Tag Archives: accidental Americans

Does the US provide #Americansabroad any benefits? Shouldn’t US #expats who find US @taxationabroad onerous just renounce their US citizenshp?

On May 30, 2020 the following question appeared on Quora and prompted some interesting answers and discussion:

As a defender of American “freedom”, how do you justify the fact that US citizens have to pay taxes to the US even if they live and work abroad (even if they have never been to the US but got their citizenship through their parents)?

I along with others attempted to answer the question. Here is my answer.

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Some of the most interesting analysis comes from the comments to the answers. See the following answer and comment. I have turned David Johnstone’s comment into a post.

One of the answers to the question included the suggestion that:

If someone lives and works abroad as an American citizen, he or she must be enjoying SOME benefits or they would logically renounce their US citizenship instead of paying US taxes. That would be a good solution for anyone facing this question. Just go!

David Johnstone responds to this answer with the following comment:

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Exercising broad regulatory authority, US Treasury has clarified the meaning of “resident” for #FBAR Purposes

Introduction – Looking For Mr. FBAR

What’s new?

I haven’t written a post about Mr. FBAR for quite some time. But, a post about the recent Boyd case at Tax Connections, by Darlene Hart got me thinking about FBAR again. For those interested – where the IRS successfully argued that it was appropriate to impose penalties on each individual account – here is the case:

HBe

And for a hint at the commentary:

Those who know little about Mr. FBAR might find this introduction to FBAR – although written in 2012 – helpful. Incidentally, it’s pretty obvious that Russia’s Foreign Bank account reporting laws were based on an admiration of Treasury’s success with the FBAR rules.

The purpose of this post

The purpose of this post is to explain:

1. The Congressional FBAR statute – Title 31 Section 5314 – which delegates to Treasury the responsibility of determining ALL aspects of FBAR administration including:

– who is subject to FBAR reporting

– the financial thresholds that trigger reporting

2. It is NOT the Congressional FBAR statute that defines the absurdly low $10,000 threshold for reporting. Rather it is Treasury. Although FBAR penalties are now indexed to inflation, the FBAR reporting threshold remains at $10,000. To put it simply: through inflation, Treasury has found a way to increase both the number of FBAR violations and the penalties associated with those violations. (There is a reason it’s called “The FBAR Fundraiser”).

3. It is not Congress that imposes the FBAR requirement on Americans abroad. It is Treasury. In fact, Treasury has recognized that they it has the right to exempt Americans abroad from the FBAR requirements, but has refused to do so. To be specific, Treasury’s 20111 statement found on page 10327 (middle column) was without explanation:

With respect to the comments raised by United States persons living abroad, FinCEN does not believe that an exemption is appropriate simply because a United States person chooses to live outside of the United States.

Treasury offered no reason for this decision.

Commentary on this decision at the Isaac Brock Society may be read here.

4. Treasury has by regulation “tinkered” with the meaning of “resident” over the years. I note that in 2012 (as explained by Phil Hodgen and others) the meaning of “resident” was not defined by statute. Rather, it is through Treasury regulations, that the word “resident” is given meaning. By 2017 Treasury had adopted the statutory meaning of resident used in the Internal Revenue Code (Section 7701(b)). (By expanding the definition of “United States” to include possessions and territories, it appears that Treasury has expanded the penalty base to include U.S. “Nationals”.) The FBAR statute is found in Title 31. The Internal Revenue Code is Title 26. There is neither a requirement nor a reason why Treasury should have used the definition of “resident” in Title 26 as the the meaning of “resident” in Section 5314 of Title 31. There are many different ways of defining “resident”. For example, for U.S. Estate and Gift Tax purposes, “residency” is defined in terms of domicile …

My point is this

Individuals and groups attempting to achieve justice for Americans abroad, Accidental Americans, Green Card Holders and all “U.S. Persons” would be advised to focus their efforts on U.S. Treasury. Yes, the lobbying of Congress should continue. But, meaningful change can be achieved without Congress even being aware of it. U.S. Treasury has the authority and ability to fix the FBAR related penalty and reporting injustices imposed on Americans abroad. But, FBAR is just the beginning. Almost all of the problems of Americans abroad can be fixed by Treasury.

