Category Archives: savings clause

Part 2 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 second 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.) 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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Part 29 – Can the full Canadian tax paid personally on distributions from Sec. 965 income be used to offset the @USTransitionTax

Introduction – As the year of the “transition tax” comes to an end with no relief for Americans abroad (who could have known?)
As 2018 comes to and end (as does my series of posts about the transition tax) many individuals are still trying to decide how to respond to the Sec. 965 “transition tax” problem. The purpose of this post is to summarize what I believe is the universe of different ways that one can approach Sec. 965 transition tax compliance. These approaches have been considered at various times and in different posts over the last year. As 2018 comes to an end the tax compliance industry is confused about what to do. The taxpayers are confused about what to do. For many individuals they must choose between: bad and uncertain compliance or no attempt at compliance. (I add that the same is true of the Sec. 951A GILTI provisions which took effect on January 1, 2018.)
But first – a reminder: This tax was NEVER intended to apply to Americans abroad!!!
A recent post by Dr. Karen Alpert – “Fixing the Transition Tax for Individual Shareholders” – includes:

There have been several international tax reform proposals in the past decade, some of which are variations on the final Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) package. None of these proposals even considered the interaction of the proposed changes with taxing based on citizenship. One even suggested completely repealing the provision that eliminates US tax on dividends out of previously taxed income because corporate shareholders would no longer be paying US tax on those dividends anyway.

and later that …

One of the obstacles often mentioned when it comes to a legislative fix is the perceived requirement that any change be “revenue neutral”. While this is understandable given the current US budget deficit, it shouldn’t apply to this particular fix because the transition tax liability of individual US Shareholders of CFCs was not included in the original estimates of transition tax revenue.

The bottom line is:
Congress did not consider whether the transition tax would apply to Americans abroad and therefore did not intend for the transition tax to apply to them. Within hours of release of the legislation, the tax compliance industry, while paying no attention to the intent of the legislation, began a compliance campaign to assist owners of Canadian Controlled Private Corporations to turn their retirement savings over to the IRS. There was (in general) no “push back” from the compliance industry. There was little attempt on the part of the compliance industry to analyze the intent of the legislation. In general (there are always exceptions – many who I know personally – who have done excellent work), the compliance industry failed their clients. By not considering the intent of the legislation and not considering responses consistent with that intent, the compliance industry effectively created the “transition tax”.
In fairness to the industry, Treasury has given little guidance to practitioners and the guidance given came late in the year. In fairness to Treasury, by granting the two filing extensions, Treasury made some attempt to do, what they thought they could, within the parameters of the legislation.
The purpose of this post …
This post will summarize (but not discuss) the various options. There is no generally preferred option. This is not “one size fits all”. The response chosen will largely depend in the “stage in life” of the individual. Younger people can pay/absorb the “transition tax”. For people closer to retirement, for whom the retained earnings in their corporations are their pensions: compliance will result in the destruction of your retirement.
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Canada U.S. Tax Treaty – Article XXVIA: How the 5th Protocol Enhances protection for Canadian citizens


Introduction – The Purpose of this post
This is an addition to “The Little Red Tax Treaty Book“.
I was recently asked the following question:
I heard that the Canada U.S. Tax Treaty means that the Canada Revenue Agency will not help the United States collect a U.S. tax debt on a Canadian citizen, provided that the person was a Canadian citizen at the time the U.S. tax debt arose. But, what if the person was NOT a Canadian citizen when the U.S. tax debt arose? Will the Canada Revenue Agency help the United States collect U.S. tax debt?
My answer to the question:
On September 21, 2007 Canada and the United States signed the 5th Protocol to the Canada U.S. tax treaty (first entered into in 1980). As a result of the 5th protocol, Paragraph 8 (a) of Article XXVIA now reads:
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Part 9: Responding to the Sec. 965 “transition tax”: From the "Pax Americana" to the "Tax Americana"


This is the ninth in my series of posts about the Sec. 965 Transition Tax and whether/how it applies to the small business corporations owned by taxpaying residents of other countries (who may also have U.S. citizenship). These small business corporations are in no way “foreign”. They are certainly “local” to the resident of another country who just happens to have the misfortune of being a U.S. citizen.
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Does the end of #OVDP signal a move FROM the "voluntary disclosure" model TO the "enforcement model"?

