The Five “Americans Abroad” Obama Would Meet In Heaven – How Taxation “Slices and Dices” Americans Abroad

Reminder:

US citizenship abroad information/discussion sessions in January of 2024:

1. London, UK – Wednesday January 17, 2024 – 18:00 – Location: The Sutton Arms – first floor wine room – 6 Carthusian Street, London – EC1M 6EB

2. Prague, Czech Republic – Sunday January 21, 2024 – Brix bar & Hostel, Rohacova 132/15, Prague 3 Žižkov
– 200CZK – includes lunch

3. The Prague session will be livestreamed on the IRSMedic Youtube Channel. Check there for how to join.

Further details here.

Outline, table of contents and purpose of this post.

Because U.S. citizenship taxation impacts different groups in different ways, it is hard to garner a significant mass of people to committed to the mission of ending citizenship taxation. There are five different groups who are impacted by citizenship taxation. Yet they would seem very different if you were to meet them in heaven.

Part A – “The Five People You Meet In Heaven” – the notion of interconnectedness
Part B – Barack Obama and the revival of citizenship taxation – how did his administration “slice and dice” Americans abroad?
Part C – Different kinds of Americans abroad with different attitudes toward the taxation of Americans abroad
Part D – Fault Lines Among Americans Abroad – The discussion in Keith Redmond’s American Expatriates Facebook group
Part E – The Five Types Of Americans Abroad Obama Would Meet In Heaven
Part F – Conclusion

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Canadian citizenship: When citizenship in one country affords rights of access to another country

Part I – Citizenship in the 21st century

In the 20th century few people thought much about citizenship. Few people thought about the value of multiple citizenships.

In the 21st century people think about citizenships. People are beginning to see the value of having more than one citizenship. They are also (because of the awareness (caused by FATCA) of U.S. citizenship taxation) beginning to see the value of NOT being a U.S. citizen. (Interestingly U.S. Senator Ron Wyden is claiming that dual citizenship provides enhanced opportunities for tax evasion.)

When people renounce U.S. citizenship they will experience the following changes:

1. For U.S. immigration purposes they cease to be U.S. citizens and are treated by the United States like all other citizens of their country of citizenship; and

2. For U.S. tax purposes they cease to be “U.S. Persons” and become “nonresident aliens”. (This loss of U.S. citizenship may or may not be a benefit depending on their individual circumstances). The definitions of “U.S. Person” and “nonresident alien” are found in “26 U.S. Code § 7701 – Definitions“.

When citizenship may afford enhanced rights of access to other countries

Those with more than one citizenship will remember situations where citizenship in one country provided benefits that citizenship in another country did not. Sometimes the benefits are mundane (citizens of one country paying less for an entry visa than citizens of another country). Sometimes citizenship is a condition for various kinds of “enhanced entry programs” (think the U.S. Global Entry programs that include NEXUS.) Sometimes the benefits are more substantive (visa free access for citizens of country A and no visa free access for citizens of country B). Sometimes citizenship in one country gives the right to live in other countries (think citizenship in EU countries). Sometimes citizenship in one country gives the right to seek specific employment in other countries (think Canada-US-Mexico TN visas.) Sometimes there are tax advantages (the France U.S. tax treaty affords interesting tax benefits for U.S. citizens living in France). Sometimes citizenship can protect a person from extradition requests (civil law countries are reluctant to allow their citizens to be extradited). Sometimes citizenship can protect a person from tax enforcement claims from another country (the U.S./Canada tax treaty affords certain protections to individuals based on citizenship status). Sometimes citizenship can protect a person from certain kinds of taxation (Canada’s “Underused Housing Tax” and the BC “Speculation and Vacancy Tax” are recent examples). The point is that citizenship may (and often does) afford benefits that extend beyond the right to live and work in a country. When considering whether to seek various citizenships or renounce various citizenships it is important to think beyond the basic right to live in a country.

Conclusion: ANY change in your citizenship (whether renouncing U.S. citizenship or acquiring an additional citizenship) should consider the issues raised above!!

Part II – What about Canadian citizenship? What do Canadians give up by renouncing U.S. citizenship? What are the reasons (there are many) why Permanent Residents of Canada should naturalize as Canadian citizens?

