Category Archives: Tax residency

Americans Abroad Aren’t Denouncing Because They Want To. They Are Renouncing Because They Feel They Have To

Introduction/background:

Denunciation of U.S. Citizenship – From the perspective from a U.S. Senator

Renunciation of U.S. Citizenship – From the perspective of a U.S. journalist

It’s hard to have a discussion about why Americans abroad are renouncing U.S. citizenship. There are many different perspectives about renunciation. There is very little “shared reality”. Tax academics (who have the resources to know better), “pensioned intellectuals”, politicians and most journalists see this from a “U.S. resident perspective”. They don’t understand the reality of the lives of Americans abroad. But, Americans abroad are NOT a monolith. The ONLY thing they have in common is that they live outside the United States. Their circumstances vary widely. There is little “shared reality” among Americans abroad of what the issues are. AT the risk of oversimplification, I have attempted to divide “Americans abroad” into four categories (as defined below). The categorization will explain why different groups of “Americans abroad” experience the U.S. extra-territorial tax regime differently.

Hint: Americans abroad aren’t renouncing U.S. citizenship because they want to. They are renouncing U.S. citizenship because they feel they have to.

Politicians, tax academics, “pensioned intellectuals” and many journalists deal in the world of opinions. The opinions they hold are often “myths”. They are not “facts”. They are entitled to their opinions (as misguided and ignorant as they may be). They are NOT entitled to their “facts”.

This post is to describe the facts about how the extra-territorial application of the Internal Revenue Code and the Bank Secrecy Act pressure many Americans abroad to renounce U.S. citizenship. Interestingly a large percentage of those renouncing owe ZERO taxes to the U.S. government. They renounce anyway!

First, a bit of background to the problem – what is the problem and who is affected?

They do NOT meet the test of being “nonresident aliens” under the Internal Revenue Code

As SEAT cofounder, Dr. Laura Snyder explains, in the first of her 16 “working papers” describing the problems of Americans abroad:

The people most affected by the U.S. extraterritorial tax system are not a monolithic group. Some left the United States recently, some left years or decades ago. Some left as adults (some young, some middle-aged, and some retirees), while others left as children (with their families), and some have never lived in the United States (they are U.S. citizens by virtue of the U.S. citizenship of at least one parent). Some intend to live in the United States (again) in the near or distant future, while others do not intend to ever live in the United States (again). Some identify as Americans while others do not. Many are also citizens of the country where they live (dual citizens) while others hold triple or even quadruple citizenships. In referring to this group, there is no one term that sufficiently reflects its full diversity. What unites them is that they do not meet the test of “nonresident alien” under the Internal Revenue Code. Depending upon the context, this series of papers will use terms such as “persons,” “individuals,” “affected individuals,” and “overseas Americans.” The latter term has a drawback, however: it emphasizes connections to the United States while minimizing the important connections that such persons have to the countries and communities where they live.

That said, what divides Americans abroad may be greater than what unites Americans abroad!

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The Issue Is Not @CitizenshipTax. The Issue Is Whether The US Can Claim The Tax Residents Of Other Countries As US Tax Residents!

Introduction – The United States has the “sovereign right” to define who are its “tax residents, but …”

Prologue

There is presently heightened advocacy directed toward the goal of influencing the United States to take action to end (what is described as) U.S. citizenship taxation. Notably this goal is for the purpose of influencing the United States to take action.

Perhaps it would be equally useful to define a separate goal of:

Not allowing the United States to claim the residents of other countries as U.S. tax residents!

Notably this goal would be to engage the governments of other countries!

Ideally both Americans abroad and their countries of residence should seek to stop the United States from reaching into those other countries and claiming the residents of those countries as U.S. tax residents!

In FATCA related discussions it has been common for Government Officials to claim that the United States has the sole right to determine who are its tax residents. Although true, this cannot mean that the United States (or any country) has the right to claim the residents of another country as its tax residents. (The debate is illuminated here and here.)

