation (as it applies to most Americans living outside the United States) simply cannot be justified. Based on this video, I would say that Professor Zucman may be an ally in the fight to reform the taxation of Americans abroad.

I have put together a short twitter thread to highlight his main points. But, I do recommend that people watch the entire video. The discussion at the end is every bit as interesting (and revealing) as Professor Zucman’s presentation.

A threadreader version of the twitter thread is here:

https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1674191242681352193.html

A pdf version is here:

ThreadReader_0_expatriationlaw_1674191242681352193

The live Twitter thread …

John Richardson – Follow me on Twitter @Expatriationlaw

Part 37 – 2023: US Supreme Court To Hear Moore Appeal In Lawsuit Against @USTransitionTax – Great News!

June 26, 2023 – Great News! – The US Supreme Court Agrees To Hear Moore 965 Transition Tax Case!

A direct link to the Supreme Court site which will track the progress and filings of all briefs (including what are expected to be a large number of amicus briefs) is here.

The brief from the CATO Institute frames the question addressed to the Supreme Court as follows:

QUESTION PRESENTED

Whether Congress may levy income tax on a tax-payer who has not realized income.

What follows is a twitter thread (which I will continually update) which includes commentary, resources and general information about the appeal.

Litigation against the 965 Mandatory AKA transition tax has come from two sources.

The first source was from U.S. tax lawyer Monte Silver. His challenge to the tax was based generally on procedural grounds and specifically on the failure of U.S. Treasury to comply with the provisions of the Regulatory Flexibility Act. Despite a heroic, valiant and determined effort the Supreme Court refused to hear his cert petition. As a result, in May 2023, his challenge came to an end. Monte Silver’s challenge focused on the legality of the Treasury Regulations insofar as they applied to US citizens living outside the United States.

The second source is the Charles Moore case. This case is arguing that the tax is unconstitutional. Although brought on behalf of an individual shareholder of a CFC, the case makes no mention of the application of the tax to Americans abroad. On June 26, 2023 (about a month after denying the cert petition in the Silver case) the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the Moore case. To be clear, this case is attacking the constitutionality of the tax (not the procedural aspects) head on. Much will be written about this issue and the case.

On September of 2019 I wrote a post describing the Moore lawsuit arguing that the Section 965 Transition Tax AKA Mandatory Repatriation Tax is unconstitutional. Although the Moore’s were not successful in the District Court and Appeals court, the Supreme Court of the United States has agreed to hear the case!

The Cert Petition

The Cert petition was based on an appeal from the 9th Circuit and a dissenting judgment from the plaintiff’s application to rehear the case in the 9th Circuit.

The original 9th Circuit decision is here.

The decision of the 9th Circuit denying the request (with the dissent) to rehear the Moore case is here.

An excellent article discussing the history of the Moore “Transition Tax” ligation is here.

The cert petition in CHARLES G. MOORE and KATHLEEN F. MOORE, Petitioners, v. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,Respondent, includes:
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Post 36 – The Little Red @USTransitionTax Book – About the 965 Mandatory Repatriation Tax

June 2023 – The fight against the 965 Transition AKA Mandatory Repatriation Tax Continues

On June 26, 2023 the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the Moore appeal to the constitutionality of the U.S. Transition Tax. For those who don’t know, the transition is found in S. 965 of the Internal Revenue Code and was part of the 2017 TCJA. It was intended (in part) to be a “trade off” pursuant to which:

1. U.S. corporations would have the corporate tax rate lowered from 35% to 21%.

2. The U.S. Claimed to adopt “territorial taxation” for its corporations. Generally this meant that profits earned outside the United States would not be taxed by the United States.

3. The U.S. adopted the 951A GILTI rules which exposed the lie of moving to territorial taxation (the profits earned outside the United States were taxed before being distributed. They were then not taxed a second time on distribution).

4. The U.S. adopted that 965 transition AKA mandatory repatriation tax which was a retroactive tax on the retained earnings of CFCs which had not been distributed and therefore not subjected to U.S. taxation.

