Category Archives: Green Card Expatriation

Permanent residents of the United States abandoning their residence (Green Card) status

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 renunication 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 renunication of US citizenhip actually increase your US tax liability?

John Richardson – Follow me on Twitter @ExpatriationLaw

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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Individuals, Treasury, The State Department And IRC 6039G: Who has to report what when an individual renounces US citizenship?

Renunciation of U.S. Citizenship triggers a “Reporting Frenzy”!

It’s simply unbelievable. The renunciation of U.S. citizenship triggers more reporting obligations on the part of individuals and government agencies than anything else. More than birth. More than death. More than marriage. More than bankruptcy. More than conviction of a crime (probably). It’s unbelievable.

The purpose of this post is to “slice and dice” what those reporting obligations are.

Let’s Go On A Magical Reporting Tour

The rules governing information reporting when one relinquishes U.S. citizenship are found in Internal Revenue Code 6039G. They impose reporting obligations on “some” individual relinquishers (“covered expatriates”), the State Department whenever a Certificate of Loss Of Nationality has been issued and on U.S. Treasury. (I will comment separately on the situation of Green Card holders at the end of this post.) Most of this is summarized in the following two tweets. But, because this is so confused, I am going to take the time to parse the statute.

It’s all in Internal Revenue Code – 6039G Note that Section 6039G is found in Subtitle F which is the – “Procedure and Administration” – part of the Internal Revenue Code. In other words, it deals only with information reporting. It does NOT impose taxation. Interestingly, Section 6039G imposes reporting requirements on individuals, the State Department, U.S. Treasury (and in the case of Green Card holders) the Immigration authorities.

That pretty much sums it up. For those who want to understand the analysis …

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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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The 2019 IRS "expatriation" compliance campaign: Getting ahead of the fear mongering

On July 19, 2019 the IRS announced six new compliance initiatives.
Of particular interest to U.S. citizens and permanent residents (Green Card holders) is what is described as:

Expatriation
U.S. citizens and long-term residents (lawful permanent residents in eight out of the last 15 taxable years) who expatriated on or after June 17, 2008, may not have met their filing requirements or tax obligations. The Internal Revenue Service will address noncompliance through a variety of treatment streams, including outreach, soft letters, and examination.

What is expatriation?
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Article 4 paragraph 2 of the U.S. U.K. Tax Treaty: A clause preventing the use of the tax treaty tie breaker for some Green Card holders

Introduction – In The 21st Century The Most Important Thing About A Person Is His Tax Residency

Green Card holders are deemed to be U.S. tax residents under the Internal Revenue Code. In most circumstances, Green Card Holders are also treated as U.S. tax residents under U.S. tax treaties.

U.S. Green Card holders have traditionally been able to use tax treaties to sever “tax residence” with the United States. This decision carries both burdens and benefits and should never be undertaken without competent professional advice. (For Green Card holders who are “long term residents“, the use of a “tax treaty tie breaker” will result in expatriation. Expatriation may trigger the imposition of the Sec. 877A Expatriation Tax.)

The tax treaty tie breaker is available if and only if the individual is, according to the tax treaty, a tax resident of BOTH the United States and the treaty partner country.

Typically the tax treaty tie breaker is a mechanism where one uses the provisions of the tax treaty to assign tax residency to one and only one country according to the tax treaty.

To repeat: a condition precedent to the use of the tax treaty tie breaker is that the individual be a tax resident of both countries according to the tax treaty.

Most tax treaties provide that if an individual is a tax resident of Country A according to domestic law, then the individual is a resident of Country A under the treaty. In other words, tax residency under the terms of the treaty follows from tax residency under domestic law.

Prior to the U.S. U.K. Tax Treaty of July 24, 2001, tax residency for Green Card holders according to the tax treaty, followed from tax residency under domestic law.

The U.S. U.K. Tax Treaty of July 24, 2001 changed this basic rule. The July 24, 2001 tax treaty contains a provision that provides that tax residency under the U.S. U.K. tax treaty, does not necessarily follow from tax residency under U.S. domestic law. Specifically Article 4 Paragraph 2 states that Green Card holders will NOT be treated as U.S. tax residents under the U.S. U.K. Tax treaty except as follows:

2. An individual who is a United States citizen or an alien admitted to the United States
for permanent residence (a “green card” holder) is a resident of the United States only if the
individual has a substantial presence, permanent home or habitual abode in the United States
and if that individual is not a resident of a State other than the United Kingdom for the purposes of a double taxation convention between that State and the United Kingdom.

