Category Archives: Subpart F

Part 42 – In Moore The Supreme Court Should Consider The Retroactive Nature Of The Transition Tax

Prologue – Taxation, Fairness And “The Man On The Street”

Imagine asking an individual (who was not a tax academic, lawyer or accountant) the following two questions:

1. Do you think that people should be forced to pay taxes on income never received?

2. Do you think people should be forced to pay taxes on income from the previous 30 years that they had never received?

The average person would be shocked by the possibility of this.

It may be difficult for the average person to understand Subpart F’s attribution of the income of a corporation to a shareholder. The average person would not doubt the unfairness of attributing 30 years of untaxed earnings of the corporation to the shareholder (especially when the income was never received by the shareholder).

Moore and Retroactivity – The Readers Digest Version

This history of the Moore case is described by Professors Brooks and Gamage as follows:

The taxpayers brought suit challenging the MRT, arguing that it was an unapportioned direct tax and therefore in violation of the Constitution.25 (They also argued that its seeming retroactivity was in violation of the Due Process clause of the Fifth Amendment,26 though this was not the main focus of the case, nor did the dissenters address it, nor do the petitioners raise the issue in the cert petition, so we put that claim aside.27) The district court dismissed the claim, and a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit unanimously affirmed the dismissal.28 The taxpayers’ subsequent petition for rehearing and rehearing en banc was denied.29

The Chamber of Commerce’s amicus cert brief filed on March 27, 2023 included on page 18:

The Constitution imposes numerous safeguards that prevent the government from making rapid changes that would unsettle expectations. Such principles “find[] expression in several [constitutional] provisions,” Landgraf v. USI Film Prods., 511 U.S. 244, 265 (1994), and often implicate tax laws.

First, “a retroactive tax provision [can be] so harsh and oppressive as to transgress the constitutional limitation” of due process. Carlton, 512 U.S. at 30. When “Congress act[s] promptly and establishe[s] only a modest period of retroactivity,” like “only slightly greater than one year,” a tax law’s retroactive effect has been deemed permissible. Id. at 32–33. But a tax law that deals with a “novel development” regarding “a transfer that occurred 12 years earlier” has been held unconstitutional. Id. at 34 (discussing Nichols v. Coolidge, 274 U.S. 531 (1927)). Here, of course, the Ninth Circuit called the MRT a “novel concept,” and it reached back—not one, not twelve—but more than thirty years into the past, long after companies made decisions about where to locate their long-term as- sets.2 App 6. The MRT’s aggressive retroactivity showcases the danger of unmooring income from its defining principle of realization. Erasing the realization requirement upends taxpayer expectations—leaving them looking over their shoulders for what unrealized gain Congress might next call “income.”

How “retroactivity” was considered by the District Court and the 9th Circuit

The District court specifically found that the transition tax was a retroactive tax, but ruled that the retroactivity did NOT violate the 5th Amendment. The 9th Circuit “assumed” (without considering) the retroactivity of the tax and like the District Court ruled that the retroactivity did NOT violate the 5th Amendment.

The Supreme Court granted the cert petition based only on the question of whether the 16th amendment requires income to be “realized”. The issue in Moore is whether 30 years of income realized by a CFC, never distributed to the US shareholder, and never previously taxable to the U.S. shareholder (under Subpart F) in that 30 year period, can be deemed to be “income” and taxed directly to the U.S. citizen shareholder in 2017.

Can a current attribution to a shareholder, of income earned by a corporation 30 years ago, meet the constitutional requirement of “income” under the 16th Amendment?

A ruling that 30 years of retroactive income could not qualify as 16th Amendment income might allow the court to:

1. Provide relief to the Moores (and other individual shareholders of CFCs); and

2. Avoid ruling on the broader and more general issue of realization.

Arguably a finding of “retroactivity” could mean that (whether realized or not), income earned by the CFC in the past 30 years cannot be considered to be current “income” under the 16th Amendment.

The purpose of this post is to focus on the issue of retroactivity. I do not believe that “retroactivity” was properly analyzed by either the District Court or 9th Circuit.

This post is divided into the following parts:

Part A – Introduction – Thinking about taxation of income
Part B – What is it about the “transition tax” that raises the question of retroactivity?
Part C – Retroactivity and the “Carlton” standard
Part D – Discussion of retroactivity: District Court Decision Moore
Part E – Discussion of retroactivity – 9th Circuit – Moore
Part F – Concluding thoughts …
Appendixes – Excerpts from relevant cases and articles
Appendix A – Excerpt from Hank Adler interview discussing the retroactive nature of the MRT
Appendix B – Moore District Court
Appendix C – Moore the 9th Circuit
Appendix D – Quarty
Appendix E – Justice Blackmun’s majority decision in Carlton
Appendix F – Justice O’Connor concurrence in Carlton
Appendix G – Justice Scalia and Justice Thomas in Carlton

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Part 41 – The Six Faces Of The 965 Transition Tax – The Ugliest Face Applies To Americans Abroad

Part I: Introduction – What Is The Transition Tax?

