Category Archives: Considering renouncing US citizenship

Canadian citizenship: When citizenship in one country affords rights of access to another country

Part I – Citizenship in the 21st century

In the 20th century few people thought much about citizenship. Few people thought about the value of multiple citizenships.

In the 21st century people think about citizenships. People are beginning to see the value of having more than one citizenship. They are also (because of the awareness (caused by FATCA) of U.S. citizenship taxation) beginning to see the value of NOT being a U.S. citizen. (Interestingly U.S. Senator Ron Wyden is claiming that dual citizenship provides enhanced opportunities for tax evasion.)

When people renounce U.S. citizenship they will experience the following changes:

1. For U.S. immigration purposes they cease to be U.S. citizens and are treated by the United States like all other citizens of their country of citizenship; and

2. For U.S. tax purposes they cease to be “U.S. Persons” and become “nonresident aliens”. (This loss of U.S. citizenship may or may not be a benefit depending on their individual circumstances). The definitions of “U.S. Person” and “nonresident alien” are found in “26 U.S. Code § 7701 – Definitions“.

When citizenship may afford enhanced rights of access to other countries

Those with more than one citizenship will remember situations where citizenship in one country provided benefits that citizenship in another country did not. Sometimes the benefits are mundane (citizens of one country paying less for an entry visa than citizens of another country). Sometimes citizenship is a condition for various kinds of “enhanced entry programs” (think the U.S. Global Entry programs that include NEXUS.) Sometimes the benefits are more substantive (visa free access for citizens of country A and no visa free access for citizens of country B). Sometimes citizenship in one country gives the right to live in other countries (think citizenship in EU countries). Sometimes citizenship in one country gives the right to seek specific employment in other countries (think Canada-US-Mexico TN visas.) Sometimes there are tax advantages (the France U.S. tax treaty affords interesting tax benefits for U.S. citizens living in France). Sometimes citizenship can protect a person from extradition requests (civil law countries are reluctant to allow their citizens to be extradited). Sometimes citizenship can protect a person from tax enforcement claims from another country (the U.S./Canada tax treaty affords certain protections to individuals based on citizenship status). Sometimes citizenship can protect a person from certain kinds of taxation (Canada’s “Underused Housing Tax” and the BC “Speculation and Vacancy Tax” are recent examples). The point is that citizenship may (and often does) afford benefits that extend beyond the right to live and work in a country. When considering whether to seek various citizenships or renounce various citizenships it is important to think beyond the basic right to live in a country.

Conclusion: ANY change in your citizenship (whether renouncing U.S. citizenship or acquiring an additional citizenship) should consider the issues raised above!!

Part II – What about Canadian citizenship? What do Canadians give up by renouncing U.S. citizenship? What are the reasons (there are many) why Permanent Residents of Canada should naturalize as Canadian citizens?

Because of generous and easy access to the United States, Canadian citizens who renounce U.S. citizenship give up far less than citizens of many other countries. Furthermore, becoming a Canadian citizen affords many privileges vis-a-vis the United States and Canada.

Rather than list the reasons individually I am pleased (with his kind permission) to refer you to a recent post by Los Angeles based immigration lawyer Parviz Malakouti-Fitzgerald, Esq. The post – Six Benefits of Canadian Citizenship for Access to the U.S. Market – is referenced in the following tweet.

The post has its origins in a recent twitter exchange and begins as follows:

Does being a Canadian citizen offer unique benefits of access to the United States market?

This is more-or-less the question I read on twitter from U.S. citizenship renunciation expert John Richardson last week on the last day of 2023.

“Question on @Quora: Is the only real advantage in being a Canadian in accessing the US market, six months visa free stays & a limited range of professions on the TN visa list which also does not lead do a Green Card? No special concessions or fast track ..”

The author provides an excellent, well researched summary. It not only demonstrates why Canadians give up less by renouncing U.S. citizenship but also why Canadian citizenship is valuable to have.

I encourage you to read the complete post here …

https://www.malakoutilaw.com/six-benefits-of-canadian-citizenship-for-access-to-the-u-s-market

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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Proposal by @JoeBiden to increase the GILTI tax has particularly vicious implications for #Americansabroad

Introduction

Taxation is what America is about and America is about taxation.

Perhaps it’s better to say that:

Politics is about taxation and taxation is about politics.

Once Upon A Time In America

The primary legislative achievement of President Trump’s first term was the 2017 TCJA. It’s important to note that the TCJA had it’s genesis in the work of Michigan Congressman Dave Camp and was the result of a long term project of reworking the US tax system. It is absolutely incorrect to suggest that the TCJA was developed by the Trump Administration. It should not be referred to as “Trump Tax Reform”. That said, because of the “politics” involved in enacting the TCJA, the Trump Administration and Republican Controlled Ways and Means Committee, did impact the legislation at the margins. (Rate of repatriation tax, etc.)

Like all tax legislation the TJCA had clear winners and clear losers.

