Category Archives: Green Card Expatriation

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

The proper care and feeding of the Green Card: How physical presence in the US affects the right to live permanently in the US and eligibility for US citizenship

United States permanent residence and the right to travel outside the United States with the Green Card

Beginning with my answer to a similar question on Quora …

Read John Richardson‘s answer to Can a person living in the US with a Greencard travel to other countries? on Quora

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#Greencard abandonment: The safe disposal of the US "permanent resident" visa without triggering the S. 877A Expatriation Tax


https://www.taxation.co.uk/Articles/2018/04/24/337897/us-expatriate-tax-conference-pt-2
What follows is a summary of a presentation I made in March of 2018 in London, UK:
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The proper care and feeding of the Green Card – An interview with "long term resident" Gary @Clueit

Introduction
The Internal Revenue Code of the United States imposes worldwide income taxation on ALL individuals who are U.S. citizens or who are otherwise defined as “residents” under the Internal Revenue Code. “Residents” includes those who have a visa for “permanent residence” (commonly referred to as a Green Card). A visa for “permanent residence” is a visa for immigration purposes. Once an individual receives a visa for “permanent residence” he will be considered to be a “resident” under the Internal Revenue Code. His status as a “resident” for tax purposes continues until he fulfills specific conditions to sever his “tax residency” with the United States. The conditions required to sever “tax residency” with the United States are found in S. 7701 of the Internal Revenue Code. (Basically a Green Card holder can’t simply move from the United States and sever tax residency.)
In the same way that U.S. citizens are subject to taxation on their worldwide income even if they don’t reside in the United States, “permanent residents” will continue to be subject to taxation on their worldwide income until they take specific steps to sever tax residency in the United States. In certain circumstances Green Card holders living outside the United States can avoid filing some of the “forms” that are required of U.S. citizens living abroad.
The steps to sever tax residency are found in S. 7701(b) of the Internal Revenue Code. Those wishing to explore this further are invited to read my earlier posts about Gerd Topsnik: Topsnik 1 and Topsnik 2. Those “permanent residents” who qualify as “long term residents” will be subject to the S. 877A Exit Tax rules if they try to sever tax residency with the United States. It’s probably easier to secure a “permanent residence visa” for immigration purposes, than it is to sever tax residency for income tax purposes.
On September 5, 2018 I had the opportunity to participate in a conversation with Mr. Gary Clueit who has been a permanent resident of the United States for 34 years. Interestingly Mr. Clueit is one more Green Card holder who never applied for U.S. citizenship. There are both advantages and disadvantages to a “Green Card” holder becoming a U.S. citizen. One often overlooked disadvantage to a Green Card holder becoming a U.S. citizen is discussed here. In general, “permanent residents” (Green Card holders) of the United States have certain “tax treaty benefits” that are denied to U.S. citizens. Because of the “savings clause” U.S. citizens are denied the benefits of tax treaties. Interestingly (at least until now) other countries have failed to understand that the inclusion of the “savings clause” in U.S. tax treaties means that the treaty partner is agreeing that the United States can impose worldwide taxation on the citizen/residents of the treaty partner country. The reason is simple:
The primary impact of the “savings clause” is that assists the United States in imposing “worldwide taxation”, according to U.S. rules on people who are “tax residents” of other countries and who do not live in the United States!
The following tweet links to the podcast of the conversation. Anybody considering moving to the United States as a “permanent resident” should listen to this podcast.


More from Mr. Clueit after the jump …
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Considering the EB-5 Visa? The IRC S. 877A Expatriation Tax Demonstrates that "Not All US @TaxResidency Is The Same!"


Understanding U.S. Tax Residency …
The United States uses a form of “deemed tax residency“.
The Internal Revenue of the United States deems that all “individuals” (wherever they live in the world – including citizens and residents of other countries) except “nonresident aliens” are subject to taxation in the United States on their world wide income. One qualifies as a “nonresident alien” unless one is a:
1. A U.S. citizen
2. A U.S. resident as defined by Internal Revenue Code Sec. 7701(b)
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What's a #GreenCard anyway? It's NOT what you don't know. It's what you know that isn't true!

