Tag Archives: accidental American

Why Boris Johnson must relinquish US citizenship on the occasion of his appointment as British Foreign Minister

A recent post (July 7, 2016) on this blog began with:
Prologue – U.S. citizens are “subjects” to U.S. law wherever they may be in the world …

Yes, it’s true. In 1932 (eight years after the Supreme Court decision in Cook v. Tait), Justice Hughes of the U.S. Supreme Court, in the case of Blackmer v. United States ruled that:

While it appears that the petitioner removed his residence to France in the year 1924, it is undisputed that he was, and continued to be, a citizen of the United States. He continued to owe allegiance to the United States. By virtue of the obligations of citizenship, the United States retained its authority over him, and he was bound by its laws made applicable to him in a foreign country. Thus, although resident abroad, the petitioner remained subject to the taxing power of the United States. Cook v. Tait, 265 U.S. 47, 54 , 56 S., 44 S. Ct. 444. For disobedience to its laws through conduct abroad, he was subject to punishment in the courts of the United States. United States v. Bow- [284 U.S. 421, 437] man, 260 U.S. 94, 102 , 43 S. Ct. 39. With respect to such an exercise of authority, there is no question of international law,2 but solely of the purport of the municipal law which establishes the duties of the citizen in relation to his own government. 3 While the legislation of the Congress, unless the contrary intent appears, is construed to apply only within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States, the question of its application, so far as citizens of the United States in foreign countries are concerned, is one of construction, not of legislative power. American Banana Co. v. United Fruit Co., 213 U.S. 347, 357 , 29 S. Ct. 511, 16 Ann. Cas. 1047; United States v. Bowman, supra; Robertson v. Labor Board, 268 U.S. 619, 622 , 45 S. Ct. 621. Nor can it be doubted that the United States possesses the power inherent in sovereignty to require the return to this country of a citizen, resident elsewhere, whenever the public interest requires it, and to penalize him in case of refusal. Compare Bartue and the Duchess of Suffolk’s Case, 2 Dyer’s Rep. 176b, 73 Eng. Rep. 388; Knowles v. Luce, Moore 109, 72 Eng. Rep. 473.4 What in England was the prerogative of the sov- [284 U.S. 421, 438] ereign in this respect pertains under our constitutional system to the national authority which may be exercised by the Congress by virtue of the legislative power to prescribe the duties of the citizens of the United States. It is also beyond controversy that one of the duties which the citizen owes to his government is to support the administration of justice by attending its courts and giving his testimony whenever he is properly summoned. Blair v. United States, 250 U.S. 273, 281 , 39 S. St. Ct. 468. And the Congress may provide for the performance of this duty and prescribe penalties for disobedience.

It’s that simple. If you are a U.S. citizen, some would argue that you are the property of the U.S.government.
On the other hand (and this will be the subject of another post), the Supreme Court decisions in Cook v. Tait and Blackmer v. The United States were decided in an era where there was no U.S. recognition of dual citizenship. It is reasonable to argue that these decisions have no applicability in the modern world.
There will be those who will say: Come on! Get real! The United States would never rely on these old court decisions. Well, they still do cite Cook v. Tait. Mr. FBAR lay dormant until it was resurrected by the Obama administration as the “FBAR Fundraiser“.
Dual Citizenship: What is the “effect” of a U.S. citizen also holding the citizenship of another nation?

The State Department description includes:

However, dual nationals owe allegiance to both the United States and the foreign country. They are required to obey the laws of both countries. Either country has the right to enforce its laws, particularly if the person later travels there. Most U.S. nationals, including dual nationals, must use a U.S. passport to enter and leave the United States. Dual nationals may also be required by the foreign country to use its passport to enter and leave that country. Use of the foreign passport does not endanger U.S. nationality. Most countries permit a person to renounce or otherwise lose nationality.

