Category Archives: FBAR

Exercising broad regulatory authority, US Treasury has clarified the meaning of “resident” for #FBAR Purposes

Introduction – Looking For Mr. FBAR

What’s new?

I haven’t written a post about Mr. FBAR for quite some time. But, a post about the recent Boyd case at Tax Connections, by Darlene Hart got me thinking about FBAR again. For those interested – where the IRS successfully argued that it was appropriate to impose penalties on each individual account – here is the case:

HBe

And for a hint at the commentary:

Those who know little about Mr. FBAR might find this introduction to FBAR – although written in 2012 – helpful. Incidentally, it’s pretty obvious that Russia’s Foreign Bank account reporting laws were based on an admiration of Treasury’s success with the FBAR rules.

The purpose of this post

The purpose of this post is to explain:

1. The Congressional FBAR statute – Title 31 Section 5314 – which delegates to Treasury the responsibility of determining ALL aspects of FBAR administration including:

– who is subject to FBAR reporting

– the financial thresholds that trigger reporting

2. It is NOT the Congressional FBAR statute that defines the absurdly low $10,000 threshold for reporting. Rather it is Treasury. Although FBAR penalties are now indexed to inflation, the FBAR reporting threshold remains at $10,000. To put it simply: through inflation, Treasury has found a way to increase both the number of FBAR violations and the penalties associated with those violations. (There is a reason it’s called “The FBAR Fundraiser”).

3. It is not Congress that imposes the FBAR requirement on Americans abroad. It is Treasury. In fact, Treasury has recognized that they it has the right to exempt Americans abroad from the FBAR requirements, but has refused to do so. To be specific, Treasury’s 20111 statement found on page 10327 (middle column) was without explanation:

With respect to the comments raised by United States persons living abroad, FinCEN does not believe that an exemption is appropriate simply because a United States person chooses to live outside of the United States.

Treasury offered no reason for this decision.

Commentary on this decision at the Isaac Brock Society may be read here.

4. Treasury has by regulation “tinkered” with the meaning of “resident” over the years. I note that in 2012 (as explained by Phil Hodgen and others) the meaning of “resident” was not defined by statute. Rather, it is through Treasury regulations, that the word “resident” is given meaning. By 2017 Treasury had adopted the statutory meaning of resident used in the Internal Revenue Code (Section 7701(b)). (By expanding the definition of “United States” to include possessions and territories, it appears that Treasury has expanded the penalty base to include U.S. “Nationals”.) The FBAR statute is found in Title 31. The Internal Revenue Code is Title 26. There is neither a requirement nor a reason why Treasury should have used the definition of “resident” in Title 26 as the the meaning of “resident” in Section 5314 of Title 31. There are many different ways of defining “resident”. For example, for U.S. Estate and Gift Tax purposes, “residency” is defined in terms of domicile …

My point is this

Individuals and groups attempting to achieve justice for Americans abroad, Accidental Americans, Green Card Holders and all “U.S. Persons” would be advised to focus their efforts on U.S. Treasury. Yes, the lobbying of Congress should continue. But, meaningful change can be achieved without Congress even being aware of it. U.S. Treasury has the authority and ability to fix the FBAR related penalty and reporting injustices imposed on Americans abroad. But, FBAR is just the beginning. Almost all of the problems of Americans abroad can be fixed by Treasury.

This is the first of a series of posts in which I will explain how Treasury can solve almost all of the problems inflicted by the U.S. Government on Americans abroad.

John Richardson – Follow me on Twitter @Expatriationlaw

Appendix – For those who want to better understand the technicalities: Let me explain you …

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IRS Relief Procedures For Former Citizens Update – Relief For Former Green Card Holders Coming!

