Tag Archives: citizenship taxation

Americans Abroad Have Until April 29, 2024 To Tell FinCEN Why They Should Be Exempt From FBAR

Outline

To learn more about Mr. FBAR, I invite you to watch the following discussion with U.S. tax lawyer Virginia La Torre Jeker.

Part 1 – Introducing Mr. FBAR – Looking For Mr. FBAR
Part 2 – 2011 – Financial Crimes, FBAR and Americans Abroad – Perspective From The Isaac Brock Society
Part 3 – 2020 – Financial Crimes, FBAR and Americans Abroad – Comments From Americans Abroad And Treasury’s Answer
Part 4 – 2024 – Financial Crimes, FBAR and Americans Abroad – Americans abroad need to keep commenting
Part 5 – What should you include in your comment?
Appendix – Treasury’s 2021 response to the comments of Americans abroad

To cut to the chase:

Pursuant to 31 U.S. Code § 5314 the Treasury Secretary has the clear statutory authority to exempt Americans abroad from the FinCEN 114 AKA FBAR reporting requirements. The statutory language is:

(b)The Secretary may prescribe—
(1)a reasonable classification of persons subject to or exempt from a requirement under this section or a regulation under this section;

Therefore, it is important to make your views known to Treasury!

Treasury has provided another opportunity (the last one was in 2020) for Americans abroad to comment directly on the FinCEN 114 AKA FBAR requirement. I strongly recommend that Americans abroad take this opportunity to comment on the appropriateness of FBAR being required for the local bank comments of Americans abroad.

The site requesting comments is here..

A direct link to the place where you comment is here:

https://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/PRA/icrPublicCommentRequest?ref_nbr=202403-1506-001&fbclid=IwAR3onw_sIYUYJUPs7FE2peIqHvstLp6GWznHz_ES3wC3a3V9HS7YFcZJB94_aem_AZ4juvxyHvLGAFVzYZYrCQ13We1R4LDFI_ajzrZ1EVldNPEGw2Z8jNAb397dlqBeaGzAxjXeEySvXWDbPMjth6tv

Those who are interested in learning more, read on … Otherwise please go directly to the comment page.

Continue reading

FATCA Is Not the Answer

Reposted from SEATNow.org.

On February 26, 2024, Tax Notes Federal published an article entitled “Taxing Fat Cats Abroad.”

The article defended the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) as an “automatic exchange of information used to track down and tax accounts held by wealthy U.S. citizens living abroad.”

The article contained many errors and misinterpretations.

SEAT co-founders John Richardson, Karen Alpert, and Laura Snyder submitted a response to the article, entitled “FATCA Is Not the Answer.”

Their response, published on March 18, 2024, can be accessed via SSRN at this link.

The response explains:

1. The considerable differences between FATCA and CRS. They include FATCA’s lack of reciprocity and the United States’ refusal to join CRS;

2. The inequalities inherent in the U.S. tax system with respect to Americans living outside the United States and their discriminatory treatment;

3. The irrelevance of FATCA with respect to Farhy v. Commissioner and Bittner v. United States;

4. The unjust stigmatization of Farhy, Bittner, and all Americans living outside the United States;

5. Inconsistencies between the article’s defense of citizenship-based taxation and the “single tax principle” advocated by professor Reuven Avi-Yonah;

6. The failure of the article, in its theorectical defense of citizenship-based taxation, to contend with the real system in place today and its myriad intractable problems;

7. The lack of any connection between taxation and voting rights;

8. The importance of the 14th Amendment for the equal protection of the rights of Americans living outside the United States; and

9. That the 16th Amendment is not — and it should not be used as — a license to channel violations of constitutional and human rights through the tax code.

