Author Archives: Admin

Comprehensive analysis of the CARES ACT From Professor Francine Lipman – @narfnampil

I received the following from Professor Francine Lipman who is on the faculty of the UNLV School of law. It seems to me to be an extremely comprehensive statement of how the CARES Act operates to provide funds to Americans in need.

I highly recommend that you access her scholarship.

With her permission, I have simply reproduced her email as the post.

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Dear Passion Warriors for Justice:

I hope this is helpful to you and your colleagues. Stay strong and put your oxygen mask on first. We need your strength, stamina & resilience today and all days on the frontlines of justice. Feel free to contact me at Francine.lipman@unlv.edu for any reason or no reason at all. We are stronger together and I am sending you positive energy! We will get through this and be even more fierce, fearless and appreciative of community, fellowship and face to face conferences! @narfnapil on Twitter

The CARES Act was just signed into law, including a number of individual income tax provisions.

Here are some details on the Recovery Rebate Tax Credit:

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Americans abroad and relief under the CARES Act: How do they get it and how much do they get

The context

Many countries including Canada and the United States have offered monetary relief to help their residents during these difficult times. (In addition to monetary relief, as Virginia La Torre Jeker as reported here and here: the United States has relaxed the deadline for filing 2019 tax returns. Canada has made similar allowances.)

Interestingly, with respect to access to monetary relief:

Canada’s “CERB Benefit” approach appears to be to simply get cash into the hands of affected people. The benefits may or may not be taxable. But, filing a tax return is not a prerequisite to receipt of benefits.

The U.S. “CARES Act” approach appears to use the tax system as the mechanism for delivery of benefits. Early indications suggest that (at least for Americans abroad) filing tax U.S. tax returns will be a necessary condition for the receipt of benefits. Could benefits really be conditional on filing tax returns, when there are so many people who do not meet the threshold for filing U.S. tax returns?

It appears to be much easier to access the relief in Canada than to access the relief in the United States. Additionally, Canadians do NOT need a lawyer or accountant to understand the program. But, that’s an issue for another day …
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Recent economic upheaval creates expatriation opportunities for “US Persons” living abroad

This post was motivated by a thread on Reddit …

At the end of this post, I have included the Reddit thread. (Note that I am trying to develop a “RenounceUSCitizenship” thread on Reddit – you will find it here.)

As you know the US Section 877A Expatriation Tax applies to U.S. citizens and “Long Term Residents”. A “Long Term Resident” is an individual who has had a Green Card (as defined by the rules in Internal Revenue Code Section 7701(b)(6) for at least eight of the fifteen years prior to expatriation). This has become a serious problem for Green Card holders who simply move from the United States and and don’t take formal steps to sever their U.S. tax residency. (They must either file the I-407 or use a tax treaty tie breaker election to expatriate. Otherwise they may be in a situation where they have no right to live in the United States (having lost the immigration status) but are taxable on their worldwide income (still being tax citizens).

That said, whether you are a U.S. citizen wishing to renounce U.S. citizenship or a Long Term Resident wishing to sever U.S. tax residency, you do NOT want to be a “covered expatriate“. Generally, (unless one is subject to two exceptions – dual citizen from birth or expatriation between 18 and 181/2 – that are beyond the scope of this post), one is treated as a “covered expatriate” if one meets any one of these three tests:

1. Net worth of 2 million USD or more (which this post will focus on)

2. Average U.S. tax liability of more than approximately $165,000 USD over the five years prior to expatriation

3. Failure to certify U.S. tax compliance for the five years prior to expatriation.

The COVID-19 Panic – Falling asset values – more favourable exchange rates -2 million USD net worth test

The last couple of weeks have changed and continue to change our world. We are experiencing human misery on an unprecedented and global scale. This includes physical illness, fear of illness and social distancing. I live in a large city and I am beginning to see less variety in the food available. Self-employed people are seeing disruptions to their revenue streams, etc. I don’t want to keep listing examples. But it is very bad. On the economic front, we are seeing unprecedented and incalculable damage to the world economy. This includes (but is not limited to) falling asset values – how is your stock portfolio doing? We see currencies that are weakening relative to the U.S. dollar. (This means that a higher Canadian or Australian dollar net worth would equal 2 million USD.) As I write this post I just received a message, from someone advising me that the shares in a certain cruise ship stock, have fallen from $136 to $22. (My advice would be: Don’t spend money on the cruise. Instead buy the shares in the company.)

