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Elizabeth Warren’s “Ultra-Millionaire Tax Act of 2021”: Coming Soon To A Neighbour (and maybe a nonresident spouse) Near You

The Contextual Background – Elizabeth Warren – January 28, 2021

Excerpts from a recent CNBC interview (see the following link for context) …

https://www.cnbc.com/2021/01/28/first-on-cnbc-cnbc-transcript-senator-elizabeth-warren-d-mass-speaks-with-cnbcs-closing-bell-today.html

WARREN: Based on fact, the wealthiest in this country are paying less in taxes than everyone else. Asking them to step up and pay a little more and you’re telling me that they would forfeit their American citizenship, or they had to do that and I’m just calling her bluff on that. I’m sorry that’s not going to happen.

WARREN: Look, they want to use American workers. They want to use American highways. They want to use American police forces. They want to use American infrastructure, but they just don’t want to help pay to support it. And that’s the trick, a wealth tax needs to be national because you can still get advantages, if you move from state to state. But the idea behind wealth tax is you have to pay it if you’re an American citizen. It doesn’t matter whether you live in Texas or California or even whether you move to Europe or South America. If you want to keep your American citizenship, you pay the wealth tax and it doesn’t matter where you put your assets. You can try to hide them in the Cayman Islands, you can try to put them up in Switzerland, but it doesn’t matter, you still pay the two-cent wealth tax. And here’s the nice thing about that, you know, a lot of the wealth is quite visible and easy to see, it’s right there in the stock market. A two-cent wealth tax changes this country fundamentally because it means we say as a nation, we are going to invest in the next generation. We’re going to invest in creating opportunity not just for a handful at the top, we’re going to create opportunity for all of our kids. That’s how we build a strong future in this country.

Prologue: For Whom The Tax Tolls – What Is An “Ultra” Millionaire?

One dictionary definition of “Ultra” includes:

ultra noun [C] (PERSON)

usually disapproving

a person who has extreme political or religious opinions, or opinions that are more extreme than others in the same political party, etc.:

Soon the ultras on the right of the party will resume their criticism of the prime minister.

On August 20, 2019 Forbes reported that Elizabeth Warren had a net worth of approximately 12 million USD. A large part of these assets are her pensions. But apparently her Bill doesn’t apply (it’s unclear to what extent the Bill would apply to pensions) to her. At a minimum, the Bill applies ONLY to “Ultra” millionaires (at least today).

Elizabeth Warren Introduces Wealth Tax – Version 1

On or about March 1, 2021, Senator Warren introduced her proposed “ULTRA-Millionaire Tax Act Of 2021”. Given that the threshold is $50 million USD, it appears that the Senator, although a millionaire, is not an “ULTRA” millionaire. There is nothing in the proposed act that suggests the plan is indexed to inflation. Even if the threshold is NOT lowered (which it will most certainly be), the inevitability of inflation will ensure that more and more people are ensnared by it. In the same way that the late Senator Kennedy referred to the 877A Exit Tax as the billionaire’s tax (when it applied to everyday people), over time, the wealth tax will become the millionaires’ tax that will be applied to (by the standards of today) thousandaires.

Now, I don’t believe that this is going to become law soon. But, all confiscatory taxation, starts as an idea that germinates, until enough politicians (who would not personally be impacted) are used to the idea and then it will become law. Tax laws have the potential to become law through either accident (a revenue offset measure which nobody reads) or by design (stated purpose of the legislation). This is exactly what happened with the S. 877A expatriation tax (a revenue offset provision).

Part A – The Evolution of Taxation From Taxation Of Income (Sharing Of Income) To Taxation On Wealth (Taking Of Assets)

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German tax authorities reported to be imposing German taxation on US military personnel stationed in Germany

Prologue

This post draws heavily from the reporting of John VanDiver who has written a number of articles in Stripes. His most recent article is here:

“You don’t want to be chased and harassed by a government office. It is scary,” said Melissa Howell, the spouse of a U.S. soldier who is being targeted by a tax office in Germany’s Landstuhl area. “I don’t know how they expect people to come up with that money.”