The life and times of Boris Johnson – A United States taxpayer by birth
Assumptions about Mr. Johnson’s citizenship …
I am assuming that he became both a U.S. and U.K. citizen by birth. I also assume that he remains both a U.S. and a U.K. citizen.
A U.S. Centric Perspective: As a U.S. citizen, Mr. Johnson is defined primarily in terms of taxation. On the occasion of Mr. Johnson’s recent appointment as the U.K. Foreign Minister, the Washington Times published the following article.

The article referenced in the above tweet provides an interesting summary of the Mr. Johnson’s adventures with the U.S. tax system. The article demonstrates how U.S. “place of birth” taxation is used to extract capital from other nations and transfer that capital to the U.S. Treasury. (As always the comments are of great interest.)
A non-U.S. Centric Perspective: Mr. Johnson is a “poster boy” for the problems of the U.S. “place of birth taxation” (AKA “taxation-based citizenship”). Mr. Johnson’s “IRS Problems” resulted in raising the profile and awareness of U.S. tax policies. A particularly interesting article was written by Jackie Bugnion and Roland Crim of “American Citizens Abroad”.

At a minimum, Mr. Johnson is subject to IRS jurisdiction, IRS reporting requirements, IRS threats and penalties and IRS assessments.
Boris Johnson has now been named the U.K. Foreign Minister …
How does his United States citizenship impact on this situation? Is it possible for him to be both a U.S. citizen and the British foreign minister? The “logical answer” is “Yes he can”. That said, having a U.S. citizen as the U.K. foreign minister raises many questions.
These questions include:
1. What effect (if any) does Mr. Johnson’s acceptance of this position have on his retention of United States citizenship as a matter of U.S. law?
2. If his acceptance of the position were a “relinquishing act” (under U.S. law) would Mr. Johnson be subject to the United States S. 877A Exit Tax?
3. Assuming that Mr. Johnson were to retain “dual” U.S./U.K. citizenship, how would his “divided loyalties” impact on this ability to serve as the British foreign minister?
4. Assuming that Mr. Johnson were to retain “dual” U.S./U.K. citizenship, how does the fact that the IRS has the jurisdiction to threaten him with fines and penalties impact the situation? What about the reporting requirements?
5. Should Boris Johnson formally relinquish his U.S. citizenship in order to avoid the conflict of interest that would arise because of divided loyalties?
Each question will be considered separately. Here we go …
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Obama budget: "Dual citizens from birth" who are NOT "US residents" should be taxed as non-residents

“It’s unjust, it’s inhumane, I didn’t choose where I was born!”
This accurately describes the sentiments of those who are the target of FATCA Hunt. “Place Of Birth Taxation” is unfair to ALL those it affects. The most visible and egregious example of the unfairness is it’s application to “Accidental Americans“.
The context just imagine …
Imagine having been born in the United States, never having lived in the United States and then being “captured in FATCA Hunt”. It appears that the Obama administration has realized that the most visible unfairness of “place of birth” taxation is the application to Accidental Americans.
As a result, both the 2016 and 2017 Obama budget proposals have contained provisions to allow “Accidental Americans” to relinquish U.S. citizenship without being subject to the S. 877A Exit Tax or without having to certify U.S. tax compliance with respect to worldwide income. Those who qualify would be required to certify U.S. tax compliance on the basis that they were/are subject to the U.S. tax system as “non-resident aliens”. This raises the twin questions of:
1. Who is a “non-resident” alien? – See Internal Revenue Code S. 7701(b); and
2. How is a “non-resident” alien taxed? – See Internal Revenue Code S. 2(d) and S. 871.
I wrote a detailed post, referenced by the following tweet, about this issue in 2015.

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Part 4: What God Hath Wrought – The #FATCA Inquisition (Review, Identify and Report on “U.S. Persons") – Imposing FATCA on the world in two steps

In previous posts I have described how the FATCA Inquisition has been used to determine whether the beneficial owners of various associations (PTA) small businesses (New Zealand law firms) are U.S. persons. I note that the great American FATCA Inquisition is being used to target the world. To put it simply:
All of the world is required to:

  1. Review their affairs for “U.S. Persons”
  2. Identify those “U.S. Persons” in their midst
  3. Report those “U.S. Persons” to the IRS.