John Richardson – Follow me on X.com

The Unknown Ambassadors: A Saga Of Citizenship – Phyllis Michaux

I just read “The Unknown Ambassadors: A Saga Of Citizenship” by Phyllis Michaux.* Phyllis Michaux was an American citizen who married a French citizen/resident. She lived her adult life in France. By any standard, she was an impressive and effective advocate for the rights of Americans abroad.**

I recommend the book (if you can find a copy) to all Americans abroad. As diverse as the community of Americans abroad is, what unites them is far greater than what divides them. What unites all Americans abroad is the horrible discriminatory treatment they suffer at the hands of the U.S. government. (As the distribution of vaccines in the covid pandemic demonstrated, the discriminatory treatment is NOT limited to taxation.) In this respect the United States is practically unique. Ireland honours and celebrates its diaspora. France gives it expats representatives in the legislature. The United States does (in 2024) and always has (as documented in “The Unknown Ambassadors”) mistreat its citizens abroad. U.S. citizens abroad are examples of the “discrete and insular minorities” contemplated in Justice Stone’s infamous Carolene Products footnote 4.)**** U.S. citizens, more than the citizens of any other country are in need of a second citizenship.

Phyllis Michaux’s achievements from the 20th century offer lessons for the many individuals and groups who are advocating to achieve justice for Americans abroad in the 21st century.

“The Unknown Ambassadors” provides an account of Ms. Michaux’s recognizing discrimination against Americans abroad as a matter of fact, identifying the laws responsible for that discrimination, identifying the appropriate U.S. government agencies to lobby for change and finally executing that change. Advocates for Americans abroad in the 21st century should read this book. A testament to her achievements is that the “Phyllis Michaux Papers” are found in the “Georgetown University Archival Resources”.

Continue reading

The Five “Americans Abroad” Obama Would Meet In Heaven – How Taxation “Slices and Dices” Americans Abroad

Reminder:

US citizenship abroad information/discussion sessions in January of 2024:

1. London, UK – Wednesday January 17, 2024 – 18:00 – Location: The Sutton Arms – first floor wine room – 6 Carthusian Street, London – EC1M 6EB

2. Prague, Czech Republic – Sunday January 21, 2024 – Brix bar & Hostel, Rohacova 132/15, Prague 3 Žižkov
– 200CZK – includes lunch

3. The Prague session will be livestreamed on the IRSMedic Youtube Channel. Check there for how to join.

Further details here.

Outline, table of contents and purpose of this post.

Because U.S. citizenship taxation impacts different groups in different ways, it is hard to garner a significant mass of people to committed to the mission of ending citizenship taxation. There are five different groups who are impacted by citizenship taxation. Yet they would seem very different if you were to meet them in heaven.

Part A – “The Five People You Meet In Heaven” – the notion of interconnectedness
Part B – Barack Obama and the revival of citizenship taxation – how did his administration “slice and dice” Americans abroad?
Part C – Different kinds of Americans abroad with different attitudes toward the taxation of Americans abroad
Part D – Fault Lines Among Americans Abroad – The discussion in Keith Redmond’s American Expatriates Facebook group
Part E – The Five Types Of Americans Abroad Obama Would Meet In Heaven
Part F – Conclusion

___________________________________________________________________
Continue reading

Professor @Gabriel_Zucman Discusses US Taxation Of Americans Abroad and FATCA

On June 19, 2023 the Global Progressive Caucus of Democrats Abroad hosted Professor Gabriel Zucman to discuss “Fair Share Taxation And Tax Enforcement”. You may know that Professor Zucman is a strong advocate of wealth taxation. Senator Warren (in the specifics of her proposed wealth tax) appears to be a disciple of Professor Zucman’s views.

During the presentation Professor Zucman reinforced his view that “Fair Share Taxation” should include a wealth tax. Interestingly he recommends that FATCA be replaced by the CRS.

But, most interestingly he expressed his view that the current U.S. system of citizenship taxation (as it applies to most Americans living outside the United States) simply cannot be justified. Based on this video, I would say that Professor Zucman may be an ally in the fight to reform the taxation of Americans abroad.

I have put together a short twitter thread to highlight his main points. But, I do recommend that people watch the entire video. The discussion at the end is every bit as interesting (and revealing) as Professor Zucman’s presentation.

