Category Archives: citizenship taxation

Part 46 – Why Other Countries Should File Amicus Briefs In The Moore MRT Appeal

Why U.S. deemed income events cause problems for U.S. citizens living in other countries and erode the tax based of the countries where they live

All countries in the world have an interest in the Moore MRT appeal and should file Amicus briefs in support of the Moores.

The U.S. citizenship tax AKA extraterritorial tax regime applies to ALL U.S. citizens and residents wherever they live in the world. With its very expansive definition of “tax residency”, the United States claims the tax residents of other countries as U.S. tax residents. Those unlucky dual filers are subject to additional administrative fees, additional taxation and the opportunity cost of the inability to effectively engage in retirement and financial planning.

In the Moore MRT appeal the U.S. Supreme Court will consider whether “income” requires the actual receipt of income or whether “deemed income” meets the 16th Amendment test for income. Does the 16th Amendment require objective tests that must be satisfied before “income” can exist? The answer to this question will have profound implications for both the “U.S. citizen” residents of other countries and (2) the countries where they live. As previously discussed, if income does NOT have to be actually received, this opens the door for the U.S. tax the residents of other countries on income they have never received. Often the taxable event in the U.S. will take place before the taxable event in that other country.

The following post describes some examples where the United States is already deeming income to have been received for U.S. tax purposes before income has been received in the other country.

The following post describes how the U.S. deeming income to have been received for U.S. tax purposes prior to income having been received in the other country may result in (1) double taxation to the individual and (2) erosion of the tax base of the other country.

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Part 41 – The Six Faces Of The 965 Transition Tax – The Ugliest Face Applies To Americans Abroad

Part I: Introduction – What Is The Transition Tax?

“Tell me who you are. Then I’ll tell you how the law applies to you!” I’ll also tell you whether you are a “winner” or a “loser” under this law.

At the end of 2017, Congress was enacting the TCJA. A major purpose of the TCJA was to lower U.S. corporate tax rates from 35% to 21%. This was a huge benefit to U.S. multinationals. One Congressional concern was how to find additional tax revenue in order to compensate the Treasury Department for the reduction in tax revenue which would result in lower receipts from corporations. Congress needed to find some additional tax revenue. They found this additional tax revenue by creating “new income” from the past and taxing that newly created income in the present. In fact, Congress said:

Let there be income! And there was income …

Significantly, Congress didn’t create any real income. No taxpayer actually received any income. The income created by Congress was not “real income”. Rather it was “deemed income”. But, this “deemed income” was intended to appear on tax returns. Real tax was payable on this “deemed” income.

Such, is the beginning of the story of the IRC 965 Transition Tax. The Transition Tax was a benefit to U.S. multinationals and destroyed the lives of individual U.S. citizens living outside the United States who organized their businesses, lives and retirement planning (as did their neighbours) through small business corporations.

This post identifies different groups impacted by the Transition Tax and the “winners” and “losers”.

Introducing the IRC 965 U.S. Transition Tax

26 U.S. Code § 965 – Treatment of deferred foreign income upon transition to participation exemption system of taxation

(a) Treatment of deferred foreign income as subpart F income

In the case of the last taxable year of a deferred foreign income corporation which begins before January 1, 2018, the subpart F income of such foreign corporation (as otherwise determined for such taxable year under section 952) shall be increased by the greater of—

(1) the accumulated post-1986 deferred foreign income of such corporation determined as of November 2, 2017, or
(2) the accumulated post-1986 deferred foreign income of such corporation determined as of December 31, 2017.

https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/26/965

Part II: The Reader’s Digest Version – The Six Faces Of The Transition Tax

The six “faces” of the 965 transition tax include the faces of five different kinds of “U.S. Persons”. The sixth face is the country where a U.S. citizen was living. Some are winners and some are losers. A list of winners and losers includes:

Three Winners

1. Winner: A U.S. C corp: Typically a U.S. multinational – Received value in return for being subjected to the transition tax

