Category Archives: accidental Americans

Buying Their Freedom: Toward A More Efficient Process Of US Citizenship Renunciation

Buying Their Freedom – A More Efficient Renunciation Process – The “Readers Digest” Version Of This Post …

The effects of US citizenship taxation enforced by FATCA are causing great distress to the US citizens who reside in and are tax residents of other countries. They are being constructively forced to renounce US citizenship because of (1) the out of pocket costs of US tax compliance (2) the possibility of double taxation (3) the US taxation of things that are not taxable in their country of residence (4) the “opportunity cost” of their inability to engage in financial and retirement planning and in some cases (5) the threat or reality of bank/financial account closures. In addition, these circumstances are unfair to their countries of residence who are forced to deal with a group of people who are more likely to require “social assistance” in their retirement years. US citizenship is a problem for US citizens who attempt to live outside the United States and for the countries where they live.

Although many people are constructively forced to renounce US citizenship, the US has made renunciation very difficult from both a cost and availability perspective.

The purpose of this post is to suggest that the process of renouncing US citizenship should be facilitated in the US citizen’s country of residence by that government. Renunciation could be achieved more quickly, at lower cost and (under my proposal) partially subsidized by the government of residence (which would justify this as “buying back their citizens” from any US claim of taxation or other regulatory burdens). I believe that this proposal would benefit the individual US citizen, the US citizen’s country of residence and the United States itself. The following post describes how this can be achieved under the existing US laws.

As President Obama once said:

“The circumstances of one’s birth should not determine the outcome of one’s life.”

This post is composed of the following parts:

Part A – Introduction
Part B – The US Government And The Oppression OF Americans Abroad
Part C – The Legal Framework Of Renunciation
Part D – The Logistics – How The New Renunciation Process Would Work
Part E – Reviewing The Benefits Of The New Renunciation Process
Part F – The Revised Renunciation Fee
Part G – Democratizing Renunciation – Making It Available To All – A Financing Proposal
Part H – Sadly this could all be be prevented if the United States were to end citizenship taxation and adopt the world standard of residence taxation. But, …
Part I – Conclusion – “All Roads Lead To Renunciation”

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August 29 Letter From US Treasury To Dutch Government Reinforces Commitment To Impose US Citizenship Tax On Dutch Residents

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The world as of September 2022 … The following tweet (which generated a very lively discussion) references a letter sent by US Treasury to the Dutch Government.

The letter includes statements that bear on:

– the Dutch banks and their FATCA obligations

– FATCA

– Citizenship taxation

– the US commitment to imposing US taxation on Dutch residents who happen to be US citizens.

The main point of the letter seems to be to give the Dutch banks a “Blessing From Their US Overlords” that a notice of FATCA non-compliance will not presumptively follow from allowing US citizens (who live in the Netherlands) to have basic depository accounts (to receive pay and pay bills).

But, let’s get real. Under no conceivable interpretation of the FATCA IGA could the fact of having US citizen customers (with or without SSNs) cause the Dutch banks be in noncompliance with their FATCA obligations.

The Dutch banks simply do NOT want to deal with US citizen clients.

This sentiment is entirely reasonable and is a natural consequence of US regulatory overreach. The letter from Treasury is asking that the Dutch banks accept the worst of both worlds. First, to allow Dutch residents, who happen to be US citizens, to have a bank account at a bank of their choosing. Second, to behave in a way that is contrary to the business interests of the bank (as having US citizen customers certainly is). The arrogance displayed in Treasury’s letter is sufficient reason to be wary of having US citizen clients period.

The FATCA IGAs don’t require the Dutch banks to close “US Accounts”

1. As per the clear terms of the US/Netherlands FATCA IGA, Dutch banks are perfectly free to exempt all “depository accounts” with balances of less than $50,000 USD from FATCA obligations.

