Tag Archives: citizenship taxation

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

Airline and cruise ship employees: how income earned in international waters may lead to double taxation for (only) Americans abroad

Oliver Wagner, CPA and John Richardson – January 16, 2022

Americans abroad and the presumption of double taxation

Prologue: For whom the bell tolls …

Whether a US citizen lives in (and is a tax resident of) Mexico and works on a ship in international waters

Or Whether A US citizen lives in (and is a tax resident of) Holland and is an airline pilot …

That US citizen, because and only because of the combination of US citizenship-based taxation coupled with living outside the United States, is likely to be subject to double taxation. The following discussion explains why.

A Summary Podcast …

Part A: Introduction – About Citizenship-based Taxation
Part B: How the Internal Revenue Code is designed to mitigate the effects of double taxation in certain circumstances
Part C: Determining what is “foreign source” income
Part D: The problem of international waters …
Part E: The effect of sourcing to the US income earned in international waters by dual tax residents
Part F: Deducting “foreign taxes” paid – although income from international waters may not be foreign, it is still subject to the payment of “foreign taxes”
Part G: Can a US citizen living abroad be saved by a tax treaty? Maybe if he/she lives in Canada****
Part H: Conclusion and the need for “Pure Residence-Based Taxation”

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The State Department Should Allow For US Citizenship Renunciations To Take Place By Video

This post has been co-authored by Diane Gelon* (see “Reflections Of An Expatriation Lawyer“) and John Richardson

Prologue

In September of 2021 the Paris based “Accidental Americans Association” filed a lawsuit against the US State Department. The lawsuit was brought in an attempt to force the State Department to allow individuals to renounce their US citizenship. (A prior lawsuit by the “Accidental Americans Association” was based on the excessive $2350 renunciation fee.)

The lawsuit is evidence of the extreme frustration that many Americans abroad are experiencing because they (1) are unable to renounce US citizenship and (2) justifiably feel that they are prisoners of the circumstances of their birth.

It was recently announced that “The US Department of State (DOS) is suspending in-person interview requirements at local consulates for a year for numerous non-immigrant work visa categories and their families (spouse and dependent children“. In London the US Embassy is conducting telephone meetings to deal with Social Security issues. (Prior to Covid this would have required an in person meeting at the Embassy.) The State Department is clearly reducing the number and kinds of services that require “in person” Consulate visits.

The purpose of this post is to argue that renunciations of US Citizenship need not take place through in person interviews at a US Embassy or Consulate. Rather renunciations of US citizenship can and should take place through video conferencing. The backlog in processing renunciations is explained as being related to the Covid-19 pandemic. A response to the pandemic has been that more and more legal proceedings are taking place through video conferencing. Both Canada and the UK (and certainly other countries) are conducing citizenship ceremonies by video, entire court cases are held via video conferencing, and documents can be witnessed and certified by video. We have discussed various aspects of this issue with each other over a long period of time as well as benefiting from discussions with Dubai based lawyer Virginia La Torre Jeker and Esquire Founder Jimmy Sexton.

There is no law that requires that renunciations of US citizenship take place inside a US Consulate or Embassy!

This post is composed of the following seven parts leading to the following conclusion:

Americans abroad and their representatives should pressure the State Department to use their statutory authority to allow renunciations by video conferencing. The State Department has the statutory authority to do so. The fact that the State Department does not currently allow renunciations through video conferencing doesn’t mean that it cannot allow renunciations through video conferencing!

Part I – Introduction: Why Americans Abroad Are Renouncing US Citizenship
Part II – An appointment to renounce US citizenship is hard to find
Part III – Why there is NO legal requirement that renunciation appointments must take place inside a US Embassy or Consulate
Part IV – The State Department website does not specifically state that renunciations must take place inside the US Consulate or Embassy
Part V – Americans abroad and their organizations must push the Biden administration to allow renunciations of US Citizenship through video conferencing
Part VI – Interesting Bobby Fisher anecdote supporting the view that renunciations are not required to take place inside US Consulates
Part VII – Diane Gelon and John Richardson update their November 29, 2020 podcast with a December 29, 2021 podcast

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Republicans Overseas Begins Its Support and Advocacy for Pure Residence-based Tax

This is an incredibly significant development. See the following posts on their Facebook site. They also have a new Twitter feed. Follow them at @RepOverseas.

Republicans Overseas position On What Pure Residence-based taxation means:

Tax Talk 1 – November 22, 2021

Tax Talk 2 – November 29, 2021

Tax Talk 3 – December 10, 2021

Tax Talk 4 – December 15, 2021

Tax Talk 5 – December 20, 2021

Tax Talk 6 – December 27 2021

Tax Talk 7 – January 3, 2022

Tax Talk 8 – January 21, 2022

Tax Talk – January 24, 2022

How The World Should Respond To The US FATCA Driven Attack On The Tax Base Of Other Countries

This purpose of this post is to continue the general theme of focusing on the difference between what a law says and what the law means in application and effect. Yesterday’s post (The Pandora Papers, FATCA, CRS And How They Have Combined To Create Tax Haven USA) focussed on the role that the 2010 US FACTCA law played in in facilitating the rise of Tax Haven USA. (To be clear, I am not saying that FATCA was the sole cause.) That said, the unwillingness of the USA to sign the CRS (“Common Reporting Standard”) has also played a role in the growth of the US as a tax haven.

Many believe that FATCA is just the US version of the CRS. Because of this belief the US has received little or no resistance to its refusal to join the CRS. This belief that FATCA and the CRS are fundamentally the same is wrong. They are very different.

