Tag Archives: GILTI

The Road To Tax Reform For Americans Abroad: Part 2 – Citizenship Taxation And The Seven Deadly Sins

Introduction

Life is full of rude awakenings. More and more people are experiencing their OMG moment …

This is Part 2 of the series. In Part 1, I identified that it is essential that individuals (and governments) unite to bring an end to the US tradition of “citizenship taxation”. “Citizenship taxation” – what a phrase. The words are not descriptive of anything. It clearly has something to do with some form of taxation. The inclusion of the word “citizenship” makes it sound almost patriotic. But maybe, not. Maybe it’s just part of what means to be a citizen. Since only the United States has citizenship taxation, perhaps taxation is what it means to be a US citizen. If so, then perhaps US citizenship should be called “taxation based citizenship”. The concept of citizenship means different things in different countries. Is this a statement that the essence and the meaning of US citizenship is taxation and only taxation?

Citizenship Taxation – Theory vs. Reality

A supporter of citizenship taxation is someone who THINKS about “citizenship taxation”. An opponent of citizenship taxation is anybody who has tried to LIVE under citizenship taxation.

https://www.citizenshiptaxation.ca

I guarantee you that there is not a single supporter of US citizenship taxation who actually understands it!

Toward An Understanding: Citizenship Taxation And The Seven Deadly Sins

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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

Eroding the tax base of other countries by imposing direct US taxation on the residents of those countries

This is the fourth of a series of posts about international tax reform generally and how FATCA, CRS, citizenship-based taxation, GILTI, etc. work together.

The first three posts were:

US Tax Treaties Should Reflect The 21st Century And Not The World Of 100 Years Ago

The Pandora Papers, FATCA, CRS And How They Have Combined To Create Tax Haven USA

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

This fourth post continues where the third post – How The World Should Respond To The US FATCA Driven Attack On The Tax Base Of Other Countries – left off. That post described in a general way that FATCA facilitated the US taxation of residents of other countries. The purpose of this post is to give a small number of important examples. To repeat:

The imposition of FATCA on other countries means that …

The United States has effectively expanded its tax base into other countries by claiming residents of other countries as US tax residents. This is a direct attack on and the erosion of the tax base of those other countries.

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To punish 100 #GILTI Corporations is to punish millions more individuals

Introduction: As Goes Tax Reform For US Multinationals, So Escalates The Harm To Individual Americans Abroad

The Problem: The proposed changes in International Tax (mostly in relation to corporations) will affect numerically more individuals than corporations. The effects on Americans abroad, who run small businesses outside the United States, will be absolutely devastating.

Two Solutions: Suggestions for how to protect individuals (including Americans abroad) would be to make changes to the Subpart F regime – GILTI, etc. There are at least two ways this change can be achieved:

1. To NOT apply Subpart F to INDIVIDUALS who are shareholders of CFCs.

2. If Subpart F is to apply to individual shareholders of CFCs, it should NOT apply to those individual Americans abroad who meet the residence requirements to use the S. 911 Foreign Earned Income Exclusion. (I.e. people who are almost certainly tax residents of other countries.)

March 25, 2021 – The Senate Finance Committee Held A Hearing Described As:

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US Senate Finance Hearing Affects Americans Abroad AKA Mini-Multinationals – Action Needed!

Introduction

The background: The US Senate Finance Committee has begun hearings for the purpose of discussing further reform of the rules of International Tax. These reforms would appear to include raising the GILTI tax and raising US corporate tax rates in general. Each of these would have a massive negative effect on Americans abroad. The reasons are detailed in the rest of this post.

Bottom line: Americans abroad need to send their views (presumably objections) to the Committee. The rest of this post provides the background, SEAT’s understanding of the issue and templates individuals can use to email Senate Finance.

Please forward this post to anybody who you believe would be affected by this (anybody who runs a small business through a corporation.)

Okay ….

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Proposal by @JoeBiden to increase the GILTI tax has particularly vicious implications for #Americansabroad

Introduction

Taxation is what America is about and America is about taxation.