The TCJA Winner(s)

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Recent economic upheaval creates expatriation opportunities for “US Persons” living abroad

This post was motivated by a thread on Reddit …

At the end of this post, I have included the Reddit thread. (Note that I am trying to develop a “RenounceUSCitizenship” thread on Reddit – you will find it here.)

As you know the US Section 877A Expatriation Tax applies to U.S. citizens and “Long Term Residents”. A “Long Term Resident” is an individual who has had a Green Card (as defined by the rules in Internal Revenue Code Section 7701(b)(6) for at least eight of the fifteen years prior to expatriation). This has become a serious problem for Green Card holders who simply move from the United States and and don’t take formal steps to sever their U.S. tax residency. (They must either file the I-407 or use a tax treaty tie breaker election to expatriate. Otherwise they may be in a situation where they have no right to live in the United States (having lost the immigration status) but are taxable on their worldwide income (still being tax citizens).

That said, whether you are a U.S. citizen wishing to renounce U.S. citizenship or a Long Term Resident wishing to sever U.S. tax residency, you do NOT want to be a “covered expatriate“. Generally, (unless one is subject to two exceptions – dual citizen from birth or expatriation between 18 and 181/2 – that are beyond the scope of this post), one is treated as a “covered expatriate” if one meets any one of these three tests:

1. Net worth of 2 million USD or more (which this post will focus on)

2. Average U.S. tax liability of more than approximately $165,000 USD over the five years prior to expatriation

3. Failure to certify U.S. tax compliance for the five years prior to expatriation.

The COVID-19 Panic – Falling asset values – more favourable exchange rates -2 million USD net worth test

The last couple of weeks have changed and continue to change our world. We are experiencing human misery on an unprecedented and global scale. This includes physical illness, fear of illness and social distancing. I live in a large city and I am beginning to see less variety in the food available. Self-employed people are seeing disruptions to their revenue streams, etc. I don’t want to keep listing examples. But it is very bad. On the economic front, we are seeing unprecedented and incalculable damage to the world economy. This includes (but is not limited to) falling asset values – how is your stock portfolio doing? We see currencies that are weakening relative to the U.S. dollar. (This means that a higher Canadian or Australian dollar net worth would equal 2 million USD.) As I write this post I just received a message, from someone advising me that the shares in a certain cruise ship stock, have fallen from $136 to $22. (My advice would be: Don’t spend money on the cruise. Instead buy the shares in the company.)

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The U.S. citizenship news of the week: While seeking to strip some naturalized Americans of their citizenship, the USA makes it harder for those with @dualcitizenship in Canada to renounce

We live in an era of the weaponization of citizenship. This has been quite a week on the U.S. citizenship front.

While, making it more difficult for certain citizens to renounce U.S. citizenship

The U.S. Government is taking specific initiatives to strip naturalized U.S. citizens of their U.S. citizenship

Is this constitutional? Interesting commentary from the Twittersphere …

Naomi Osaka does NOT automatically relinquish US citizenship by choosing Japanese citizenship

Citizenship is becoming more and more interesting. In my last post I wrote about Canada’s Conservative leader Andrew Scheer’s U.S. citizenship. Theoretically, on October 21, 2019, Canada could have it’s first U.S. citizen Prime Minister. (Think of the extra pressure that the United States could bring to bear on Canada.)

The newsworthiness of U.S. citizenship continues. There has been much discussion of citizenship as a prerequisite to compete for countries in the Olympic games. This week, it is being reported that tennis star Naomi Osaka , a dual Japan/U.S. citizen is complying with a Japanese law that requires her to choose either U.S. or Japanese citizenship. A number of media outlets are reporting that Ms. Osaka is relinquishing U.S. citizenship. Is this really true? Interestingly the Toronto Globe and Mail initially reported that:

The Globe later (presumably realizing their error) changed the title of the article to:

“Naomi Osaka set to represent Japan at Tokyo Olympics”

Note that there is no U.S. law that requires her to choose one citizenship over the other. Ms. Osaka is apparently linking her “choosing Japanese citizenship” to a desire to represent Japan in the upcoming Olympics. A number of media sources are reporting that by choosing Japanese Nationality (under Japanese law) that Ms. Osaka is relinquishing/renouncing U.S. citizenship under U.S. law. This is probably incorrect. The act of “choosing Japanese nationality” under Japanese law does NOT automatically mean that Ms. Osaka has relinquished U.S. citizenship under U.S. law. As a matter of U.S. law:

Unless Ms. Osaka’s “choosing Japanese Nationality” meets the the test of voluntarily and intentionally relinquishing U.S. citizenship under Section 349(a) of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act, then “choosing Japanese Nationality” will NOT result in the relinquishment of Ms. Osaka’s U.S. citizenship. The act of “choosing Japanese citizenship” under Japanese law does NOT automatically result in the loss of her U.S. citizenship.

Every country is free to decide who it’s citizens are or are not.