This is the first of a series of posts in which I will explain how Treasury can solve almost all of the problems inflicted by the U.S. Government on Americans abroad.

John Richardson – Follow me on Twitter @Expatriationlaw

Appendix – For those who want to better understand the technicalities: Let me explain you …

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A public service announcement during this Holiday Season: Uncle Sam Is Demanding Retired Accidental Americans for Their Life Savings

Uncle Sam Is Demanding Retired Accidental Americans for Their Life Savings

(Some Holiday Season wisdom sent to me from an anonymous source)

Meet one of the most fascinating anomalies of our time, the accidental American. That is to say, folks who were born in the United States but who were not raised there. Whether you identify as an American or not, Uncle Sam is itching to take your money. Here’s what you need to know about being an accidental American, apologies in advance for the inconvenience.

Breaking it Down, Prepare to be Outraged, You Should Be

You might want to brace yourself for the inevitable frustration that will ensue. Picture this, you’ve lived in Spain for most of your life and were born in the United States. You’re about to retire and are getting excited about getting the chance to wind down, relax, and spend more time with your family. Unfortunately, Uncle Sam sees your retirement as his cue to come knocking on your door demanding money.

Uncle Sam Wants to Turn Your Life Savings Into Back Taxes

The money that you worked the better years of your life to accumulate is something to be proud of as a productive citizen. Uncle Sam, less affectionately known as the IRS, is determined to drain your life savings. The U.S. government will tell you that you owe money to them for back taxes. Any rational mind will readily surmise that these claims and demands are as fanciful as they are unfair.

We aren’t talking about a few hundred Euros here. You could easily owe tens of thousands of dollars to the U.S. government for no reason other than having been born in the United States of America.

Unfortunately for all of us retired accidental Americans, Uncle Sam couldn’t care less over the reasoning. The cold hard fact is that America is a business. President Calvin Coolidge spoke some of the most honest words ever uttered by a politician when he said, “The business of America is, business.” That’s it plain and simple. When Uncle Sam comes gunning for your savings, don’t ask him why he’s doing it, it’s just business.

You Are Not Alone

As an accidental American, you are not alone. There are thousands of people who are suffering from the same injustices. Through arrogance, greed, delirium, or all three, the U.S. government is helping itself to the savings of people around the world.

The IRS is an ever-hungry machine that is intent on strangling every red cent out of people that it possibly can. Given the lofty powers awarded to it by way of the U.S. government, they can be a scary bunch. However, staying informed on the monstrous policies that you’re unfairly expected to comply with is always a good idea. The U.S. government has deliberately made it as difficult and as painful as possible to preserve your savings from the ravages of Uncle Sam’s insatiable fiscal desires.

Over the years, governments have been driven to squeeze citizens of their savings. Some governments are fair when it comes to this. The disturbingly innovative voraciousness of the U.S. government’s mechanisms for sucking money out of its citizens is highly concerning. Of course, that voraciousness extends to accidental citizens around the world.

Stay Informed and Stay Angry

It’s always advisable to stay informed on these matters so that you can at least anticipate the damage before it hits you. Unfortunately all staying informed is going to do is let you know what to expect and be a bit proactive about it. The policies themselves aren’t changing and they have shown no signs of doing so any time soon. Why should they? The U.S. government is making a killing by raking in all of that money from accidental Americans.

Skimming from their life savings is a cash cow that will be hard for Uncle Sam to give up. That’s why you should be upset. The IRS is actively targeting your life savings and will use unrelenting bureaucratic forces to get a chunk of it. You have a right to be upset, no one should have to dole out so much of their hard earned money because of a fanciful design in policy.

(Some Holiday Season wisdom from an anonymous source)

John Richardson – Follow me on Twitter @Expatriationlaw

December 31, 2019 and US Born individuals living outside the USA without having a Social Security Number

Introduction – “The Little Red FATCA Book”

More at:

The Two Ugly Faces of FATCA – One for foreign banks and another for US persons

The Obligations of the banks under the IGA

These obligations are described in the FATCA IGA entered into between the United States and the other country. In general the IGA requires non-U.S. banks to “Review, Identify and Report” on U.S. citizens.

