Category Archives: Cook v. Tait

Considering Renunciation Part 2: Recognizing And Overcoming The Emotional Barriers

I recently wrote a post describing some of the objective tax, immigration and financial planning issues surrounding the renunciation of U.S. citizenship. For all people tax and financial planning issues should be objectively considered. But objective issues can take one only so far. We are all individual human beings who experience the world differently. We all ascribe various degrees of importance to different things. Citizenship is about more than immigration, tax and financial planning. Citizenship is also a huge component of how we see ourselves in the world. Citizenship is part of who we are!

Therefore, for many people the renunciation of U.S. citizenship is very much a psychological and emotional process. It is a process of transitioning to a both a new stage of life and a new stage of self! This is because citizenship is very much a component of (1) who we are today, (2) our personal histories and (3) how we see our futures. I was recently seated at a lunch table with a new Canadian citizen who immigrated to Canada from China. By becoming a Canadian citizen he ceased to be a citizen of China. I asked him how he felt about losing Chinese citizenship. He said that he felt very bad and very sad. But, he said his present and future was in Canada and that he wanted to be and identify as a Canadian citizen. (U.S. citizens do NOT automatically lose their citizenship by naturalizing as Canadian citizens.) To think about citizenship is to think about life planning and (especially for U.S. citizens) financial planning. Citizenship can deprive people of opportunities or open up new opportunities.

As I was counselling a people who was renouncing in February 2024, I was asked:

“Do many people regret renouncing U.S. citizenship?”

In all the years I have been assisting people I have had exactly two people regret their renunciations. But, this was immediately after renunciation and the regret was short lived. In most cases, people comment that they wish they had renounced sooner. That said (especially for those who grew up in the United States) people wish they were not placed in a position where they feel they must renounce.

When it comes to renouncing U.S. citizenship:

People are NOT renouncing because they want to.

People are renouncing because they feel they have to.

Two podcasts to help people overcome the regret of renouncing U.S. citizenship


1. The Retired Citizen – You can always identify as a U.S. citizen if you want to

https://prep.podbean.com/e/the-retired-us-citizen/

2. The Dodge Stratus ad – You’re not losing a sports car. You are GAINING two doors!

https://prep.podbean.com/e/about-loss-of-identity-what-the-dodge-stratus-teaches-us-about-renouncing-us-citizenship/


Hope this helps you clear the emotional hurdles!

John Richardson – Follow me on Twitter @Expatriationlaw

How U.S. Citizenship Tax, The Treaty “Saving Clause” and FATCA Create A Fiscal Prison For Dual Tax Residents

Introduction – The Problem Of Dual Tax Residency For U.S. Citizens

A “Hell greater than the sum of the parts”

There are people in the world who really don’t understand (or say they don’t) what exactly is the problem with U.S. citizenship based taxation. They claim to not understand why defining “tax residency” based on the “circumstances of birth” rather than the “circumstances of life” is a problem. They fail to consider how taxation based on “circumstances of birth”, interacts with U.S. tax treaties and FATCA to create a “hell that is greater than the sum of the parts”.

This is the third post in a series designed to explore and facilitate the understanding of the U.S. “citizenship based” extra-territorial tax regime. The first post explored the practical meaning of U.S. citizenship-based taxation (it’s primary effects are on people who live outside the U.S.). The second post explored the fact that tax residency based on “citizenship” is tax residency based on the “circumstances of one’s birth” rather than the “circumstances of one’s life” (its effects are primarily based on the circumstance of birth in the U.S.). The conclusion drawn from these first two posts was that the U.S. citizenship based extra-territorial tax regime is one in which:

The circumstance of a U.S. birthplace is used as a justification to regulate the lives of people with no connection to the United States and impose U.S. taxation on income that has no connection to the United States and is received by someone who does not live in the United States.

Citizenship taxation has practical and contextual meaning only its application to tax residents of non-US countries. The U.S. uses the circumstance of a “U.S. birthplace” to reach out and “claim” the tax residents of other countries as U.S. “tax residents”.

The purpose of this post is to explain how the interaction of U.S. citizenship taxation (claiming those with a U.S. birth place as U.S. tax residents when they are tax residents of other countries), the “saving clause” (not allowing U.S. citizens with dual tax residency to assign tax residency to the country where they actually live) and FATCA (the tool to hunt, find and enforce the extraterritorial U.S. tax and regulatory regime on the residents of other countries) creates a whole hell greater than the sum of the parts.