Howell, a German who lives with her American husband and children, said she ran into trouble in June when she went to file her taxes at the local finance office.

She said she was interrogated about her husband and told to fill out a questionnaire that probed information about his employment.

She then received a letter ordering her to hand over her husband’s W-2 and other tax forms.

“I did it because I didn’t know. I found out that

was a mistake,” she said.

After that, she got a phone call from the tax office, saying that their case was getting handed over to a case manager who handles “American-German couples.”

As reported by John VanDiver in Stripes – July 27, 2020 – ‘Harassed’ by German tax offices, more US military families face financial threats

Certain US Soldiers In Germany Targeted By German Tax Authorities For Taxes On Their Military Wages – Reminiscent Of The “Oh My God Moment

Many Americans abroad have experienced the “Oh My God Moment.” This is the moment that they learn that they are targeted by the USA – a country that they don’t live in – for taxes on their non-US source income. Well, it appears that for some, the shoe is now on the other foot. Germany is apparently targeting certain US soldiers – stationed in Germany – for taxes on their US military pay! The US claim is NOT based on any connection with the United States (other than circumstances of birth). At least (to its credit), Germany’s claim is based on a connection to Germany that makes these US soldiers “tax residents” of Germany. Therefore, the “moment” may be the same. But, the justification for taxation is not he same. To put it simply: Germany is claiming that when the circumstances of a US soldier’s stay in Germany ceases to be “solely” for military service AND their factual circumstances meet the test for tax residency in Germany, they are are subject to German taxation.

Analysis

In an ongoing story, that is certain to be of interest to Americans abroad, Germany has begun treating certain US Military Personnel as tax residents of Germany. In other words, Germany is imposing tax (and apparently penalties) on the income earned by US military personnel stationed in Germany. The starting point is that US Forces in Germany (and other countries) are governed by the SOFA (“Status Of Forces Agreement”) agreement. Among other things, the SOFA agreement exempts US service personnel from being treated as tax residents of the country where they are serving. In simple terms: As long as the individual serviceman meets the conditions in the SOFA agreement, he/she would NOT be treated as a tax resident of Germany.

The provisions of the NATO SOFA are unremarkable. What is remarkable is that Germany appears to be the first country, to determine that certain US Military Personnel, are not entitled to use SOFA as a “shield” against being treated as a tax resident and therefore subject to taxation.

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A simple regulatory fix for the problem of US citizenship taxation

Background

In 2016 I first made the suggestion that citizenship-based taxation could be changed through Treasury regulation. In October of 2020 John Richardson, Dr. Karen Alpert and Dr. Laura Snyder completed a paper titled “A Simple Regulatory Fix For Citizenship Taxation”. The idea advanced is that:

Although Congress and the Internal Revenue Code created the problem of “citizenship-based taxation”, Treasury has the authority and moral duty to fix the problems of citizenship-based taxation.

Discussion

In 1924 the Supreme Court of the United States considered U.S. citizenship-based taxation in the case of Cook v. Tait. Of course in 1924, the laws of both citizenship and taxation were very different. I have previously explored the evolution of citizenship, taxation and citizenship-based taxation.

The article has received fairly wide distribution (including in the academic community).

Abstract

This article explains the simple regulatory actions that United States Department of the Treasury can take that would, in the absence of legislative change, improve the lives of Americans living overseas and permit the IRS to better focus its limited resources to more effectively administer the U.S. tax system.

The article can be read at SSRN here.

The 2020 article can be at Tax Notes here.

I welcome your comments.

John Richardson – Follow me on Twitter @Expatriationlaw

Association of Accidental Americans v. US Department Of State – Is The $2350 USD renunciation fee constitutional?