Introduction – It’s about the right to live permanently in the United States
There are tens of thousands of people who have “Green Cards” who live outside the United States. Some of them want to maintain their Green Cards which they understand to mean maintaining their right to live permanently in the United States. Otherwise do NOT want to maintain their Green Cards meaning they do NOT want to maintain their right to live permanently in the United States.
The “Green Card” itself, is different from the “right to live permanently in the United States”.
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The Green Card and the "Oh My God" Moment: You know you want to leave the USA? Not so fast!


Well he won the lottery. Specifically he won the “Green Card” lottery. He and his wife came all the way from an Asian country to “Live The Dream” – specifically the dream of living in the United States of America.
He spoke English. His wife did not speak English. He believed in strict compliance in the law. His wife relied on him to ensure her compliance with the law.
As a Green Card holder he was vaguely aware that he could be deported if he were convicted of certain kinds of offenses. But, mainly he believed in compliance with the law for its own sake.
As a Green Card holder and as a U.S. resident he was subject to laws that were never explained to him. He didn’t realize that he was taxable on his WORLD income (including a small pension that he received from his country of citizenship).
In 2009 the “Offshore Jihad” began. He didn’t think of himself as having “offshore accounts”. After all, he was a just citizen of another country. Surely it could NOT be criminal to have a bank account in his country of origin. Did he have to report his small foreign pension to the IRS? That pension was in no way related to the United States of America? And then he learned about the alphabet soup of “reporting requirements” – Mr. FBAR, Uncle FATCA, etc. He began to learn what the “reporting requirements” were. But, the penalties (as least described) were certain. He could not believe the extent of the penalties.
It was at this moment that his “Oh My God” moment began. He was confused and mentally disorganized. At that moment, all of his life assumptions were reversed.
Assumption 1: He had always believed that he was a good, moral “law abiding” person. How could it be that he was NOT in compliance with the law. He had no reason to believe that the reporting requirements would even exist.
Welcome to the United States of America where any involvement with anything “foreign” makes you a presumptive criminal.
Assumption 2: He had always believed that the United States was a “just nation”. How could the United States threaten to impose such penalties on a person in his situation?
Welcome to the United States of America where justice is NOT the norm.
What’s a poor “Green Card” holder to do?
He was ill prepared to deal with the situation in which he found himself.
He strived to learn what he could. The IRS would not answer his questions – suggesting that he go to a “tax professional”
The “tax professionals” gave him different, conflicting and contradictory answers.
His greatest frustration was that he could NOT completely understand what was expected of him – although he did understand the threat of penalties, penalties and more penalties.
He eventually decided that he had to move back to his home country. He did this NOT to escape U.S. taxation, but because:

  1. He could not completely understand what was required of him to be U.S. tax complaint; and
  2. He was worried that he would die and leave his wife in a situation where she would not know how to be U.S. tax compliant.

In order to prepare for leaving he:

  • entered the streamlined program (domestic  version) and “back filed” for 3 years
  • stayed in America for two more years so that he could certify the “five years of tax compliance” when he handed in the I-407
  • even filed the “Sailing Permit” (The 1040C) that is required of ALL aliens (resident or nonresident) when they leave the United States

He in now trying to file his final return and 8854. Fortunately he will not be subject to the S. 877A Exit Tax. He is currently focusing on staying alive long enough to complete his U.S. tax filings. He feels that it is important that he NOT die and leave the U.S. tax compliance problem to his wife.
His emotional state:
Like many he is living in a state of fear. I pointed out to him that he was a small insignificant person and that nobody in the U.S. Government cared about him. He thanked me for telling him that “nobody in the U.S. Government cared about him”. He said that it was the first time in his life that he felt good that nobody cared about him.
Epilogue:
One more day. One more life ruined. One more person chased out of America because of the Internal Revenue Code.
His greatest wish is that he lives long enough to file Form 8854 to log him and his wife out of America.
Nobody, but nobody should move to America without reading the fine print!
#YouCantMakeThisUp!
John Richardson
 
 
 
 
 

The teaching of Topsnik 2 – 2016: #Greencard expatriation and the S. 877A "Exit Tax"

What! You want to abandon your Green Card and leave the USA!