(Interestingly when the European PETI delegation visited Washington in July of 2022 they made it clear that they did NOT question the right of the United States to define European residents as U.S. tax residents. Rather, they just wanted to find a way to make it easier for European residents to be permitted to have access to bank accounts in the European countries where they live.)

It is appropriate for other countries to accept that the United States has the right (like any country) to define who are U.S. tax residents. It is completely inappropriate for Europeans to accept that the United States has the right to treat European tax residents (who actually live and work in Europe) as U.S. tax residents. By protecting European residents from the United States, European countries would be acting in a manner that is consistent with the OECD tax treaty which anticipates situations of “dual tax residency”. In circumstances of dual tax residency, the model OECD tax treaty (Article 4) provides that the treaty “tie break” will be used to assign tax residency to the country that correlates with the “circumstances of life”. (See page 111 in the document linked to in the previous sentence.) Interestingly, citizenship which absent naturalization, is based on “circumstances of birth” is considered to be the least important criterion under the treaty “tie break”rules.

The treaty tie break rules presumptively assign tax residency based on the “circumstances of life” and not on the “circumstances of birth“.

The bottom line is that, it’s time for the world to simply say:

Of course the United States can define who are its tax residents. But, the United States will NOT be permitted to treat the tax residents of our country (who actually live in our country) to be treated by the U.S. as though they are the tax property of the United States! That is the simple message that must be conveyed!!

Let’s now analyze how the United States goes about claiming the residents of other countries as U.S. taxable property. It’s explained by Mr. Paolo Gentoloni as follows …

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How U.S. Citizenship Tax, The Treaty “Saving Clause” and FATCA Create A Fiscal Prison For Dual Tax Residents

Introduction – The Problem Of Dual Tax Residency For U.S. Citizens

A “Hell greater than the sum of the parts”

There are people in the world who really don’t understand (or say they don’t) what exactly is the problem with U.S. citizenship based taxation. They claim to not understand why defining “tax residency” based on the “circumstances of birth” rather than the “circumstances of life” is a problem. They fail to consider how taxation based on “circumstances of birth”, interacts with U.S. tax treaties and FATCA to create a “hell that is greater than the sum of the parts”.

This is the third post in a series designed to explore and facilitate the understanding of the U.S. “citizenship based” extra-territorial tax regime. The first post explored the practical meaning of U.S. citizenship-based taxation (it’s primary effects are on people who live outside the U.S.). The second post explored the fact that tax residency based on “citizenship” is tax residency based on the “circumstances of one’s birth” rather than the “circumstances of one’s life” (its effects are primarily based on the circumstance of birth in the U.S.). The conclusion drawn from these first two posts was that the U.S. citizenship based extra-territorial tax regime is one in which:

The circumstance of a U.S. birthplace is used as a justification to regulate the lives of people with no connection to the United States and impose U.S. taxation on income that has no connection to the United States and is received by someone who does not live in the United States.

Citizenship taxation has practical and contextual meaning only its application to tax residents of non-US countries. The U.S. uses the circumstance of a “U.S. birthplace” to reach out and “claim” the tax residents of other countries as U.S. “tax residents”.

The purpose of this post is to explain how the interaction of U.S. citizenship taxation (claiming those with a U.S. birth place as U.S. tax residents when they are tax residents of other countries), the “saving clause” (not allowing U.S. citizens with dual tax residency to assign tax residency to the country where they actually live) and FATCA (the tool to hunt, find and enforce the extraterritorial U.S. tax and regulatory regime on the residents of other countries) creates a whole hell greater than the sum of the parts.

Many people understand the three components of “citizenship taxation”, the “saving clause” and “FATCA” as separate entities. Few appear to understand how those three components interact together to destroy the lives of U.S. citizens with dual tax residency. The U.S. has created a “fiscal prison” for its citizens. Seven video accounts of the impact of the U.S. citizenship tax regime are available here.