The Obligations of the individual taxpayer under IRC 6038D – Form 8938
The mandatory reporting which takes place on Form 8938 is mandated Internal Revenue Code 6038D.

Non-US AKA “Foreign Banks” – The Problem of US Born customers who do NOT have a US Social Security Number are they in danger of their bank accounts being closed?

Those accused of being U.S. citizens who are NOT U.S. citizens have the opportunity to “self-certify” they are NOT U.S. citizens

The Possibility of being “Born In The USA” but NOT being a U.S. citizen

The Possibility of being “Born Outside The USA”, acquiring U.S. citizenship at birth but NOT being a U.S. citizen today

Looks like being “Born In The USA” may not be a great thing!

John Richardson – Follow me on Twitter @ExpatriationLaw

Part 6 of series: Why this Toronto based International Tax specialist always asks whether there are any U.S. taxpayers in the family

Before moving to the post, if you believe that Americans abroad are being treated unjustly by the United States Government: Join me on May 17, 2019 for a discussion of U.S. “citizenship-based taxation” as follows:


You are invited to submit your questions in advance. In fact, PLEASE submit questions. This is an opportunity to engage with Homelanders in general and the U.S. tax compliance community in particular.
Thanks to Professor Zelinsky for his willingness to engage in this discussion. Thanks to Kat Jennings of Tax Connections for hosting this discussion. Thanks to Professor William Byrnes for his willingness to moderate this discussion.
Tax Connections has published a large number of posts that I have written over the years (yes, hard to believe it has been years). As you may know I oppose FATCA, U.S. citizenship-based taxation and the use of FATCA to impose U.S. taxation on tax residents of other countries.
Tax Connections has also published a number of posts written by Professor Zelinsky (who apparently takes a contrary view).
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This is the sixth of a series of posts that reflect views and experiences of Americans abroad who are experiencing the reality of living as an American abroad in an FBAR and FATCA world. (The first post is here.) The second post is here. The third post is here. The fourth post is here. The fifth post is here. I think it’s important to hear from people who are actually impacted by this and who have the courage to speak out. The “reality on the ground” is quite different from the theory.
I hope that this series of posts will give you ideas for questions and concerns that you would like to have addressed in the May 17, 2019 Tax Connections – Citizenship Taxation discussion.
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The last post in this series made the point that U.S. “citizenship-based taxation” impacts people who are dual citizens and tax residents of other countries. Many of of these people do NOT view themselves as U.S. citizens at all. The suggestion that they are U.S. citizens is not welcome and is (because U.S. citizens are subject to a vast regulatory scheme) an intrusion in their lives. Fair enough.
Most of the posts in this series describe the effect of U.S. regulation on those who ARE U.S. citizens. What about the effect of “citizenship-based taxation” on those who are NOT U.S. citizens? The marriage of Meghan Markle to Prince Harry has generated an awareness of the regulatory requirements on U.S. citizens who live outside the United States. This is only part of the problem. To focus on how U.S. citizenship-based taxation affects ONLY U.S. citizens is selfish and misguided. After all, by marrying Prince Harry, Meghan Markle is now part of a family which includes non-resident aliens. As I recently suggested on Twitter:


My thinking along these lines began with:
What about Internal Revenue Code Section 318? This would deem “Baby Sussex” to be (for IRS purposes) the owner of any the shares of any U.K. corporations that Harry might own. This is only one of many instances where (to put it simply) the U.S. citizenship of one family member can become a problem for the whole family. In any event, this series really needs a post, describing what could happen, when a U.S. citizen becomes part of what is otherwise, a family of “non-resident aliens”.
In order to assist with this, I realized that I needed the input of a “U.S. Tax Anthropologist”. I turned to Peter Megoudis who is the director of the expat tax division at Trowbridge. Peter astutely recognised that the United States invented the concept of the “expat”. See the following video clip.


I asked Peter if he would share the results of his research on how one U.S. citizen family member could impact the whole family. In other words: How do the rules of U.S. “citizenship-based taxation” affect people who are not U.S. citizens, but have chosen to interact with U.S. citizens?
Peter replied to me with the following …
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Mr. Smyth Goes To Washington: Accidental Americans #FATCA – @ADCSovereignty – @RepHolding bill and More!