Because of generous and easy access to the United States, Canadian citizens who renounce U.S. citizenship give up far less than citizens of many other countries. Furthermore, becoming a Canadian citizen affords many privileges vis-a-vis the United States and Canada.

Rather than list the reasons individually I am pleased (with his kind permission) to refer you to a recent post by Los Angeles based immigration lawyer Parviz Malakouti-Fitzgerald, Esq. The post – Six Benefits of Canadian Citizenship for Access to the U.S. Market – is referenced in the following tweet.

The post has its origins in a recent twitter exchange and begins as follows:

Does being a Canadian citizen offer unique benefits of access to the United States market?

This is more-or-less the question I read on twitter from U.S. citizenship renunciation expert John Richardson last week on the last day of 2023.

“Question on @Quora: Is the only real advantage in being a Canadian in accessing the US market, six months visa free stays & a limited range of professions on the TN visa list which also does not lead do a Green Card? No special concessions or fast track ..”

The author provides an excellent, well researched summary. It not only demonstrates why Canadians give up less by renouncing U.S. citizenship but also why Canadian citizenship is valuable to have.

I encourage you to read the complete post here …

https://www.malakoutilaw.com/six-benefits-of-canadian-citizenship-for-access-to-the-u-s-market

John Richardson – Follow me on Twitter @Expatriationlaw

US Citizens Abroad – Discussion: Sunday January 21, 2024 – 13:00 – Prague Czech Republic (and London, UK – Jan. 17 – 18:30)

U.S. Citizens and Green Card Holders Abroad!!

Update – … London, UK too

I will be in London on Wednesday January 17, 2024. Since I am already there, I am happy to connect with London residents who wish to discuss all things related to surviving as a U.S. citizen living outside the USA. The session is:

When: Wednesday January 17, 2024 – 18:00 – 20:00

Where: Pret A Manger 18:00 – The Sutton Arms – first floor wine room – 6 Carthusian Street, London – EC1M 6EB

Registration for the London session: Please send me an email to: citizenshipsolutions@protonmail.com

Just tell me me your name and indicate that you wish to attend.

Read on to learn what these events/discussions are about.

______________________________________________________

Prague – Sunday January 21, 2024 – Livestream or attend live in Prague

Read on …

An appropriate New Year message …

Are you …

frustrated with the U.S. policy of citizenship taxation?

disappointed with the progress in achieving a change in the law?

fed up with being asked for your vote with no candidates representing your interests?

– finding it difficult to understand what it means to be in compliance?

– finding you cannot afford U.S. tax compliance?

forced to plead GILTI for running a small business?

experiencing further FATCA related problems?

wondering if/when the USA will join the rest of the world by adopting residence taxation?

– concerned that this may impact your non-citizen spouse and family?

– worried about how to plan for retirement?

– worried about estate planning?

– considering renunciation of U.S. citizenship?

These topics and more …

Don’t miss this opportunity to engage in discussion with people who live with the constant of anxiety of being a U.S. citizen living outside the United States. (Green Card holders are welcome too …)

Speaker: John RichardsonToronto based expatriation lawyer, co-founder of SEAT, blogger at CitizenshipSolutions.ca, Commentator on X.com/ExpatriationLaw

When: Sunday January 21, 2024 – 13:00

Where: Brix bar & Hostel, Rohacova 132/15, Prague 3 Žižkov

Cost: 200CZK – includes lunch

Registration:

In order to register please email:

g.smith@brixhostel.com

We look forward to a great (nonpartisan) discussion!

General Explanation Of The 1986 Tax Reform Act – PFIC Edition

PFICs were introduced as part of the 1986 tax reform. In order to understand the intent of the PFIC rules it is useful to read the general explanation of the tax reform act. The explanation starts at page 1021 of the document or page 1037 of the pdf. It is worth the read …

https://web.archive.org/web/20120507115421/https://www.jct.gov/jcs-10-87.pdf/

jcs-10-87

John Richardson – Follow me on Twitter @Expatriationlaw

Part 53 – Debriefing The December 5, 2023 – Moore @USTransitionTax Hearing – WHAT The Court Must Do And HOW It Will Do It

Slicing and dicing the issues – WHAT the Court must do and HOW will the Court do it …

Prologue – Threading the needle – The job facing the court

On December 5, 2023 the U.S. Supreme Court heard argument in the Moore Transition AKA MRT case. Both the audio and a written transcript of the hearing is available on the Court’s website here. Additional discussion and commentary about the December 5, 2023 Moore v. United States MRT hearing is here.