“Tell me who you are. Then I’ll tell you how the law applies to you!” I’ll also tell you whether you are a “winner” or a “loser” under this law.

At the end of 2017, Congress was enacting the TCJA. A major purpose of the TCJA was to lower U.S. corporate tax rates from 35% to 21%. This was a huge benefit to U.S. multinationals. One Congressional concern was how to find additional tax revenue in order to compensate the Treasury Department for the reduction in tax revenue which would result in lower receipts from corporations. Congress needed to find some additional tax revenue. They found this additional tax revenue by creating “new income” from the past and taxing that newly created income in the present. In fact, Congress said:

Let there be income! And there was income …

Significantly, Congress didn’t create any real income. No taxpayer actually received any income. The income created by Congress was not “real income”. Rather it was “deemed income”. But, this “deemed income” was intended to appear on tax returns. Real tax was payable on this “deemed” income.

Such, is the beginning of the story of the IRC 965 Transition Tax. The Transition Tax was a benefit to U.S. multinationals and destroyed the lives of individual U.S. citizens living outside the United States who organized their businesses, lives and retirement planning (as did their neighbours) through small business corporations.

This post identifies different groups impacted by the Transition Tax and the “winners” and “losers”.

Introducing the IRC 965 U.S. Transition Tax

26 U.S. Code § 965 – Treatment of deferred foreign income upon transition to participation exemption system of taxation

(a) Treatment of deferred foreign income as subpart F income

In the case of the last taxable year of a deferred foreign income corporation which begins before January 1, 2018, the subpart F income of such foreign corporation (as otherwise determined for such taxable year under section 952) shall be increased by the greater of—

(1) the accumulated post-1986 deferred foreign income of such corporation determined as of November 2, 2017, or
(2) the accumulated post-1986 deferred foreign income of such corporation determined as of December 31, 2017.

https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/26/965

Part II: The Reader’s Digest Version – The Six Faces Of The Transition Tax

The six “faces” of the 965 transition tax include the faces of five different kinds of “U.S. Persons”. The sixth face is the country where a U.S. citizen was living. Some are winners and some are losers. A list of winners and losers includes:

Three Winners

1. Winner: A U.S. C corp: Typically a U.S. multinational – Received value in return for being subjected to the transition tax

2. Winner: The individual shareholder of a U.S. S corp: Can opt to have the “deemed income inclusion” of 965 to NOT apply – Escaped the application of the transition tax

3. Winner: Green Card holder who is a “treaty nonresident”: Can escape U.S. taxation on “foreign source income – Escaped the application of the transition tax

Three Losers:

4. Loser: A U.S. resident individual (U.S. citizen or resident): The Moores – Subject to the transition tax, received nothing in return and likely subject to double taxation

5. Biggest Loser: A U.S. citizen living outside the United States who is a tax resident of another country: More of a loser than the Moore’s – what if the Moores had lived in British Columbia Canada? – Subject to the transition tax, received nothing in return, likely subject to double taxation on business income earned and retained by their “foreign corporation”. But unlike the Moore’s they live outside the United States as “tax residents” of another country. Unlike the Moore’s their CFC was likely not a simple investment in the shares of another company. Rather their CFC was likely the equivalent of a pension, created and encouraged by the tax laws of their country of residence. While the Moore’s experienced “double taxation” on an investment, the U.S. citizen abroad experienced the confiscation of their retirement pension. Individual shareholders of a CFC who live in the United States were affected quite differently from individual shareholders who live outside the United States.

6. Indirect Loser: The countries where overseas Americans are resident were also damaged by the transition tax: Many countries (example Canada) incentivize the creation of private pension plans through the use of private corporations. The effect of the transition tax was effectively to “loot” the retained earnings of those private corporations that were intended to be pension plans for residents of other countries. This is a particularly ugly manifestations of U.S. citizenship taxation and is a graphic example of how US citizenship taxation operates to extract working capital from other sovereign countries.

Significantly the biggest losers in the application of the 965 transition tax are Americans living outside the United States!

The transition tax confiscated the retained earnings of their local business corporations. Because they are tax residents of other countries, there was no prospect of the corporation’s earnings being repatriated to the United States. The corporation’s earnings were the pension/retirement plans for those individuals.

