Category Archives: accidental Americans

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

The State Department Should Allow For US Citizenship Renunciations To Take Place By Video

This post has been co-authored by Diane Gelon* (see “Reflections Of An Expatriation Lawyer“) and John Richardson

Prologue

In September of 2021 the Paris based “Accidental Americans Association” filed a lawsuit against the US State Department. The lawsuit was brought in an attempt to force the State Department to allow individuals to renounce their US citizenship. (A prior lawsuit by the “Accidental Americans Association” was based on the excessive $2350 renunciation fee.)

The lawsuit is evidence of the extreme frustration that many Americans abroad are experiencing because they (1) are unable to renounce US citizenship and (2) justifiably feel that they are prisoners of the circumstances of their birth.

It was recently announced that “The US Department of State (DOS) is suspending in-person interview requirements at local consulates for a year for numerous non-immigrant work visa categories and their families (spouse and dependent children“. In London the US Embassy is conducting telephone meetings to deal with Social Security issues. (Prior to Covid this would have required an in person meeting at the Embassy.) The State Department is clearly reducing the number and kinds of services that require “in person” Consulate visits.

The purpose of this post is to argue that renunciations of US Citizenship need not take place through in person interviews at a US Embassy or Consulate. Rather renunciations of US citizenship can and should take place through video conferencing. The backlog in processing renunciations is explained as being related to the Covid-19 pandemic. A response to the pandemic has been that more and more legal proceedings are taking place through video conferencing. Both Canada and the UK (and certainly other countries) are conducing citizenship ceremonies by video, entire court cases are held via video conferencing, and documents can be witnessed and certified by video. We have discussed various aspects of this issue with each other over a long period of time as well as benefiting from discussions with Dubai based lawyer Virginia La Torre Jeker and Esquire Founder Jimmy Sexton.

There is no law that requires that renunciations of US citizenship take place inside a US Consulate or Embassy!

This post is composed of the following seven parts leading to the following conclusion:

Americans abroad and their representatives should pressure the State Department to use their statutory authority to allow renunciations by video conferencing. The State Department has the statutory authority to do so. The fact that the State Department does not currently allow renunciations through video conferencing doesn’t mean that it cannot allow renunciations through video conferencing!

Part I – Introduction: Why Americans Abroad Are Renouncing US Citizenship
Part II – An appointment to renounce US citizenship is hard to find
Part III – Why there is NO legal requirement that renunciation appointments must take place inside a US Embassy or Consulate
Part IV – The State Department website does not specifically state that renunciations must take place inside the US Consulate or Embassy
Part V – Americans abroad and their organizations must push the Biden administration to allow renunciations of US Citizenship through video conferencing
Part VI – Interesting Bobby Fisher anecdote supporting the view that renunciations are not required to take place inside US Consulates
Part VII – Diane Gelon and John Richardson update their November 29, 2020 podcast with a December 29, 2021 podcast

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Take 1: Digging The Foundation To Build The House Of US Residency-based Taxation

Prologue

This is the fifth of a series of posts focussing on the need to end US citizenship-based taxation (practised only by the USA) and move to a form of pure residence-based taxation (practised by the rest of the world). The first post was titled “Toward A Definition Of Residence-based Taxation For Americans Abroad“. The second post was titled “Toward A Movement For Residence-based Taxation For Americans Abroad“. The third post was “Toward An Explanation For Why Some Americans Abroad Are Complacent About Citizenship Taxation“. The fourth post explains why some Americans Abroad actually OPPOSE changes to citizenship-based taxation. This fifth post in the series is to begin a discussion of what would be the basic changes (to the existing Internal Revenue Code) that would move the United States toward the world standard of pure residency-based taxation.

It’s about “pure residency-based taxation” and not citizenship-based taxation with a “carve out”

I have previously advocated that the United States should move to to a system of pure residence-based taxation. A system of pure residency-based taxation, means that:

Citizenship is NOT a sufficient condition for tax residency. If citizenship is not a sufficient condition for tax residency, income sourced outside the United States, which is received by people who are not residents of the United States, should not be taxable by the United States.

Note that pure residency-based taxation is NOT citizenship-based taxation with a “carve out” for US citizens living abroad. To put it another way: US citizens, simply because they are US citizens, would NOT be defined as US tax residents and subject to US worldwide taxation. This is different from US citizens being defined as US tax residents, but allowing (like the FEIE) for their foreign income to be excluded from US taxation. Note also that this is a legislative proposal. It is therefore different from our earlier proposal for “A Regulatory Fix To Citizenship Taxation“.

It is my opinion and the opinion of the members of SEAT, that only a system of pure residency-based taxation will solve the many problems of Americans abroad!

How is residency to be determined?

Residency is commonly determined in various ways. For example, Canada determines residency based on an objective deeming provision (number of days spent in Canada and through a “facts and circumstances” test described as ordinary residence). Generally, citizenship (if it is a factor at all) is not a significant issue in determining ordinary residence. The Canadian experience is proof that it is possible to have very sticky tax residency without citizenship being an issue.

