Tag Archives: FATCA reciprocity

The FATCA IGAs Do Not Impose An Obligation Of Reciprocity On The United States

Introduction – The Question

Over the past few months, in unrelated contexts, I have heard the question asked:

Is FATCA reciprocal?

For example the Judges hearing the appeal in the ADCS FATCA Canada lawsuit asked (clearly assuming that it did) whether the FATCA IGAs imposed reciprocal obligations on the United States. Surely it must, they assumed. Recently the head of a FATCA fact finding mission asked in a meeting of individuals the same question. In neither case was a clear “yes or no” answer provided. Some participants were adamant that there WAS reciprocity. Others were adamant that there was no reciprocity. Some simply didn’t know. This post is an attempt to analyze the facts as they pertain to FATCA, consider whether the FATCA IGAs prescribe reciprocity of obligation and ultimately explain why there is NO meaningful reciprocity of obligation.

Some Important FATCAoids

The 2010 Statute

FATCA was signed into law by President Obama on March 18, 2010. The general provisions are found in Chapter 4 – Sections 1471 – 1474 of the Internal Revenue Code. The statute is coercive and is a US demand, under threat of sanction, that non-U.S. banks deliver information, about the bank accounts of residents of their country, to U.S. Treasury. The statute contemplates a one way flow of information to the United States without ANY reciprocity from the United States. (Any discussion of “reciprocity” must take place within the context of the FATCA IGAs.)

The 2014 Implementation Of FATCA Via The IGAs

The implementation of FATCA (via the FATCA IGAs) began (in many countries) on July 1, 2014. Because the statute does obligate the United States to provide any information to other countries, any obligation of reciprocity must be found in the IGAs.

Non-U.S. countries are required – pursuant to the FATCA IGAs – to transfer information about the holders of local financial accounts in their country to the United States of America. Notably the vast majority of account information transferred to the United States is information about accounts held by tax residents of the transferor country. In other words: pursuant to the FATCA IGAs, account information is transferred about accounts located in a country where the account holder actually lives to a country where the account holder does NOT actually live! To put this in context, imagine the following scenario:

You have a neighbour in a Canadian small town, who earns his income in Canada and pays tax on that income to Canada. That income is deposited into a bank account at a branch located in his community. That neighbour may be having his bank account information transferred to the United States. How could this be you ask? Surely this must be a mistake? The answer is “No it is not a mistake”. It’s the result of Canada enacting a U.S. law (“FATCA”) on Canadian soil. Pursuant to that FATCA law (described in numerous CBC articles), the transfer of account information is required because your neighbour was either born in the United States or was born in Canada to a U.S. citizen parent. So what you ask? Surely the circumstances of a person’s birth shouldn’t mean that a country where they don’t live has access to their banking information in the country where they do live? Wrong again. It’s about tax residency and about the U.S. unique definition of tax residency. You see, the United States defines any U.S. citizen as a tax resident of the United States (regardless of where that citizen lives). By defining “tax residency” in terms of citizenship, the United States is claiming that the tax residents of other countries are U.S. tax residents. U.S. citizens are subject to all (tax, forms and penalty) the provisions of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code. But wait you ask! My neighbour lives in Canada, pays tax in Canada and is a tax resident of Canada! (In fact the FATCA IGAs allow the United States – by tying the definition of U.S. citizen to U.S. law – to define ANY individual in Canada as a U.S. tax resident.) Yes, it’s true. Pursuant to the FATCA IGAs the United States is claiming Canadian tax residents as U.S. tax residents. This means that the United States is claiming the right to impose U.S. taxation on the Canadian employment income, earned by residents of Canada, which is already taxed in Canada. Yes it’s true.

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