To put it simply:

The Treasury Department – via IRC 965 – effectively “looted” the retained earnings of small business corporations located outside the United States. The justification for the “looting” was that more than 50% of the shares were “owned” by U.S. citizens. The 2017 US Transition Tax was the ugliest face of the Transition Tax and a particularly ugly manifestation of U.S. citizenship taxation!

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Part 40 – The Moore @USTransitionTax Appeal: Unrealized Income And Attacking The “Wealth Of OTHER Nations”

Introduction

The Moore’s are U.S. residents who happen to be the U.S. shareholders of a CFC (“Controlled Foreign Corporation”). In basic terms, the Moore’s transition tax appeal is based on the fact that (1) although the Moore’s received no distribution from the CFC, they (2) were deemed to have received a distribution and required to treat the “deemed distribution” as U.S. taxable income. In other words, they paid “real tax” on “pretend income”. In a previous post I demonstrated how the “transition tax” AKA “repatriation tax” (taxation of “unrealized gains”) resulted in pure double taxation.

The double taxation caused by the transition tax was the result of:

1. The creation of a fictitious realization event which generated a U.S. tax before an actual realization event in India; coupled with

2. A later, ACTUAL realization event in India which generated an additional tax in India.

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Part 39 – The § 965 Transition Tax: Congress Said: “Let There Be Income And There Was Income”

Outline

Part A – Prologue And Introduction
Part B – A wealth tax may NOT be a 16th Amendment income tax
Part C – The identification of existing income, new income and retroactivity
Part D – “Deferred income”: A newly created form of income or previously existing income exempt from taxation
Part E – The Moore’s visit the Supreme Court Of The United States – The Government’s Response
Part F – Conclusion

Part A – Prologue And Introduction

The Moore transition tax appeal is about whether “income” under the 16th Amendment requires “realization” in order to qualify as income. Resolution of this issue requires an analysis of both the meaning of “income” (whatever “income” may mean) and whether “income” must be “realized” to meet constitutional requirements. Generally, the taxation of income receives its constitutional legitimacy because of the 16th amendment which reads:

The Congress shall have the power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.”

The 16th Amendment (1) creates the constitutional jurisdiction for Congress to tax “incomes” but (2) extends the constitutional jurisdiction to tax, ONLY to “income”.

The 16th Amendment does NOT say that Congress has the power to collect taxes on anything that Congress decides to designate as income. Rather the 16th Amendment specifies a tax on “income”. In this respect, the 16th Amendment implies that there are limitations on the kinds of “accessions to wealth, clearly realized, and over which the taxpayers have complete dominion” (or other events) that qualify as income. Something must have some objective characteristics in order to qualify as “income”. Perhaps an “event”. Perhaps an “accession to wealth”. Perhaps “realization”. Perhaps something else.

Income must meet some necessary and objective requirements

The word “income” (difficult as it may be to define) must have some “objective” limitation. Absent an “objective” limitation, Congress could simply “designate” anything as income and then impose taxation on it. Specifically legislating something as income is neither a necessary (See IRC § 61) nor sufficient condition (possibly the 965 transition tax) for something to objectively qualify as income. (That said, there are some who believe that there are no constitutional limitations on what Congress may define as income.)

Income must have some objective meaning and some objective limitation.

In summary:

To be taxable under the 16th Amendment, something must qualify as income.

Although income may not be possible to define with precision and certainty, there are certain things that clearly are NOT income.

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Part 38 – The § 965 Transition Tax Caused The Moore’s To Pay $14,712 Moore In Double Taxation

In my last post I discussed the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear the Moore’s challenge to the 965 Transition Tax.

A direct link to the Supreme Court site which will track the progress and filings of all briefs (including what are expected to be a large number of amicus briefs) is here.

Although the 965 Transition Tax was the fact that prompted the litigation, the issue as framed for the Supreme Court was:

22-800 MOORE V. UNITED STATES
DECISION BELOW: 36 F.4TH 930
CERT. GRANTED 6/26/2023

QUESTION PRESENTED:

The Sixteenth Amendment authorizes Congress to lay “taxes on incomes … without apportionment among the several States.” Beginning with Eisner v. Macomber, 252 U.S. 189 (1920), this Court’s decisions have uniformly held “income,” for Sixteenth Amendment purposes, to require realization by the taxpayer. In the decision below, however, the Ninth Circuit approved taxation of a married couple on earnings that they undisputedly did not realize but were instead retained and reinvested by a corporation in which they are minority shareholders. It held that “realization of income is not a constitutional requirement” for Congress to lay an “income” tax exempt from apportionment. App.12. In so holding, the Ninth Circuit became “the first court in the country to state that an ‘income tax’ doesn’t require that a ‘taxpayer has realized income.”‘ App.38 (Bumatay, J., dissenting from denial of rehearing en banc).