Many people understand the three components of “citizenship taxation”, the “saving clause” and “FATCA” as separate entities. Few appear to understand how those three components interact together to destroy the lives of U.S. citizens with dual tax residency. The U.S. has created a “fiscal prison” for its citizens. Seven video accounts of the impact of the U.S. citizenship tax regime are available here.

This problem can be solved ONLY by the United States redefining its rules for “tax residency” so that “citizenship” (the circumstances of one’s birth”) is not relevant to “tax residency” (the circumstances of one’s life).

This post is to identify the component “Part”(s) of the problem. It is organized in “Sections” and “Parts” as follows:

Section I – How The Problem Was Created

Part A – Tax, Residency and Tax Residency
Part B – The general problem of dual tax residency
Part C – Introducing the treaty tie break and how it can be used to end “dual tax residency” under a relevant Canadian tax treaty”
Part D – The general principles of the U.S. Canada “tax treaty tie break – How “circumstances of life” are used to assign tax residency
Part E – Food for thought – Citizenship the least important factor for the treaty tie break
Part F – Two possible examples of assigning residence to one country by using the “treaty tie break” – Green Card Edition
Part G – U.S. Citizens CANNOT Benefit From The “Tax Treaty Tie Break” – Hello “Saving Clause”
Part H – The “Saving Clause” And The Inability For U.S. Citizens To Use The “Treaty Tie Break” Is How The United States Captures The Residents Of The Treaty Partner Country And Claims Them As U.S. Tax Residents
Part I – The Tax Treaty Tie Break And Implications For U.S. Tax Compliance And For FATCA And The CRS Reporting

Section II – How Dual Tax Residents Experience The Extraterritorial Tax Regime

Part J – The U.S. exports a more punitive from of taxation to tax residents of other countries
Part K – The Problem Of Investing, Retirement planning and Retirement Planning – The Punitive Taxation And Reporting Requirements of PFICs and Foreign Trusts
Part L – The Problem Of Non-U.S. Pensions – How Are They Treated Under The Internal Revenue Code? – Different Rules For Different Countries
Part M – Discouraging U.S. Small Business Abroad – The Treatment Of Small Business Corporations Generally And On A Country By Country Basis
Part N – The “FBAR Marriage”: How Marriage To An Alien Results In Higher Taxation, More Reporting, Difficulties With Asset Transfers, Higher Divorce Costs And Possibly A Requirement To File A Tax Return With As Little As $5 Of Income

Section III – How The U.S. Extraterritorial Tax Regime Attacks The Sovereignty Of Other Countries

Part O – The U.S. taxation of residents of other countries attacks and erodes the tax base of those other countries

Section IV – Solving The Problem: Regulatory And Legislative Solutions

Part P – Regulatory Solution: “A Regulatory Fix For Citizenship Taxation
Part Q – Regulatory Solution: Amending The “Saving Clause” In U.S. Tax Treaties
Part R – Territorial Taxation For U.S. Citizen Individuals
Part S – Redefining U.S. Tax Residency To Move To Residence-based Taxation”

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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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US Tax Treaties Should Reflect The 21st Century And Not The World Of 100 Years Ago

Prologue

The rules of taxation should follow changes in society. The ordering of society should NOT be hampered by the rules of taxation!

As the world has become more digital, companies can carry on business from any location. Individuals have become more mobile. Multiple citizenships, factual residences and legal tax residencies are not unusual. It has become clear that the rules of international tax as reflected in tax treaties (as they apply to both corporations and individuals) are in need of reform.

The purpose of this post is to identify two specific areas where US tax treaties are rooted in the world as it was one hundred years ago and NOT as it is today.

First: The “Permanent Establishment” clause found in US and OECD tax treaties

Second: US Citizenship-based taxation which the US exports to other countries through the “saving clause” found in almost all US tax treaties

Each of these will be considered.

____________________________

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A simple regulatory fix for the problem of US citizenship taxation

Background

In 2016 I first made the suggestion that citizenship-based taxation could be changed through Treasury regulation. In October of 2020 John Richardson, Dr. Karen Alpert and Dr. Laura Snyder completed a paper titled “A Simple Regulatory Fix For Citizenship Taxation”. The idea advanced is that:

Although Congress and the Internal Revenue Code created the problem of “citizenship-based taxation”, Treasury has the authority and moral duty to fix the problems of citizenship-based taxation.

Discussion

In 1924 the Supreme Court of the United States considered U.S. citizenship-based taxation in the case of Cook v. Tait. Of course in 1924, the laws of both citizenship and taxation were very different. I have previously explored the evolution of citizenship, taxation and citizenship-based taxation.

The article has received fairly wide distribution (including in the academic community).