2. Winner: The individual shareholder of a U.S. S corp: Can opt to have the “deemed income inclusion” of 965 to NOT apply – Escaped the application of the transition tax

3. Winner: Green Card holder who is a “treaty nonresident”: Can escape U.S. taxation on “foreign source income – Escaped the application of the transition tax

Three Losers:

4. Loser: A U.S. resident individual (U.S. citizen or resident): The Moores – Subject to the transition tax, received nothing in return and likely subject to double taxation

5. Biggest Loser: A U.S. citizen living outside the United States who is a tax resident of another country: More of a loser than the Moore’s – what if the Moores had lived in British Columbia Canada? – Subject to the transition tax, received nothing in return, likely subject to double taxation on business income earned and retained by their “foreign corporation”. But unlike the Moore’s they live outside the United States as “tax residents” of another country. Unlike the Moore’s their CFC was likely not a simple investment in the shares of another company. Rather their CFC was likely the equivalent of a pension, created and encouraged by the tax laws of their country of residence. While the Moore’s experienced “double taxation” on an investment, the U.S. citizen abroad experienced the confiscation of their retirement pension. Individual shareholders of a CFC who live in the United States were affected quite differently from individual shareholders who live outside the United States.

6. Indirect Loser: The countries where overseas Americans are resident were also damaged by the transition tax: Many countries (example Canada) incentivize the creation of private pension plans through the use of private corporations. The effect of the transition tax was effectively to “loot” the retained earnings of those private corporations that were intended to be pension plans for residents of other countries. This is a particularly ugly manifestations of U.S. citizenship taxation and is a graphic example of how US citizenship taxation operates to extract working capital from other sovereign countries.

Significantly the biggest losers in the application of the 965 transition tax are Americans living outside the United States!

The transition tax confiscated the retained earnings of their local business corporations. Because they are tax residents of other countries, there was no prospect of the corporation’s earnings being repatriated to the United States. The corporation’s earnings were the pension/retirement plans for those individuals.

To put it simply:

The Treasury Department – via IRC 965 – effectively “looted” the retained earnings of small business corporations located outside the United States. The justification for the “looting” was that more than 50% of the shares were “owned” by U.S. citizens. The 2017 US Transition Tax was the ugliest face of the Transition Tax and a particularly ugly manifestation of U.S. citizenship taxation!

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Professor @Gabriel_Zucman Discusses US Taxation Of Americans Abroad and FATCA

On June 19, 2023 the Global Progressive Caucus of Democrats Abroad hosted Professor Gabriel Zucman to discuss “Fair Share Taxation And Tax Enforcement”. You may know that Professor Zucman is a strong advocate of wealth taxation. Senator Warren (in the specifics of her proposed wealth tax) appears to be a disciple of Professor Zucman’s views.

During the presentation Professor Zucman reinforced his view that “Fair Share Taxation” should include a wealth tax. Interestingly he recommends that FATCA be replaced by the CRS.

But, most interestingly he expressed his view that the current U.S. system of citizenship taxation (as it applies to most Americans living outside the United States) simply cannot be justified. Based on this video, I would say that Professor Zucman may be an ally in the fight to reform the taxation of Americans abroad.

I have put together a short twitter thread to highlight his main points. But, I do recommend that people watch the entire video. The discussion at the end is every bit as interesting (and revealing) as Professor Zucman’s presentation.

A threadreader version of the twitter thread is here:

https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1674191242681352193.html

A pdf version is here:

ThreadReader_0_expatriationlaw_1674191242681352193

The live Twitter thread …

John Richardson – Follow me on Twitter @Expatriationlaw

Canada’s Underused Housing Tax: No Good Options For U.S. Residents Who Own A Second Home In Canada

Introduction – Responding To Canada’s Underused Housing Tax

Canada’s Underused Housing Tax is NOT a tax imposed because the “foreign owner” doesn’t spend enough time in the property. Rather Canada’s Underused Housing Tax is a tax imposed because the “foreign owner” doesn’t make the property sufficiently available to non-owners!!