Today I had an interesting conversation with veteran FATCA and citizenship-taxation activist Timothy Smyth. There are few people with his depth of knowledge and insight.
He will be in Washington this week. He is the man in above tweet who deserves your support and funding!
Enjoy the insight in his podcasts

Part 25: What God Hath Wrought – The #FATCA Inquisition (Review, Identify and Report on “U.S. Persons”) – What if the 8 month year old Canadian is a "US Person"?


 

Is it Congress or Treasury that is responsible for "taxation-based citizenship"? Perhaps change is through regulation and not law!

This post is a continuation to my recent post: “The Internal Revenue Code does not explicitly define “citizen”, “citizenship” or require “citizenship-based taxation“. That post was reposted at the Isaac Brock Society, and received a comment which included:

Your statement that the IRC does not explicitly define citizenship is technically correct. It is also misleading. When the IRC was codified in 1939, the Secretary of Treasury was given an order to issue all needful regulations. That mandate is now found at 26 USC 7805. The needful regulation of the Secretary, Treasury Regulation, 26 CFR 1.1-1(c) explicitly defines citizenship in terms of the 14th Amendment and it included the term subject. 26 CFR 1.1-1(a) explicitly states that the tax imposed by section 1 of the IRC imposes the tax on citizens and residents. It does not list any other type, class or category of person upon the tax may be imposed by force.

In the original post I had demonstrated why taxation based on “citizenship” was a reasonable inference from Sections 1 and 2 of the Internal Revenue Code. The basic reasoning from Sections 1 and 2 of the Internal Revenue (without consideration of outside sources) is reflected in the following syllogism:

1. All individuals with the exception of non-resident aliens are subject to U.S. taxation.
2. Citizens are individuals who are NOT “nonresident aliens”
Therefore, citizens are subject to taxation.

Nevertheless, the comment raises a very interesting question. To put it simply the question is:
Could U.S. Treasury/IRS by regulation exempt Americans abroad from U.S. taxation?
The purpose of this post is to explore this very interesting question.
Let’s work with the information in the comment.
1. S. 7805 of the Internal Revenue Code gives U.S. Treasury the authority to make regulations to implement the provisions of the Internal Revenue Code.

(a) Authorization
Except where such authority is expressly given by this title to any person other than an officer or employee of the Treasury Department, the Secretary shall prescribe all needful rules and regulations for the enforcement of this title, including all rules and regulations as may be necessary by reason of any alteration of law in relation to internal revenue.

2. The regulation made to interpret S. 7805 of the Internal Revenue Code is:

§ 1.1-1 Income tax on individuals.
(a) General rule.
(1) Section 1 of the Code imposes an income tax on the income of every individual who is a citizen or resident of the United States and, to the extent provided by section 871(b) or 877(b), on the income of a nonresident alien individual. …
(JR Note: This does NOT say ONLY “citizen or resident”, but okay.)
(b) Citizens or residents of the United States liable to tax. In general, all citizens of the United States, wherever resident, and all resident alien individuals are liable to the income taxes imposed by the Code whether the income is received from sources within or without the United States. …
(c) Who is a citizen. Every person born or naturalized in the United States and subject to its jurisdiction is a citizen. For other rules governing the acquisition of citizenship, see chapters 1 and 2 of title III of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1401-1459). For rules governing loss of citizenship, see sections 349 to 357, inclusive, of such Act (8 U.S.C. 1481-1489), Schneider v. Rusk, (1964) 377 U.S. 163, and Rev. Rul. 70-506, C.B. 1970-2, 1. For rules pertaining to persons who are nationals but not citizens at birth, e.g., a person born in American Samoa, see section 308 of such Act (8 U.S.C. 1408). For special rules applicable to certain expatriates who have lost citizenship with a principal purpose of avoiding certain taxes, see section 877. A foreigner who has filed his declaration of intention of becoming a citizen but who has not yet been admitted to citizenship by a final order of a naturalization court is an alien.

