Tag Archives: Canada U.S. FATCA IGA

Part 2: "What God Hath Wrought" – Interpreting the IGA: Definitions incorporated by reference reveal the true intent of the FATCA IGA

Introduction – Updated April 4, 2016

The above tweet references a comment posted at iPolitics.ca

Thanks to Elizabeth Thompson for her continued coverage of the FATCA Chronicles.
Her article contains the following statement from the Minister of National Revenue:
“Minister Lebouthillier wants to reassure Canadians that all exchanges of information are subject to strict confidentiality rules,” reads the e-mail sent by Lebouthillier’s office.
“The CRA ensures that tax cooperation with its foreign partners is done in a manner fully consistent with privacy rights in Canada. It is important to note that Canada and the United States have a long history of exchanging tax information in a fair and responsible manner, going back to 1942.”
Whether the Minister believes what she says or not, FATCA supporters in the United States have made it clear that the use of information obtained pursuant to FATCA, should NOT to be used only for tax purposes. Since this post references, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau’s letter to Lynne Swanson, I will reference you to a blog post written by Lynne Swanson which appears on her Maplesandbox.ca blog at:
Ms. Swanson’s post references a 2012 letter written by the then U.S. Senator Carl Levin.
The letter from Senator Levin includes:
“Although FATCA is structured to address offshore tax abuse, offshore account information has significance far beyond the tax context, affecting cases involving money laundering, drug trafficking, terrorist financing, acts of corruption, financial fraud, and many other legal violations and crimes. Given the importance of offshore account disclosures, FATCA guidance and implementing rule should create account FATCA forms that are not designated as tax return information but, like FBARs, may be provided to law enforcement, regulatory, and national security communities upon request. FFIs are not, after all, U.S. taxpayers, and will not be supplying tax information on behalf of their U.S. clients; they will instead be providing information about accounts opened by U.S. persons. The U.S. Supreme Court has long held that bank account information is not inherently confidential but is subject to inspection by law enforcement and others in appropriate circumstances. Foreign account information is too important to a wide range of civil and criminal law enforcement and national security efforts to be designated as tax return information bound by Section 6103’s severe restrictions on access.”
You can read the letter yourself here:
Ms. Swanson concludes her post by asking the obvious question:
“Why bother with a warrant or surveillance when you can simply declare someone a “US person” and FATCA them?!?”

In Part 1 I described how the FATCA IGA is being applied to a U.K. PTA. My next post will continue the discussion of “Entities”. That said, this series of posts is about how the FATCA IGA works and how it may be interpreted. This post will focus on how some of the definitions in the FATCA IGA are found NOT in the IGA but in other sources.
This post will also explain how the clear definitions  in the IGA (incorporation by reference from other sources) makes it clear that the purpose of the IGA is to extend beyond taxation. The IGA is supposedly justified as an extension to the Canada U.S. Tax Treaty which is found here.
Article XXVII of the Treaty reads as follows:

Article XXVII

Exchange of Information

1. The competent authorities of the Contracting States shall exchange such information as is relevant for carrying out the provisions of this Convention or of the domestic laws of the Contracting States concerning taxes to which the Convention applies insofar as the taxation thereunder is not contrary to the Convention. The exchange of information is not restricted by Article I (Personal Scope). Any information received by a Contracting State shall be treated as secret in the same manner as information obtained under the taxation laws of that State and shall be disclosed only to persons or authorities (including courts and administrative bodies) involved in the assessment or collection of, the administration and enforcement in respect of, or the determination of appeals in relation to the taxes to which the Convention applies or, notwithstanding paragraph 4, in relation to taxes imposed by a political subdivision or local authority of a Contracting State that are substantially similar to the taxes covered by the Convention under Article II (Taxes Covered). Such persons or authorities shall use the information only for such purposes. They may disclose the information in public court proceedings or in judicial decisions. The competent authorities may release to an arbitration board established pursuant to paragraph 6 of Article XXVI (Mutual Agreement Procedure) such information as is necessary for carrying out the arbitration procedure; the members of the arbitration board shall be subject to the limitations on disclosure described in this Article.

To put it simply:

  1. The clear terms of the U.S. Canada Tax Treaty make it clear that the treaty is about taxation.
  2. The clear terms of the U.S. Canada IGA make it clear that it is about much more than taxation.

Yet, the Governments of both Canada and the United States claim that the IGA is justified as an extension of the tax treaty.
Introduction …
So much has been written about FATCA IGAs that few people consider the original FATCA legislation. The IGAs seem to have taken on a life of their own. As a reminder, the original FATCA legislation may be found in S. 1471 to S. 1474 of the Internal Revenue Code.
Much has written about the reason for the FATCA IGAs. Much has written about the role that the Canadian banks played in lobbying for the FATCA IGAs. Much has written about the Canadian laws that have been changed to comply with the FATCA IGAs.
Very little has been written about how to interpret the IGAs. It is assumed that the FATCA IGAs are to facilitate the intent of FATCA as expressed in S. 1471 to S. 1474 of the Internal Revenue Code. A perusal of the definitions section of the Canada U.S. FATCA IGA suggests that this may not be true.
This post is to highlight certain definitions found in the IGA that are incorporated by reference from other sources. I believe that the passage of time will demonstrate how important these “incorporations by reference” are.
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