Yes, the “RIR” objective really is that simple.
This post is somewhat more technical. In this post I am going to explain exactly how and why the Canada U.S. FATCA IGA requires that “U.S. Persons” be subjected to the “RIR Inquisition”. I will then show how the principle applies to U.S. “smoking them out” methodology which is the purpose of the IGA. But, first things first.
Implementing the objective – A two step process
Step 1 – Signing the IGA: Establishing the terms of the relationship between the Government of Canada and the Government of the United States
The IGA provided the legal framework and objectives for the U.S. imposition of FATCA on Canada. It was signed on February 5, 2014. Under the IGA Canada agreed to assist the United States in its hunt for “U.S. persons”. The IGA is a broad agreement which provides the general rules for the relationship between Canada and the United States. A key provision of the IGA is that Canada will change it’s domestic laws to make the hunt for “U.S. persons” (as defined from time to time by the U.S. Internal Revenue Code) mandatory.
It is the IGA that provides the framework for “FATCA Hunt”. Those who have not read the Canada U.S. FATCA IGA can read it here.
Step 2 – Establishing the terms of the relationship between the Government of Canada and it’s financial institutions – Canada changes it domestic laws to force Canadian banks to hunt for those with a U.S. place of birth
In May 2014 the Government of Stephen Harper added Part VIII to the Income Tax Act of Canada. In general terms, Part VIII of the Income Tax Act was to:

  1. Require Canadian Financial Institutions to search for both “Individual” and “Entity” U.S. accounts
  2. Require individuals and entities to disclose the “U.S.ness” of accounts to the Financial Institutions
  3. Authorize Canadian Financial Institutions to disclose “U.S. accounts” to the CRA
  4. Impose penalties on “Individuals” and “Entities” who refused to disclose the information requested by the financial institution

For example S. 162(6) of Canada’s Income tax reads:

Failure to provide identification number
(6) Every person or partnership who fails to provide on request their Social Insurance Number, their business number or their U.S. federal taxpayer identifying number to a person required under this Act or a regulation to make an information return requiring the number is liable to a penalty of $100 for each such failure, unless

  • (a) an application for the assignment of the number is made within 15 days (or, in the case of a U.S. federal taxpayer identifying number, 90 days) after the request was received; and

  • (b) the number is provided to the person who requested the number within 15 days after the person or partnership received it

To summarize – Part VIII of Canada’s Income Tax Act:

  • requires the banks to hunt for “Individuals” and “Entities” that are or are owned by “U.S. persons”; and
  • requires the “Individuals” and “Entities” to be captured. The “terms of their capture” require them to:

A. Answer all questions that are part of the “FATCA Inquisition”
B. Answer all questions truthfully
C. Either ADMIT to being a “U.S. person” or DENY being a “U.S. person”.
Once again, I remind you that the fact that someone is a Canadian citizen residing in Canada is NOT a defense to the accusation of being a “U.S. person.
How does Canada comply with Part VIII of the Income Tax Act of Canada? What are the “made in Canada” rules for  the FATCA Inquisition?
Paragraph 2 of Article 1 of the Canada U.S. FATCA IGA allows (in general) for each country to interpret various provisions of the IGA. To be specific it reads:

2. Any term not otherwise defined in this Agreement shall, unless the context otherwise requires or the Competent Authorities agree to a common meaning (as permitted by domestic law), have the meaning that it has at that time under the law of the Party applying this Agreement, any meaning under the applicable tax laws of that Party prevailing over a meaning given to the term under other laws of that Party.

The Canada Revenue Agency created its own set of guidelines for precisely how the financial institutions are to implement the broader objectives of FATCA Hunt. Those guidelines are here.
FATCA Canada Guidance gdnc-eng
Never forget that the guidelines are made pursuant to the broad terms of the IGA. Canada’s domestic laws that are to assist the United States with the implementation of the IGA.
Summary: Understanding FATCA …

When in doubt about how to interpret the Canada’s domestic laws, one should look to the provisions of the IGA. As a reminder, here is the Canada U.S. IGA which was signed on February 5, 2014.

