Tag Archives: citizenship taxation

Should tax residency Be Based On The “Circumstances Of Your Birth” Or The “Circumstances Of Your Life”?

Panel session – US Expat Tax Conference from Deborah Hicks on Vimeo.

Should taxation be based on the “circumstances of your birth” or the “circumstances of your life”? President Obama doesn’t think (apparently) that the “circumstances of your birth” birth should determine the “outcome of your life”. Should the “circumstances of your birth” determine your tax residency?

This is a second post exploring what is the true meaning of U.S. citizenship-based taxation. In an earlier post – “Toward A Definition Of Citizenship Taxation” – I explored the contextual meaning and effect of U.S. “citizenship taxation”. The only “contextual effect” and “practical meaning” of U.S. citizenship taxation may be described as:

Therefore, the practical meaning of “citizenship taxation” is the United States imposing taxation on the non-US source income earned by people who live in other countries. To be clear: citizenship taxation means that the United States is claiming the residents of OTHER countries as US residents for tax purposes!

That’s amazing stuff! Most countries believe that they are sovereign and that includes sovereignty over matters of taxation. Yet, any country that is a party to a U.S. tax treaty has actually agreed that a subset of the treaty partner’s tax residents are ALSO U.S. tax residents! Although nobody questions the right of the United States to prescribe its own definition of tax residency, few would agree that the United States has the right to claim the residents of other countries as U.S. tax residents. Yet, this is what the U.S. citizenship taxation regime means. This U.S. extraterritorial claim of taxation is at the root of the FATCA administration problems and at the root of the the events that led to Treasury Notice 2023-11 (released on December 30, 20220).

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Toward A Definition Of US Citizenship Taxation

Prologue

The term “citizenship tax” is abstract and meaningless without context. What does it really mean? In this short post I attempt to describe the defining aspect of US tax residency in simple terms.

Bottom line:

The ONLY contextual meaning of taxing based on citizenship is that it allows the US to impose tax on income earned outside the United States by people who live outside the United States.

Here is why …

What exactly is “citizenship taxation”? How/why does citizenship matter? It’s not what the “treaty partner” countries think!

1. Like all countries the United States imposes worldwide taxation on its residents. Individuals living in the United States will meet the “substantial presence” requirements and are therefore taxable on their worldwide income. Citizenship is irrelevant.

2. Like all countries the United States imposes taxation on income sourced in the United States. Generally the United States will have the first right of taxation and has the ability to withhold tax. Citizenship is irrelevant.

3. Like no other country (OK, sort of Eritrea) the United States imposes taxation on the non-US source income of people who do not live in the United States and do live in other countries. The US usually claims this right because those people were “Born In The USA” (making them US citizens). Therefore, the US imposes worldwide taxation on people who live in other countries. Citizenship is relevant because it is why the US claims the right to tax people who don’t live in the US and are residents of other countries.

4. Therefore, the practical meaning of “citizenship taxation” is the United States imposing taxation on the non-US source income earned by people who live in other countries. To be clear: citizenship taxation means that the United States is claiming the residents of OTHER countries as US residents for tax purposes!

5. This means that: Every country in the world who signs a tax treaty with the United States that includes a “saving clause” is agreeing that the United States has the right to tax income earned in the treaty partner country by residents of the treaty partner country. It is obvious that countries signing these treaties have no idea what they are signing. The problem has been further illuminated by the recent US Croatia tax treaty that allows the United States to imposes taxation on Croation residents who ARE and WERE US citizens.

So, US citizenship taxation means that the US can tax the non-US source income of residents of other countries!

John Richardson – Follow me on Twitter @Expatriationlaw

Croatia Agrees To Allow The US To Impose Tax, Forms And Penalties On Its US Citizen Residents

Big News – December 2022

On December 7, 2022 a US Treasury Press Release included:

December 7, 2022
WASHINGTON — In a ceremony held at the U.S. Department of State today, Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment Jose W. Fernandez and Croatia’s Minister of Finance Dr. Marko Primorac signed a comprehensive income tax treaty between the United States and Croatia. The new tax treaty is the first of its kind between the United States and Croatia.