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Seriously now, who’s GILTI? Senators Wyden and Brown attempt to reinforce the punishment of GILTI Americans abroad

Prologue

Americans abroad who are individual shareholders of small business corporations in their country of residence have been very negatively impacted by the Section 951A GILTI and Section 965 TCJA amendments. In June of 2019, by regulation, Treasury interpreted the 951A GILTI rules to NOT apply to active business income when the effective foreign corporate tax rate was at a rate of 18.9% or higher. Treasury’s interpretation was reasonable, consistent with the history of Subpart F and consistent with the purpose of the GILTI rules.

Now, Senators Wyden and Brown are attempting to reverse Treasury’s regulation through legislation. This is a direct attack on Americans abroad. Senators Wyden and Brown are living proof of the principle that:

When it comes to Americans abroad:

It’s not that Congress doesn’t care. It’s that they don’t care that they don’t care!

Introduction

As many readers will know the 2017 US Tax Reform, referred to as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), contained provisions which have made it difficult for Americans abroad to run small businesses outside the United States. In the common law world a corporation is treated as a separate legal entity for tax purposes. In other words the corporation and the shareholders are separate for tax purposes, file separate tax returns and pay tax on different streams of income. The 2017 TCJA contained two provisions that basically ended the separation of the company and the individual for U.S. tax purposes. In other words: there is now a presumption (at least how the Internal Revenue Code applies to small business owners) that active business income earned by the corporation will be deemed to have been earned by the individual “U.S. Shareholders”. To put it another way: individual shareholders are now presumptively taxed on income earned by the corporation, whether the income is paid out to the shareholders or not! The effect of this on individual Americans abroad has been discussed by Dr. Karen Alpert in her article: “Callous Neglect: The impact of United States tax reform on nonresident citizens“.

The expansion of the Subpart F Regime

The Subpart F rules were established in 1962. The principle behind them was that individual Americans should be prevented from, using foreign corporations to earn passive income, in jurisdictions with low tax regimes (or tax regimes that have lower taxes than those imposed by the United States). The Subpart F rules have (since 1986) included a provision to the effect that investment income (earned inside a foreign corporation) which was subject to foreign taxation at a rate of 90% or more of the U.S. corporate rate, would NOT be subject to taxation in the hands of the individual shareholder.

To put it another way (with respect to investment income):

1. It was mostly investment/passive income that was subject to inclusion in the incomes of individual shareholders as Subpart F income; and

2. Passive income that was subject to foreign taxation at a rate of 90% or more of the U.S. corporate tax rate (now 21%) would NOT be considered to be Subpart F income (and therefore not subject to inclusion in the hands of individual shareholders).

To coordinate my background discussion with the Arnold Porter submission described below, I will refer to exclusion of investment income subject to a 90% tax rate as “HTKO” (High Tax Kick Out).

The basic principle was (and continues to be):

If passive income earned in a foreign corporation is taxed at a rate of 90% or more of the U.S. corporate tax rate, that there was no attribution of that corporate income to the individual U.S. shareholder.

In its most simple terms, the Subpart F rules are found in Sections 951 – 965 of the Internal Revenue Code. They are designed to attribute income earned by the corporation directly to the U.S. shareholder, without regard to whether the corporate profits were paid to the shareholders as a dividend. Note that many developed countries have similar rules. Many developing (from a tax perspective) countries (for example Russia) are adopting Subpart F type rules. The U.S. rules are more complicated, more robust and (because of citizenship taxation) apply to the locally owned companies of individuals, who do not live in the United States.