Introduction

On December 17, 2019 Gary Carter published a post on Tax Connections, which outlined the “Options Available For U.S. Taxpayers With Undisclosed Foreign Financial Assets“. It contained an excellent overview and analysis which included a discussion of the IRS definition of “non-willfulness” under the Streamlined Program. In commenting on the definiton of “non-willful” he noted that:

The IRS definition of non-willful covers a lot of territory. Negligence, for example, includes “any failure to make a reasonable attempt to comply with the provisions of the Code” (IRC Sec. 6662(c)) or “to exercise ordinary and reasonable care in the preparation of a tax return” (Reg. Sec. 1.6662-3(b)(1)). Further, “negligence is a lack of due care in failing to do what a reasonable and ordinarily prudent person would have done under the particular circumstances.” (Kelly, Paul J., (1970) TC Memo 1970-250). The court also stated that a person may be guilty of negligence even though he is not guilty of bad faith. So the fact that you ignored the FBAR filing requirements for many years, and failed to report your foreign income, might be negligent behavior, but it’s probably not willful. That means you likely qualify for one of the new streamlined procedures. On the other hand, if you loaded piles of cash into a suitcase and lugged it over to Switzerland to conceal it from the IRS, you don’t qualify, because that is willful conduct. If you believe your behavior may have been willful under these guidelines, consult with an attorney before submitting returns through one of the streamlined procedures. We work with attorneys who are experts in this field and we would be happy to provide a referral, free of charge or obligation.

Notably, the definition of “non-willfulness” for the Streamlined Program is the same as the definition for the new “IRS Relief For Former Citizens Program”.

Part A – IRS Relief For Former Citizens Who Relinquished U.S. Citizenship After March 18, 2010 (the date FATCA became law)

The program was announced on September 6, 2019.

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Recently Released Survey Report Dispels Myth of the Wealthy American Abroad and Demonstrates Why Middle Class Americans Abroad Are Forced To Renounce US Citizenship

This blog post features the research of Laura Snyder. It is (I believe) the single and most comprehensive study of (1) the U.S. legislation that is understood to apply to Americans abroad and (2) the disastrous impact this legislation has on them. To put it simply, Congress is forcing Americans Abroad to renounce their U.S. citizenship.

The bottom line is that for Amerians Abroad:

“All Roads Lead To Renunciation!”

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And now over to Laura Snyder with thanks.
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On October 21, 2019 Canada could have it's first US citizen Prime Minister! Think of the penalties!

It started on the campaign bus


Worked it’s way to the Toronto Star


(Speaking of the “noose” of citizenship-based taxation, it’s worth noting that former New Brunswick Premier David Alward was reported to have been in the IRS OVDI program.)
Brought back memories of other victims
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson renounced U.S. citizenship before becoming Prime Minister.
Somalia’s president revealed that he had recently renounced U.S. citizenship.
Was confirmed by the Isaac Brock Society
As reported at the Isaac Brock Society and assuming the truth of the Toronto Star article referenced in the above tweet, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer may become Canada’s first U.S. citizen Prime Minister. If the article is to be believed, he wouldn’t be a U.S. for long. He is apparently in the process of renouncing U.S. citizenship.
Triggered some of our fondest memories in politics


In the 2015 election debate, Justin Trudeau famously claimed that:
“A Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian!”
Made us ask whether anything in Canada should be off limits to the USA
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Became the subject of public discussion and debate
Update: The Globe and Mail confirms the news! Mr. Scheer is subject to the U.S. sanction of citizenship-based taxation. @InFBARWeTrust!


Q. Is it appropriate for a U.S. citizen to be the head of state of a non-U.S. country?
A. The comments the Globe and Mail article are interesting.
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More twitter coverage/discussion:
https://twitter.com/i/events/1179861494650953728

Part 14 in series: The Emotional Toll of US Non-Resident Taxation and Banking Policies – “Maybe that’s the Only Way Out”

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).
You will find Part 1 to Part 11 of this series of posts here.
Laura Snyder discusses the “emotional toll of U.S. non-resident taxation and banking policies
Laura Snyder has written (in addition to her original four posts) a series of five posts describing and exploring “The Emotional Toll of US Non-Resident Taxation and Banking Policies. Part 10 of this series (comments of Nando Breiter) was a prologue to Ms. Snyder’s five posts.
Now over to Laura …
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Part 11 in series: The Emotional Toll of US Non-Resident Taxation and Banking Policies – “I Feel Threatened by My Very Identity”

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).
You will find Part 1 to Part 10 of this series of posts here.
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Psychological harm and the pain of living as an American abroad – Why this next series of posts is important