In a nutshell:

The 965 transition tax was a one time retroactive tax (going back to profits accrued since 1986) on earnings that were not subject to taxation at the time that they were earned. This is incredible stuff!!

But, (as usual) little thought was given to the fact that some CFCs were owned by individuals. No thought was given to the fact that many Americans living outside the United States had small business corporations in their country of residence.

For U.S. citizens in Canada, their small business corporations (in many cases) were actually their private pension plans. To put it simply:

The 965 transition AKA mandatory repatriation tax confiscated the pension plans of many Americans abroad. Frankly this is/was one of the most egregious offences against Americans abroad ever perpetrated by Congress and the Treasury.

In 2018 I began writing a number of blog posts about various aspects of this issue. These are written mostly from the perspective of Americans abroad who are dual “tax residents” (of other countries and of the United States). I don’t think the Moore’s are tax residents of India.

I haven’t written about the transition tax for a long time. That said, the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court is going to hear the Moore Case has reminded me of this issue. This means that more posts will be written. Each post is really a chapter. The posts have been designated as chapters which collectively compose the “Little Red Transition Tax Book”.

Therefore, this post (which I will add to) is “The Little Red Transition Tax Book”.

The posts include:

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Part 35 – 2023: US Supreme Court Denies Cert Petition In @MonteSilver1 lawsuit against @USTransitionTax – Lawsuit Ends

As has been discussed in previous posts, Monte Silver, a U.S. tax lawyer based in Israel launched an important challenge to the legality in how the S. 965 transition tax regulations impacted Americans abroad who owned small business corporations. The challenge included the claim that Treasury had failed to meet its statutory obligations as prescribed under the Regulatory Flexibility Act. lawsuit has been discussed in previous posts. The bottom line is that Mr. Silver was unable to meet the “standing requirements” needed to pursue the lawsuit.

Important events include:

March 2023 – the cert petition:

May 2023 – the denial of the cert petition:

John Richardson – Follow me on Twitter @Expatriationlaw

A Primer On Canada’s Vacant Home Taxes For U.S. Citizens And Residents

Disclaimer: This post is of a general nature. I will assume that the owner of the property is an individual person. This post does NOT address situations where the property is owned by a corporation, trust or other kind of entity. Vacant property regimes are different and may include enhanced rules for situations where residential property is NOT owned by an individual (including corporations, trusts, etc.). Under NO circumstances should the information in this post be considered to be complete. It is designed to provide an overview. In many cases you will be well advised to seek professional help. (I am thinking mainly of Canada’s Underused Housing Tax and the BC “Speculation And Vacancy” taxes.)

Outline:

Part I – Introduction – The Housing Shortage Of 2023
Part II – Impacts of Canada’s Underused Housing Tax on Canadian border communities
Part III – How Vacant Home Taxes Work – The Usage Of The Property ALWAYS Matters And Can Ensure The Tax Is Avoided
Part IV – How Vacant Homes Tax Differ – The Three Categories Of Taxes
Part V – The BC “Speculation And Vacancy Tax” – Moving To Canada
Part VI – Concluding Thoughts

Part I – Introduction – The Housing Shortage Of 2023

Vacant home taxes are a new kind of tax in Canada. They are the inevitable result of a rise in housing prices, a shortage of rental housing caused by short term rentals (AirBNB and others), a rise in rents (caused by the shortage of rental housing) and a political climate that is responsive to the housing shortage. This is NOT just a problem in Canada, but also in other countries. A recent New York Times article reported on similar conditions in Portugal (which interestingly resulted in the cancellation of Portugals “Golden Visa Program”).

Canada’s Family Of Vacant Home Taxes

Various Canadian governments have created a family of Canadian Vacant Home Taxes. Vacant Home Taxes are significant levies on owners who neither occupy their property as a principal residence nor rent the property to “arms length” tenants. The only true “safe islands in an ocean of punitive taxation” are in circumstances where ALL owners occupy the property as a principal residence (except possibly the BC Speculation And Vacancy Tax) or the property is rented and occupied by an “arms length” tenant for at least six months of the year.