The purpose of this post is two-fold.

First, to explain how/why FATCA is very different from the CRS.

Second, to explain how FATCA is used to export the “original sin” of US citizenship-based taxation into other countries. To put it simply FATCA assists the United States in capturing the tax residents of other countries and subjecting them to direct US taxation.

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It’s 11:00 pm – Do You Know What The @TheDemocrats Are Up To?

On May 14 – 16 the Democratic Party had its Global Annual Meeting. It’s interesting to see the resolutions proposed. (Those not dealt with will considered at a later meeting.)

Americans abroad who understand that the single most important issue facing them is US citizenship-based taxation, should be aware of resolution 18. Shockingly this resolution was proposed by FOUR MEMBERS OF DEMOCRATS ABROAD and includes (but is not limited to):

1. A strong endorsement of US citizenship-based taxation and the proposed US Wealth Tax

2. Some proposals to make US citizenship-based taxation, FATCA and FBAR work a little better

Notice in this excerpt they completely acknowledge that at best, their proposal is designed to create “de facto” residence-based taxation for some Americans abroad. To put it very simply:

Clearly (at least) some members of Democrats Abroad:

1. Do NOT want pure residence-based taxation; and

2. Are playing the same game of proposing some “carve outs” for some people, some of the time, under some circumstances.

(The retention of citizenship-based taxation allows them to keep changing the rules.)

It’s shocking that this proposal is coming from members of Democrats Abroad!

Here it is in all of its glory …

All 25 DPCA Resolutions submitted to the 2021 Global Meeting_Adopted, Withdrawn, or Deferred

Comments from Americans abroad about the effects of #FATCA and @CitizenshipTax

Those contributing to conversations on Social media about FATCA and US citizenship-based taxation would find the following to be of great value.

Those who are trying to provide education on this topic should use this book.

Those who are trying to learn about this topic should use this book.

Submission_SFC

Also, see the following video accounts here:

http://www.vimeo.com/citizenshiptaxation

John Richardson – Follow me on Twitter @Expatriationlaw

Citizenship Matters With @RonanMaCrea Part 2: The Nature Of Citizenship In A Global World

Introduction

This is a continuation of my discussion with Ronan McCrea on “citizenship matters”. My first discussion with Ronan McCrea focused on issues surrounding “citizenship by descent”. This second podcast focuses on the nature of citizenship.

The questions included:

What does citizenship mean?

What are the rights of citizenship?

What are the obligations of citizenship?

What are the different ways of acquiring citizenship?

What obligations to citizens living abroad have to their fellow citizens living at home?

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Questions to Democrat candidates about a change from @citizenshiptax to RBT should NOT assume revenue neutrality!

Appreciate these interviews from Democrats Abroad. But, they need to STOP making the question about residence-based taxation conditional on revenue neutrality!
See starting at the 9 minute mark … Separate questions about FATCA and citizenship-based taxation …
This is the @Demsabroad interview with Senator Sanders that includes two distinct questions: 1. About FATCA and 2. About residence-based taxation.
Many people have reported (based on this interview) that Senator Sanders supports residence-based taxation on a “revenue neutral” basis. This is NOT what he said. His answer did NOT include the “revenue neutral” condition. The question asked by the DA representative phrased the question in terms of revenue neutrality. (Arguably, the Senator’s answer was based on an assumption of revenue neutrality – but, I don’t think so.
My impression is that Senator Sanders did NOT condition his support on revenue neutrality. Democrats should stop building the “revenue neutrality” condition into the question. It is obscuring the meaning of the answers.
Finally, Mayor Pete when asked the question ABSOLUTELY made it clear that his support for residence-based taxation WAS based on revenue neutrality. Again, it is possible that he was NOT answering the question more generally.
I applaud Democrats Abroad for this interview series and for asking these questions of all candidates. That said, I do NOT think the question should be based on a move to residence-based taxation being revenue neutral.

Presumptions, tax residency and presumptions of tax residency: Nonresident alien status in a FATCA world

Introduction – All The World Is A Multiple Choice Test
Q.1 – A tax resident of the United States is taxable on his worldwide income. According to the Internal Revenue Code of the United States, which one of the following is NOT a tax resident of the United States of America?
(A) A Congresswoman “Born In The USA”, head of her household, who does not and has never had a U.S. Passport
(B) An unmarried Green Card Holder who has never filed an FBAR who lives in El Paso Texas
(C) A fifty year old U.S. citizen who is divorced has never set foot in the United States, doesn’t have a U.S. Social Security Number and lives in and pays full taxes in Germany
(D) A citizen of only Canada who lives four months a year in Florida with his U.S. citizen wife, in a house he owns where he parks a car he owns with Florida license plates
(E) A citizen of Grenada who lives full time in the USA with an E1 visa operating a fast food franchise
For help in finding the answer see …
https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/26/1
https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/26/2
Q. 2 – A tax resident of Canada is taxable on his worldwide income. According to the Income Tax Act Of Canada, which one of the following is a tax resident of Canada?
(A) A Canadian citizen who lives in the United States but has no business, family, social or residential ties to Canada
(B) An individual with a house and family living in Toronto who works and lives in the banking industry in the Middle East
(C) A Massachusetts resident with a summer home in Ontario, Canada in which he visits 180 days every year
(D) An individual who is a legal permanent resident of Canada but actually lives in Hong Kong
(E) A rich Canadian who buys permanent residency in Portugal and uses a tax treaty tie breaker provision to deem himself to be a tax resident of Portugal
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