2. Even if the Dutch banks were in breach of FATCA obligations, the breach is of no consequence unless US Treasury (A) notifies the Netherlands of that non-compliance and (B) gives them 18 months to cure the noncompliance. (It’s perfectly obvious that Treasury can simply issue a proclamation that residents of the Netherlands are exempt from FATCA. But, history indicates they are not willing to do this!) In other words: FATCA noncompliance is not the problem. It’s Treasury’s reaction to FATCA noncompliance that is the problem.

Therefore, it’s clear the reluctance to have US citizen customers is not principally motivated by a concern of FATCA noncompliance. It’s because the US Government has ensured that US citizens are “toxic (taxic) carbon life forms” and it’s better to avoid them. The “toxicity” (taxicity) is caused by US citizenship taxation – specifically the US attempt to impose worldwide taxation on US citizen Dutch residents who live and pay tax in the Netherlands. In other words: the problem is caused by US citizenship taxation and not by FATCA.

Note that the following updated sentence reflects a change from the original sentence to reflect the comment below

Nevertheless, the threat of bank account closures and the need to respond to the immediate harmful effects of US citizenship taxation (including FATCA), have caused many Americans abroad including accidental Americans in the Netherlands, France and elsewhere to concentrate on the effects of citizenship taxation (FATCA) rather than on citizenship taxation itself. (See the comment below …)

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The Weaponization Of Citizenship: From “You Are NOT American” to “You ARE American”

Recommended Reading For Americans Abroad

I recently came across the book “You Are NOT American” by Professor Amanda Frost. I read very few books from beginning to end. This particular book I read twice. The subtitle of the book is “Citizenship Stripping From Dred Scott To The Dreamers“. Ms. Frost documents the struggles of those unlikely people who were conscripted into the an internal struggle – invisible to all except those affected – in the United States. I think of this struggle as the “weaponization of citizenship”. Historically this struggle has resulted from the attempts of the United States to reconcile its ugly history of slavery with its beautiful aspirations of freedom. The book is well researched and Ms. Frost was able to tell the stories of the principal “warriors”, bringing them to life in a way that humanized them. Although each person/warrior was the public face of a legal issue (many of their cases were heard by the Supreme Court Of The United States) we learn and understand the facts and circumstances that brought them to the court. While reading the book, I could feel the pain, the frustration and the injustice. We learn how the laws of the day impacted the people of the day. This knowledge comes from Ms. Frost digging into the archives and finding many original sources. The footnotes constitute a “treasure trove” of information akin to reading old newspapers. The book tells the story of “citizenship stripping” as a commentary on American history, culture and values in a broader sense.
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Be Careful Of Faulty Logic Claiming FATCA And The CRS Are Similar: Seven Ways They Are Not

Prologue

For those more interested in logic than in FATCA, you will find a discussion of the logical fallacy here.

Introduction

Last week I participated in a group discussion about FATCA and its effect on Accidental Americans. It’s difficult to have a discussion about FATCA that doesn’t include the CRS (“Common Reporting Standard”). Neither FATCA nor the CRS is well understood. That said, an introduction of the CRS into a discussion about FATCA detracts from a consideration of how FATCA impacts Accidental Americans (and others). Furthermore, there is a generalized assumption that the CRS is a positive development. Associating FATCA with the CRS enhances the “illusion” that FATCA is also a positive development.

In part, the discussion assumed that:

– FATCA (U.S. “Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act”) and the OECD CRS (“Common Reporting Standard“) were similar kinds of information exchange agreements; and

– To attack/criticize FATCA would be to criticize and have the effect of weakening the CRS.

These are absurd claims which are based on faulty logic. The faulty logic is that because FATCA and the CRS overlap in one aspect that they are functionally equivalent in intent, effect, purpose and other aspects. The argument appears to be based on the following reasoning:

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July 5/22: An Opportunity To Educate Resident Americans About The Horrors Of Citizenship Tax

Updated July 5, 2022 …

Great discussion with Bob Paxton and Bob Scarborough:

An Opportunity To Educate Resident Americans About The Horrors Of US Citizenship Tax

First a special thanks to Joe Howard who arranged for this opportunity.