All well and good, what might this mean? Why might this be helpful?
A possible conclusion:
In the above regulation Treasury appears to have restricted the meaning and scope of the word “individual” to “citizen or resident”. For example a U.S. national is a broader term than citizen. (Confirmed by S. C of the above regulation “For rules pertaining to persons who are nationals but not citizens at birth“). Yet, in this regulation Treasury appears to have excluded “nationals”, who clearly are “individuals”, from payment of the income taxes imposed in Subtitle A of Title 26. Yet, U.S. “nationals” are clearly “individuals”.


Put it another way: In this Treasury regulation, Treasury is excluding at least one class of “individuals” (“nationals”) from the Income Tax. If Treasury can exclude one class of persons from the meaning of “individuals” for the purposes of S. 1 of the Internal Revenue Code, then why can’t it exclude another class of individuals?
I nominate Americans abroad as a class of “individuals” that Treasury could ALSO exempt from taxation under Subtitle A of Title 26 (the income tax).
To put it another way:
Could “taxation-based citizenship” be abolished by Treasury/IRS regulation? This seems like a simple argument. Why has this argument not been made before?
Afterthought …
In the last two Obama budgets, the White House has recognized the injustice of imposing “U.S. taxation” on certain “accidental Americans“. If Treasury believes it can define “individuals” in a way that excludes certain “individuals” from U.S. Income tax, then why not let the Obama government solve this problem through regulation (which he loves doing anyway) rather than waiting for Congress to change the law (at best as part of major tax reform) or through the Alliance For The Defeat of Citizenship Taxation lawsuit.
A question for President Obama and Democrats who have caused all the problems:
Cook v. Tait just means that the U.S. had (at least in 1924) the constitutional right to impose citizenship-based taxation. This does not mean that the U.S. is required to have citizenship-based taxation.
How about abolishing citizenship-based taxation through regulation?
With the stroke of a pen you could solve this problem – that is if you want to!
In fact, here is recent precedent of your attempting to amend the Internal Revenue Code by regulation:


Yes we can!!!
John Richardson

The ownership and use of the "U.S. Person" (which includes a "citizen") as an instrument of foreign policy

Welcome and a bit of an introduction
This post turned out to be longer and cover more topics than I originally intended. The problem with discussing the problems experienced by Americans abroad is that there are many “moving parts”. I have broken SOME of the “moving parts” into, well six parts and a “prologue”.
In addition, as the title suggests, the original intention of the post was to discuss how the U.S. Government uses its citizens as “instruments of foreign policy”. The obvious question is: how can they possibly do this? Doesn’t U.S. law end at U.S. borders? How can the United States impose law on the rest of the world. The answer to that question raises other issues (which are discussed in the other parts of this post).
I guess I need a new title for the post.
I would also like to say that I am hopeful that there will be change. That said, change is possible ONLY (regardless of intention) if all of the issues are understood individually and how they interact.
Prologue – U.S. citizens are “subjects” to U.S. law wherever they may be in the world
Part I – The U.S. “Giveth” and the U.S. “Taketh” – How the U.S. uses “citizenship” as a weapon against individuals
Part II – U.S. Citizens living abroad – “Life in the penalty box”
Part III – I’m a “Toxic American”, but it’s not my fault – How U.S. regulation makes “U.S. citizens undesirables in other nations
Part IV – The use of U.S. citizens as instruments of foreign policy
Part V – Why Americans abroad are renouncing U.S. citizenship
Part VI – The injustice of the S. 877A “Exit Tax” as applied to Americans abroad
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Tax Haven or Tax Heaven 4: Why bother "poaching capital" as a Tax Haven, if you can steal the capital using citizenship-based taxation?

Involuntary “poaching” of capital – “citizenship-based taxation”
U.S. citizenship-based taxation ALSO results in the direct “poaching of capital” from other nations! A thoughtful post describing the cost of U.S. “poaching” to Canada is here.


 
Through “citizenship-based taxation” the United States has turned U.S. citizens residing in other nations into “Weapons of Capital Extraction”. By imposing direct taxation on U.S. persons in other nations, the United States transfers the capital of other nations to the U.S. Treasury.
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