“I am honored to sign the U.S.-Croatia income tax treaty with you today, Finance Minister Primorac,” said Under Secretary Fernandez. “We look forward to taking this monumental step towards further strengthening trade and commercial ties between the United States and Croatia.”

“The Treasury Department is pleased to conclude this new tax treaty with Croatia. It is the first comprehensive tax treaty that the United States has signed in over ten years and reflects our current tax treaty policies and is a milestone in the Treasury’s efforts to expand the U.S. tax treaty network. We appreciate the collaboration Croatia showed throughout the negotiations,” said Lily Batchelder, Assistant Secretary (Tax Policy).

The new tax treaty closely follows the U.S. Model income tax treaty. Key aspects of the new treaty include:

Elimination of withholding taxes on cross-border payments of dividends paid to pension funds and on payments of interest;

Reductions in withholding taxes on cross-border payments of dividends other than those paid to a pension fund, as well as royalties;

Modern anti-abuse provisions intended to prevent instances of non-taxation of income as well as treaty shopping;

Robust dispute resolution mechanisms including mandatory binding arbitration; and
Standard provisions for the exchange of information to help the revenue authorities of both nations carry out their duties as tax administrators.

The new tax treaty will enter into force after the United States and Croatia have notified each other that they have completed their requisite domestic procedures, which in the case of the United States refers to the advice and consent to ratification by the U.S. Senate.

The text of the treaty document can be found at: https://home.treasury.gov/system/files/131/Treaty-Croatia-12-7-2022.pdf

Treaty-Croatia-12-7-2022

Of particular note in Treasury’s announcement is:

“The Treasury Department is pleased to conclude this new tax treaty with Croatia. It is the first comprehensive tax treaty that the United States has signed in over ten years and reflects our current tax treaty policies and is a milestone in the Treasury’s efforts to expand the U.S. tax treaty network. We appreciate the collaboration Croatia showed throughout the negotiations,” said Lily Batchelder, Assistant Secretary (Tax Policy).

The new tax treaty closely follows the U.S. Model income tax treaty.

Treasury’s announcement focuses on the mutually beneficial aspects of the US Croatia tax treaty. Notably Treasury’s announcement fails to comment on the inclusion of the enhanced “saving clausewhich is identical to the following provision in the 2016 US Model tax treaty.

4. Except to the extent provided in paragraph 5 of this Article, this Convention shall not affect the taxation by a Contracting State of its residents (as determined under Article 4 (Resident)) and its citizens. Notwithstanding the other provisions of this Convention, a former citizen or former long-term resident of a Contracting State may be taxed in accordance with the laws of that Contracting State.

5. The provisions of paragraph 4 of this Article shall not affect:
a) the benefits conferred by a Contracting State under paragraph 3 of Article 7 (Business Profits), paragraph 2 of Article 9 (Associated Enterprises), paragraph 7 of Article 13 (Gains), subparagraph (b) of paragraph 1, paragraphs 2, 3 and 6 of Article 17 (Pensions, Social Security, Annuities, Alimony and Child Support), paragraph 3 of Article 18 (Contributions to Pension Funds), and Articles 23 (Relief From Double Taxation), 24 (Non-Discrimination) and 25 (Mutual Agreement Procedure); and
b) the benefits conferred by a Contracting State under paragraph 1 of Article 18 (Contributions to Pension Funds), and Articles 19 (Government Service), 20 (Students and Trainees) and 27 (Members of Diplomatic Missions and Consular Posts), upon individuals who are neither citizens of, nor have been admitted for permanent residence in, that Contracting State.

This represents a significant expansion of the “saving clause” to allow the US to impose US taxation NOT only on its” residents (as determined under Article 4 (Resident)) and its citizens” but also on “a former citizen or former long-term resident” which may are permitted to be subjected to any relevant future provisions of the Internal Revenue Code.

From the perspective of Croatia, the “saving clause” found in Paragraph 4 of Article 1 means:

4. Except to the extent provided in paragraph 5 of this Article, this Treaty shall not affect the taxation by the United States of its residents (as determined under Article 4 (Resident)) and residents of Croatia who happen to be US citizens. Notwithstanding the other provisions of this Convention, a former US citizen or former long-term US Green Card holder who is a resident of Croatia may be taxed by the United States according to the Internal Revenue Code.