On Tuesday July 5, 2022 at 8 pm EST (20:00) I (John Richardson) will appear on the Fair Tax Power Radio Show. The Fair Tax Power Radio Show is hosted by Bob Paxton and Bob Scarborough. The show is for the purpose of educating US residents about the (1) the problems of the U.S. income tax system and (2) the solution by moving to the Fair Tax. You can learn more about the Fair Tax in my recent blog post found here and on the Fair Tax site. I suggest that you follow their Twitter feed at @FairTaxOfficial.

The Topic: How The US Tax System Disables Americans Abroad From Financial and Retirement Planning and How The Fair Tax System Would Solve This Problem

You understand the problem. You understand the pain. You understand the fear. You understand that you may be forced to renounce U.S. citizenship.

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H.R. 5800 – To establish a commission to study how Federal laws and policies (except US Citizenship Taxation) affect United States citizens living in foreign countries

The Readers Digest Version

Yes, this post is a bit long. If you don’t want to read it, here is the “Readers Digest” version in the form of a tweet:

Now, on to the explanation …

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US Citizenship Was A Problem For Boris Johnson Before He Even Knew About The Tax Issues

I recently was alerted to this article written by Boris Johnson in 2006. Most people are aware of the tax problems. Fewer are aware of the problems of travel as a US citizen.

To be clear:

US citizens are required to both enter and leave the United States on a US Passport!

Boris Johnson Spectator article

Biden 2023 Green Book: Six Ways The Proposals Would Affect Americans Abroad

Update April 13, 2022 …

Here is yet a seventh waythe treatment of gifts as capital gains – that the Biden Green book would impact Americans Abroad

Introduction

As long as the United States employs citizenship taxation any proposed changes to the US tax system will have an impact (some intended and some unintended) on Americans abroad.

The Biden Green Book for fiscal year 2023, released on March 28, 2022, contains a number of proposals to both increase tax rates and increase the tax base by increasing the number of activities that are taxable events. Generally the proposals include a number of provisions to create and enhance taxation on both income from capital and capital itself. These provisions continue to generate discussion in the mainstream media including: The New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal. This is certain to generate much discussion in the tax compliance community.

The 2023 Green Book is available here.

Much will be written about how the proposals would affect resident Americans. Far less will be written about how the proposals would affect Americans abroad. The US rules of citizenship taxation steal from Americans abroad (and the countries where they reside) in hundreds of ways. Some are intended and foreseeable. Others are the unintended consequences that result from tax changes that apply to people who are not considered in the political process.

Significantly the Green Book does not suggest a move away from US citizenship taxation toward resident taxation as embraced by the rest of the world. In their totality, the proposals (particularly those that create income realization events when a gift is made) suggest a worsening of the situation for Americans abroad. That said, one proposal “might” (depending on Treasury) allow for the relaxation for the 877A Exit Tax rules, for a narrow group of Americans abroad under certain circumstances.

The purpose of this post is to identify six ways (and I assure you that there are more) that the Green Book would impact Americans abroad. The “Group Of Six” includes:

1. Raising The Corporate Tax Rate To 28 percent – Creating Subpart F Income and Making More Americans Abroad GILTI – Page 2

Verdict: This will have the effect of increasing the number of Americans abroad subject to taxation on income earned by their small corporations but not received by them personally.

2. An increase in the Corporate rate would increase the GILTI rate (suggesting to 20 percent) – Page 2

Verdict: More Americans abroad will be GILTI and will possibly (depending on a combination of country specific factors and their specific circumstances) be subject to GILTI taxes at a higher rate).