The question presented is:

Whether the Sixteenth Amendment authorizes Congress to tax unrealized sums without apportionment among the states.

LOWER COURT CASE NUMBER: 20-36122

The relevant facts as recited in the petition may be found in the Appendix* below.

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Part 37 – 2023: US Supreme Court To Hear Moore Appeal In Lawsuit Against @USTransitionTax – Great News!

June 26, 2023 – Great News! – The US Supreme Court Agrees To Hear Moore 965 Transition Tax Case!

A direct link to the Supreme Court site which will track the progress and filings of all briefs (including what are expected to be a large number of amicus briefs) is here.

The brief from the CATO Institute frames the question addressed to the Supreme Court as follows:

QUESTION PRESENTED

Whether Congress may levy income tax on a tax-payer who has not realized income.

What follows is a twitter thread (which I will continually update) which includes commentary, resources and general information about the appeal.

Litigation against the 965 Mandatory AKA transition tax has come from two sources.

The first source was from U.S. tax lawyer Monte Silver. His challenge to the tax was based generally on procedural grounds and specifically on the failure of U.S. Treasury to comply with the provisions of the Regulatory Flexibility Act. Despite a heroic, valiant and determined effort the Supreme Court refused to hear his cert petition. As a result, in May 2023, his challenge came to an end. Monte Silver’s challenge focused on the legality of the Treasury Regulations insofar as they applied to US citizens living outside the United States.

The second source is the Charles Moore case. This case is arguing that the tax is unconstitutional. Although brought on behalf of an individual shareholder of a CFC, the case makes no mention of the application of the tax to Americans abroad. On June 26, 2023 (about a month after denying the cert petition in the Silver case) the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the Moore case. To be clear, this case is attacking the constitutionality of the tax (not the procedural aspects) head on. Much will be written about this issue and the case.

On September of 2019 I wrote a post describing the Moore lawsuit arguing that the Section 965 Transition Tax AKA Mandatory Repatriation Tax is unconstitutional. Although the Moore’s were not successful in the District Court and Appeals court, the Supreme Court of the United States has agreed to hear the case!

The Cert Petition

The Cert petition was based on an appeal from the 9th Circuit and a dissenting judgment from the plaintiff’s application to rehear the case in the 9th Circuit.

The original 9th Circuit decision is here.

The decision of the 9th Circuit denying the request (with the dissent) to rehear the Moore case is here.

An excellent article discussing the history of the Moore “Transition Tax” ligation is here.

The cert petition in CHARLES G. MOORE and KATHLEEN F. MOORE, Petitioners, v. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,Respondent, includes:
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Post 36 – The Little Red @USTransitionTax Book – About the 965 Mandatory Repatriation Tax

June 2023 – The fight against the 965 Transition AKA Mandatory Repatriation Tax Continues

On June 26, 2023 the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the Moore appeal to the constitutionality of the U.S. Transition Tax. For those who don’t know, the transition is found in S. 965 of the Internal Revenue Code and was part of the 2017 TCJA. It was intended (in part) to be a “trade off” pursuant to which:

1. U.S. corporations would have the corporate tax rate lowered from 35% to 21%.

2. The U.S. Claimed to adopt “territorial taxation” for its corporations. Generally this meant that profits earned outside the United States would not be taxed by the United States.

3. The U.S. adopted the 951A GILTI rules which exposed the lie of moving to territorial taxation (the profits earned outside the United States were taxed before being distributed. They were then not taxed a second time on distribution).

4. The U.S. adopted that 965 transition AKA mandatory repatriation tax which was a retroactive tax on the retained earnings of CFCs which had not been distributed and therefore not subjected to U.S. taxation.

In a nutshell:

The 965 transition tax was a one time retroactive tax (going back to profits accrued since 1986) on earnings that were not subject to taxation at the time that they were earned. This is incredible stuff!!

But, (as usual) little thought was given to the fact that some CFCs were owned by individuals. No thought was given to the fact that many Americans living outside the United States had small business corporations in their country of residence.

For U.S. citizens in Canada, their small business corporations (in many cases) were actually their private pension plans. To put it simply:

The 965 transition AKA mandatory repatriation tax confiscated the pension plans of many Americans abroad. Frankly this is/was one of the most egregious offences against Americans abroad ever perpetrated by Congress and the Treasury.

In 2018 I began writing a number of blog posts about various aspects of this issue. These are written mostly from the perspective of Americans abroad who are dual “tax residents” (of other countries and of the United States). I don’t think the Moore’s are tax residents of India.