The disappointment: There was no discussion of the fact (save a brief reference by the Solicitor General) that the Moores are INDIVIDUALS and theat INDIVIDUAL shareholders were treated very differently from CORPORATE shareholders under the MRT AKA transition tax. This was disappointing.

The hope: There was discussion about whether retroactivity and attribution could conflict with “due process” issues.

The questions from the court were helpful in identifying and categorizing the issues raised in the case.

The purpose of this post is to define the task that faces the Court and to offer some thoughts on what the Court must consider to achieve the task.

The post is divided into the following four parts:

Part I – WHAT must the Court must do?
Part II – HOW will the court do what it must do?
Part III – The context in Moore is what matters most
Part IV – What does the Moore decision imply for Americans abroad?
APPENDIXES – Important excerpts from the decision

Continue reading

Part 52 – December 5, 2023 – The Supreme Court Hearing In Moore v. United States

Moore v. United States – December 5, 2023

https://www.supremecourt.gov/oral_arguments/audio/2023/22-800

Audio of the actual hearing:

This podcast is an audio of the actual argument that took place before the court. The relevant link to the Supreme Court site is:

https://www.supremecourt.gov/oral_arguments/audio/2023/22-800

Significantly a transcript of the argument is available at:

https://www.supremecourt.gov/oral_arguments/argument_transcripts/2023/22-800_9ol1.pdf

The audio of the argument is also available at:

https://prep.podbean.com/e/moore-v-united-states-december-5-2023-the-argument-before-the-court/

_______________________________________________

SEAT President Dr. Laura Snyder attended the hearing. A fascinating podcast discussing her observations (right after the hearing ended) is available here.

https://prep.podbean.com/e/december-5-2023-debriefing-the-moore-case-what-happened-at-the-hearing/

SEAT along with AARO authored an amicus brief which explained the how the 965 transition tax impacted Americans abroad.

IRS Medic hosted a podcast both before, during and after the Supreme Court hearing. A link to that podcast is here:

Interested in Moore (pun intended) about the § 965 transition tax?

Read “The Little Red Transition Tax Book“.

John Richardson – Follow me on Twitter @Expatriationlaw

Part 51 – Twas The Night Before Moore – SEAT Members Discuss What They Expect In Moore Hearing

December 2, 2023 – Participants include:

Dr. Karen Alpert – @FixTheTaxTreaty

Dr. Laura Snyder – @TAPInternation

John Richardson – @Expatriationlaw

SEAT members Dr. Karen Alpert, Dr. Laura Snyder and John Richardson discuss their predictions on how the Supreme Court will grapple with the difficult decisions in Moore. The SEAT/AARO amicus brief is here.

Prologue:

Twas the Night before Moore Poem

Twas the night before Moore, when all through the court
Not a justice was stirring, not even a clerk.
The issues were hung in the briefs with care,
In hopes that the justices soon would be there.

The tax profs were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of fake-income danced in their heads.
And Kathleen in ‘kerchief, and Charles in cap,
Had just settled their brains for a retroactive tax.

Interested in Moore (pun intended) about the § 965 transition tax?

Read “The Little Red Transition Tax Book“.

John Richardson – Follow me on Twitter @Expatriationlaw

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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Canada’s Underused Housing Tax May Violate The Non-discrimination Clause In Tax Treaties

Purpose and summary of this post:

Because Canada’s Underused Housing Tax treats nonresidents of Canada differently, based on their citizenship, the tax may violate the non-discrimination Article in many of Canada’s tax treaties (including the Canada U.S. tax treaty). Nonresidents of Canada are treated differently depending on whether or not they are Canadian citizens. For example a Canadian citizen who is a nonresident of Canada is “excluded” from the tax. But, a U.S. citizen who is a nonresident of Canada is “affected” by the tax. This appears to violate paragraph 1 of Article XXV of the Canada U.S. tax treaty (and other Canadian tax treaties).