3. Reducing Phantom Gains And Losses: Simplify Foreign Exchange Rate And Loss Rules For Individuals And Exchange Rate Rules For Individuals – Page 90

Verdict: This in interesting. While reinforcing that Americans abroad are tethered to the US dollar it does suggest a recognition of the unfairness of how the phantom gain rules harm the purchase and sale of residential real estate outside the USA). Imagine how this would interact with the proposed rules converting gifts to taxable capital gains?

4. Strengthening FATCA: Provide For Information Reporting by Certain Financial Institutions and Digital Asset Brokers For the Exchange Of information – Page 97

Verdict: This is an attempt to reinforce the core principles of FATCA which are about the identification of US citizens outside the United States.

5. Expatriation – The Stick: Extend The Statute Of Limitations For Auditing Expatriates To Three Years From The Date From Which 8854 Should Have Been Filed (Possibly Forever) – Page 87

Verdict: This is theoretically very bad. It means that those who renounce without filing Form 8854 would be subject to a lifetime of risk. Practically speaking these provisions are not understood on the retail level. Hence, I doubt this will influence many people.

6. Expatriation – The Carrot: Exempting Certain Dual Citizen Expatriates From The Exit Tax – Page 87

Verdict: This is good news for the narrow group of people impacted by this – mainly “Accidental Americans”. It is bad news for the rest because the existing rules will continue to apply to those “who are left behind”.

I assure you that the Green Book contains a large number of ways that Americans abroad will be impacted. I will leave it to others to add to this list.

The principle is:

Citizenship taxation can steal from Americans abroad at least a thousand ways. If you can understand even one hundred of them you are doing well!

Summary: Once again this shows how all proposed changes to US tax law impact Americans abroad in a world of citizenship taxation. There is nothing in this that suggests a move toward residence taxation. There are few crumbs which might make citizenship taxation easier to live with (example relaxing phantom gains). But, on balance these provisions are a “doubling down” on the problems of citizenship taxation. The provision to allow easier expatriation for “Accidental Americans” does nothing to make life easier for the rest.

If you have seen enough you can stop here. For those who want more of the details and explanation, continue on …

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The Road To Tax Reform For Americans Abroad: Part 2 – Citizenship Taxation And The Seven Deadly Sins

Introduction

Life is full of rude awakenings. More and more people are experiencing their OMG moment …

This is Part 2 of the series. In Part 1, I identified that it is essential that individuals (and governments) unite to bring an end to the US tradition of “citizenship taxation”. “Citizenship taxation” – what a phrase. The words are not descriptive of anything. It clearly has something to do with some form of taxation. The inclusion of the word “citizenship” makes it sound almost patriotic. But maybe, not. Maybe it’s just part of what means to be a citizen. Since only the United States has citizenship taxation, perhaps taxation is what it means to be a US citizen. If so, then perhaps US citizenship should be called “taxation based citizenship”. The concept of citizenship means different things in different countries. Is this a statement that the essence and the meaning of US citizenship is taxation and only taxation?

Citizenship Taxation – Theory vs. Reality

A supporter of citizenship taxation is someone who THINKS about “citizenship taxation”. An opponent of citizenship taxation is anybody who has tried to LIVE under citizenship taxation.

https://www.citizenshiptaxation.ca

I guarantee you that there is not a single supporter of US citizenship taxation who actually understands it!

Toward An Understanding: Citizenship Taxation And The Seven Deadly Sins

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The Road To Tax Reform For Americans Abroad: Part 1 – The Problem Is The System And Not The Party

Introduction – The First Of A Series Of Short Posts

My name is John Richardson. I am a Toronto, Canada based lawyer. I am also a founding member of “SEAT” (“Stop Extraterritorial American Taxation”). I am an advocate for reforming the US laws which apply to US citizens who live outside the United States as permanent residents of other countries. The problems experienced by Americans abroad are at the “boiling point” and something must be done. This post is motivated by the following twitter thread which reveals the pain, desperation, anger and divisiveness experienced by Americans abroad:

This is the first of a series of short posts in which I will share my thoughts and suggestions for how to proceed. I welcome your comments both here and on twitter where I am @Expatriationlaw.