I began this “Citizenship Solutions blog” in 2014. The blog included a page (not very visible) called:
“Emotional counselling for those threatened by the FATCA Roundup”
The comments (occasional as they may be) are significant. The comments include a “ping back” to a discussion of great interest which took place at the Isaac Brock Society.
Origins of the psychological torment of those targetted by the extra-territorial application of U.S. tax and banking laws
The campaign of Barack Obama will be remembered by the slogan “Change You Can Believe In”. For Americans abroad the election of Barack Obama was the beginning of a nightmare that they will never forget. Although U.S. citizenship- based taxation had always been the law in theory, it was never applied in practice. This changed with the Obama administation in three ways:
First, a toxic mix of Obama’s IRS, the tax compliance industry and the media worked to create an environment where individuals living outside the United States were led to believe, that the U.S. was enforcing U.S. citizenship-based taxation on Americans abroad. During the summer of 2011 innocent Americans abroad (some who had relinquished U.S. citizenship years earlier),were ushered into the OVDI program.
Second, the rollout of FATCA enlisted banks in the process of searching for U.S. citizens living abroad, who were not filing U.S. taxes.
Third, many Americans experienced their “Oh My God” moment where they learned about U.S. extraterritorial tax policies. For many the “Oh My God” moment permanently changed their perceptions of themeselves. One day they were proud Amercians. The next day they were threatened by the fact that they either were or had been U.S. citizens. Furthermore, they became (or at least believed) that they were a threat to their non-U.S. citizen families.*
The simple truth is that U.S. citizens are terrified of the U.S. Government. The vast majority of Americans abroad were not (and are still not) filing U.S. taxes. Their failure to file was because, they didn’t know that they were required to. Those individuals who were financially responsible and compliant with the tax laws where the live, were most impacted emotionally. They couldn’t belive that they had done something wrong. After all, they had lived their lives “trying to do the right thing”. The realization that they were not compliant with U.S. laws evoked a range of very damaging emotions. They experienced a range of emotions that they had never experienced before.
The emotions experienced were somewhere between “anger” at one extreme and “fear at the other extreme”. The experience of either too much fear or too much anger is a dangerous thing. The best an individual can hope for is to live life somewhere between fear and anger. It’s important to understand how intense and how damaging the psychological impact of the experience of being criminalized by the U.S. Government, has been and continues to be.
Laura Snyder discusses the “emotional toll of U.S. non-resident taxation and banking policies
Laura Snyder has written (in addition to her original four posts) a series of five posts describing and exploring “The Emotional Toll of US Non-Resident Taxation and Banking Policies. Part 10 of this series (comments of Nando Breiter) was a prologue to Ms. Snyder’s five posts.
Now, over to Laura …
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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).
____________________________________________________________________________
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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Continue reading

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*
Continue reading

#YouCantMakeThisUp! Married Americans abroad are more likely to meet requirements to file US tax returns than are singles – But, then again marriage to a nonresident alien is considered to be a form of tax evasion

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.
And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming.
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I begin with the conclusion …


The Every Day facts:


1. A U.S. citizen living in Canada Is married to an alien (the nonresident type)
2. Had $500 of part time employment income
3. Because she is married (in accordance with the definition of “married” in Internal Revenue Code 7703) she is of course required to absorb all the punitive consequences of the “married filing separately” filing category. The “married filing separately category” is a punitive filing category which is a “hidden tax on Americans abroad“.
In the 2017 tax (and previous) year she had NOT met the filing threshold required to file a U.S. tax return. Using the IRS Interactive “Do I Have To File A Tax Return” tool, we find that:

(Note that this refers to a threshold of $4050 which is the amount of the personal exemption for 2017. The significance of this will be further explained below.)
She did however have financial assets which exceeded the $200,000 threshold required to file Form 8938. Most of these assets were owned jointly with her nonresident alien husband. Because she had not met the filing threshold for “married filing separately” in 2017 and previous years she had not been required to file Form 8938. Notice that Form 8938 does require her to report to the IRS assets that are jointly owned with her “nonresident alien” husband. (By the way he would not be happy about this. I some cases this forces Americans abroad to choose between their U.S. citizenship and their marriage.)
April 2019 – An SOS …
I received a frantic message. She was/is trying to to determine whether she is required to file a U.S. tax return for the 2018 year (based on her $500 of income and her status as “married filing separately”).
On the one hand she is directed by IRS publication 54 (the Bible For Americans Abroad) that her filing threshold is $12,000.