I haven’t written about the transition tax for a long time. That said, the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court is going to hear the Moore Case has reminded me of this issue. This means that more posts will be written. Each post is really a chapter. The posts have been designated as chapters which collectively compose the “Little Red Transition Tax Book”.

Therefore, this post (which I will add to) is “The Little Red Transition Tax Book”.

The posts include:

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Part 35 – 2023: US Supreme Court Denies Cert Petition In @MonteSilver1 lawsuit against @USTransitionTax – Lawsuit Ends

As has been discussed in previous posts, Monte Silver, a U.S. tax lawyer based in Israel launched an important challenge to the legality in how the S. 965 transition tax regulations impacted Americans abroad who owned small business corporations. The challenge included the claim that Treasury had failed to meet its statutory obligations as prescribed under the Regulatory Flexibility Act. lawsuit has been discussed in previous posts. The bottom line is that Mr. Silver was unable to meet the “standing requirements” needed to pursue the lawsuit.

Important events include:

March 2023 – the cert petition:

May 2023 – the denial of the cert petition:

John Richardson – Follow me on Twitter @Expatriationlaw

Some US Citizens And Green Card Holders Resident In Belgium Are Excluded From Benefits Under The Tax Treaty Available To US Citizen Residents

Prologue

I was recently alerted to a provision in the US Belgium Tax Treaty (a similar but not identical provision also appears in the US UK Tax Treaty – which I have explored in this earlier post.). Normally all US Citizens and Green Card holders are defined as “US Residents” under US tax treaties. The US Belgium Tax Treaty (and the US Uk Tax Treaty) contain an interesting exception to the general principle that US citizens and Green Card holders are “US Residents” under the Tax Treaty. Think of it as a “residency carve out”. The purpose of this post is to describe this “carve out” and explore the (some) practical implications of what this means. Interestingly it is one more example of how the US tax treatment of Americans abroad depends on their country of residence.

Just when you think the US tax treatment of Americans abroad couldn’t be worse, the US never ceases to amaze. Seriously, this is the tax treaty version of “Shock and Awe”! It demonstrates that any general discussion about tax treaties is, well just “general”. One must always understand the specific provisions of the specific treaty. Before, anybody gets overly upset, no need to worry. Even those US citizens who do get the benefits of the US Belgium tax treaty don’t (because of the “saving clause”) get much. Nevertheless, the US Belgium Tax Treaty affords a good opportunity to read tax treaties carefully. It also provides a good reminder that the “saving clause” excludes US citizens from most benefits of the tax treaty (even when US citizens meet the residency requirements of the treaty). Finally, this analysis reinforces how carefully tax treaties must be read. Does a provision talk about “citizens”, “nationals”, “residents” …?

The Readers Digest Version Of This Post

US citizens and Green Card holders are US tax residents wherever they live in the world. Most US tax treaties define citizens and Green Card holders as US tax residents. Yet, there are some treaties that “may” not define “US Persons Abroad” as “residents of the United States”. The treaties that “may not” define Green Card holders and citizens as “residents of the United States” include Belgium and the UK. It appears that Green Card holders are the biggest losers. That said, the Belgium and UK tax treaties demonstrate that “US Persons Abroad” may receive fewer tax treaty benefits than resident Americans. Significantly this means that there are certain US tax treaties that actually discriminate against US citizens and Green Card Holders who live outside the United States without a residential nexus to the United States.

Although perhaps enacted without considering the impact on “US Persons Abroad”, this demonstrates (yet again) how attempts to curb certain abuses create negative consequences for Americans abroad because and only because of citizenship taxation. We have seen these consequences in conjunction with the 877A Exit tax rules, the PFIC rules, Subpart F, the Transition Tax, GILTI and now “treaty shopping”.

Surely, this is one more example of the clear principle that US citizens abroad are subjected to a more punitive tax system than resident Americans.

It is absolutely essential that the United States end citizenship taxation and transition to residency based taxation that completely severs US citizenship from US tax residency..

For those who want to better understand this …

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Extradition Is One Way That Changes In Another Country’s Tax Laws May Change Your Tax Relationship With The US

Prologue

As long as the US continues to employ citizenship taxation any changes in US tax law will continue to have unintended consequences on Americans abroad. In March of 2022 I outlined how some of the tax changes proposed in the 2023 Biden Green book would impact US citizens who live outside the United States. As important as US tax changes are, Americans abroad must be aware of how changes in the laws of their country of residence may also impact their “tax relationship” with the United States.

The purpose of this post is provide five simple examples. Some of the examples are based on Canada’s tax laws and others are of a more general nature.

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