Punishing them for their past and destroying their futures – The expansion of the Subpart F Regime to active business income

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Treasury exempts applicable “tax-favored foreign trusts” from the Form 3520 (and therefore Form 3520A) requirement

Introduction – A small step for forms, one giant leap for “formkind”

It’s true. Many Americans abroad may no longer be required to file Form 3520 and Form 3520A to report their lives abroad! Early indications appear that many Americans will (assuming their retirement vehicle does qualify as a trust) not be required to report on Form 3520. This new initiative from Treasury a positive step in the right direction.

I have long thought that Treasury could solve many of the problems experienced by Americans abroad. Here is a wonderful example of Treasury taking the initiative to clarify the obvious:

Americans abroad do NOT use non-U.S. pension plans and non-U.S. tax-advantaged investing accounts to evade U.S. taxes. Hence, there is NO reason for the Form 3520 reporting requirement. This is an example of the tax compliance industry sitting down with Treasury, explaining a problem and getting a resolution. I suggest (and hope) that the same can be done for PFIC (Form 8621), Small Business Corporations (Form 5471) and other penalty-laden forms.

Yes, this announcement from Treasury in the form of RP 20-17 is a great achievement. Although it certainly doesn’t solve all the problems, it’s:

A small step for forms, one giant leap for “formkind”

The background to this problem – It starts in 1996 (same year as the beginning of the Exit Tax)…

Since 1996 Internal Revenue Code 6048 has required extensive reporting of almost any interaction with a foreign trust. Treasury has required that the reporting take place on Forms 3520 and 3520A. The forms are complex and subject to the draconian penalty regime described in Internal Revenue Code Section 6677. In order for an entity to be a foreign trust, it must be a trust. A “trust” for IRS purposes is defined by the Treasury Regulations as:

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The U.S. citizenship news of the week: While seeking to strip some naturalized Americans of their citizenship, the USA makes it harder for those with @dualcitizenship in Canada to renounce

We live in an era of the weaponization of citizenship. This has been quite a week on the U.S. citizenship front.

While, making it more difficult for certain citizens to renounce U.S. citizenship

The U.S. Government is taking specific initiatives to strip naturalized U.S. citizens of their U.S. citizenship

Is this constitutional? Interesting commentary from the Twittersphere …

Exercising broad regulatory authority, US Treasury has clarified the meaning of “resident” for #FBAR Purposes

Introduction – Looking For Mr. FBAR

What’s new?

I haven’t written a post about Mr. FBAR for quite some time. But, a post about the recent Boyd case at Tax Connections, by Darlene Hart got me thinking about FBAR again. For those interested – where the IRS successfully argued that it was appropriate to impose penalties on each individual account – here is the case:

HBe

And for a hint at the commentary:

Those who know little about Mr. FBAR might find this introduction to FBAR – although written in 2012 – helpful. Incidentally, it’s pretty obvious that Russia’s Foreign Bank account reporting laws were based on an admiration of Treasury’s success with the FBAR rules.

The purpose of this post

The purpose of this post is to explain:

1. The Congressional FBAR statute – Title 31 Section 5314 – which delegates to Treasury the responsibility of determining ALL aspects of FBAR administration including:

– who is subject to FBAR reporting

– the financial thresholds that trigger reporting

2. It is NOT the Congressional FBAR statute that defines the absurdly low $10,000 threshold for reporting. Rather it is Treasury. Although FBAR penalties are now indexed to inflation, the FBAR reporting threshold remains at $10,000. To put it simply: through inflation, Treasury has found a way to increase both the number of FBAR violations and the penalties associated with those violations. (There is a reason it’s called “The FBAR Fundraiser”).