On the other hand, she is being told on the IRS page describing filing thresholds that she is required to file a U.S. tax return.


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Part 22 – The 16th amendment authorises an Income Tax – but the @USTransitionTax is a wealth tax!

Part 1: The constitutional authorisation for the US income tax


As explained in a recent post at Tax Connections:

Written by TaxConnections Admin | Posted in TaxConnections
IRS- First Tax Return Form In 1913
Origin Of Internal Revenue Service
The roots of IRS go back to the Civil War when President Lincoln and Congress, in 1862, created the position of commissioner of Internal Revenue and enacted an income tax to pay war expenses. The income tax was repealed 10 years later. Congress revived the income tax in 1894, but the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional the following year.
16th Amendment
In 1913, Wyoming ratified the 16th Amendment, providing the three-quarter majority of states necessary to amend the Constitution. The 16th Amendment gave Congress the authority to enact an income tax. That same year, the first Form 1040 appeared after Congress levied a 1 percent tax on net personal incomes above $3,000 with a 6 percent surtax on incomes of more than $500,000.
In 1918, during World War I, the top rate of the income tax rose to 77 percent to help finance the war effort. It dropped sharply in the post-war years, down to 24 percent in 1929, and rose again during the Depression. During World War II, Congress introduced payroll withholding and quarterly tax payments.
1913 Form 1040 (PDF 126KB, 4 pages, including instructions)
A New Name
In the 50s, the agency was reorganized to replace a patronage system with career, professional employees. The Bureau of Internal Revenue name was changed to the Internal Revenue Service. Only the IRS commissioner and chief counsel are selected by the president and confirmed by the Senate.
Today’s IRS Organization
The IRS Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998 prompted the most comprehensive reorganization and modernization of IRS in nearly half a century. The IRS reorganized itself to closely resemble the private sector model of organizing around customers with similar needs.

(Note that even in 1913, the most prominent part of the 1040 was the Penalty Provision.)
1913
Part 2: Taxation must be constitutional. Is the transition tax an income tax?


A new paper by Sean P. McElroy titled: “The Mandatory Repatriation Tax Is Unconstitutional” suggests that:

Abstract
In late 2017, Congress passed the first major tax reform in over three decades. This Essay considers the constitutional concerns raised by Section 965 (the “Mandatory Repatriation Tax”), a central provision of the new tax law that imposes a one-time tax on U.S.-based multinationals’ accumulated foreign earnings.
First, this Essay argues that Congress lacks the power to directly tax wealth without apportionment among the states. Congress’s power to tax is expressly granted, and constrained, by the Constitution. While the passage of the Sixteenth Amendment mooted many constitutional questions by expressly allowing Congress to tax income from whatever source derived, this Essay argues the Mandatory Repatriation Tax is a wealth tax, rather than an income tax, and is therefore unconstitutional.
Second, even if the Mandatory Repatriation Tax is found to be an income tax (or, alternatively, an excise tax), the tax is nevertheless unconstitutionally retroactive. While the Supreme Court has generally upheld retroactive taxes at both the state and federal level over the past few decades, the unprecedented retroactivity of the Mandatory Repatriation Tax — and its potential for taxing earnings nearly three decades after the fact — raises unprecedented Fifth Amendment due process concerns.

Here is a copy of the paper …
SSRN-id3247926
The point is that the transition tax is not a tax on income. It is a tax on “fake income”. It is “fake income” on two levels:
First, by definition it is not based on income. It is based on a pool of capital that was not subject to taxation when it was earned.
Second, Sec. 965 deems it to be income precisely because it not actual income which is based on any realisation event.
Is this the simplest argument for why the Section 965 transition tax mayh be unconstitutional?
John Richardson