The IRS recently announced that it was ending OVDP – the “Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program.”
The reaction of the “tax compliance community has been largely that the “retiring” of the OVDP program should be interpreted to be a “last, best chance to come into compliance!” A comment at the Isaac Brock Society asks:

“Those who still wish to come forward have time to do so.”
I haven’t finished reading John’s farewell to OVDP but that IRS statement caught my eye. It does NOT say “who must come forward” or “who have yet to come forward”. Who the heck would ever “wish” to come forward, especially after reading about Just Me’s trial by OVDP fire and the betrayal of trust suffered by our dear Dr. Marcus Marcio Pinheiro (aka markpinetree)?

I suppose there could be two possible reasons:
1. The OVDP program could be replaced with something worse; and/or
2. There could be some (few and far between) situations where OVDP might actually be better than streamlined.


What do the “tax professionals” think? A collection of comments from the twittersphere follows:


Interestingly, the IRS announcement was accompanied by the statement that:

The planned end of the current OVDP also reflects advances in third-party reporting and increased awareness of U.S. taxpayers of their offshore tax and reporting obligations.

A comment from the Isaac Brock Society asks:

Doesn’t this just mean that they will move from the “voluntary disclosure” model to the “enforcement model” where they will begin to use the information gathered in FATCA, etc, to send notices to people with large fines?
To me, this sounds more like a gunshot that begins the battle between the IRS and expats versus an expat victory.

And in the real world …
Last week I was shown a sample of an IRS form letter received by an elderly American woman who has (apparently) not lived in the United States for fifty years. During those fifty years she had dutifully and responsibly filed her U.S. tax returns. Of course, she was living in a “foreign” country outside the United States.
Those interested might have a look at the following form letter she received. Notice that the letter appears to have been prompted because the IRS received information that she had an account at a “foreign bank”.
IRS – ltr form 6019
Looks like quite the fishing expedition to me. What a “penalty laden” list of possible accusations. Would you like to receive a letter like this about your “local” bank accounts?

Part 3: Responding to the Sec. 965 "transition tax": They hate you for (and want) your pensions!


Introduction
This is the third in my series of posts about the Sec. 965 Transition Tax and whether/how it applies to the small business corporations owned by tax paying residents of other countries (who may also have U.S. citizenship). These small business corporations are in no way “foreign”. They are certainly “local” to the resident of another country who just happens to have the misfortune of being a U.S. citizen.
The first two posts were:
Part 1: Responding to The Section 965 “transition tax”: “Resistance is futile” but “Compliance is impossible”
Part 2: Responding to The Section 965 “transition tax”: Is “resistance futile”? The possible use of the Canada U.S. tax treaty to defeat the “transition tax”
Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it
Immediately prior to the passing of President Obama’s “Affordable Care Act” (which was subsequently ruled to be constitutional BECAUSE it was a “tax”), legislators were faced with a comprehensive, complex and incomprehensible piece of legislation. Very few members of Congress understood the details and impact of what they were voting for.


