Here is the scenario that this post is addressing:
An individual becomes a permanent resident of the United States (meaning that he has a Green Card). He lives in the United States for any number of years. He then moves away from the United States and returns to live in his home country. He is NOT aware that he must complete any specific steps (from either an immigration or tax perspective) to sever his ties with the United States. He simply moves from the United States with the intention of no longer living permanently in the United States and:
1. Stops filing U.S. tax returns;
2. Fails to notify the State Department that he is abandoning his U.S. permanent residence.
While a resident of the United States he acquired significant pensions and IRAs.
Years later he reads an article in a newspaper that suggests that the United States still considers him to be subject to the full force of U.S. tax laws. Accessing the pensions will force him to file U.S. tax returns. He (as might be expected) is panic stricken and wonders what to do. This is a very common scenario – what should he do?
The short answer is: it is completely dependent on the facts. This is one of the most difficult areas to advise in. The problem is that the person is likely to continue to be a tax resident of the United States and subject to all of the requirements of the Internal Revenue Code. The most appropriate response to this will depend on the interaction of a number of factors specific to the individual.
If you are in this situation, I suggest that you seek competent assistance sooner rather than later.
John Richardson – Follow me on Twitter @ExpatriationLaw
A move to another country is a very significant life decision. A “Green Card” is actually a “permanent resident” immigrant visa. A U.S. “permanent resident” visa comes with significant opportunities and significant responsibilities. Permanent resident visa for immigration purposes: The visa is valid for immigration purposes only as long as the person retains the subjective intent to live permanently in the United States. Permanent resident visa for tax purposes: Under United States law, one’s status for immigration purposes is different from one’s status for tax purposes. Generally the rules for “tax residence” are found in Internal Revenue Code Sec. 7701(b).
What follows is my answer on Quora that considers the “benefits and burdens” of the Green Card. I suggest that you read all answers to this question. Read John Richardson's answer to What are the benefits of getting a "green card"? How has your life changed after being a green card holder? on Quora
But, wait! There’s more. If you have the Green Card for 8 years or more, you can’t leave the United States without being subject to the S. 877A Exit Taxes. Read John Richardson's answer to Must one pay U.S. exit tax on foreign assets? on Quora
Introduction: The Purpose and Limited Scope Of This Post
This post focuses on Green Card holders who are filing the 1040 tax return. The 1040 is the return that is filed by all individuals unless you are a “nonresident aliens”. Non-resident aliens file the 1040-NR. This post does NOT discuss (1) when it could be advantageous for a Green Card holder to file a 1040-NR (using a tax treaty tie breaker provision) and (2) what the (DANGEROUS) consequences of filing a 1040-NR (from both a tax and immigration perspective) could be. For a Green Card holder, there can be both disadvantages and also substantial advantages to using a tax treaty tiebreaker to file a 1040-NR. This post assumes that the Green Card holder is filing a 1040 and is specifically focused on the following question: Is it wise for a Green Card holder who is temporarily outside the United States to use the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion found in Section 911 of the Internal Revenue Code (as opposed to the Section 901 Foreign Tax credits) when filing the 1040?
(Most tax practitioners agree, that in general, it is better to use the Sec. 901 foreign tax credits and and not sue the S. 911 Foreign Earned Income Exclusion. Here is a post that explains why this is so. So, why would anybody ever use the FEIE? The answer is that some people live in countries where there is income tax and therefore no foreign tax credit to use against income that is taxable from a U.S. perspective.) Continue reading →
There are many “permanent residents” of the United States AKA Green Card holders who have never become U.S. citizens. Citizenship is part of one’s identity. There are many reasons why a “permanent resident” of the United States would NOT become U.S. citizens. There are also many reasons why a “permanent resident” would become a U.S. citizen.
This post explores some of the factors that might influence one’s decision to become a U.S. citizen. What follows is an answer that I posed on Quora. Read John Richardson's answer to Are there any real advantages of becoming a US citizen while you already have a green card? on Quora
— John Richardson – lawyer for "U.S. persons" abroad (@ExpatriationLaw) May 20, 2018
“Understanding U.S. Tax Residency …
The United States uses a form of “deemed tax residency“.
The Internal Revenue of the United States deems that all “individuals” (wherever they live in the world – including citizens and residents of other countries) except “nonresident aliens” are subject to taxation in the United States on their world wide income. One qualifies as a “nonresident alien” unless one is a:
1. A U.S. citizen
2. A U.S. resident as defined by Internal Revenue Code Sec. 7701(b) Continue reading →
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.
Everything you need to know but were afraid to ask: "Explanation And 10 Examples Of The Rules For Determining An Alien’s Period Of Residency In The United States" https://t.co/upuiP3DLnn via @taxconnections
Once you have been granted the right to live permanently in the United States, and become a “lawful permanent resident”, it is important that you maintain the intention to live permanently in the United States. If you cease to intend to live permanently in the United States then you have lost the right to live permanently in the United States.
As a “lawful permanent resident” you are free to travel outside the United States. Like all people (including U.S. citizens) who travel outside the United States, you are required to have the appropriate travel documents. The State Department provides the following guidance: Continue reading →