A threadreader version of the twitter thread is here:

https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1674191242681352193.html

A pdf version is here:

ThreadReader_0_expatriationlaw_1674191242681352193

The live Twitter thread …

John Richardson – Follow me on Twitter @Expatriationlaw

The Issue Is Not @CitizenshipTax. The Issue Is Whether The US Can Claim The Tax Residents Of Other Countries As US Tax Residents!

Introduction – The United States has the “sovereign right” to define who are its “tax residents, but …”

Prologue

There is presently heightened advocacy directed toward the goal of influencing the United States to take action to end (what is described as) U.S. citizenship taxation. Notably this goal is for the purpose of influencing the United States to take action.

Perhaps it would be equally useful to define a separate goal of:

Not allowing the United States to claim the residents of other countries as U.S. tax residents!

Notably this goal would be to engage the governments of other countries!

Ideally both Americans abroad and their countries of residence should seek to stop the United States from reaching into those other countries and claiming the residents of those countries as U.S. tax residents!

In FATCA related discussions it has been common for Government Officials to claim that the United States has the sole right to determine who are its tax residents. Although true, this cannot mean that the United States (or any country) has the right to claim the residents of another country as its tax residents. (The debate is illuminated here and here.)

(Interestingly when the European PETI delegation visited Washington in July of 2022 they made it clear that they did NOT question the right of the United States to define European residents as U.S. tax residents. Rather, they just wanted to find a way to make it easier for European residents to be permitted to have access to bank accounts in the European countries where they live.)

It is appropriate for other countries to accept that the United States has the right (like any country) to define who are U.S. tax residents. It is completely inappropriate for Europeans to accept that the United States has the right to treat European tax residents (who actually live and work in Europe) as U.S. tax residents. By protecting European residents from the United States, European countries would be acting in a manner that is consistent with the OECD tax treaty which anticipates situations of “dual tax residency”. In circumstances of dual tax residency, the model OECD tax treaty (Article 4) provides that the treaty “tie break” will be used to assign tax residency to the country that correlates with the “circumstances of life”. (See page 111 in the document linked to in the previous sentence.) Interestingly, citizenship which absent naturalization, is based on “circumstances of birth” is considered to be the least important criterion under the treaty “tie break”rules.

The treaty tie break rules presumptively assign tax residency based on the “circumstances of life” and not on the “circumstances of birth“.

The bottom line is that, it’s time for the world to simply say:

Of course the United States can define who are its tax residents. But, the United States will NOT be permitted to treat the tax residents of our country (who actually live in our country) to be treated by the U.S. as though they are the tax property of the United States! That is the simple message that must be conveyed!!

Let’s now analyze how the United States goes about claiming the residents of other countries as U.S. taxable property. It’s explained by Mr. Paolo Gentoloni as follows …

Continue reading

Like Canada’s Underused Housing Tax, U.S. Estate Taxation Depends On Citizenship Of The Owner

Taxation based on source vs. taxation based on residence – More commentary on the Canada Underused Housing Tax

Suzanne Herman has got it right!

There is no doubt that Canada’s “Underused Housing Tax” is triggered by citizenship. There is no doubt that Canada’s Underused Housing Tax is unfair to Americans who own second homes and cottages in Canada. There is no doubt that Canada’s “Underused Housing Tax” in its application to noncitizen and nonresidents is similar to the U.S. Estate Regime*. (They both impose taxation on the noncitizen/nonresident owners of property located in their countries.) There is no doubt that while complaining about Canada’s “Underused Housing Tax” that Congressman Higgins should be apologizing for the way the U.S. Estate Tax treats nonresident/noncitizen owners. They are both taxes triggered by (n0n) citizenship and are based on property located in their respective jurisdictions.