Purpose of this post:

The purpose of this post is to propose some simple amendments to the Internal Revenue Code which would provide a foundation for the United States to transition from citizenship-based taxation to pure residence-based taxation. The goal is modest. The post is not intended to (I will write a separate post) deal with those who are CURRENTLY US citizens living outside the United States. It is NOT to address all the issues. That said, most of the Internal Revenue Code focuses on the taxation of those who are US tax residents. Little in the Code focuses on the actual definition of US tax residency.

The purpose of this post is begin with the fundamentals and ask:

How could the existing Internal Revenue Code be modified to provide a framework for residency-based taxation? Of course, readers will be left with many questions. But, the proposed foundation would allow for:

1. US citizens to move from the United States and sever tax residency with the United States.

2. US citizens to move from the United States and continue to be treated as tax residents of the United States.

Under either scenario, US citizens would remain US citizens. They would NOT be required to relinquish US citizenship in order to sever tax residency.

Obviously there will be many complications. But, every journey begins with a modest beginning. This is intended to be only a modest beginning. It is to begin digging the foundation to build the house of “residency-based taxation”.

The post is composed of the following parts:

Part A – Residents Are Subject To Worldwide Taxation

Part B – Nonresidents Are Not Subject To Worldwide Taxation

Part C – Definition Of Resident and Nonresident- 7701(b)

Part D – Definitions That Require Change “US Person”, “Relinquishment Of Residency”, etc.

Part E – Relinquishment Of Residence

Part F – Living abroad without relinquishing US residence

Generally, I believe that amendments to a small number of sections of the Internal Revenue Code provide the foundation from which to grow. Note that this proposal solves the problems of the “Retirees Abroad” (they don’t give notice under the new 877(a)(g)) and the problems of accidentals (they were never tax residents in the first place). There would be regulations (like the Canada Revenue Agency folio) for what constitutes residence. In Canada tax residency is defined largely by “ordinary residence” – a concept that is very sticky).

I am identifying the building blocks that could define tax residency under a US system of residency-based taxation, with few modifications to the Internal Revenue Code. (These building blocks are generally compatible with the existing Internal Revenue Code.) Once the foundation has been built we would then build our way out. This initial foundation solves the PFIC problem, the CFC problems and most problems related to foreign source income. The FinCEN 114 (FBAR) rules currently reference Internal Revenue Code 7701(b). Therefore, the proposals in this post would solve the FBAR problem.

I will discuss other issues impacting Americans abroad in subsequent posts.

I have included only the sections of the Internal Revenue Code that I consider the foundation of US tax residency. When a word is IN CAPS that means that there has been a change to facilitate a change to pure residence-based taxation.

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A Simple Regulatory Fix For The FATCA problems of dual citizens from birth

Prologue

It is clear that the US extraterritorial tax regime, which imposes taxation on the non-US source income of US citizens living outside the United States, is an outrageous violation of the sovereignty of other nations. It is also an extreme injustice inflicted on US citizens living outside the United States. The US has successfully exported the extraterritorial tax regime to the world through a combination of (1) The US Internal Revenue Code (2) the FATCA IGAs (hunting down US citizens) and (3) the saving clause in US tax treaties (Country X agrees that the US can impose tax on any individual who has been identified as a US citizen and is tax resident of Country X). To understand the interplay between (1), (2) and (3) above see the following article I wrote for the American Expat Finance News Journal.

The three groups most visibly impacted by the US Extraterritorial tax regime (in different ways) and its enforcement outside the United States include:

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Toward A Movement For Residence-based Taxation For Americans Abroad

Part I – Pure Residency-based Taxation vs. Citizenship-based Taxation With A Carve Out

This is a continuation of my post on May 29, 2021 titled “Toward A Definition Of Residence-based Taxation For Americans Abroad“.

In that post I noted that different persons/groups have different ideas of what is meant by residence-based taxation. That someone tells you that they support residence-based taxation does not tell you what they mean. There are different definitions of residence-based taxation. I strongly believe that people must embrace a definition of residence-based taxation that means that US citizens are NOT – because of their US citizenship – subject to the Internal Revenue Code. In other words, the goal should reflect the view that:

The United States should not be imposing taxation and should not be permitted to impose tax on the non-US source income received by people who are tax residents of other countries and do NOT reside in the United States!

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To punish 100 #GILTI Corporations is to punish millions more individuals

Introduction: As Goes Tax Reform For US Multinationals, So Escalates The Harm To Individual Americans Abroad

The Problem: The proposed changes in International Tax (mostly in relation to corporations) will affect numerically more individuals than corporations. The effects on Americans abroad, who run small businesses outside the United States, will be absolutely devastating.

Two Solutions: Suggestions for how to protect individuals (including Americans abroad) would be to make changes to the Subpart F regime – GILTI, etc. There are at least two ways this change can be achieved:

1. To NOT apply Subpart F to INDIVIDUALS who are shareholders of CFCs.

2. If Subpart F is to apply to individual shareholders of CFCs, it should NOT apply to those individual Americans abroad who meet the residence requirements to use the S. 911 Foreign Earned Income Exclusion. (I.e. people who are almost certainly tax residents of other countries.)

March 25, 2021 – The Senate Finance Committee Held A Hearing Described As:

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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 proposed wealth tax doesn’t apply (it’s unclear to what extent it would apply to pensions) to her. At a minimum, the proposal 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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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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