Paragraph 2 of Article 4 provides a presumption against U.S. tax residency, under the tax treaty, for Green Card holders. This results in a situation where the Green Card holder is a U.S. tax resident under the U.S. Internal Revenue Code, but NOT a U.S. tax resident under the treaty.

The purpose of this post is to explore the implications of this unusual provision and how it impacts Green Card holders who are tax residents of the U.K. The post will be divided into the following six parts:

Part A – U.S. U.K. Tax Treaty – Prior to July 24, 2001 (1975)

Part B – The U.S. U.K. Tax Treaty – signed July 24, 2001

Part C – The meaning of the two necessary conditions to qualify as a U.S. tax resident under the treaty: Joint Committee of Taxation Comments on Paragraph 2 of Article 4

Part D – The meaning of the two necessary conditions to qualify as a U.S. tax resident under the treaty: U.S. Treasury Technical Interpretation

Part E – IRS Commentary – July 3, 2018

Part F – What are the implications for Green Card Holders who are tax residents of the UK?

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Green Card holders who have moved from the United States without properly severing US tax residency

Here is the scenario that this post is addressing:
An individual becomes a permanent resident of the United States (meaning that he has a Green Card). He lives in the United States for any number of years. He then moves away from the United States and returns to live in his home country. He is NOT aware that he must complete any specific steps (from either an immigration or tax perspective) to sever his ties with the United States.
He simply moves from the United States with the intention of no longer living permanently in the United States and:
1. Stops filing U.S. tax returns;
2. Fails to notify the State Department that he is abandoning his U.S. permanent residence.
While a resident of the United States he acquired significant pensions and IRAs.
Years later he reads an article in a newspaper that suggests that the United States still considers him to be subject to the full force of U.S. tax laws. Accessing the pensions will force him to file U.S. tax returns. He (as might be expected) is panic stricken and wonders what to do.
This is a very common scenario – what should he do?
The short answer is: it is completely dependent on the facts. This is one of the most difficult areas to advise in. The problem is that the person is likely to continue to be a tax resident of the United States and subject to all of the requirements of the Internal Revenue Code. The most appropriate response to this will depend on the interaction of a number of factors specific to the individual.
If you are in this situation, I suggest that you seek competent assistance sooner rather than later.
John Richardson – Follow me on Twitter @ExpatriationLaw

Considering renouncing US citizenship? #citizide – There are times when US citizenship can save you from foreign taxes!

Should other nations be permitted to impose taxation on U.S. citizens or corporations?
At first blush, the question sounds absurd. Is there something about being a U.S. citizen that should exempt individuals from taxation in or by a another country? Some time ago, this question was explored in a discussion on a Facebook group. Interestingly, most participants thought the discussion was absurd and did not take it seriously. But truth can be stranger than fiction. When it comes to taxation there can be some benefits to being a U.S. citizen. In fact, in certain cases, U.S. citizenship can act as a “cloaking device” – a device that shields you from taxation in another country.

The two certainties are “death and taxes” …

It’s in the area of “death” where U.S. citizenship can be helpful. Sometimes it can be to your benefit to die as a U.S. citizen. Sometimes U.S. citizenship can be helpful when somebody dies leaving you part of their estate.
What follows are some categories where U.S. citizenship can protect you from taxation. These possibilities should be considered prior to renouncing U.S. citizenship.
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Considering renouncing US citizenship? Thinking #citizide? Abandoning your #GreenCard? @Expatriationlaw webinar explaining the S. 877A Exit Tax

The general message …


More details – hope to meet you online on December 6, 2018

Considering renouncing U.S. citizenship? It has become somewhere between difficult and impossible for U.S. citizens to…

Posted by Citizenship Solutions on Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Thinking about getting a #Greencard? The first question is: Do you want @PermResidentUSA status?

A move to another country is a very significant life decision. A “Green Card” is actually a “permanent resident” immigrant visa. A U.S. “permanent resident” visa comes with significant opportunities and significant responsibilities.
Permanent resident visa for immigration purposes: The visa is valid for immigration purposes only as long as the person retains the subjective intent to live permanently in the United States.
Permanent resident visa for tax purposes: Under United States law, one’s status for immigration purposes is different from one’s status for tax purposes. Generally the rules for “tax residence” are found in Internal Revenue Code Sec. 7701(b).
What follows is my answer on Quora that considers the “benefits and burdens” of the Green Card. I suggest that you read all answers to this question.
Read John Richardson's answer to What are the benefits of getting a "green card"? How has your life changed after being a green card holder? on Quora
But, wait! There’s more. If you have the Green Card for 8 years or more, you can’t leave the United States without being subject to the S. 877A Exit Taxes.
Read John Richardson's answer to Must one pay U.S. exit tax on foreign assets? on Quora