Blind Partisanship Is Not Productive

I want to state at the outset that I am an independent and am not a member of any political party. I have been and continue to be supportive of independent candidates in Canada (and anywhere else). I state this because during this series of posts, I will express sentiments that are critical of political parties. When I criticize the Democrats it’s not because I am a Republican. It’s because the Democrats are deserving of criticism (or vice-versa). Healthy democracies are dependent on accurate observations and objective analysis. Excessive partisanship is simply an excuse for reasoned analysis.

The Difficulty Of Living As A US Citizen Outside The United States

First, if you are a “retiree living abroad” where all of your income is US sourced this post is NOT for you. You are filing the same US tax return while “retiring abroad” that you would if you were living in the USA. You are probably filing tax returns ONLY in the USA. Therefore, the US citizenship tax regime does not impact you in the same way. This post is for those who live permanently outside the United States and your income sources, assets and retirement planning are associated with the tax systems of other countries (foreign to the United States).

Second, As permanent residents of other countries, US citizens are treated as BOTH tax residents of the United States and tax residents of the countries where they live. In other words, they are subject to the full force of two (often incompatible) tax systems. Think of it. US citizens living outside the United States are subject to the tax systems of two countries at the same time. Leaving aside the anxiety this induces, the time that it takes to comply, the heightened threats of penalties and the outrageous costs of compliance (think tax accountants and lawyers), this puts Americans abroad in a position where:

1. They are subjected to a tax system that is more punitive than the tax system imposed on US residents

2. They are often subject to double taxation (the foreign tax credit rules and the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion do not prevent many forms of double taxation)

3. The US tax rules prevent them from engaging in the normal financial planning and retirement opportunities (Canadian TFSA and UK ISAs are not tax free for US citizens)

4. In many countries, because and only because of their US citizenship they are prevented from maintaining the normal financial accounts they need to live in a normal way (this is the direct result of the 2010 Obama FATCA law)

The cumulative weight of these problems is that US citizens living outside the United States are being constructively forced to renounce their US citizenship in order to survive. But, it gets worse. Since June 16, 2008 certain Americans abroad who renounce US citizenship (“covered expatriates“) are forced to pay a special expatriation tax on their non-US assets to achieve this goal. (You can find a video of my discussing US citizenship renunciation here.)

Americans abroad are NOT renouncing because they don’t want to be Americans. They are renouncing because the US tax and regulatory regime is forcing them out of their US citizenship!

It’s The System Not The Parties

Regardless of which political party is in power, tax laws will continue to change.

As long as the United States employs citizenship-based taxation, changes in US tax laws will continue to have dramatic (sometimes intended and sometimes unintended) effects on Americans abroad. These negative effects and outcomes will continue regardless of which political party is in power.

For example:

The 2017 TCJA became law under the Republicans. The effects on Americans abroad were horrible. (Examples include: Transition Tax, GILTI, those using the “Married Filing Separately” category were required to file with zero income)

The 2010 FATCA law was enacted under the Democrats. The effects on Americans abroad were horrible. (Examples include: Form 8938, FATCA bank account closures, etc.)

Therefore, it is a mistake to bicker over which political party has done more or less damage to Americans abroad. As long as citizenship-based taxation continues and tax laws continue to evolve, whatever political party is in power will – by changing tax laws – continue to damage the lives and finances of Americans abroad.

Individual American Abroad Must Unite To Get This System Of Law Changed

Conclusion for today: The problem is the system! It’s not the political parties.

You have the right to vote. The question is not which party to vote for. The question is how can you most effectively use your vote to end US citizenship-based taxation and encourage FATCA repeal.

To be continued …

John Richardson – Follow me on Twitter @Expatriationlaw