This problem can be solved ONLY by the United States redefining its rules for “tax residency” so that “citizenship” (the circumstances of one’s birth”) is not relevant to “tax residency” (the circumstances of one’s life).

This post is to identify the component “Part”(s) of the problem. It is organized in “Sections” and “Parts” as follows:

Section I – How The Problem Was Created

Part A – Tax, Residency and Tax Residency
Part B – The general problem of dual tax residency
Part C – Introducing the treaty tie break and how it can be used to end “dual tax residency” under a relevant Canadian tax treaty”
Part D – The general principles of the U.S. Canada “tax treaty tie break – How “circumstances of life” are used to assign tax residency
Part E – Food for thought – Citizenship the least important factor for the treaty tie break
Part F – Two possible examples of assigning residence to one country by using the “treaty tie break” – Green Card Edition
Part G – U.S. Citizens CANNOT Benefit From The “Tax Treaty Tie Break” – Hello “Saving Clause”
Part H – The “Saving Clause” And The Inability For U.S. Citizens To Use The “Treaty Tie Break” Is How The United States Captures The Residents Of The Treaty Partner Country And Claims Them As U.S. Tax Residents
Part I – The Tax Treaty Tie Break And Implications For U.S. Tax Compliance And For FATCA And The CRS Reporting

Section II – How Dual Tax Residents Experience The Extraterritorial Tax Regime

Part J – The U.S. exports a more punitive from of taxation to tax residents of other countries
Part K – The Problem Of Investing, Retirement planning and Retirement Planning – The Punitive Taxation And Reporting Requirements of PFICs and Foreign Trusts
Part L – The Problem Of Non-U.S. Pensions – How Are They Treated Under The Internal Revenue Code? – Different Rules For Different Countries
Part M – Discouraging U.S. Small Business Abroad – The Treatment Of Small Business Corporations Generally And On A Country By Country Basis
Part N – The “FBAR Marriage”: How Marriage To An Alien Results In Higher Taxation, More Reporting, Difficulties With Asset Transfers, Higher Divorce Costs And Possibly A Requirement To File A Tax Return With As Little As $5 Of Income

Section III – How The U.S. Extraterritorial Tax Regime Attacks The Sovereignty Of Other Countries

Part O – The U.S. taxation of residents of other countries attacks and erodes the tax base of those other countries

Section IV – Solving The Problem: Regulatory And Legislative Solutions

Part P – Regulatory Solution: “A Regulatory Fix For Citizenship Taxation
Part Q – Regulatory Solution: Amending The “Saving Clause” In U.S. Tax Treaties
Part R – Territorial Taxation For U.S. Citizen Individuals
Part S – Redefining U.S. Tax Residency To Move To Residence-based Taxation”

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Should tax residency Be Based On The “Circumstances Of Your Birth” Or The “Circumstances Of Your Life”?

Panel session – US Expat Tax Conference from Deborah Hicks on Vimeo.

Should taxation be based on the “circumstances of your birth” or the “circumstances of your life”? President Obama doesn’t think (apparently) that the “circumstances of your birth” birth should determine the “outcome of your life”. Should the “circumstances of your birth” determine your tax residency?

This is a second post exploring what is the true meaning of U.S. citizenship-based taxation. In an earlier post – “Toward A Definition Of Citizenship Taxation” – I explored the contextual meaning and effect of U.S. “citizenship taxation”. The only “contextual effect” and “practical meaning” of U.S. citizenship taxation may be described as:

Therefore, the practical meaning of “citizenship taxation” is the United States imposing taxation on the non-US source income earned by people who live in other countries. To be clear: citizenship taxation means that the United States is claiming the residents of OTHER countries as US residents for tax purposes!