Taxation of nonresidents triggered by the ownership of local property is different from U.S. taxation of non-US source income received by persons who don’t live in the United States

That said, there is no moral equivalence between Canada’s Underused Housing Tax based on property located IN CANADA and the U.S. taxation of INCOME received OUTSIDE THE United States by a person who does not live in the United States. The United States is using “citizenship” as a pretext to claim that people who are tax residents of other countries (including Canada) are U.S. tax residents.

It is an assumption of international taxation that every country has the right to define who are its “tax residents”. On the other hand, no country has the right to (1) claim that the tax residents of other countries are also their tax residents and (2) disable those “claimed” tax residents from using a treaty tie break provision to avoid the claim of tax residence! (The “saving clause” included in all U.S. tax treaties prevents U.S. citizens from using a treaty residence tax break provision to assign allocate residence to solely their country of actual residence.)

In FATCA related discussions it has been common for Government Officials to claim that the United States has the sole right to determine who are its tax residents. Although true, this cannot mean that the United States (or any country) has the right to claim the residents of another country as its tax residents. (The debate is illuminated here and here.)

It’s about American exceptionalism

The international standard for definitions of tax residence is “residence”. Residence is a term that is correlated with the “circumstances of one’s life”. The United States (in addition to “residence”) claims tax residence based on “citizenship” (which is mostly based on the “circumstances of one’s birth”). To put it simply U.S. tax residence is primarily defined in terms of the “circumstances of birth” rather than the “circumstances of life”.

In the 21st Century there is almost NO correlation between citizenship and residence.

At first blush, one might say:

Both Canada and the United States are taxing based on citizenship. They are both equally wrong. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Suzanne Herman’s tweet explains the difference. As her tweet makes clear the Canadian tax is based on property that is located in Canada. It is a tax based on citizenship because of property located in Canada. Although the tax is based on the citizenship of the owner, Canada is NOT claiming that U.S. residents are “tax residents of Canada” for all purposes. The Canadian tax, although based on citizenship, is a tax based on the ownership of property located in Canada.

On the other hand, the United States is imposing full taxation on certain Canadian residents because and only because the U.S claims them as U.S citizens. The claim is that because they were “Born In The USA” that they are U.S. tax residents for ALL purposes. They are subject to U.S. taxation on ALL of their income received outside the United States. They are subject to reporting on all their assets LOCATED OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES. This is because and only because they are U.S. citizens.

To put it simply: The U.S. is using citizenship (the circumstances of their birth) to claim that residents of other countries are U.S. tax residents for ALL purposes!

A U.S. resident can avoid the Canadian tax by simply selling the property located in Canada.

A Canadian resident subject to the U.S. citizenship tax can avoid the tax only through relinquishment of U.S. citizenship or death (and that may not be enough).

Bottom line: Canada is imposing a tax based on the citizenship of the owner of property located in Canada. This is different from the U.S. imposing taxation on income earned outside the United States and received by a Canadian resident who has U.S. citizenship. The Canadian tax is based on the location of property in Canada. The U.S. tax is based on the citizenship of the person who is actually living in Canada.

The United States is using citizenship as the basis to claim the tax residents of other countries as U.S. tax residents.

The question becomes:

Should the United States be permitted to use citizenship to effectively claim the tax residents of other countries as U.S. tax residents? Should the rest of the world tolerate this blatant assault on their sovereignty and erosion of their tax base? Should the world sign tax treaties with the U.S. that entrench this principle (via the “saving clause”) in their tax treaties with the United States? Should U.S. citizens be the only people in the world who disabled because of their citizenship from being able to become treaty nonresidents?

Although all forms of taxation based on citizenship are wrong. There is no moral equivalence between Canada’s tax based on property located in Canada and the U.S. tax based on claiming Canadian residents as U.S. tax residents.

John Richardson – Follow me on Twitter at @VacantHomeTax

________________________________________________________________________

*Appendix – The U.S. Estate Tax System Is Similar To Canada’s Underused Housing Tax

When it comes to the ownership of U.S. situs assets:

– a U.S. citizen is subject to an 11 million dollar lifetime estate tax exemption

– a noncitizen, who is NOT domiciled in the U.S. is subject to taxation on all U.S. situs assets in excess of $60,000 USD.