Nancy Pelosi secured her in place of history by suggesting that:
“We really need to pass the law so that you can see what’s in it!”
Ms. Pelosi meant (I think) that it’s one thing to know what a law says. It’s quite another to know how it actually impacts people.
Notwithstanding the April 15, 2018 deadline for the first “transition tax” payment, very few “tax professionals” understand what the Internal Revenue Code Sec. 965 “transition tax” says, (let alone what it actually might mean – assuming it applies).
What the application of the “transition tax” might actually mean in the life of an individual owner of a Canadian Controlled Private Corporation
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Part 2: Responding to The Section 965 "transition tax": Is "resistance futile"? The possible use of the Canada U.S. tax treaty to defeat the "transition tax"

Beginning with the conclusion (for those who don’t want to read the post) …

For the reasons given in this post, I believe that there are grounds to argue that the imposition of the Sec. 965 “transition tax” on Canadian resident/citizens DOES violate the Canada U.S. tax treaty. It is my hope that this post will generate some badly needed discussion on this issue.
If you are an individual who believes you may be impacted by the “transition tax”, you should consider raising this issue with the Competent Authority. I would be happy to explore this with you.

Need some background on the Sec. 965 “U.S. transition tax”?
The following tweet references a 7 part video series about the Internal Revenue Code Sec. 965 “Transition Tax” created by John Richardson and Dr. Karen Alpert.


(Video 6 gives examples of what various approaches to “Transition Tax Compliance” might look like.)
A reminder of what the possible imposition of the “transition tax” would mean to certain Canadian residents

Interesting article that demonstrates the impact of the U.S. tax policy of (1) exporting the Internal Revenue Code to other countries and (2) using the Internal Revenue Code to impose direct taxation on the “tax residents” of those other countries.
Some thoughts on this:
1. Different countries have different “cultures” of financial planning and carrying on businesses. The U.S. tax culture is such that an individual carrying on a business through a corporation is considered to be a “presumptive tax cheat”. This is NOT so in other countries. For example, in Canada (and other countries), it is normal for people to use small business corporations to both carry on business and create private pension plans. So, the first point that must be understood is that (if this tax applies) it is in effect a “tax” (actually it’s confiscation) of private pension plans!!! That’s what it actually is. The suggestion in one of the comments that these corporations were created to somehow avoid “self-employment” tax (although possibly true in countries that don’t have totalization agreements) is generally incorrect. I suspect that the largest number of people affected by this are in Canada and the U.K. which are countries which do have “totalization agreements”.
2. None of the people interviewed, made the point (or at least it was not reported) that this “tax” as applied to individuals is actually higher than the “tax” as applied to corporations. In the case of individuals the tax would be about 17.5% and not the 15.5% for corporations. (And individuals do not get the benefit of a transition to “territorial taxation”.)
3. As Mr. Bruce notes people will not easily be able to pay this. There is no realization event whatsoever. It’s just: (“Hey, we see there is some money there, let’s take it). Because there is no realization event, this should be viewed as an “asset confiscation” and not as a “tax”.
4. Understand that this is a pool of capital that was NEVER subject to U.S. taxation on the past. Therefore, if this is a tax at all, it should be viewed as a “retroactive tax”.
5. Under general principles of law, common sense and morality (does any of this matter?) the retained earnings of non-U.S. corporations are first subject to taxation by the country of incorporation. The U.S. “transition tax” is the creation of a “fictitious taxable event” which results in a preemptive “tax strike” against the tax base of other countries. If this is allowed under tax treaties, it’s only because when the treaties were signed, nobody could have imagined anything this outrageous.
6. It is obvious that this was NEVER INTENDED TO APPLY TO Americans abroad. Furthermore, no individual would even imagine that this could apply to them without “Education provided by the tax compliance industry”. Those in the industry should figure out how to argue that this was never intended to apply to Americans abroad, that there is no suggestion from the IRS that this applies to Americans abroad, that there is no legislative history suggesting that this applies to Americans abroad, and that this should not be applied to Americans abroad.
7. Finally, the title of this article refers to “Americans abroad”. This is a gross misstatement of the reality. The problem is that these (so called) “Americans abroad” are primarily the citizens and “tax residents” of other countries – that just happen to have been born in the United States. They have no connection to the USA. Are these citizen/residents of other countries (many who don’t even identify as Americans) expected to simply “turn over” their retirement plans to the IRS???? Come on!