Vacant Home Taxes are levied by all three levels of government: Federal (Canada’s Underused Housing Tax), Provincial (BC Speculation And Vacancy Tax) and Municipal (Toronto, Vancouver, Hamilton and Ottawa, etc.). “Canadian Vacant Home Taxes” are becoming increasingly prevalent.

Property owners can be impacted by more than one tax. A U.S. resident owning a vacant home in British Columbia could be subject to each of: Canada’s Underused Housing Tax, Vancouver’s Empty Home Tax and the BC Speculation And Vacancy Tax. Each of these taxes is independently punitive. Some might argue that the combined effect of all three is confiscatory. For example a U.S. resident who owned a vacant condo in Vancouver valued at 3.3 million Canadian dollars would be subject to combined “vacant home taxes” of $264,000 CDN for the 2023 year. As the following tweet indicates:

Interesting! At the current rate of Vancouver’s vacancy tax (5%), and given BC’s vacancy tax (2%) and the federal underused housing tax (1%), the author’s condo (valued in 2017 at $3.3 million) could trigger additional annual tax of $264,000 for 2023 alone (if valued the same).

Part II – Impacts of Canada’s Underused Housing Tax on Canadian border communities

Canada’s vacant home taxes have been particularly upsetting to U.S. residents who own second homes in Canada.

In 2017 a U.S resident, in an article in the Wall Street Journal, referred to the Vancouver “Empty Home Tax” as “Canada’s Tax On Being American”.

The author, claiming that the tax is aimed at “foreigners” writes:

A few months later, Vancouver introduced an annual “empty home tax” equal to 1% of the property’s assessed value. Since the levy is inapplicable if your Vancouver home is your principal residence, it’s obviously aimed at foreigners like us. At our condo’s current valuation, the tax will cost us almost US$33,000 a year.

She makes the further claim that the Vancouver Empty Home tax is based on nationality:

Nationality-based taxes are among the worst kinds of protectionism. The North American Free Trade Agreement expressly covers real estate owned by Americans in Canada. For that matter, Nafta covers real estate owned by Canadians in the U.S., of which there is plenty.

Although the Vancouver Empty Home Tax is NOT based on nationality (although Canada’s “Underused Housing Tax” is based on nationality), the author is correct that citizenship/nationality taxes are offensive. That said, the United States is the only major country in the world that defines “tax residency” in terms of citizenship/nationality (making the author’s claim somewhat hypocritical).

More recently, New York Congressman Brian Higgins has been particularly aggressive in objecting to the application of Canadian vacant property taxes to U.S. residents. The Canadian Government held hearings on the “Impacts of the Underused Housing Tax on Canadian border communities”. The hearings took place on June 5, 8 and 19 2023 and may be accessed here. On June 5, 2023 Congressman Higgins was a witness at the hearing. His comments referenced the application of Canada’s “Underused Housing Tax” to U.S. residents living in upstate New York. A transcript of his comments may be read here. Congressman Higgins is requesting that his constituents in New York State be exempted from the tax. His closing statement at the hearing was:

Mr. Brian Higgins:

I think you’re correct in that I understand why Canada would impose a tax on large swaths of land because of the larger problem that it creates. What I believe about that is really not relevant. That’s for you to decide. I suppose what I would ask each of you to consider is whether or not this tax, the vacant and underutilized tax, was intended to affect communities. You refer to them as rural communities that are outside of the urban areas. I refer to them as cottage communities.

Was that the intent, and if it wasn’t, is there some way that could be contemplated as it relates to revising that to exclude certain properties, like seasonal properties, that this was seemingly not intended to include?