Although not the specific topic of this post I highly recommend the article by Omer Harel about the application of the U.S. Estate Tax to nonresident aliens. The article includes:

The U.S. estate tax imposed on NRAs today is an inefficient tax without serious policy justifications and it distorts behavior in ways that the estate tax imposed on residents does not. Also, this tax decreases the attractiveness of investments in the U.S. from the NRAs’ perspective as it forces NRAs to invest in U.S.-situated assets using a foreign corporation. This insulates them from estate tax exposure and subjects them to additional costs and higher taxes that the U.S. Treasury does not necessarily benefit from. The fairness arguments that were presented to support the retention of the NRA estate tax are not persuasive as NRAs owe much lower ‘‘debt’’ to the U.S. government than residents and, unlike residents, are sometimes unable to fully benefit from the step-up in basis. Further, after the Obama tax reform — which basically repealed the estate tax for almost all residents in 2011-2012 — the current regime has become extremely discriminatory and might in some instances violate U.S. income tax treaties.

Now that the U.S. (in particular the real estate industry) needs foreign investments more than ever, it is the right time to rethink this tax and repeal it or drastically modify it so that it will not deter foreign investors.

Bottom line: The United States is already doing exactly what Canada does in it’s Underused Housing Tax! Nobody seems to complaint about it! But, everybody should complain about it. Like Canada’s Underused Housing Tax, the U.S. Estate tax regime is simply a system of asset confiscation based on citizenship! Perhaps, Congressman Higgins should raise this issue with the U.S. Government?

Canada’s Underused Housing Tax: No Good Options For U.S. Residents Who Own A Second Home In Canada

Introduction – Responding To Canada’s Underused Housing Tax

Canada’s Underused Housing Tax is NOT a tax imposed because the “foreign owner” doesn’t spend enough time in the property. Rather Canada’s Underused Housing Tax is a tax imposed because the “foreign owner” doesn’t make the property sufficiently available to non-owners!!

This is the fourth in my series of posts about Canada’s “citizenship-based” Underused Housing Tax.

The first three post are:

1. US Residents Who Own Residential Property In Canada May Be Subject To Various Vacant And Underused Property Taxes

2. NY Congressman Brian Higgins Draws Attention To The Injustice Of Citizenship Taxation By Challenging Canada’s Underused Housing Tax

3. U.S. FBAR And Form 8938 Penalties May Be A Bigger Problem For U.S. Residents Than Canada’s Underused Housing Tax

The purpose of this post is two-fold:

First: to explain what “Canada’s Underused Housing Tax” really means for “foreign owners” of certain Canadian property:

Conclusion: It means that foreign owners who own property that is NOT in a designated recreational location and who do NOT release their property into the rental market will be forced to pay the 1% tax.

Second: to explain that owners of most Canadian residential property that is not in a designated recreational location, who are neither Canadian citizens nor permanent residents of Canada can avoid releasing their property into the rental market ONLY if they either:

1. Pay Canada’s Underused Housing Tax

2. Sell their property in Canada

In my opinion U.S. (and other foreign residents) should be advised to simply pay the annual tax.

The Government Of Canada’s “Underused Housing Tax” is designed to force “foreign owners” of property to choose among the choices of: releasing their property into the rental market, paying the 1% tax or selling their property!

Explaining this conclusion.

This post ignores the “fringe situations” of properties that are newly purchased, uninhabitable, etc. I am focussing on the situation as it is likely to affect the majority of people. I urge people to read the actual legislation.

Final warning!!! All individual owners of residential housing in Canada who are neither Canadian citizens nor permanent residents of Canada are required to file the Underused Housing Tax return even if the tax is not payable! The penalty for failing to file the return is $5000 CDN.

Here we go …

Continue reading

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, 2022).

Continue reading

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