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Part 2 – Would A Move To Residency-based Taxation Solve The FATCA Problem For Americans Abroad Created By The FATCA IGAs?

Purpose Of This Post – The “Readers Digest” Version

FATCA is administered through the FATCA IGAs (international agreements) and not through the U.S. Internal Revenue Code (domestic law of the United States). the FATCA IGAs do NOT include a provision to change the meaning of “U.S. Person”. Rather the meaning of “U.S. Person” is permanently defined as a “U.S. citizen or resident”. There is no provision in the IGA to change this definition. Therefore, the IGAs are written so that they will ALWAYS apply to U.S. citizens regardless of whether the U.S. continues citizenship taxation.

In effect, implementing FATCA through the IGAs has had the practical impact that:

– the FATCA partner country has changed its domestic laws to adopt the provisions of the FATCA IGAs which are intended to impose specific rules on “U.S. Persons” who are defined as “U.S. citizens or residents”

– those domestic laws reference the FATCA IGAs which contain no provision to change or adapt the meaning of “U.S. Person” which means that discrimination against “U.S. citizens” is permanent.

– resulting in a situation where the FATCA partner country is obligated under its own domestic law to target “U.S. citizens” for special treatment!

Note that this is irrelevant to how the United States defines tax residency! A move to residence-based taxation will not change this basic fact.

Bottom line: The United States has forced other countries to permanently discriminate against U.S. citizens. Because the discrimination is enshrined in the FATCA IGAs, the United States has effectively created an extra-territorial jail for its own citizens, forced other countries to lock U.S. citizens up and effectively thrown away the key!!

#YouCantMakeThisUp!

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Introduction And Background On FATCA

FATCA has created many difficulties for Americans abroad. It has caused great anxiety, created an awareness of US citizenship taxation, expanded the US tax base into other countries and resulted in a growing number of Americans renouncing US citizenship. Because the US employs citizenship taxation, FATCA has created a situation where information flows from a country where Americans abroad live (for example Canada) to a country where they do not live (the United States). Any suggestion that FATCA and the CRS (“Common Reporting Standard”) are some how equivalent is wrong. Many of the differences between FATCA and the CRS are explained here. Finally, neither the FATCA IGAs nor FATCA as defined in the Internal Revenue Code (Chapter 4) impose any obligation of reciprocity on the United States. This has had the consequence of (1) the United States not providing information about accounts held by the tax residents of those countries in the United States while (2) demanding information about the accounts held by US citizens in those other countries. In other words: the combination of the US FATCA law coupled with the US refusal to adopt the CRS has supercharged the United States as a significant tax haven! All of this has had a considerable and life altering impact on US citizens who live, work and engage in retirement/financial planning outside the United States.

FATCA And Citizenship Taxation

There has been considerable discussion about how FATCA interacts with US citizenship taxation and what can be done to mitigate the effects of FATCA on the community of Americans abroad. There is an obvious correlation between the enactment of FATCA and renunciations of US citizenship. What is the solution? If the United States severed “citizenship” from its definition of tax residency (abolishing citizenship taxation) would that solve the FATCA problem for Americans abroad?

Severing citizenship from US tax residency – how would FATCA continue to apply to Americans abroad?

In Part 1 I considered the question of whether a move from citizenship taxation to residence based taxation would end the FATCA problems for Americans abroad under the Internal Revenue Code. I concluded that severing citizenship from tax residency would solve the FATCA problem for Americans abroad in the Internal Revenue Code. The problem is that FATCA is NOT administered through the Internal Revenue Code. FATCA is administered through the FATCA IGAs (“Inter-governmental Agreements”). It’s important to understand that implementing FATCA through the FATCA IGAs has meant that:

1. The FATCA IGAs (agreed to by both the United States and the partner country) have replaced the Internal Revenue Code (a US law made by and only by the United States) as the vehicle through which FATCA is implemented; and

2. The partner country has enacted the terms of the FATCA IGA as the domestic law of that country.

To put it simply, the use of the FATCA to implement FATCA has meant that other countries (at the request of the United States) have adopted laws for the express purpose of identifying US citizens, reporting their financial accounts to the IRS and ultimately discriminating against US citizens by not allowing them access to financial services! In 2008, Candidate Obama defined his vision as “Change You Can Believe In”. He neglected to say that the change included the United States forcing other countries to change their domestic laws to punish US citizens who live in their country!