Introduction – Introducing Gerd Topsnik – The World According to Facebook

“This case will be seen as the first of an (eventual) series of cases that determine how the definition of “long term resident” applies to Green Card holders. The case makes clear that if one does NOT meet the treaty definition of “resident” in the second country, that one
cannot use that treaty to defeat the “long term resident” test. A subsequent case is sure to expand on this issue. Otherwise, the case confirms that the S. 877A Exit Tax rules are “alive and well” and that the “5 year certification” test must be met to avoid “non-covered status”
Topsnik may or may not be a “bad guy”. But even “bad guys” are entitled to have the law properly applied to their facts. It would be very interesting to know how the court would have responded if Topsnik had been paying tax (a nice taxpayer) in Germany as a German resident.”

A nice summary of Topnik 1 and Topsnik 2


This is part of a series of posts on: (1) “tax residency“, (2) the use of “treaty tiebreakers” when an individual is a “tax resident” of more than one jurisdiction and (3) how to use “treaty tiebreakers” to end “tax residency” in an undesirable tax jurisdiction.
This is the second of the two Topsnik posts.
Topsnik 1 focused on the “tax residence” of Green Card Holders. The decision in Topsnik 1 is here:
topsnikdiv.halpern.TC.WPD
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The teaching of Topsnik 1 – 2014: Taxation for #GreenCard @TaxResidency and "tax treaty tiebreakers"

Introduction
This is part of a series of posts on: (1) “tax residency“, (2) the use of “treaty tiebreakers” when an individual is a “tax resident” of more than one jurisdiction and (3) how to use “treaty tiebreakers” to end “tax residency” in an undesirable tax jurisdiction.
Topsnik 1: It’s about the taxation (not expatriation) of  Green Card Holders
The 2014 decision in Topsnik is an interesting example of how these components interact. Mr. Topsnik was given a Green Card in 1977. He moved from the United States in 2003 and did NOT formally abandon his Green Card. He then attempted to argue that because he was a “tax resident” of Germany that he could use a “treaty tie breaker” to argue that he was NOT a “U.S tax resident”.
In summary the court ruled on a number of questions which INCLUDED:
1. Was Mr. Topsnik a U.S. “tax resident”?
Because Mr Topsnik never formally abandoned his Green Card (as required by the regulations) that he WAS a “U.S. tax resident” for ALL relevant years. This meant that he was taxable in the United States on all of his world income.
For clarity the regulations to Internal Revenue Code 7701(b) specifically state:

(b)Lawful permanent resident –
(1)Green card test. An alien is a resident alien with respect to a calendar year if the individual is a lawful permanent resident at any time during the calendar year. A lawful permanent resident is an individual who has been lawfully granted the privilege of residing permanently in the United States as an immigrant in accordance with the immigration laws. Resident status is deemed to continue unless it is rescinded or administratively or judicially determined to have been abandoned.
(2)Rescission of resident status. Resident status is considered to be rescinded if a final administrative or judicial order of exclusion or deportation is issued regarding the alien individual. For purposes of this paragraph, the term “final judicial order” means an order that is no longer subject to appeal to a higher court of competent jurisdiction.
(3)Administrative or judicial determination of abandonment of resident status. An administrative or judicial determination of abandonment of resident status may be initiated by the alien individual, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), or a consular officer. If the alien initiates this determination, resident status is considered to be abandoned when the individual’s application for abandonment (INS Form I-407) or a letter stating the alien’s intent to abandon his or her resident status, with the Alien Registration Receipt Card (INS Form I-151 or Form I-551) enclosed, is filed with the INS or a consular officer. If INS replaces any of the form numbers referred to in this paragraph or § 301.7701(b)-2(f), refer to the comparable INS replacement form number. For purposes of this paragraph, an alien individual shall be considered to have filed a letter stating the intent to abandon resident status with the INS or a consular office if such letter is sent by certified mail, return receipt requested (or a foreign country’s equivalent thereof). A copy of the letter, along with proof that the letter was mailed and received, should be retained by the alien individual. If the INS or a consular officer initiates this determination, resident status will be considered to be abandoned upon the issuance of a final administrative order of abandonment. If an individual is granted an appeal to a federal court of competent jurisdiction, a final judicial order is required.