Paragraph 1 of Article XXV of the Canada U.S. tax treaty:

1. Nationals of a Contracting State shall not be subjected in the other Contracting State to any taxation or any requirement connected therewith that is more burdensome than the taxation and connected requirements to which nationals of that other State in the same circumstances, particularly with respect to taxation on worldwide income, are or may be subjected. This provision shall also apply to individuals who are not residents of one or both of the Contracting States.

The question is what is meant by “in the same circumstances”. Relevant commentary from the OECD and from U.S. Treasury underscores that the words “particularly with respect to taxation on worldwide income” include whether the individual is taxed as a tax resident of the country or as a nonresident of the country.

Arguably all “nonresidents” of Canada are “in the same circumstances” (in relation to Canada’s tax system). Hence, “nonresidents” should not be treated differently depending on their citizenship.

Discussion and analysis follows.

___________________________________________________________________

Introduction – The Hypocrisy Of Representative Brian Higgins Continues

“Good Americans should NOT have a Canadian tax imposed on them!”

This is a recent statement from Congressman Brian Higgins. Click on the following tweet to listen to a recent interview with the Congressman.

The background …

As discussed here, Canada has a number of “Vacant Home Taxes“. Canada’s Underused Housing Tax is taxation based on citizenship and/or immigration status. (It is NOT based on “tax residency” and “tax residency” is irrelevant.) Notably the United States is the only major country in the world that makes citizenship and/or immigration status a sufficient condition for “tax residency”. In fact the United States imposes worldwide taxation and FATCA compliance on a approximately one million Canadian residents. Nevertheless, Congressman Higgins is certain of the injustice of Canada’s imposition of a citizenship based tax on U.S. residents. (The fact that the tax is based on property located in Canada appears to him to be irrelevant.) Furthermore, he seems intent on NOT acknowledging that:

“Good Canadians should not have an American tax imposed on them”.

Apparently what’s okay for the USA is somehow not okay for Canada.

But, hypocrisy aside …

Congressman Higgins’s objections hopefully will generate a discussion of the injustice of citizenship taxation generally. While ignoring the fact that the U.S. citizenship tax regime imposes direct U.S. taxation on the Canadian source income of millions of Canadian residents, Congressman Higgins is certain that Canada’s tax (which affects at most a few thousand Americans) violates the U.S. Canada tax treaty. In other words, Congressman Higgins’s hypocritical position appears to include:

Only the United States has the right to impose taxation on the residents of other countries under the principle of citizenship taxation“.

In the spirit of affirming that Canada’s citizenship tax on Americans is in violation of the principle that only the United States has the right to engage in citizenship taxation, Congressman Higgins appeared as a witness before a Canadian Parliamentary Committee to discuss Canada’s Underused Housing Tax. The hearing took place in June 2023. During the hearing he raised the spectre of two possible legal challenges to Canada’s threat to the (presumptive) U.S. monopoly on citizenship taxation. The claim that Canada’s Underused Housing Tax violates the “non-discrimination” Article of the Canada U.S. tax treaty (and other Canadian tax treaties) is the subject of this post.

Food for thought:

The non-discrimination clause in the standard tax treaties suggests that certain kinds of citizenship taxation may be inappropriate. (How this reality bears on the question of U.S. citizenship taxation generally will be the subject of a separate post.)

Outline:

Part A – About Canada’s Underused Housing Tax
Part B – Representative Brian Higgins June 5, 2023 testimony to Canadian Parliamentary Committee – Includes “potential violations”
Part C – Thinking about the “non-discrimination” clause – A basic analysis
Part D – What does U.S. Treasury’s Technical Explanation suggest?
Part E – What about Canadian tax treaties with other countries? – Considering the Canada UK treaty
Part F – Appendixes – Various Tax Treaties

Part A – About Canada’s Underused Housing Tax

The statute and regulations are here. S. 2 of the statute deems certain individuals to be “excluded owners” of residential property. Those “excluded” from the application of the Act are defined to include:

(b) an individual who is a citizen or permanent resident, except to the extent that the individual is an owner of the residential property in their capacity as a trustee of a trust (other than a personal representative in respect of a deceased individual) or as a partner of a partnership;

To put it simply: Canadian “citizens” and those with the legal status of being “permanent residents” of Canada are excluded from the application of the statute. They are not subject to the tax. Those who are NEITHER Canadian citizens NOR permanent residents of Canada are (depending on the occupancy of the property) subject to the tax. This means that (in general) U.S. citizens, living in the United States, are subject (as”affected” owners) to the statute and may (depending on the occupancy of the property) be required to pay the tax.

