Tag Archives: Americans abroad

The Road To Tax Reform For Americans Abroad: Part 1 – The Problem Is The System And Not The Party

Introduction – The First Of A Series Of Short Posts

My name is John Richardson. I am a Toronto, Canada based lawyer. I am also a founding member of “SEAT” (“Stop Extraterritorial American Taxation”). I am an advocate for reforming the US laws which apply to US citizens who live outside the United States as permanent residents of other countries. The problems experienced by Americans abroad are at the “boiling point” and something must be done. This post is motivated by the following twitter thread which reveals the pain, desperation, anger and divisiveness experienced by Americans abroad:

This is the first of a series of short posts in which I will share my thoughts and suggestions for how to proceed. I welcome your comments both here and on twitter where I am @Expatriationlaw.

Blind Partisanship Is Not Productive

I want to state at the outset that I am an independent and am not a member of any political party. I have been and continue to be supportive of independent candidates in Canada (and anywhere else). I state this because during this series of posts, I will express sentiments that are critical of political parties. When I criticize the Democrats it’s not because I am a Republican. It’s because the Democrats are deserving of criticism (or vice-versa). Healthy democracies are dependent on accurate observations and objective analysis. Excessive partisanship is simply an excuse for reasoned analysis.

The Difficulty Of Living As A US Citizen Outside The United States

First, if you are a “retiree living abroad” where all of your income is US sourced this post is NOT for you. You are filing the same US tax return while “retiring abroad” that you would if you were living in the USA. You are probably filing tax returns ONLY in the USA. Therefore, the US citizenship tax regime does not impact you in the same way. This post is for those who live permanently outside the United States and your income sources, assets and retirement planning are associated with the tax systems of other countries (foreign to the United States).

Second, As permanent residents of other countries, US citizens are treated as BOTH tax residents of the United States and tax residents of the countries where they live. In other words, they are subject to the full force of two (often incompatible) tax systems. Think of it. US citizens living outside the United States are subject to the tax systems of two countries at the same time. Leaving aside the anxiety this induces, the time that it takes to comply, the heightened threats of penalties and the outrageous costs of compliance (think tax accountants and lawyers), this puts Americans abroad in a position where:

1. They are subjected to a tax system that is more punitive than the tax system imposed on US residents

2. They are often subject to double taxation (the foreign tax credit rules and the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion do not prevent many forms of double taxation)

3. The US tax rules prevent them from engaging in the normal financial planning and retirement opportunities (Canadian TFSA and UK ISAs are not tax free for US citizens)

4. In many countries, because and only because of their US citizenship they are prevented from maintaining the normal financial accounts they need to live in a normal way (this is the direct result of the 2010 Obama FATCA law)

The cumulative weight of these problems is that US citizens living outside the United States are being constructively forced to renounce their US citizenship in order to survive. But, it gets worse. Since June 16, 2008 certain Americans abroad who renounce US citizenship (“covered expatriates“) are forced to pay a special expatriation tax on their non-US assets to achieve this goal. (You can find a video of my discussing US citizenship renunciation here.)

Americans abroad are NOT renouncing because they don’t want to be Americans. They are renouncing because the US tax and regulatory regime is forcing them out of their US citizenship!

It’s The System Not The Parties

Regardless of which political party is in power, tax laws will continue to change.

As long as the United States employs citizenship-based taxation, changes in US tax laws will continue to have dramatic (sometimes intended and sometimes unintended) effects on Americans abroad. These negative effects and outcomes will continue regardless of which political party is in power.

For example:

The 2017 TCJA became law under the Republicans. The effects on Americans abroad were horrible. (Examples include: Transition Tax, GILTI, those using the “Married Filing Separately” category were required to file with zero income)

The 2010 FATCA law was enacted under the Democrats. The effects on Americans abroad were horrible. (Examples include: Form 8938, FATCA bank account closures, etc.)

Therefore, it is a mistake to bicker over which political party has done more or less damage to Americans abroad. As long as citizenship-based taxation continues and tax laws continue to evolve, whatever political party is in power will – by changing tax laws – continue to damage the lives and finances of Americans abroad.

Individual American Abroad Must Unite To Get This System Of Law Changed

Conclusion for today: The problem is the system! It’s not the political parties.

You have the right to vote. The question is not which party to vote for. The question is how can you most effectively use your vote to end US citizenship-based taxation and encourage FATCA repeal.

To be continued …

John Richardson – Follow me on Twitter @Expatriationlaw

Americans Abroad And Financial Planning In A FATCA And FBAR World – LJ Eiben

The Importance Of Financial And Retirement Planning – It’s Not Easy For Americans Abroad

Americans abroad are severely disabled by the US tax and regulatory regime. As a result they need to plan more carefully and they have fewer options that those who are not US citizens.