Some of these thoughts are explored in an earlier post: “U.S. Tax Reform and the “nonresident corporation owner”: Does the Section 965 “transition tax apply”?
And now, on to our “regularly scheduled programming”: The possible use of the U.S. Canada Tax Treaty to as a defense to the U.S. “transition tax”

In Part 1 of this series, I wrote: “Responding to the Section 965 “transition tax”: “Resistance is futile and compliance is impossible“. I ended that post with a reminder that the imposition of Section 965 “transition tax” on Canadian residents has (at least) four characteristics:

1.The U.S. Transition Tax is a U.S. tax on the “undistributed earnings” of a Canadian corporation; and
2. Absent deliberate and expensive mitigation provisions, the U.S. transition tax contemplates the “double taxation” of Canadian residents who hold U.S. citizenship.
3. The “transition tax” is a preemptive “tax strike” against a corporation in Canada. Historically Canada would have the first right of taxation over Canadian companies.
4. The U.S. Transition Tax creates a “fictitious” taxable event. It is not triggered by any action on the part of the shareholder.

The purpose of this post is to argue that the Canada U.S. tax treaty may be a defense to the application of the Section 965 “Transition Tax”
Part A – Exploring  what a “Subpart F” inclusion really is
Part B – The Canada U.S. Tax Treaty: Relevant provisions

Part C – Impact of the “Savings Clause”
Part D – The Interpretation of the tax treaty: WHO interprets the treaty and HOW is the treaty to be interpreted
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Part 1: Responding to The Section 965 "transition tax": "Resistance is futile" but "Compliance is impossible"

Introduction and background …

“This legislation is being interpreted by a number of tax professionals to mean that individual U.S. citizens living outside the United States are required to simply “fork over” a percentage of the value of their small business corporations to the IRS. Although technically “CFCs” these companies are certainly NOT foreign to the people who use them to run businesses that are local to their country of residence. Furthermore, the “culture” of Canadian Controlled Private Corporations is that they are actually used as “private pension plans”. So, an unintended consequence of the Tax Cuts Jobs Act would be that individuals living in Canada are somehow required to collapse their pension plans and turn the proceeds over to the U.S. government” -John Richardson

I have previously suggested that the Section 965 “transition tax” should not be interpreted to apply to Americans abroad. This argument was based largely on a “lack of legislative intention” coupled with the fact that individuals (whether in the USA or living abroad) do NOT get the benefits of the transition to “territorial taxation”.
These are difficult times for many Canadians who are the owners of Canadian Controlled Private Corporations. Canadian residents use Canadian Controlled Private Corporations (“CCPCs”) to operate small businesses and to create pension plans for their retirement. Importantly a Canadian corporation meets the definition of a “CCPC” only if it is controlled by residents of Canada. By definition all “CCPCs” are local to their owners. The use of “CCPCs” reflects the reality of Canadian tax laws going back to 1972. Governments the world over are taking steps to ensure that corporations cannot be used for the deferral or avoidance of taxation.
The election of the Trudeau Liberals resulted in the Government of Canada taking an interest in “Tax Reform” (or at least “tax reform” in relation to Canadian Controlled Private Corporations). On February 27, 2018 Finance Minister Morneau delivered the Liberals third budget. Although not widely publicized, the budget including major changes in how the passive income of CCPCs is to be taxed in Canada.
Of course those “CCPC” owners who have U.S. citizenship must also deal with the U.S. tax system. Interestingly, both the Government of Canada and the Government of the United States have the owners of “CCPCs” on their radar.
Canada – On the “Home front” (meaning in Canada) the Liberal Government of Justin Trudeau and Finance Minister Bill Morneau are targeting the “retained earnings” in their corporations. Specifically they believe that “retained earnings” that were subject to the lower small business tax rate provide an unfair tax deferral, resulting in more capital to invest, which allows for the creation of additional passive income. The February 27, 2018 Canadian budget is a direct response to this perception.
The United States – The “Homeland” has just passed the TCJA (“Tax Cuts Jobs Act”). One provision of the TCJA amended Internal Revenue Code Section 965 to impose a one time tax on the “United States shareholders” of “Deferred Foreign Income Corporations” (a “DFIC”). This tax is based on the “undistributed earnings” of corporations. The application of this tax to U.S. citizens living outside the United States is newsworthy, is debatable (and is being debated). The application of the Section 965 “transition tax (assuming the applicability of the tax to Canadian resident owners of “CCPcs”), would be a direct, retroactive tax on the “retained earnings” of Canadian Controlled Private Corporations. Notably these “retained earnings” were NEVER subject to U.S. taxation before (it’s retroactive). The mechanism that the U.S. Government is using to impose direct taxation on the retained earnings of “CCPCs” is to (1) attribute the corporate undistributed earnings to the individual shareholder and (2) impose taxation directly on the individual shareholder. For “Tax Geeks” (and those who want boring cocktail conversation), from a U.S. perspective this process of income attribution is called “Subpart F” income. (You can learn all about it by reading Internal Revenue Code Sections 951 – 965). I emphasize that a Subpart F inclusion (by definition) attributes corporate income to a “shareholder” without any realization event whatsoever.
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Part 2: The problem is NOT “worldwide taxation”. The problem is imposing “worldwide taxation” on people who don’t live in the South Africa or the USA and are “tax residents’ of other countries.