3. It is not Congress that imposes the FBAR requirement on Americans abroad. It is Treasury. In fact, Treasury has recognized that they it has the right to exempt Americans abroad from the FBAR requirements, but has refused to do so. To be specific, Treasury’s 20111 statement found on page 10327 (middle column) was without explanation:

With respect to the comments raised by United States persons living abroad, FinCEN does not believe that an exemption is appropriate simply because a United States person chooses to live outside of the United States.

Treasury offered no reason for this decision.

Commentary on this decision at the Isaac Brock Society may be read here.

4. Treasury has by regulation “tinkered” with the meaning of “resident” over the years. I note that in 2012 (as explained by Phil Hodgen and others) the meaning of “resident” was not defined by statute. Rather, it is through Treasury regulations, that the word “resident” is given meaning. By 2017 Treasury had adopted the statutory meaning of resident used in the Internal Revenue Code (Section 7701(b)). (By expanding the definition of “United States” to include possessions and territories, it appears that Treasury has expanded the penalty base to include U.S. “Nationals”.) The FBAR statute is found in Title 31. The Internal Revenue Code is Title 26. There is neither a requirement nor a reason why Treasury should have used the definition of “resident” in Title 26 as the the meaning of “resident” in Section 5314 of Title 31. There are many different ways of defining “resident”. For example, for U.S. Estate and Gift Tax purposes, “residency” is defined in terms of domicile …

My point is this

Individuals and groups attempting to achieve justice for Americans abroad, Accidental Americans, Green Card Holders and all “U.S. Persons” would be advised to focus their efforts on U.S. Treasury. Yes, the lobbying of Congress should continue. But, meaningful change can be achieved without Congress even being aware of it. U.S. Treasury has the authority and ability to fix the FBAR related penalty and reporting injustices imposed on Americans abroad. But, FBAR is just the beginning. Almost all of the problems of Americans abroad can be fixed by Treasury.

This is the first of a series of posts in which I will explain how Treasury can solve almost all of the problems inflicted by the U.S. Government on Americans abroad.

John Richardson – Follow me on Twitter @Expatriationlaw

Appendix – For those who want to better understand the technicalities: Let me explain you …

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About #FATCA and @Citizenshiptax: Here is the @DemsAbroad Interview with @AmyKlobuchar on January 22, 2020

Amy Klobuchar speaks to Democrats Abroad!

Join our global town hall with presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar! We’ve invited every Democratic Presidential candidate to join a call with us to discuss the issues that matter most to Americans abroad and give you the chance to get to know our candidates.

Posted by Democrats Abroad on Wednesday, January 22, 2020

This is an interesting interview with an interesting candidate. But, it is very clear that Senator Klocbuchar (1) believes in FATCA and (2) has no interest in abolishing citizenship-based taxation. You can pick this up at the 27 minute mark.

It’s interesting that the two candidates endorsed by the New York Times (Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar) are hostile (more so than most other Democrats) to the interests of Americans abroad.

Here is an interesting Facebook discussion about this interview, which includes the following comment:

DA Q and Sen K A on RBT: DA: Most Americans living abroad think that the time has come for residency based taxation, the principle guiding all other country’s tax systems and a fix for numerous unjust burdens on Americans living and working abroad. Now there are bipartisan, revenue neutral proposals to implement our Beatie that include robust provisions to protect the laws from abuse by tax evaders. All we need is a moment of leadership to get this done. Will you be that leader?