This is the fourth in my series of posts about Canada’s “citizenship-based” Underused Housing Tax.

The first three post are:

1. US Residents Who Own Residential Property In Canada May Be Subject To Various Vacant And Underused Property Taxes

2. NY Congressman Brian Higgins Draws Attention To The Injustice Of Citizenship Taxation By Challenging Canada’s Underused Housing Tax

3. U.S. FBAR And Form 8938 Penalties May Be A Bigger Problem For U.S. Residents Than Canada’s Underused Housing Tax

The purpose of this post is two-fold:

First: to explain what “Canada’s Underused Housing Tax” really means for “foreign owners” of certain Canadian property:

Conclusion: It means that foreign owners who own property that is NOT in a designated recreational location and who do NOT release their property into the rental market will be forced to pay the 1% tax.

Second: to explain that owners of most Canadian residential property that is not in a designated recreational location, who are neither Canadian citizens nor permanent residents of Canada can avoid releasing their property into the rental market ONLY if they either:

1. Pay Canada’s Underused Housing Tax

2. Sell their property in Canada

In my opinion U.S. (and other foreign residents) should be advised to simply pay the annual tax.

The Government Of Canada’s “Underused Housing Tax” is designed to force “foreign owners” of property to choose among the choices of: releasing their property into the rental market, paying the 1% tax or selling their property!

Explaining this conclusion.

This post ignores the “fringe situations” of properties that are newly purchased, uninhabitable, etc. I am focussing on the situation as it is likely to affect the majority of people. I urge people to read the actual legislation.

Final warning!!! All individual owners of residential housing in Canada who are neither Canadian citizens nor permanent residents of Canada are required to file the Underused Housing Tax return even if the tax is not payable! The penalty for failing to file the return is $5000 CDN.

Here we go …

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Should tax residency Be Based On The “Circumstances Of Your Birth” Or The “Circumstances Of Your Life”?

Panel session – US Expat Tax Conference from Deborah Hicks on Vimeo.

Should taxation be based on the “circumstances of your birth” or the “circumstances of your life”? President Obama doesn’t think (apparently) that the “circumstances of your birth” birth should determine the “outcome of your life”. Should the “circumstances of your birth” determine your tax residency?

This is a second post exploring what is the true meaning of U.S. citizenship-based taxation. In an earlier post – “Toward A Definition Of Citizenship Taxation” – I explored the contextual meaning and effect of U.S. “citizenship taxation”. The only “contextual effect” and “practical meaning” of U.S. citizenship taxation may be described as:

Therefore, the practical meaning of “citizenship taxation” is the United States imposing taxation on the non-US source income earned by people who live in other countries. To be clear: citizenship taxation means that the United States is claiming the residents of OTHER countries as US residents for tax purposes!

That’s amazing stuff! Most countries believe that they are sovereign and that includes sovereignty over matters of taxation. Yet, any country that is a party to a U.S. tax treaty has actually agreed that a subset of the treaty partner’s tax residents are ALSO U.S. tax residents! Although nobody questions the right of the United States to prescribe its own definition of tax residency, few would agree that the United States has the right to claim the residents of other countries as U.S. tax residents. Yet, this is what the U.S. citizenship taxation regime means. This U.S. extraterritorial claim of taxation is at the root of the FATCA administration problems and at the root of the the events that led to Treasury Notice 2023-11 (released on December 30, 2022).

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Toward A Definition Of US Citizenship Taxation

Prologue

The term “citizenship tax” is abstract and meaningless without context. What does it really mean? In this short post I attempt to describe the defining aspect of US tax residency in simple terms.

Bottom line:

The ONLY contextual meaning of taxing based on citizenship is that it allows the US to impose tax on income earned outside the United States by people who live outside the United States.

Here is why …

What exactly is “citizenship taxation”? How/why does citizenship matter? It’s not what the “treaty partner” countries think!