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U.S. tax professionals discuss the principle that: The United States imposes a separate and more punitive taxation on #Americansabroad and @USAccidental

Here are some links to some of my videos discussion various of aspects of FATCA and U.S. “citizenship-based taxation”. In general there are three sources:

1. My personal YouTube channel.

2. Videos made at ThatChannel.com (a small Toronto internet based television station).

3. Podcasts at “PREP Podcaster” – featuring many interesting discussions with interesting people.

In March of 2019 I began a discussion at Tax Connections exploring the principle that:

“The United States is imposing a separate and more punitive tax system on people who are tax residents of other countries and do not live in the United States.”

As part of this discussion I had some discussion with Virginia La Torre Jeker, Peter Megoudis and Elena Hanson. Each of them is highly experienced and knowledgeable about how the U.S. tax system applies to Americans abroad and accidental Americans. The discussion took place in March of 2019. It turned out to be a very long discussion. Rather than include a video of the complete discussion, I have broken this into smaller videos that are based on themes.

This post is to separate and highlight the videos that resulted from this discussion.
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Part 4 of 4: “It Hurts My Heart:” The Case for Fairer Taxation of Non-Resident US Citizens

Before moving to the post, if you believe that Americans abroad are being treated unjustly by the United States Government: Join me on May 17, 2019 for a discussion of U.S. “citizenship-based taxation” as follows:

You are invited to submit your questions in advance. In fact, PLEASE submit questions. This is an opportunity to engage with Homelanders in general and the U.S. tax compliance community in particular.

Thanks to Professor Zelinsky for his willingness to engage in this discussion. Thanks to Kat Jennings of Tax Connections for hosting this discussion. Thanks to Professor William Byrnes for his willingness to moderate this discussion.

Tax Connections has published a large number of posts that I have written over the years (yes, hard to believe it has been years). As you may know I oppose FATCA, U.S. citizenship-based taxation and the use of FATCA to impose U.S. taxation on tax residents of other countries.
Tax Connections has also published a number of posts written by Professor Zelinsky (who apparently takes a contrary view).
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This is the fourth of a series of four posts that reflect views and experiences of Americans abroad who are experiencing the reality of actually living as an American abroad in an FBAR and FATCA world. (The first post is here.) The second post is here. The third post is here. I think it’s important to hear from people who are actually impacted by this and who have the courage to speak out. The “reality on the ground” is quite different from the theory.
I hope that this series of posts will give you ideas for questions and concerns that you would like to have addressed in the May 17, 2019 Tax Connections – Citizenship Taxation discussion.

I am grateful to Laura Snyder for contributing her thoughts, writing and research to the discussion.
Now over to Ms. Snyder …

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Part 1 of 4: “How Do I Protect Myself?” A Case Study in the Marginalization of Americans Living Overseas

Before moving to the post, if you believe that Americans abroad are being treated unjustly by the United States Government: Join me on May 17, 2019 for a discussion of U.S. “citizenship-based taxation” as follows:

You are invited to submit your questions in advance. In fact, PLEASE submit questions. This is an opportunity to engage with Homelanders in general and the U.S. tax compliance community in particular.

Thanks to Professor Zelinsky for his willingness to engage in this discussion. Thanks to Kat Jennings of Tax Connections for hosting this discussion. Thanks to Professor William Byrnes for his willingness to moderate this discussion.

Tax Connections has published a large number of posts that I have written over the years (yes, hard to believe it has been years). As you may know I oppose FATCA, U.S. citizenship-based taxation and the use of FATCA to impose U.S. taxation on tax residents of other countries.
Tax Connections has also published a number of posts written by Professor Zelinsky (who apparently takes a contrary view).
____________________________________________________________________________

This is the first of a series of four posts that reflect views and experiences of Americans abroad who are experiencing the reality of actually living as an American abroad in an FBAR and FATCA world. I think it’s important to hear from people who are actually impacted by this and who have the courage to speak out. The “reality on the ground” is quite different from the theory.

I hope that this series of posts will give you ideas for questions and concerns that you would like to have addressed in the May 17, 2019 Tax Connections – Citizenship Taxation discussion.

I am grateful to Laura Snyder for contributing her thoughts, writing and research to the discussion.

Now over to Ms. Snyder …
________________________________________________________________________

“How Do I Protect Myself?”

A Case Study in the Marginalization of Americans Living Overseas

by Laura Snyder*

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Changes to the filing threshold for "Married Filing Separately" filing category likely to pressure more Americans abroad to renounce US citizenship


This post is a continuation of my post (referenced in the above tweet) which describes the reduction of the threshold for Married Filing Separately from $4050 to $5. In this post I describe why I believe that this change will result in further renunciations of U.S. citizenship. The primary incentive to renouncing citizenship is that: by requiring married low income Americans abroad to file U.S. tax returns, more financial information about their nonresident alien spouses will be reported to the IRS. On the most basic level, a Form 8938 is required only if a U.S. tax return is also required. The requirement to file a tax return increases the chances of a requirement to file Form 8938 (and others). Form 8938 does require the disclosure of some jointly owned assets. If you were a nonresident alien, would you want your financial information to be transferred to the IRS?
On December 19, 2018 Dr. Karen Alpert commenting on changes to the 2017 TCJA that would affect Americans abroad noted that:
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