To simplify the application of the law:

Canadian citizens and permanent resident owners (regardless of whether they are tax residents of Canada) are not subject to the tax.

U.S. citizens (who are neither Canadian citizens nor permanent residents) are subject to the tax.

To simplify the context:

Imagine four neighbors living in Buffalo, New York. They all drive Ford trucks. They all drink Budweisers. They all watch the Buffalo Bills on Sundays. They all work for the same company. They all file taxes jointly with their spouses. They all own seasonal homes (in their names only) located in Fort Erie Ontario, Canada (where they become “neighbours” instead of “neighbors”. Interestingly and completely arbitrarily, Canada’s Underused Housing Tax may or may apply to them. Let’s see how the tax might affect each of them.

Neighbor 1: Neither a Canadian citizen nor permanent resident of Canada – subject to the tax

Neighbor 2: A dual citizen of Canada and the United States – NOT subject to the tax

Neighbor 3: A U.K, citizen who has the legal status of “permanent resident” of Canada, but also a U.S. Green Card holder – NOT subject to the tax

Neighbor 4: A U.K. citizen living in the United States on an L visa – subject to the tax.

Notice that all four of these neighbors live in Buffalo, New York and are NOT tax residents of Canada. Neighbor 2 (Canadian citizen) and Neighbor 3 (permanent resident of Canada) are NOT subject to the tax. Neighbors 1 and 4 (neither Canadian citizens nor permanent residents of Canada are subject to the tax).

Part B – Representative Brian Higgins June 5, 2023 testimony to Canadian Parliamentary Committee – Includes “potential violations”

Excerpt from his testimony:

Continue reading

Part 49 – 2012 Report Of Congressional Research Service Suggests @USTransitionTax May Be Unconstitutionally Retroactive

Introduction and purpose

In an earlier post I argued that in the Moore appeal the Supreme Court should consider the retroactive nature of the MRT AKA transition tax. My argument was based my interpreting the law to be that retroactive legislation might be unconstitutional if it:

1. Was retroactive for an extensive period of time (in this case the period of retroactivity was 31 years); and

2. Was new legislation

After writing that post, I came across this 2012 Congressional Research Report which suggests that tax legislation could be unconstitutionally retroactive based on the same two principles.

A relevant excerpt from the report follows.

The 2012 Congressional Research Report: CRS Report for Congress Prepared for Members and Committees of Congress Constitutionality of Retroactive Tax Legislation

The following excerpt is of interest and relevance to the Moore appeal

Period of Retroactivity

The most common potential concern with respect to substantive due process is the length of the retroactivity. The Supreme Court has made clear that a modest retroactive application of tax laws is permissible, describing it as a “customary congressional practice” required by “the practicalities of producing national legislation.”9 As a result, tax legislation that is retroactive to the beginning of the year of enactment has routinely been upheld against due process challenges.10 There does not seem to be any serious question as to whether such a period of retroactivity is constitutional.

What then happens with periods of application that go beyond the year of enactment? The Court has upheld several tax laws where the period of retroactivity extended into the preceding calendar year.11 For example, in United States v. Carlton, the Court upheld the retroactive application of a federal estate tax provision that limited the availability of a recently added deduction for the proceeds of sales of stock to employee stock ownership plans. The deduction was added by the Tax Reform Act of 1986, which had not included a requirement that the taxpayer own the stock immediately prior to death. The lack of such a requirement essentially created a loophole that Congress fixed with the 1987 amendment. The Tax Reform Act of 1986 was enacted in October 1986, and the amendment was enacted in December 1987, to apply as if incorporated in the 1986 law. In upholding the 1987 law, the Court explained that the period of retroactivity was permissible since it was only slightly more than one year, as well as noting that the IRS had announced its concern with the original law as early as January 1987 and a bill to make the correction was introduced in Congress the very next month.12