In this post – Part 2 – I consider whether a move to residence taxation would end the FATCA problem for Americans abroad as it is defined in the FATCA IGAs. I conclude that it would NOT end the FATCA nightmare caused by the FATCA IGAs.

Therefore, a move to residence taxation would NOT end the FATCA nightmare for Americans abroad.

This issue is explored in the following four parts:

Part A: A Move To Residence-based Taxation Under The Internal Revenue Code Would End The Application Of FATCA To Americans Abroad Under The Internal Revenue Code
Part B: A Move To Residence-based Taxation Under The Internal Revenue Code Would NOT End The Application Of FATCA To Americans Abroad Under The FATCA IGAs
Part C: The FATCA IGAs Have Been Legislated As Domestic Law In The FATCA Partner Countries
Part D: What Amendments To The IGAs Would Be Required If The U.S. Severed Citizenship From Tax Residency?

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John Richardson – Information Session – London, UK – Thursday Oct. 13/22 – 19:00 – 21:00

Attention!! Date, time and location updated!! – Thursday Oct. 13/22 – 19:30 – 21:30 – New location! See here.

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John Richardson – Information Session – London, UK – Thursday Oct. 13/22 – 19:00

What: John Richardson informal information and discussion session for those impacted by US extraterritorial overreach

When: Thursday October 13, 2022 – 19:00 – 21:00

Where: Pret A Manger – Directly Across From Russell Square Tube (careful to choose the correct Pret)
40 Bernard Street, London, WC1N 1LE
https://www.pret.co.uk/en-GB/shop-finder/l/london/40-bernard-street/284

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Part 1 – For Americans Abroad: Ending FATCA Would Not End Citizenship Tax, But Ending Citizenship Tax Would End FATCA Under The Internal Revenue Code

Introduction

Americans Abroad are crumbling under the weight of the application of US citizenship taxation to their “every day lives”. Pursuant to America’s “citizenship taxation regime”, the United States is actually imposing a more punitive and more penalty laden reporting regime on US citizens who do NOT live in the United States than on those who do live in the USA.

Think of it:

For every other country in the world, if one ceases to be a resident of the country and establishes residence in another country, one ceases to be taxed by the first country. US citizens who move from the United States: (1) not only continue to be subject to US taxation, but (2) are “subject(s)” to a more punitive taxation than if they remained in the United States!

In 2010 President Obama signed FATCA into law. The effect of FATCA was to (1) institute a “world wide search” for US citizens living outside the United States and (2) to create significant public awareness of US citizenship taxation. I have previously argued that the effect of FATCA was to expand the US tax base into other countries.

FATCA applies to Americans abroad because and only because of US citizenship taxation (the rule that says that Americans abroad are treated as US tax residents even if they don’t live in the United States). Because FATCA created awareness of US citizenship taxation many people have trouble understanding the difference between US citizenship taxation and FATCA. It is understandable that many believe that FATCA and citizenship taxation are the same.

How to understand how/why citizenship taxation is different from FATCA:

1. US citizenship taxation is the rule that says that all US citizens regardless of where they live are subject to all the provisions of the US Internal Revenue Code. These provisions include taxation, reporting penalties and of course full US taxation on all income earned earned while they are living outside the United States. Many US residents do NOT end up actually owing any US tax. Similarly, many US citizens living outside the United States do NOT end up owing any US tax.

2. FATCA is part of the Internal Revenue Code. Because the Internal Revenue Code applies to all US citizens, FATCA (as part of the Internal Revenue Code) applies to all US citizens (including US citizens living outside the United States). Generally FATCA is a provision to require non-US financial institutions to identify their US citizen customers and report their identity to the Internal Revenue Service. FATCA also imposes additional “reporting requirements” on US citizens (including those who live outside the United States) who have non-US bank and financial accounts.