Perhaps it’s better to say that:

Politics is about taxation and taxation is about politics.

Once Upon A Time In America

The primary legislative achievement of President Trump’s first term was the 2017 TCJA. It’s important to note that the TCJA had it’s genesis in the work of Michigan Congressman Dave Camp and was the result of a long term project of reworking the US tax system. It is absolutely incorrect to suggest that the TCJA was developed by the Trump Administration. It should not be referred to as “Trump Tax Reform”. That said, because of the “politics” involved in enacting the TCJA, the Trump Administration and Republican Controlled Ways and Means Committee, did impact the legislation at the margins. (Rate of repatriation tax, etc.)

Like all tax legislation the TJCA had clear winners and clear losers.

The TCJA Winner(s)

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Seriously now, who’s GILTI? Senators Wyden and Brown attempt to reinforce the punishment of GILTI Americans abroad

Introduction and July 2021 update …

There is wide agreement that the United States needs to improve its infrastructure. This will require massive spending. All spending necessitates a discussion of taxation. Since March 25, 2021 the Senate Finance Committee, Ways and Means Committee and the Biden administration have been exploring ways to increase taxation to pay for this. A series of SEAT submissions to the Senate Finance Committee is available here.

The community of Americans abroad has also recognized that any major tax reform creates an opportunity for a consideration of the United States transitioning to residence-based taxation. Although everybody claims to want residence-based taxation, the devil is in the details. As I have previously explained the words “residence-based taxation” mean different things to different people. The shared objective (of residence based taxation) is that the United States would cease imposing taxation on the non-US source income received by Americans abroad. That said, there are two broad ways that goal can be achieved. One way completely severs Americans abroad from US tax jurisdiction. The other leaves Americans abroad subject to US tax jurisdiction (forcing them to live in fear of every legislative change).

1. Pure residence-based taxation: Ending US tax jurisdiction over individuals who do NOT live in the United States. This would mean that Americans abroad would simply NOT be part of the US tax base. This is what residence-based taxation means in every other country of the world. In other words: you are not subject to US worldwide taxation because you don’t live in the United States. This is what I call “pure residence based taxation”. It is the only form of residence-based taxation that will solve the problems of Americans abroad. (This is what is advocated by SEAT.)

2. Citizenship-based taxation with a carve out: Continuing US tax jurisdiction over individuals who do NOT live in the United States, but relaxing the requirements that would apply to them. This proposal is what I call citizenship-based taxation with a carve out for certain people. Under this proposal, ALL Americans abroad would continue to be subject to US tax jurisdiction, but their non-US source income would (presumably) not be taxed by the United States. (This citizenship-based taxation with a carve out was the basis of the 2018 Holding bill and appears to what is being proposed by various groups. Further discussion of the Holding bill is here. It is essential that whenever a group announces that it is working toward residence based taxation that you ask them to clarify what they mean. Under the proposal, will Americans abroad remain subject to US tax jurisdiction? Will they still be defined as tax residents of the United States?)

(A more complete discussion about the difference between pure residence taxation and citizenship taxation with a carve out is here. A proposal for changes in the Internal Revenue Code that would result in pure residence-based taxation is here.)

Why completely ending US tax jurisdiction over Americans abroad (moving to pure residency-based taxation) is essential!!

The US tax code is incredibly complicated. The existence of citizenship-based taxation means that many changes in the tax code can impact Americans abroad even when the legislators are not considering the impact on Americans abroad. Since March of 2021 the Senate Finance Committee has been conducing hearings discussing tax reform for US corporations. The truth is that these proposals will affect many more individuals than corporations. Yet, Senate Finance never discusses the impact on individuals generally and individual Americans abroad in particular.

It is impossible for Americans abroad to survive when any change in the tax code could impact them without the legislators remembering that they even exist.

Let’s be clear! When it comes to Americans abroad:

It’s not that Congress doesn’t care about them. It’s that they don’t care that they don’t care!