As goes taxation, so goes civilization.
This is Part 2 of my post discussing the South Africa tax situation. Part 1 is here.


This is a follow up to my post exploring whether South Africa is moving to a tax system that is based on “citizenship-based taxation” or (in the case of the United States of America) “taxation-based citizenship”. That post was the result of a “special request”. The response from that first post included:

I now understand the difference between the SA system and the US. I believe that the similarity that caused the consternation when this first came up was the issue of “tax residency”. CBT mandates that those declared US citizens by the US are simultaneously declared US tax residents. In a similar fashion SA has a concept of tax residency that *does* include some people who do not physically reside in SA but NOT just because they’re citizens. I get it. Thanks again for clarifying this!
That being said, I think the term “tax residency” is crazy. I wish that someone with the power to influence terminology in the general usage of language could come up with something that accurately describes the basis on which a person can be taxed by a country in which that person does not live. Taxes don’t reside; people do, and they can only live one place at a time. Any ideas? 🙂

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13 Reasons Why I Committed #Citizide: (Inspired by the television series, 13 Reasons Why)

Update – November 2, 2018 to include – “Retain or Renounce” Information session held in Brisbane Australia on October 25, 2018


Introduction – Guest post by a perfectly ordinary person who renounced U.S. citizenship for perfectly ordinary reasons


In a recent submission to Senator Hatch  I argued that what the United States thinks of as “citizenship-based taxation”, is actually a system where the United States imposes U.S. taxation on the residents and citizens of other countries. That submission included:

On July 4, 2017, Americans living inside the USA celebrated the “4th of July” holiday – a day that Americans celebrate their independence and freedom.
On that same day, I had meetings with SEVEN American dual citizens, living outside the United States. This “Group of Seven” were in various stages of RENOUNCING their U.S. citizenship. Each of them was also a citizen and tax paying resident of another country. They varied widely in wealth, age, occupation, religion, and political orientation. Some of them have difficulty in affording the $2350 USD “renunciation fee” imposed by the U.S. Government. Some of the SEVEN identify as being American and some did NOT identify as being American. But each of them had one thing in common. They were renouncing their U.S. citizenship in order to gain the freedom that Americans have been taught to believe is their “birth right”.

On August 2, 2017 posts at the Isaac Brock Society and numerous other sources, reported that that there were 1759 expatriates reported in the second quarter report in the Federal Register. The number of people renouncing U.S. citizenship continues to grow.
Now on to the guest post by Jane Doe, which is a very articulate description of the reasons why people living outside the United States feel forced to renounce U.S. citizenship.
John Richardson
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