Abstract

This article explains the simple regulatory actions that United States Department of the Treasury can take that would, in the absence of legislative change, improve the lives of Americans living overseas and permit the IRS to better focus its limited resources to more effectively administer the U.S. tax system.

The article can be read at SSRN here.

The 2020 article can be at Tax Notes here.

I welcome your comments.

John Richardson – Follow me on Twitter @Expatriationlaw

Seeking short social media – twitter and facebook posts – explaining why @citizenshiptax and #FATCA are wrong

On June 3, 2020 I plan to do a podcast with Anthony Scaramucci of Skybridge Capital and SALT Conference fame. The June 3 podcast has its roots in the following @Scaramucci tweet which was the subject of discussion at the Isaac Brock Society.

Mr. Scaramucci’s tweet generated a great deal of discussion. If you click on the tweet, you will see, what some of the responses were.

A third party individual has arranged for me to do a podcast with Mr. Scaramucci. This will take place on June 3. In order to provide background information for “citizenship taxation”, FATCA and how they impact Americans abroad, I would ask that you reply to the following tweet. It is your opportunity to contribute to the conversation.

Feel free to leave a comment to this post. I will ensure that it finds its way into the twitter thread.

John Richardson – Follow me on Twitter @Expatriationlaw

Why ALL individuals should support the @RepHolding Tax Fairness For Americans Abroad Act

What: You are invited to a live conversation with Solomon Yue and John Richardson to discuss the Holding bill

When: Tuesday January 15, 2019 – 12:30 EST/17:30 GMT (Toronto, Canada) time (one hour)

Where: http://www.uberconference.com/orgop2 or by calling: 503 – 773 – 9640

Pre-Registration: Required – please visit http://www.facebook.com/RepublicansOverseas for instructions (or leave a comment at the bottom of this post which includes your name, email and country of residence).

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Tax, culture and how the USA uses #citizenshiptaxation to impose US culture (and penalties) on other countries

Civilizations and countries define themselves in part by their tax policies
In 1993 Samuel Huntington wrote “The Clash Of Civilizations“. His basic thesis is captured in the following paragraph from Foreign Affairs Magazine.

World politics is entering a new phase, and intellectuals have not hesitated to proliferate visions of what it will be-the end of history, the return of traditional rivalries between nation states, and the decline of the nation state from the conflicting pulls of tribalism and globalism, among others. Each of these visions catches aspects of the emerging reality. Yet they all miss a crucial, indeed a central, aspect of what global politics is likely to be in the coming years.
It is my hypothesis that the fundamental source of conflict in this new world will not be primarily ideological or primarily economic. The great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural. Nation states will remain the most powerful actors in world affairs, but the principal conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilizations. The clash of civilizations will dominate global politics. The fault lines between civilizations will be the battle lines of the future.

Tax policy and the possible “clash of civilizations”
To what extent does the insistence of the USA on imposing the Internal Revenue Code (“citizenship-based taxation”) on the citizen/residents of other countries, foreshadow a “clash of civilizations”?


This post was motivated by the article by Virginia La Torre Jeker which is referenced in the above tweet. It is an excellent discussion of how the Internal Revenue Code might (or might not) accommodate the reality of Sharia law. The post raises many questions and alerts practitioners to the challenges of applying the Internal Revenue Code to the lives of people whose culture is largely outside the United States. The post raises many “technical issues”. I expect there will further discussion of this issue on Virginia’s blog.
Taxation does NOT exist in a cultural vacuum. A country’s tax system reflects the counry’s cultural values. As the tax historian Charles Adams has noted, the rise and fall of civilizations can be linked to its tax policies. To impose the Internal Revenue Code on people who live outside the United States is to export U.S. cultural values and impose those values on other nations. The United States claims the right to impose the Internal Revenue Code on U.S. citizens who live outside the United States. The reality is that there are millions of people with no connection to the United States (other than a place of birth). U.S. citizenship is acquired automatically if one has the fortune (or misfortune depending on your point of view) of having been (as Bruce would sing) “Born In The USA!
FATCA and the tax compliance industry are working hard to identify those who may be U.S. citizens and do NOT live in the United States. What the United States views as a good source of tax revenue should be seen more broadly. Leaving aside basic issues of fairness, to impose U.S. taxation (according to U.S. rules/cultural values) on the residents of other countries, is sure to create problems. As part of tax reform, the United States must stop imposing the Internal Revenue Code on people who are NOT residents of the United States!
The following “Storification” is an attempt to explain the problem from an “outside the USA” perspective …
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