Category Archives: Little Red Tax Treaty Book

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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On what date does an individual (other than a U.S. citizen) begin or end @USTaxResidency

This is an interesting and important question. This question is always important for determining how the Sec. 877A “Exit Tax” applies to “permanent residents” AKA “Green Card Holders” who with to abandon their permanent residence. There are many other many other reasons why this matters. U.S. tax residency (which is an example of “deemed tax residency“) can be a complicated thing. With the exception of U.S. citizens, U.S. tax residency is usually a function of some form of “physical presence”.
U.S. tax residency can trigger:
– income tax payable
reporting requirements with respect to non-U.S. assets and more (dual tax residents may be able to use a “tax treaty tie-breaker” to opt out of U.S. tax residency)
Remember that “residence” for purposes of taxation can be different from residence for the purposes of immigration. As the Topsnik case makes clear, it is entirely possible to NOT have the right to have lost the right to live in the United States, but still be subject to taxation as a U.S. resident.
Rather than reinvent the wheel, I am please to reproduce this post from Daniel Gray – a Toronto based CPA. Thanks to Daniel for allowing me to reproduce this post from his blog.


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Part 1: South Africa is NOT attempting to compete with USA by challenging the US monopoly on citizenship-based taxation

As goes taxation, so goes civilizations
This is Part 1 of my posts discussing the South Africa situation. Part 2 is here.


There have been a number of suggestions in various blogs that South Africa is somehow taxing on the basis of citizenship. American citizens (whether by accident or design) are most sensitive to any discussion of “citizenship-based taxation”. After all, U.S. tax policies combined with FATCA (which is part of the Internal Revenue Code) are destroying the lives of those who have entered the U.S. tax system.
I recently received an email that asked:

They’re talking about SA expats, people who no longer live in SA, being taxed by SA. Like us, these people are residents and earners in countries other than their country of origin (and, I would assume, citizenship). http://www.internationalinvestment.net/regions/south-african-expats-hit-tax-exemption-removal-plans/ If this is not CBT, on what basis are they being taxed? If SA is just wanting to expand its definition of tax residency on what basis do they feel they can apply this to someone who no longer lives in their country?

The short answer …
South Africa imposes “worldwide taxation” on those who are “tax residents” of South Africa. The rules for an individual to qualify as a “tax resident” of South Africa are here. South African “tax residency” is irrelevant to citizenship.
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Dewees 1: The Canada U.S. tax treaty does NOT protect Canadians from U.S. tax liability but does mean that Canada will NOT assist the U.S. in collection!

There are certainly benefits to being a Canadian citizens. Perhaps Canadian citizenship is the most important line of defense against the confiscation that is OVDP.
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The biggest cost of being a "dual Canada/U.S. tax filer" is the "lost opportunity" available to pure Canadians

Update August 6, 2018:
I have written a sequel to this post – “7 Habits Of Highly Effective Americans Abroad” which you may find of interest:


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The reality of being a “DUAL” Canada U.S. tax filer is that you are a “DUEL” tax filer

“It’s not the taxes they take from you. It’s that the U.S. tax system leaves you with few opportunities for financial planning”.

I was recently asked “what exactly are the issues facing “Canada U.S. dual tax filers?” This is my attempt to condense this topic into a short answer. There are a number of “obvious issues facing U.S. citizens living in Canada.” There are a number of issues that are less obvious. Here goes …
There are (at least) five obvious issues facing “dual Canada U.S. tax filers in Canada”.
At the very least the issues include:
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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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Part 2: OECD Common Reporting Standard ("CRS"): "tax residence" and the "tax treaty tiebreaker"


This is Part 2 – a continuation of the post about “tax residency under the Common Reporting Standard“.
That post ended with:

Breaking “tax residency” to Canada can be difficult and does NOT automatically happen if one moves from Canada. See this sobering discussion in one of my earlier posts about ceasing to be a tax resident of Canada. (In addition, breaking “tax residency in Canada” can result in being subjected to Canada’s departure tax. I have long maintained that paying Canada’s departure tax is clear evidence of having ceased to be a “tax resident of Canada”.)
Let’s assume that our “friend”, without considering possible “tax treaties” is or may be considered to be “ordinarily resident” in and therefore a “tax resident” of Canada.
Would a consideration of possible tax treaties (specifically the “tax treaty residency tiebreaker) make a difference?
This question will be considered in Part 2 – a separate post.

What is the “tax treaty residency tiebreaker”?
It is entirely possible for an individual to be a “tax resident” according to the laws of two (or more countries). This is a disastrous situation for any individual. Fortunately with the exception of “U.S. citizens” (who are always “tax residents of the United States no matter where they live), citizens of most other nations are able to avoid being “tax residents” of more than one country. This is accomplished through a “tax treaty tie breaker” provision. “Treaty tie breakers” are included in many tax treaties. (Q. Why are U.S. citizens always U.S. tax residents? A. U.S. treaties include what is called the “savings clause“).
Some thoughts on the “savings clause”
First, the “savings clause” ensures that the United States retains the right to impose full taxation on U.S. citizens living abroad (even those who are dual citizens and reside outside the United States in their country of second citizenship).
Second, the U.S. insistence on the “savings clause” ensures that other countries agree to allow the United States to impose U.S. taxation on their own citizen/residents who also happen to have U.S. citizenship (generally because of a U.S. place of birth.)
Where are “tax treaty tie breakers” found? What do they typically say?
Many countries have “tax treaty tie breaker” provisions in their tax treaties. The purpose is to assign tax residence to one country when a person is a “tax resident” of more than one country.
As explained by Wayne Bewick and Todd Trowbridge of Trowbridge Professional Corporation (writing in the context of Canadian tax treaties):
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Green card holders: the "tax treaty tiebreaker" and eligibility for Streamlined Offshore

Before you read this post!! Warning!! Warning!!

Before a “Green Card” holder uses the “Treaty Tiebreaker” provision of a U.S. Tax Treaty, he/she must consider what is the effect of using the “Treaty Tiebreaker” on:

A. His/her immigration status under Title 8 (will he/she risk losing the Green Card?)

B. His/her status under Title 26 (will he expatriate himself under Internal Revenue Code S. 7701(b)) and subject himself to the S. 877A “Exit Tax” provisions?

This is another in a series of posts on the “tax treaty tiebreaker” (which is a standard provision in most U.S. tax treaties). “Tax treaty tiebreakers” are rules that are used to assign a person’s “tax residency” to one country when an individual is a “tax resident” of both countries. In the context of U.S. tax treaties, “treaty tie breaker” rules are used when an individual is both:

1. A “U.S. person” for tax purposes (U.S. citizen or U.S. resident); and

2. A “tax resident” of another country.

It is very common to use tax treaties to assign “tax residency” to a country when an individual is  a tax resident of more than one country.
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