Sen K: Well, I have not taken a position to change that at this time. I’m always open to looking at things. And if I could just step back on our taxes in general. There just has not been the opportunity to step back and look at our tax code to see what works for regular people. Because when you think about it, when President Obama was in, we did some things, but we were in a deep recession and it was hard to make the changes that need to be made. Then President [00:03:30.0] Trump comes at it and they pass his tax bill, which really. Oh, wait. It was weighted toward people at the top and has added over a trillion dollars in debt. And when you look at his time period, while he gloats about what things, what’s happening in our country, we’ve had a 30 percent over the last decade, even before him slow down in startups. We call it the startup slump because of consolidations and other things. And we just don’t have a good tax enforcement, as I already mentioned. And then there’s just a bunch of things I think that we need to change. When it comes to our tax code, including closing some loopholes and doing something about the Buffett Rule and bringing in reversing some of the corporate tax cuts he made, I was in the group that wanted to bring the corporate tax rate down, but not to the level near the level that he brought it to. Every pointing went down was one hundred billion. And I would actually take a big chunk of that money and put it into infrastructure. Another chunk to start working on the deficit, which is brought to record levels. And I just think there’s much more we have to do to keep our economy strong for the long term.

The interview speaks for itself. It’s as though the Democrats think that the only purpose of life is to avoid taxes.

It’s pretty clear that a vote for the Democrats is a vote against Americans Abroad. (I am not, by this statement, taking any position on the Republicans.

About #FATCA and @Citizenshiptax: Here is the @DemsAbroad Interview with @TulsiGabbard on January 15, 2020

Tulsi Gabbard speaks to Democrats Abroad!

Join our global town hall with presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard! We’ve invited every Democratic Presidential candidate to join a call with us to discuss the issues that matter most to Americans abroad and give you the chance to get to know our candidates.

Posted by Democrats Abroad on Wednesday, January 15, 2020

With respect to U.S. FATCA and Citizenship-based taxation, her answers were:

1. FATCA: She would direct Treasury to take the necessary steps to alleviate the problems that Americans abroad experience with banking access.

2. Citizenship-based taxation: Bear in mind that the DA question always includes (1) a recognition that revenue neutrality is possible and (2) that any remedial legislation must be carefully constructed to “prevent abuse” (whatever that means). Ms. Gabbard said:

– in principle she believes in a move to residence-based taxation

– it must be constructed in such a way that the wealthy don’t leave the USA to avoid U.S. taxation

– it MUST be revenue neutral

From Jackson-Vanik To The HEART Act – The Evolution Of American Hypocrisy

Introduction

The above tweet references a 2012 post from the Isaac Brock Society pointing out the hypocrisy of “Jackson-Vanik” and the United States. “Jackson-Vanik” – enacted in 1974 – was a U.S. law which imposed sanctions on countries who imposed unreasonable restrictions (exit taxes) on the rights of their citizens to emigrate to new countries.

By 1996, the United States (led by the Clinton administration) was imposing Exit Taxes on certain Americans who renounced U.S. citizenship. James Dale Davidson writing in “The Sovereign Individual” (1997) compared the justification (or lack thereof) for U.S. Exit Taxes to the rationale for Exit Taxes imposed by the East Germany, as follows:

If you accept the premise that people are or ought to be assets of the state, Honeker’s wall made sense. Berlin without a wall was a loophole to the Communists, just as escape from U.S. tax jurisdiction was a loophole to Clinton’s IRS. Clinton’s argument about escaping billionaires, aside from showing a politician’s usual disregard for the integrity of numbers, were similar in kind to Honeker’s, but somewhat less logical because the U.S. Government, in fact, does not have a large economic investment in wealthy citizens who might seek to flee. It is not a question of their having been educated at state expense and wanting to slip away and practice law somewhere else. The overwhelming majority of those to whom the exit tax would apply have created their wealth by their own efforts and in spite of, not because of, the U.S. Government.

James Dale Davidson – The Sovereign Individual page 117. (This book contains some of the most prescient observations about citizenship-based taxation I have ever seen.)

(Enacted as a revenue offset to the HEART Act in 2008, the United States of America now has the most brutal exit taxes imposed in the history of the world. In effect, it confiscates non-U.S. assets, acquired by people who did not live in the United States. Because of the confiscatory intent of the U.S. Exit Tax Regime, the Internal Revenue Code includes numerous reporting requirements whenever an individual renounces U.S. citizenship. To learn about the inner workings of the Section 877A Exit Tax – see the series of posts here.)

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