However, it does appear that due process concerns may be raised by a more extended period of retroactivity. In Nichols v. Coolidge (one of the few cases where the Supreme Court struck down a retroactive tax on due process grounds),13 the Court disallowed the retroactive application of an estate tax provision that changed the tax treatment of a transfer 12 years after the transfer had occurred.14 The Court later unfavorably compared the 12-year period with periods where the “retroactive effect is limited.”15 This suggests that due process concerns are raised by an extended period of retroactivity. However, it is not clear how long a period might be constitutionally problematic. The Court has recognized retroactive liability for periods beyond one or two years in non-taxation contexts,16 but it is not clear how a similar situation arising under the tax laws would be addressed.

Reliance and Lack of Notice

One issue often raised is that it may seem unfair to change the tax laws once a taxpayer has done something based on the law as it existed at the time. The fact that taxpayers may have concluded a transaction in reliance on prior law is generally not important to the analysis as “reliance alone is insufficient to establish a constitutional violation.”17 As the Court has made clear, “[t]ax legislation is not a promise, and a taxpayer has no vested right in the Internal Revenue Code.”18 In other words,

Taxation is neither a penalty imposed on the taxpayer nor a liability which he assumes by contract. It is but a way of apportioning the cost of government among those who in some measure are privileged to enjoy its benefits and must bear its burdens. Since no citizen enjoys immunity from that burden, its retroactive imposition does not necessarily infringe due process….19

Additionally, lack of notice of the retroactive effect of a tax law is not dispositive of whether due process has been violated.20 Lack of notice may, nonetheless, be a concern when the retroactive legislation enacts a wholly new tax. This was the issue in two cases where the Court struck down retroactive tax legislation on due process grounds—Blodgett v. Holden and Untermyer v. Anderson.21 Both dealt with the constitutionality of retroactive application of the Revenue Act of 1924, which enacted the gift tax. The legislation was introduced in February 1924, enacted that June, and applied to gifts made after January 1, 1924. The taxpayer in Blodgett made a gift in January 1924, and the taxpayer in Untermyer made a gift in May 1924, while the bill was in conference. The plurality in Blodgett and the majority in Untermyer held the retroactive application was unconstitutional because it was arbitrary as the taxpayers made gifts without knowing they would subsequently be subject to tax.22 In such a situation, a taxpayer has “no reason to suppose that any transactions of the sort will be taxed at all.”23

The Court in later cases has clearly distinguished the two cases on the basis that they dealt with the “creation of a wholly new tax” and therefore “their authority is of limited value in assessing the constitutionality of subsequent amendments that bring about certain changes in operation of the tax laws.”24 Thus, while lack of notice is not dispositive, the Court has suggested that lack of notice may violate due process if the retroactive law creates a “wholly new tax.”

Since the two cases dealing with the creation of the gift tax, it does not appear the Court has found any other situations where lack of notice was an issue.25 In some instances, the Court determined the retroactive tax provision was not a wholly new tax, as with the provision in Carlton, which amended a new estate tax deduction that was enacted 14 months prior as part of a major overhaul of the tax code.26 Even in a case with what looked like a brand new tax—a tax on silver under the Silver Purchase Act—the Court upheld a 35-day period of retroactivity.27 In that case, the law was enacted on June 19, 1934, retroactive back to May 15, 1934. In upholding the law’s retroactive application, the Court suggested that taxpayers had sufficient notice since there had been pressure for legislation for months, the President had sent a message to Congress encouraging such a tax on May 15, and the bill that became the act was introduced on May 23. This suggests that it would be rare for a tax provision to be characterized as a “wholly new tax” so long as taxpayers were on some kind of notice that a tax might be imposed.

The full report is available here:

https://sgp.fas.org/crs/misc/R42791.pdf

A pdf of the full report is here:

Retroactive Tax R42791

Interested in Moore about the § 965 transition tax?

Read “The Little Red Transition Tax Book“.

John Richardson – Follow me on Twitter @Expatriationlaw