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.)
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).
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.
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:
Watch the discussion that took place with @BruceAHeyman here. It focuses solely on how #Americansabroad can vote "Toronto Star virtual event: U.S. Election 2020: Why votes from abroad matter, and explaining the battle to overcome voter suppression" https://t.co/8yfc1ry1qM
— John Richardson – lawyer for "U.S. persons" abroad (@ExpatriationLaw) September 23, 2020
The 21st century has been notable for an evolving assault on representative democracy.
1. The rise of the head state who is to serve for life.
2. An unhealthy mass of power in the hands of political parties in general and small parts of the party in particular. Does the individual/local representative (Congressman or MP) even matter?
3. A sentiment that individual votes no longer matter or that they are no candidates worth voting for.
Variants of these themes are being played out all over the world.
In general, politicians operate on the principle that:
“The business of the public is none of the public’s business.”
The Toronto Star identifies some of the problems associated with citizenship policies that are overly generous. Interestingly (see the Appendix) in 2009 Canada attempted to address these problems through amendments to the Citizenship Act.
The 1987 Toronto Star article is very similar to a 2020 article written by Professor Ronan McCrae where he argues that (among other things) that citizens abroad should not have the right to vote.
— John Richardson – lawyer for "U.S. persons" abroad (@ExpatriationLaw) September 21, 2020
The above tweet references an article in the Globe and Mail on May 7, 2020. The article contains interesting perspectives, but much has changed since that time.
COVID-19 and the role of government assistance
Both the US $1200 payments under the CARES Act and Canada’s CERB payments were designed to fulfill the same purpose. Specifically, that purpose was to get relief money into the hands of individuals who were suffering from the the COVID-19 pandemic. It appears that payments were made generously with few qualifications for receipt of payments. The qualification appears to have been that an individual was a tax resident of the country. The $1200 CARES Act payment and the CERB payment were to fulfill the same function. Therefore, it would seem logical that both the CERB and CARES Act payment should be taxable in each country or neither payment should be taxable in the country. But, different characterizations of the payments appear to lead to different results.
Fascining discussion. In this election season the politicans are agressively courting the vote of Amerians abroad. Yet, they seem unwilling to take the time to understand the problems of Americans abroad and how FATCA has destroyed many life – resulting in many renunications of US citizenship.
As reported by American Expat Finance, which discusses an interview with Dr. Bernard Schneider of Queen Mary …
John Richardson Podcast: Dr Bernard Schneider, an expert in int'l tax law at Queen Mary U in London, says China does NOT have a US-style citizenship-based tax regime and isn't moving that that direction. (It does have somewhat "sticky" domicile regs…) https://t.co/hP4vkhaeHjpic.twitter.com/jRa1waZ1Ph
The Longer Version: “Tax Residency” Based Information Exchange In The 21st Century
The 21st Century has ushered in FATCA, CRS, voluntary disclosure programs and a general awareness of taxation. Many people have been subjected to the FATCA inquisition (“Are you or have you ever been a US citizen?) or a CRS motivated inquiry about “tax residence” (“List all countries where you are a tax resident.”)
In the 21st, the “citizenship by investment industry” is booming. There are many opportunities to acquire (through investment programs) “permanent residency” in a county. (I will refer to these programs collectively as “economic migration”). The value of these “economic migration” programs, to a specific individual, is largely determined by considerations of tax residency.