That’s amazing stuff! Most countries believe that they are sovereign and that includes sovereignty over matters of taxation. Yet, any country that is a party to a U.S. tax treaty has actually agreed that a subset of the treaty partner’s tax residents are ALSO U.S. tax residents! Although nobody questions the right of the United States to prescribe its own definition of tax residency, few would agree that the United States has the right to claim the residents of other countries as U.S. tax residents. Yet, this is what the U.S. citizenship taxation regime means. This U.S. extraterritorial claim of taxation is at the root of the FATCA administration problems and at the root of the the events that led to Treasury Notice 2023-11 (released on December 30, 2022).

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Airline and cruise ship employees: how income earned in international waters may lead to double taxation for (only) Americans abroad

Oliver Wagner, CPA and John Richardson – January 16, 2022

Americans abroad and the presumption of double taxation

Prologue: For whom the bell tolls …

Whether a US citizen lives in (and is a tax resident of) Mexico and works on a ship in international waters

Or Whether A US citizen lives in (and is a tax resident of) Holland and is an airline pilot …

That US citizen, because and only because of the combination of US citizenship-based taxation coupled with living outside the United States, is likely to be subject to double taxation. The following discussion explains why.

A Summary Podcast …

Part A: Introduction – About Citizenship-based Taxation
Part B: How the Internal Revenue Code is designed to mitigate the effects of double taxation in certain circumstances
Part C: Determining what is “foreign source” income
Part D: The problem of international waters …
Part E: The effect of sourcing to the US income earned in international waters by dual tax residents
Part F: Deducting “foreign taxes” paid – although income from international waters may not be foreign, it is still subject to the payment of “foreign taxes”
Part G: Can a US citizen living abroad be saved by a tax treaty? Maybe if he/she lives in Canada****
Part H: Conclusion and the need for “Pure Residence-Based Taxation”

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US Tax Treaties Should Reflect The 21st Century And Not The World Of 100 Years Ago

Prologue

The rules of taxation should follow changes in society. The ordering of society should NOT be hampered by the rules of taxation!

As the world has become more digital, companies can carry on business from any location. Individuals have become more mobile. Multiple citizenships, factual residences and legal tax residencies are not unusual. It has become clear that the rules of international tax as reflected in tax treaties (as they apply to both corporations and individuals) are in need of reform.

The purpose of this post is to identify two specific areas where US tax treaties are rooted in the world as it was one hundred years ago and NOT as it is today.

First: The “Permanent Establishment” clause found in US and OECD tax treaties

Second: US Citizenship-based taxation which the US exports to other countries through the “saving clause” found in almost all US tax treaties

Each of these will be considered.

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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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German tax authorities reported to be imposing German taxation on US military personnel stationed in Germany

Prologue

This post draws heavily from the reporting of John VanDiver who has written a number of articles in Stripes. His most recent article is here:

“You don’t want to be chased and harassed by a government office. It is scary,” said Melissa Howell, the spouse of a U.S. soldier who is being targeted by a tax office in Germany’s Landstuhl area. “I don’t know how they expect people to come up with that money.”

Howell, a German who lives with her American husband and children, said she ran into trouble in June when she went to file her taxes at the local finance office.

She said she was interrogated about her husband and told to fill out a questionnaire that probed information about his employment.

She then received a letter ordering her to hand over her husband’s W-2 and other tax forms.

“I did it because I didn’t know. I found out that

was a mistake,” she said.

After that, she got a phone call from the tax office, saying that their case was getting handed over to a case manager who handles “American-German couples.”