Introduction

As described in the first paragraph of the Claim:

1. Voluntary expatriation, the ability to renounce one’s nationality, is a fundamental right, upon which, arguably, all other civil rights ultimately depend. In the words of Thomas Jefferson, expatriation is a “natural right which all men have.” A Bill Declaring Who Shall Be Deemed Citizens of This Commonwealth, June 18, 1779.

See https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/01-02-02-0132-0004-0055.

So begins the claim of the lawsuit launched by the Association of Accidental Americans against the US Department Of State.

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Could The November 3, 2020 US Election Be Decided By Canadian Residents With US/CDN Dual Citizenship?

Introduction

A recent opinion piece published at CBC included:

I have been walking around these days asking myself with only half a smile whether there is some morphed version of the Canadian national anthem which declares: “True expatriate love in all thy sons and daughters command.”

I am doing this because I have been regularly experiencing what you might call expatriate shaming.

There’s been a push — no, make that a shove — to recruit Americans living in Canada who are eligible to vote in the Nov. 3 presidential election to become part of the electoral process. Knowing I was born in the U.S., my friends, neighbours and relatives will ask with a semi-desperate twinge in their voices: “Have you registered to vote in the U.S. election?” And when I say I am registered but I do not plan to vote, they get very angry.

Given what has been going on under President Donald Trump, they exclaim, how can I even think about not making a difference by casting a presidential ballot? (By the way, no one assumes that an expat could possibly vote for Trump, which is interesting.)

https://www.cbc.ca/news/opinion/opinion-expats-canada-presidential-election-vote-1.5750417

The VoteFromAbroad.org Push To Get “US Citizens” (Whoever They May Be) Living In Canada To Vote

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FinCEN Changes FBAR Deadline Again AND AGAIN

Republished with permission. This post was written by Helen Burggraf and originally appeared on October 16, 2020 on the American Expat Financial News Journal website.

Another Update October 19, 2020 – The Filing Deadline Is Now October 31, 2020

And back to the original post …

The U.S. Financial Crimes Enforcement Network has quietly removed from its website its surprise announcement, posted just two days ago, that the final deadline for Foreign Bank Account Report (FBAR) filings had been moved to Dec. 31, from Oct. 15 (yesterday).

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Circa 2014 – A trip Down Memory Lane: #FBAR #FATCA And The Use Of Non-US Banks

This 2014 hearing held by the US Senate on Permanent investigations is very interesting.It features Senators Levin and McCain and includes discussion of tax evasion, Swiss banks, tax treaties, FATCA the Offshore Voluntary disclosure programs and more.

The logic of the United States is approximately this:

Homeland Americans use non-US bank accounts.

Americans abroad use non-US bank accounts.

Therefore, (but not acknowledging Americans abroad) both Homelanders and Americans abroad use non-US banks for the same (nefarious) reasons.

Citizenship Matters With @RonanMaCrea Part 2: The Nature Of Citizenship In A Global World

Introduction

This is a continuation of my discussion with Ronan McCrea on “citizenship matters”. My first discussion with Ronan McCrea focused on issues surrounding “citizenship by descent”. This second podcast focuses on the nature of citizenship.

The questions included:

What does citizenship mean?

What are the rights of citizenship?

What are the obligations of citizenship?

What are the different ways of acquiring citizenship?

What obligations to citizens living abroad have to their fellow citizens living at home?

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Americans Abroad And Voting Part 2: Born in the USA? Those who relinquished US citizenship under INA 349(a) are NOT eligible to vote in the November 3, 2020 US election

This is the second of my series of my posts that discusses Americans abroad (and in particular Americans in Canada) and voting. My first post discussed the nuts and bolts of voting from abroad. Specifically, I discussed how Americans abroad can vote in the November 3, 2020 election.

Clearly one must be an American citizen to be eligible to vote. This post is for the purpose of identifying a category of person who was “Born In The USA” but is NOT a US citizen. The basic theme of this post is discussed in the following podcast. But, the bottom line is this:

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