Citizenship Taxation

Canada’s Underused Housing Tax is NOT based on “tax residency”. Rather, Canada’s Underused Housing Tax is a tax based on “citizenship” or”immigration status”. The U.S Tax code imposes income taxes based on “citizenship” and “immigration status”. Significantly, the U.S. imposes taxation on the Canadian source income of those Canadian residents who are also U.S. citizens. It is therefore reasonable to conclude that:

1. Congressman Higgins is objecting to Canada applying “citizenship taxation” on U.S. citizens living in the United States; while

2. the U.S. applies “citizenship taxation” to many Canadian citizens living in Canada.

In any case, Congressman Higgin’s complaint is about “citizenship taxation“.

Part III – How Vacant Home Taxes Work – The Usage Of The Property ALWAYS Matters And Can Ensure The Tax Is Avoided

Generally every property owner (Canada’s Underused Housing Tax is the exception) is required to report every year and answer questions about the usage of the property. These who fail to report are subject to the maximum tax. Those who do report must demonstrate that they are either NOT required to pay the tax (principal residence, rented out or some other exemption) or not subject to the maximum tax (citizenship/immigration status or tax residency status). All vacant home taxes start with a presumption that the owner must pay the full tax. The property owner bears the burden (by filing the return and providing information about the usage) or demonstrating that it (he, she or an entity) is exempt or subject to a lower tax.

“Some” ways of avoiding the tax …

Generally, if the property is rented to “arms length” tenants for at least six months of the year no vacant property tax is owing. With the exception of the BC “Speculation And Vacancy” Tax occupancy by the owner as a principal residence will result in no tax payable.

Vacant Home Taxes In Canada- Three Categories

Category 1. Based On Ownership: Targets ALL owners of the property and the tax is imposed based on the usage of the property – Targets people based on and only on being the owner of the property. The tax may be avoided based on the usage of the property (generally if used as a primary residence or if it is rented to tenants). (Municipal)

Category 2. Based On Ownership + Citizenship/Immigration status of the owner: Targets owners of the property based on the citizenship and immigration status of the owner (NOT being a Canadian citizen or Permanent Resident of Canada) – The tax may be avoided based on the usage of the property (Federal – Canada’s Underused Housing Tax).

Category 3. Based On Ownership + Citizenship/Immigration status + tax residency of the owner + source of the owner’s income – (British Columbia “Speculation And Vacancy Tax”)

Generally the BC “Speculation And Vacancy Tax” operates as follows:

Step 1: Targets all owners of the targeted properties and presumes they are subject to the maximum tax (every owner is required to file a return)

Step 2: Identifies those owners who are Canadian citizens or permanent residents. (Being a Canadian citizen or permanent resident” is a necessary BUT NOT SUFFICIENT condition to being subject to a lower rate of tax or being exempt from the tax.) An individual must be a “specified Canadian citizen” or “specified Permanent Resident” or “resident of British Columbia” to have preferential treatment or an exemption from the tax. (Note that if a Canadian citizen or Permanent Resident is is an “untaxed worldwide earner”, then that person cannot be a “specified Canadian citizen” or “specified permanent resident”.

Step 3: Determines whether the owner is an “untaxed worldwide earner. This is a determination based largely on the “tax residency” and income of of the owner. Generally an individual is an “untaxed worldwide earner” if more of his income (or combined income with his spouse) is NOT subject to tax in Canada than is subject to tax in Canada. (Significantly the income of both spouses is combined to determine whether the individual is an “untaxed worldwide earner”.)

Step 4: Determines whether the owner is a “specified Canadian citizen” or “specified Permanent Resident” or “resident of British Columbia” and is therefore subject to a preferential tax rate or an exemption. Note that if the individual is an “untaxed worldwide earner” he cannot meet this requirement. (Like Canada’s Underused Housing Tax the BC “Speculation And Vacancy Tax” does discriminate based on citizenship or immigration status. (Arguably, for this reason it may violate the non-discrimination provision in the Canada U.S. tax treaty.)

Significantly, the primary residence exemption is not available to an owner who is an “untaxed worldwide earner”.

Let’s examine each of the three categories in more detail …

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