Ending FATCA Would NOT End Citizenship Taxation, But Ending Citizenship Taxation Would – Under The Internal Revenue Code – Likely End The Application Of FATCA To Americans Abroad

The US Internal Revenue Code applies to ALL “individuals”. Because US citizens are “individuals”, the Internal Revenue Code applies to US citizens wherever they live. FATCA is just one part of the Internal Revenue Code. Even if FATCA were repealed the Internal Revenue Code would continue to apply to all US citizens AND its discriminatory impact on Americans abroad would continue.

But, if the United States ended citizenship taxation by severing citizenship from US tax residency (people can no longer be taxed by the United States just because they are a US citizen) the application of FATCA to US citizens abroad would (under the Internal Revenue Code) likely end.

Here is why – some technical “mumbo jumbo” for those interested

1. The Existing Statute Which Under The Citizenship Tax Regime: IRC 1471 (the operative FATCA section) refers to IRC 1473 for the definition of “Specified United States Person” which is defined partly in terms of “United States Person”. The point is that by ceasing to be a “United States Person”, one ceases to be a “Specified United States Person” for FATCA purposes.

The sequence of reasoning under the existing Internal Revenue Code is:

1. If “United States Account” then FFI has FATCA reporting obligations (1471(b)).

2. If account held by “specified United States Person” then “United States Account” (1471(d)(1)

3. If individual “United States Person” then “specified United States Person” (1473(3)).

4. If US citizen or resident then “United States Person” (7701(a)(30)).

The key point is that if an individual is a “US Citizen” (or resident) the FFI must treat the account as a “United States Account”. A “United States Account” exists if and only if there is a US citizen or US resident which triggers the sequence of 1. Becoming a “US Person” and 2. Then becoming a “Specified United States Person” 3.Then becoming a “United States Account” and 4. As a “United States Account” subjecting the FFI to reporting obligations.

The statute is written so that “United States Accounts” that are reportable. By changing the definition of “US Person” one changes whether an account is a “United States Account”. If Congress were to amend the definition of “United States Person” to include “All Blue Eyed Individuals” then accounts held by “Blue Eyed Individuals” would become United States accounts and therefore subject to FATCA reporting.

Bottom line: The disclosure obligations of FFIs applies to “United States Accounts”. Accounts held by “United States Persons” are “United States Accounts”. But any change in the definition of “United States Person” will change the characteristics/definitions of “United States Accounts”. Congress controls the meaning of “United States Account” by controlling the definition of “United States Person”.

2. A Proposed Statute Pursuant To Which The US Transitions To Residence-based Taxation: As part of ending citizenship taxation IRC 7701(a)(30) would be amended to exclude “citizen” from the definition of “United States Person”:

(30)United States person

The term “United States person” means—

(A)a citizen or resident of the United States,
(B)a domestic partnership,
(C)a domestic corporation,
(D)any estate (other than a foreign estate, within the meaning of paragraph (31)), and
(E)any trust if—
(i)a court within the United States is able to exercise primary supervision over the administration of the trust, and
(ii)one or more United States persons have the authority to control all substantial decisions of the trust.

By changing the definition of “United States Persons” to be “residents” the FATCA obligations imposed on FFIs would be determined under the following sequence of reasoning:

1. If “United States Account” then FFI has FATCA reporting obligations (1471(b)).

2. If account held by “specified United States Person” then “United States Account” (1471(d)(1)

3. If individual “United States Person” then “specified United States Person” (1473(3)).

4. If US resident then “United States Person” (7701(a)(30)).

A change to the definition of “United States Person” which defines a “United States Person” as a “resident” would mean that FFIs would no longer be required to disclose accounts held by US citizens but only by US residents.

Conclusion

Ending “citizenship taxation” AKA “severing US citizenship from US tax residency” should solve the FATCA problem for Americans abroad. That said, ending FATCA for Americans abroad would leave the citizenship taxation problem intact!

