Category Archives: Financial planning for Americans abroad

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

The Unknown Ambassadors: A Saga Of Citizenship – Phyllis Michaux

I just read “The Unknown Ambassadors: A Saga Of Citizenship” by Phyllis Michaux.* Phyllis Michaux was an American citizen who married a French citizen/resident. She lived her adult life in France. By any standard, she was an impressive and effective advocate for the rights of Americans abroad.**

I recommend the book (if you can find a copy) to all Americans abroad. As diverse as the community of Americans abroad is, what unites them is far greater than what divides them. What unites all Americans abroad is the horrible discriminatory treatment they suffer at the hands of the U.S. government. (As the distribution of vaccines in the covid pandemic demonstrated, the discriminatory treatment is NOT limited to taxation.) In this respect the United States is practically unique. Ireland honours and celebrates its diaspora. France gives it expats representatives in the legislature. The United States does (in 2024) and always has (as documented in “The Unknown Ambassadors”) mistreat its citizens abroad. U.S. citizens abroad are examples of the “discrete and insular minorities” contemplated in Justice Stone’s infamous Carolene Products footnote 4.)**** U.S. citizens, more than the citizens of any other country are in need of a second citizenship.

Phyllis Michaux’s achievements from the 20th century offer lessons for the many individuals and groups who are advocating to achieve justice for Americans abroad in the 21st century.

“The Unknown Ambassadors” provides an account of Ms. Michaux’s recognizing discrimination against Americans abroad as a matter of fact, identifying the laws responsible for that discrimination, identifying the appropriate U.S. government agencies to lobby for change and finally executing that change. Advocates for Americans abroad in the 21st century should read this book. A testament to her achievements is that the “Phyllis Michaux Papers” are found in the “Georgetown University Archival Resources”.

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Bonjour: Different US Tax Treaties Provide Different US Taxation For Different Groups Of Americans Abroad

Introduction, purpose And summary

It is clear that US citizens, who are tax resident of countries outside the United States are generally subjected to a more punitive system of taxation than US residents. That said, the U.S. has different tax treaties with different countries. Some treaties (example Australia) make living outside the United States very difficult. Other tax treaties (Canada and the UK) make living outside the United States easier in a relative sense. The relative difficulty is somewhat dependent on the extent to which the treaty contains provisions for U.S. citizens who are “resident” in the treaty partner country. These treaties are an additional recognition of U.S. citizenship taxation.

If a U.S citizen contemplating a move abroad asked the following question:

Q. How will I be taxed if I move outside the United States and live as a tax resident of another country?

The answer will be:

A. I don’t really know. It depends what country you are considering moving to.

Not only are US citizens living outside the United States taxed more punitively than U.S. citizens living inside the United States, but their taxation by the United States depends on the country they move to! (In addition, both income tax treaties and estate tax treaties may contain provisions that affect the way U.S. citizens may be taxed by the treaty partner country!)

The curious case of the U.S. France Tax Treaty and U.S. Citizens resident in France

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How US Tax Treaties And The “Saving Clause” Prevent Countries From Establishing Retirement Programs For US Citizen Residents

Prologue – The Circumstances Of Your Birth Should Not Determine The Outcome Of Your Life …

The above tweet references a “human interest” story where US citizen children are denied benefits in their country of residence that are available to all people who are NOT US citizens.

The description includes:

New Zealand children born to parents’ who are citizens of the United States face a difficult KiwiSaver choice: Give up your US citizenship, or face a KiwiSaver tax compliance bill of $750​ or more a year courtesy of the US taxman.

A petition has been started at Parliament asking MPs to change the KiwiSaver Act to allow people with KiwiSaver accounts facing the unreasonable demands from US tax authorities to close their KiwiSaver accounts.

The issue surfaced as a result of the plight of Auckland dual national Kira Bacal and her four New Zealand-born children, Harper, 13, Rowan, 10 and twins Malachi and Elias, 8.

It appears that the poor (New Zealand born) Bacal children are finding that the US (or at least US tax preparers in New Zealand) consider their KiwiSaver to be a possible vehicle for US tax evasion! Not only is the KiwiSaver a “trust”, but it’s a “foreign trust” which comes with all kinds of penalty laden reporting obligations and no tax advantages. An excellent analysis of the US tax implications of the New Zealand KiwiSaver is here. The story is somewhat comical in that one gets the feeling that the blame should be placed on New Zealand (and not the United States) for New Zealand’s failure to legislate special exceptions for US citizens living in New Zealand.

So what! They’re Americans and therefore they deserve it (you say)!

A previous post explained that for Americans abroad, changes in the laws of their country of residence can change their tax relationship with the United States. The purpose of this post is to expand on that theme by demonstrating that:

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US Social Security And Financial Planning With Dan Mazzola

Introduction

For many people (including Americans abroad) Social Security programs (whatever they are called in other countries) are an important component of retirement income and financial planning.

During December 2021 I had the good fortune to host Dan Mazzola on a couple of podcasts. In the first podcast we discuss the inner workings of US Social Security. In the second podcast we discuss financial planning in general.

Here they are …

December 3, 2021 – Smarter Social Security

December 9, 2021 – It’s More About The Investor Than The Investment

Toward a definition of residence-based taxation for Americans abroad

Introduction

The discussion of tax reform for Americans abroad is increasing in intensity. Whether through amendments to the Internal Revenue Code or a “Regulatory Fix To Citizenship-based Taxation“, Americans abroad are in desperate need of change. The US tax system as it impacts Americans abroad is forcing renunciations of US citizenship.

The language in the discussion for change reflects a desire (on the part of individuals and organizations) to move from the US system of “citizenship-based taxation” to a system of “residence-based taxation”. Various individuals and groups describe the goal using the language of “residence-based taxation” AKA RBT. It would be a mistake to assume that RBT means the same thing to different people. The purpose of this post is to describe definitions of RBT and and how those definitions may be defined for different individuals or groups.

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Part 2 – The Warren “Ultra-Millionaire Tax Act of 2021” and The Wealth Of Other Nations

The fact that …

Leads to the obvious question of …

Hmm…

The fact is that Senator Warren is proposing to impose her wealth tax on property located outside the United States, purchased by individuals who live outside the United States, who have no connection to the United States other than (perhaps) the circumstance of having been born in the United States. Yup, it’s true.

On March 18, 2021, FATCA will turn on 11. The Senator’s proposed wealth tax explicitly states that FATCA is to be used to enforce this tax! Finally an (il)legitimate use for FATCA.

In the 18th Century Adam Smith wrote “The Wealth Of Nations”. In the 21st Century Senator Warren is proposing to impose a wealth tax on “The Wealth Of OTHER Nations”.

Discussion And Analysis

This is the second of what I expect to be a multi-part series on Senator Warren’s proposed wealth tax of 2021. As the above tweet makes clear, the practical utility of the tax depends on US citizenship-based taxation (to whom it applies) and FATCA (how are non-US assets located). In my first post, I referenced Senator Warren’s statement that:

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Renunciation is a process of transitioning from US citizen to nonresident alien. How does this affect your tax situation?

On June 25, 2020 Dr. Karen Alpert and I did a series of podcasts where we discussed how renunciation will affect your interaction with the US tax system. The key point is that you will still be taxable by the United States on US source income. What does that mean? Under what circumstances could renunciation of US citizenship actually increase your US tax liability?

John Richardson – Follow me on Twitter @ExpatriationLaw

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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