France to study how U.S. Extra-territorial legislation impacts the sovereignty of France

This is interesting and very welcome news. France is taking the lead to study and consider the effects of U.S. extra-territorial legislation on France, French businesses, and French citizens. The Commission is being led by Pierre Lellouche (Republicans, Paris) and Karine Berger rapporteur (Socialist, Republican and citizen, Hautes-Alpes). This appears to be a very broad study which includes, but is not limited to: FATCA, the U.S. taxation of French citizens and the “accidental Americans“.
For commentary see the post at Keith Redmond’s American Expatriates Facebook group. The post includes:

“(Inaugural meeting dated Wednesday 2 March 2016)
The commissions for foreign affairs and finances of the French Parliament (Assemblee Nationale) decided to form a joint fact finding mission regarding the extraterritoriality of certain US laws, which held its inaugural meeting on Wednesday 2 March 2016. The president of the mission is Mr Pierre Lelouche (Republican Party, Paris) and his rapporteur is Ms Karine Berger (Socialist Party, Hautes-Alpes).
Several recent events have highlighted the propensity of the US courts and the US administration to purport to impose sanctions against foreign corporations and foreign individuals in respect of events occurring outside of US territory: these range from the record penalty one of France’s largest banks agreed to pay to the US administration (for a failure to comply with a US imposed embargo) to the acquisition of Alstom by General Electric against a backdrop of anti-corruption claims brought by the US authorities against senior managers of Alstom and including the US IRS pursuing French citizens living in France but born on US soil and therefore “Accidental Americans” for US income taxes.
Based on the feedback of a wide array of experts, the fact finding mission will attempt to define the contours of US extraterritoriality, exhaustively identify all cases of extraterritorial application of US laws, assess their impact and in particular their impact on fair competition and the economic losses suffered by French companies as a result, and to study ways in which to counter such practices both at a national and European level.
The mission hopes that its findings will lead to concrete implementation measures. The longstanding and deep ties that exist between France and the US in no way justify that the US should seek to assert legal imperium outside of its borders.rger rapporteur (Socialist, Republican and citizen, Hautes-Alpes).”

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Could The 2015 Obama budget proposal for "dual citizens" have been implemented without Congressional approval?

Note: This post was originally written in 2015. Parts of this post have been updated in January of 2021. (The original post is here.) The changes reflect the evolution of my thinking. I now believe that Treasury could (or could have) accomplished much of this proposal through Treasury regulations.

Part 1 – The Obama 2015 Budget Proposal – Change you can believe in?

This was the subject of significant discussion at the Isaac Brock Society. It was also the subject of an insightful blog post by U.S. Tax Lawyer Virginia La Torre Jeker.

It is possible that (at long last) the U.S. government is beginning to recognize that there is a difference between “technical citizenship” and a voluntary U.S. connection indicative of “substantive citizenship” that might (but is not required to) justify taxation of U.S. citizens abroad in the 21st century.

The relevant provision (page 282) includes:

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Tales of renouncing citizenship: U.S. Senator Ted Cruz and London Mayor Boris Johnson

In September of 2014, I conducted a “Problems of U.S. Citizenship Session” in Montreal, Canada. As usual many of the attendees were in the midst of their OMG (“Oh My God Moment”). The phrase “OMG Moment” is well known. But, what is the “OMG Moment”? I suggest that the “OMG” moment is one of two things. It is either:
1. The moment that those who believe that they are U.S. citizens (or other “U.S. persons”) learn that  they are required (even though they don’t live in the U.S.A.) to obey U.S. tax laws, file U.S. tax and information returns, and are subject to the draconian life altering penalties that are part of membership  in Club U.S.A.; or
2. The moment that they learn for the first time that they may be considered to be a U.S. citizen (or other U.S.person).
This post will focus on those in the second group. That is on:
Those who do NOT believe and have not believed they are U.S. citizens and are learning that they “may be considered to be a U.S. citizen”. 
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Unintended consequences: How 911 made the lives of #Americansabroad hell

Interesting article by Byron Toben includes:
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