Ending FATCA would solve “A problem” for Americans abroad. Ending “citizenship taxation” would solve “THE problem” for Americans abroad! At, least under the Internal Revenue Code.

In Part 2, I will explore why ending citizenship taxation under the Internal Revenue Code would NOT solve the FATCA problem for Americans abroad under the FATCA IGAs!

John Richardson – Follow me on Twitter @Expatriationlaw

Appendix – How Severing Citizenship From Tax Residency Would Impact The FATCA IGAs

The definitions section of the Canada US FATCA IGA (see page 7) includes:

ee) The term “U.S. Person” means

(1) a U.S. citizen or resident individual,
(2) a partnership or corporation organized in the United States or under the laws of the United States or any State thereof,
(3) a trust if
(A) a court within the United States would have authority under applicable law to render orders or judgments concerning
substantially all issues regarding administration of the trust, and
(B) one or more U.S. persons have the authority to control all substantial decisions of the trust, or
(4) an estate of a decedent that is a citizen or resident of the United States.

This subparagraph 1(ee) shall be interpreted in accordance with the U.S. Internal Revenue Code.

For the full text of the US Canada FATCA IGA see:

FATCA-eng

Assuming citizenship were severed from US tax residency, either:

1. The definition of “U.S. Person” would require amendment to exclude “U.S. citizen” in (1); and/or

2. The FATCA IGA would simply be interpreted to exclude “U.S. citizen” from the definition of U.S. tax residency.

In other words, the IGAs might require amendment to ensure that its provisions are not triggered by and only by a finding of U.S. citizenship.

Be Careful Of Faulty Logic Claiming FATCA And The CRS Are Similar: Seven Ways They Are Not

Prologue

For those more interested in logic than in FATCA, you will find a discussion of the logical fallacy here.

Introduction

Last week I participated in a group discussion about FATCA and its effect on Accidental Americans. It’s difficult to have a discussion about FATCA that doesn’t include the CRS (“Common Reporting Standard”). Neither FATCA nor the CRS is well understood. That said, an introduction of the CRS into a discussion about FATCA detracts from a consideration of how FATCA impacts Accidental Americans (and others). Furthermore, there is a generalized assumption that the CRS is a positive development. Associating FATCA with the CRS enhances the “illusion” that FATCA is also a positive development.

In part, the discussion assumed that:

– FATCA (U.S. “Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act”) and the OECD CRS (“Common Reporting Standard“) were similar kinds of information exchange agreements; and

– To attack/criticize FATCA would be to criticize and have the effect of weakening the CRS.

These are absurd claims which are based on faulty logic. The faulty logic is that because FATCA and the CRS overlap in one aspect that they are functionally equivalent in intent, effect, purpose and other aspects. The argument appears to be based on the following reasoning:

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H.R. 5800 – To establish a commission to study how Federal laws and policies (except US Citizenship Taxation) affect United States citizens living in foreign countries

The Readers Digest Version

Yes, this post is a bit long. If you don’t want to read it, here is the “Readers Digest” version in the form of a tweet:

Now, on to the explanation …

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Part II: Biden Proposal Changes the Taxation Game for Gifts and Inheritances – Americans Abroad Hit Hard

Today’s post, Part II, was written by Virgina La Torre Jeker, J.D. and John Richardson, J.D.

Part I of this blog post discussed President Biden’s Green Book proposal that would change the tax rules for unrealized capital gains when assets are gifted or passed at death. To recap, the major thrust of the Green Book proposal (starting at page 30) is to treat gifts and bequests as “deemed sales at fair market value” triggering a capital gains tax which would be payable with respect to the year of the transfer. The net investment income tax / 3.8% surcharge looks as if it can certainly apply in addition to the capital gains tax (full detail on the 3.8% surcharge is here). The Green Book contains no proposals to eliminate or change the current Estate and Gift Tax rules and we believe that taxing gifts and bequests from an income tax perspective while keeping the Estate and Gift Tax regime in place is only a recipe for tax disaster.

Today’s post, Part II, looks at how the proposal will particularly impact the American abroad, its exemptions and carve-outs and how it complicates tax planning for individuals wishing to give up their US citizenship or green card.

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