1. Like all countries the United States imposes worldwide taxation on its residents. Individuals living in the United States will meet the “substantial presence” requirements and are therefore taxable on their worldwide income. Citizenship is irrelevant.

2. Like all countries the United States imposes taxation on income sourced in the United States. Generally the United States will have the first right of taxation and has the ability to withhold tax. Citizenship is irrelevant.

3. Like no other country (OK, sort of Eritrea) the United States imposes taxation on the non-US source income of people who do not live in the United States and do live in other countries. The US usually claims this right because those people were “Born In The USA” (making them US citizens). Therefore, the US imposes worldwide taxation on people who live in other countries. Citizenship is relevant because it is why the US claims the right to tax people who don’t live in the US and are residents of other countries.

4. Therefore, the practical meaning of “citizenship taxation” is the United States imposing taxation on the non-US source income earned by people who live in other countries. To be clear: citizenship taxation means that the United States is claiming the residents of OTHER countries as US residents for tax purposes!

5. This means that: Every country in the world who signs a tax treaty with the United States that includes a “saving clause” is agreeing that the United States has the right to tax income earned in the treaty partner country by residents of the treaty partner country. It is obvious that countries signing these treaties have no idea what they are signing. The problem has been further illuminated by the recent US Croatia tax treaty that allows the United States to imposes taxation on Croation residents who ARE and WERE US citizens.

So, US citizenship taxation means that the US can tax the non-US source income of residents of other countries!

John Richardson – Follow me on Twitter @Expatriationlaw

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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Cook v. Tait: More About The Meaning Of Citizenship Than About The Scope Of Taxation

Introduction And Purpose

The focus of this blog has always been on citizenship, taxation and citizenship taxation. Although taxation has always been perceived as a necessary burden, citizenship has sometimes been a benefit and sometimes been a burden. James Dale Davidson, writing in “The Sovereign Individual”, expressed the view that in the 20th Century US citizenship was generally a benefit. In the 21st (digital) century US citizenship based taxation has transformed US citizenship into a burden. The numbers of people renouncing US citizenship are a testament to this new reality.

The Weaponization Of US Citizenship – Two Methods

The history of US citizenship as documented in Amanda Frost’s “You Are NOT American”, is an epic story of the “weaponization of citizenship”. I highly recommend Professor Frost’s book – “You Are NOT American” to those interested in the evolution of US citizenship.

Method 1: Weaponization By Claiming The Individual Does NOT Meet The Requirements Of Citizenship

Regardless of the benefits or burdens of US citizenship, it is clear that the United States has a long history of “weaponizing US citizenship”. Professor Amanda Frost in her superb book “You Are NOT American” provides many examples of how the United States has used the concept and status of citizenship to either punish or reward individuals. Generally, Professor Frost describes a history where the use (or misuse) of America’s “nationality laws” has created hardships for people. Citizenship is a part of who people are. It’s part of their personal identity. Citizenship (presumptively) gives people a place or country they can call home. Citizenship (presumptively) gives people a place where they can live without fear of removal. Citizenship matters and the loss of citizenship can be a frightening and destabilizing event in the lives of an individual. It was not until 1967 that the United States Supreme Court in Afroyim ruled that US citizenship was conferred by the Constitution, belonged to the individual and could not (at least if born or naturalized in the US) be taken by the Government. (Of course that is of little comfort to those who can’t prove their US citizenship.)

Method 2: Weaponization By Claiming The Individual Does Meet The Requirements Of Citizenship

A minority of countries in the world confer citizenship based on and only on birth in the country.

Only two countries in the world impose worldwide taxation based on and only on the fact of citizenship.

The United States is the ONLY country that does both!

FATCA assisted the United States in exporting US taxation into other countries and on to the individuals who live in and are tax residents of those countries. In short: the accusation of being a US citizen living outside the United States subjected one to the “disabilities” and “criminalization” imposed by the US extra-territorial tax regime.

The US Supreme Court, Justice Joseph McKenna, And Citizenship In The Early Part Of 20th Century
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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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