I reached out to LJ Eiben of Raymond James to discuss various aspects of the “US Citizenship Dilemma”. Both US Social Security and Canada Pension Plan are part of the equation. I first spoke with LJ in November of 2021 about US Social Security.

Here are three podcasts …

November 11, 2021 – US Social Security For Canadian Residents

January 26, 2022 – Canada Pension Plan And Old Age Security For Canadian Residents

February 4, 2022 – Raymond James: A Permanent Investing Solution For People With Lives And Investments In Both Canada And The US

2022 Financial Planning Facts For Tax Residents Of Canada

Have a look at the following …

2022 Financial Planning Facts ENG

Finally …

Required Disclaimer: The information contained in these slides was obtained from sources RJA and believed to be reliable; however, we cannot represent that it is accurate or complete. It is provided as a general source of information and should not be considered personal investment advice or solicitation to buy or sell securities. The views expressed are not necessarily those of Raymond James (USA) Ltd. Raymond James (USA) Ltd. (RJLU) advisors may only conduct business with residents of the states and/or jurisdictions for which they are properly registered.

Raymond James (USA) Ltd. is a member of FINRA / SIPC

John Richardson – Follow me on Twitter @Expatriationlaw

Americans Abroad And Voting Part 2: Born in the USA? Those who relinquished US citizenship under INA 349(a) are NOT eligible to vote in the November 3, 2020 US election

This is the second of my series of my posts that discusses Americans abroad (and in particular Americans in Canada) and voting. My first post discussed the nuts and bolts of voting from abroad. Specifically, I discussed how Americans abroad can vote in the November 3, 2020 election.

Clearly one must be an American citizen to be eligible to vote. This post is for the purpose of identifying a category of person who was “Born In The USA” but is NOT a US citizen. The basic theme of this post is discussed in the following podcast. But, the bottom line is this:

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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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Recently Released Survey Report Dispels Myth of the Wealthy American Abroad and Demonstrates Why Middle Class Americans Abroad Are Forced To Renounce US Citizenship

This blog post features the research of Laura Snyder. It is (I believe) the single and most comprehensive study of (1) the U.S. legislation that is understood to apply to Americans abroad and (2) the disastrous impact this legislation has on them. To put it simply, Congress is forcing Americans Abroad to renounce their U.S. citizenship.

The bottom line is that for Amerians Abroad:

“All Roads Lead To Renunciation!”

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And now over to Laura Snyder with thanks.
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Part 2: Because banks and people are not the same: @RepMaloney #FATCA amendments require foreign banks but NOT individuals to report custodial accounts

Introduction:


FATCA imposes obligations on both foreign banks (report on individuals to the IRS – Internal Revenue Code Section 1471) and obligations on individual Americans abroad (report foreign assets to the IRS – Internal Revenue Code 6038D).
Depository vs. Custodial Accounts
In general a “Depository” accounts is a basic day-to-day bank account (checking, savings, etc.)
In general a “Custodial” account is a brokerage or other account that holds assets for management.
The Maloney bill addresses these obligations (with respect to the reporting of “Custodial” accounts) differently.
The Maloney bill and foreign banks – Section 1471 Amendments – custodial accounts are reportable
Representative Maloney’s H.R. 4362 – “Overseas Americans Financial Access Act” – includes relief provisions for both foreign banks AND for individual Americans abroad.
My previous post discussed how the Maloney bill impacts the reporting requirements of foreign banks. Notably the Maloney bill relaxes the reporting requirements for foreign banks ONLY with respect to depository accounts.
The Maloney bill and individuals – Section 6038D Amendments – custodial accounts not reportable
It appears that the Maloney bill would relax the Form 8938 reporting requirements for individuals with respect to BOTH depository and custodial accounts. Although not a model of clarity, it means that (as a general principle) Americans abroad would not be required to report their local (foreign to the USA) accounts (depository or custodial) to the IRS. This is a variant of what has been called FATCA SCE (“Same Country Exemption”).
Bottom Line: Foreign banks and Americans abroad do NOT get the same treatment under the Maloney bill. Is this an oversight? Is it careless drafting? Is it deliberate?
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Technical analysis (of interest to few people) follows:
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The United States imposes a separate and more punitive tax system on US dual citizens who live in their country of second citizenship

Prologue

Do you recognise yourself?

You are unable to properly plan for your retirement. Many of you with retirement assets are having them confiscated (at this very moment) courtesy of the Sec. 965 transition tax. You are subjected to reporting requirements that presume you are a criminal. Yet your only crime was having been born in America (something you didn’t even choose) and attempting to live as a U.S. tax compliant American outside the United States. Your comments to my recent article at Tax Connections reflect and register your conviction that you should not be subjected to the extra-territorial application of the Internal Revenue Code – when you don’t live in the United States.

The Internal Revenue Code: You can’t leave home without it!

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