Green Card holders must understand that they do NOT end their status as “U.S. tax residents” by leaving the United States and taking up residence in another country! Specific steps (related to notification) are required.
2. Could Mr. Topsnik use the “treaty tiebreaker” to argue that he was a “tax resident” of Germany and NOT a “tax resident” of the United States?
No. The use of a “treaty tiebreaker” requires that an individual be a “tax resident” of both countries. In this case the “treaty tie breaker” could be used ONLY if Mr. Topsnik was a “tax resident” of both Germany and the United States. The court held that Mr. Topsnik was NOT a “tax resident” of Germany but was a “tax resident” of the United States.
Note that the fact that Mr. Topsnik was NOT a “tax resident” of Germany meant that he was NOT eligible to use the “tax treaty tie breaker” rules. Eligibility to use the “tax treaty tie breaker” rules would NOT guarantee that Mr. Topsnik would be a “German tax resident”.
Conclusion: Mr. Topsnik was ONLY a “U.S. tax resident” and was therefore taxable in the United States on his world income!
Moral of the story: If a Green Card Holder ceases to reside in the United States he as NOT ended his status as a U.S. “tax resident”.
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Green Card Holders and #Americansabroad: "Residence", "Long Term Residence" and the S. 877A "Exit Tax"

Tax jurisdiction and residential ties
The two types of residential ties considered for all aliens
When considering the meaning of “residence” for tax purposes, attempting to ascribe a place of “residence “to an individual, and imposing taxation on individuals, the Internal Revenue Code considers:
A. The extent of “residential ties” to the United States; and
B. The extent of “residential ties” to another country.
We see both aspects of residence considered as a way to defeat the “substantial presence” test in Internal Revenue Code S. 7701(b). If the country of residence is uncertain, or if a person is considered to be a “tax resident” of the United States and another country, the Internal Revenue Code considers ties to both the United States and the other country in question.
For “resident aliens” (Green Card Holders):
– both past and present residential ties to the United States and to other nations are considered in at least three ways under the Internal Revenue Code itself; and
– residential ties to both the United States and the other country of residence are considered in determining residence under Article IV of the Canada U.S. (and other) tax treaties**.
Green Card Holders and tax residence
A previous post discussed the fact that:

  1. Internal Revenue Code S. 7701(a)(30) defines “U.S. Persons” as including “citizens” and “residents”
  2. The combined effect of Internal Revenue Code S. 7701(b)(1) and S. 7701(b)(6) define Green Card Holders in a way that ensures that they meet the statutory test of “residence”. (Of course Green Card Holders  may be able to defeat the status of “resident” by making use of the Treaty Election in Article IV of the Tax Treaty)
  3. The statutory defenses to “residence” found in S. 7701(b) of the Internal Revenue Code, available to “aliens” who are NOT Green Card Holders, take into account and are a function of the extent of residential ties to other jurisdictions

Residence matters and residence matters hugely. Hence, the definition of “resident” matters and matters hugely.
Congress has directed its attention to the question of the kind of physical connection to the United States, that justifies deeming one to be a “resident” for tax purposes. Interestingly, the definition of “citizenship” has NOT received the same attention. Nor is “U.S. citizen” defined in the Internal Revenue Code.
The purpose of this post is to consider how actual U.S. residence affects the taxation of Green Card Holders.
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