As reported by John VanDiver in Stripes – July 27, 2020 – ‘Harassed’ by German tax offices, more US military families face financial threats

Certain US Soldiers In Germany Targeted By German Tax Authorities For Taxes On Their Military Wages – Reminiscent Of The “Oh My God Moment

Many Americans abroad have experienced the “Oh My God Moment.” This is the moment that they learn that they are targeted by the USA – a country that they don’t live in – for taxes on their non-US source income. Well, it appears that for some, the shoe is now on the other foot. Germany is apparently targeting certain US soldiers – stationed in Germany – for taxes on their US military pay! The US claim is NOT based on any connection with the United States (other than circumstances of birth). At least (to its credit), Germany’s claim is based on a connection to Germany that makes these US soldiers “tax residents” of Germany. Therefore, the “moment” may be the same. But, the justification for taxation is not he same. To put it simply: Germany is claiming that when the circumstances of a US soldier’s stay in Germany ceases to be “solely” for military service AND their factual circumstances meet the test for tax residency in Germany, they are are subject to German taxation.

Analysis

In an ongoing story, that is certain to be of interest to Americans abroad, Germany has begun treating certain US Military Personnel as tax residents of Germany. In other words, Germany is imposing tax (and apparently penalties) on the income earned by US military personnel stationed in Germany. The starting point is that US Forces in Germany (and other countries) are governed by the SOFA (“Status Of Forces Agreement”) agreement. Among other things, the SOFA agreement exempts US service personnel from being treated as tax residents of the country where they are serving. In simple terms: As long as the individual serviceman meets the conditions in the SOFA agreement, he/she would NOT be treated as a tax resident of Germany.

The provisions of the NATO SOFA are unremarkable. What is remarkable is that Germany appears to be the first country, to determine that certain US Military Personnel, are not entitled to use SOFA as a “shield” against being treated as a tax resident and therefore subject to taxation.

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China does not have and is not moving toward US style citizenship-based taxation

Readers Digest Version: The Bottom Line Is …

As reported by American Expat Finance, which discusses an interview with Dr. Bernard Schneider of Queen Mary …

You can listen to the podcast …

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The Longer Version: “Tax Residency” Based Information Exchange In The 21st Century

The 21st Century has ushered in FATCA, CRS, voluntary disclosure programs and a general awareness of taxation. Many people have been subjected to the FATCA inquisition (“Are you or have you ever been a US citizen?) or a CRS motivated inquiry about “tax residence” (“List all countries where you are a tax resident.”)

In the 21st, the “citizenship by investment industry” is booming. There are many opportunities to acquire (through investment programs) “permanent residency” in a county. (I will refer to these programs collectively as “economic migration”). The value of these “economic migration” programs, to a specific individual, is largely determined by considerations of tax residency.

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Of all the different kinds of residency, the one that matters most is your “tax residency”

Introduction

In a world of information exchange (FATCA and CRS), fiscally challenged governments (United States and other Western Democracies) and expanding notions of taxation (GILTI, France Digital Tax, etc.), your “tax residency” matters. In fact, in the 21st Century the most interesting thing about a person is his tax residency (or residencies).

At the same time, we are living in a world of increased Global Mobility. There are more and more opportunities for residency and citizenship. As people and capital have become more global, tax authorities have worried more and more about how human migration impacts their their tax bases. For example, people are severing tax residency with high tax states like New York and California. The level of (and form) of taxation impacts investment and migration decisions.

Taxation matters. Tax residency matters. People must keep track of both their “citizenship” and “tax residency” portfolios. It’s important to understand how the concepts of “citizenship”, “nationality”, “domicile”, “deemed residency”, “actual residency” and “tax residency” relate.

I recently came across the following article that explores these concepts. Please note that the article uses the term “fiscal residency” as synonymous with “tax residency”.

The following post was authored by Marios S. Kalochoritis, Managing Partner of Loggerhead Partners. We are reproducing this with the full permission of Loggerhead Partners.

Loggerhead Partners is a provider of “multi-family office” services including, estate planning, transaction advisory, corporate structuring and tax planning.

Loggerhead Corporate Services is the Dubai-based specialized entity of Loggerhead Partners that optimizes tax and preserves the wealth of its clients, through tailor-made, corporate structuring solutions with a focus in the UAE

Enjoy …

John Richardson – Follow me on Twitter

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