This is why it is essential that ALL Americans abroad support and only support a movement toward “pure residence based taxation” which will ensure that nonresidents are NOT part of the US tax base.

If Americans abroad are left subject to the US tax based (citizenship-based taxation with a carve out) they will always be subject to being affected by any and all changes in US tax law.

A particularly egregious example of this in the following post. What follows is long, comprehensive and technical. Most will NOT want to read it.

But, the following post (written in 2020) is proof that ONLY pure residence-based taxation will solve the problems of Americans Abroad!

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Prologue

Americans abroad who are individual shareholders of small business corporations in their country of residence have been very negatively impacted by the Section 951A GILTI and Section 965 TCJA amendments. In June of 2019, by regulation, Treasury interpreted the 951A GILTI rules to NOT apply to active business income when the effective foreign corporate tax rate was at a rate of 18.9% or higher. Treasury’s interpretation was reasonable, consistent with the history of Subpart F and consistent with the purpose of the GILTI rules.

Now, Senators Wyden and Brown are attempting to reverse Treasury’s regulation through legislation. This is a direct attack on Americans abroad. Senators Wyden and Brown are living proof of the principle that:

When it comes to Americans abroad:

It’s not that Congress doesn’t care. It’s that they don’t care that they don’t care!

Introduction

As many readers will know the 2017 US Tax Reform, referred to as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), contained provisions which have made it difficult for Americans abroad to run small businesses outside the United States. In the common law world a corporation is treated as a separate legal entity for tax purposes. In other words the corporation and the shareholders are separate for tax purposes, file separate tax returns and pay tax on different streams of income. The 2017 TCJA contained two provisions that basically ended the separation of the company and the individual for U.S. tax purposes. In other words: there is now a presumption (at least how the Internal Revenue Code applies to small business owners) that active business income earned by the corporation will be deemed to have been earned by the individual “U.S. Shareholders”. To put it another way: individual shareholders are now presumptively taxed on income earned by the corporation, whether the income is paid out to the shareholders or not! The effect of this on individual Americans abroad has been discussed by Dr. Karen Alpert in her article: “Callous Neglect: The impact of United States tax reform on nonresident citizens“.

The expansion of the Subpart F Regime

The Subpart F rules were established in 1962. The principle behind them was that individual Americans should be prevented from, using foreign corporations to earn passive income, in jurisdictions with low tax regimes (or tax regimes that have lower taxes than those imposed by the United States). The Subpart F rules have (since 1986) included a provision to the effect that investment income (earned inside a foreign corporation) which was subject to foreign taxation at a rate of 90% or more of the U.S. corporate rate, would NOT be subject to taxation in the hands of the individual shareholder.

To put it another way (with respect to investment income):

1. It was mostly investment/passive income that was subject to inclusion in the incomes of individual shareholders as Subpart F income; and

2. Passive income that was subject to foreign taxation at a rate of 90% or more of the U.S. corporate tax rate (now 21%) would NOT be considered to be Subpart F income (and therefore not subject to inclusion in the hands of individual shareholders).

To coordinate my background discussion with the Arnold Porter submission described below, I will refer to exclusion of investment income subject to a 90% tax rate as “HTKO” (High Tax Kick Out).

The basic principle was (and continues to be):

If passive income earned in a foreign corporation is taxed at a rate of 90% or more of the U.S. corporate tax rate, that there was no attribution of that corporate income to the individual U.S. shareholder.

In its most simple terms, the Subpart F rules are found in Sections 951 – 965 of the Internal Revenue Code. They are designed to attribute income earned by the corporation directly to the U.S. shareholder, without regard to whether the corporate profits were paid to the shareholders as a dividend. Note that many developed countries have similar rules. Many developing (from a tax perspective) countries (for example Russia) are adopting Subpart F type rules. The U.S. rules are more complicated, more robust and (because of citizenship taxation) apply to the locally owned companies of individuals, who do not live in the United States.

Punishing them for their past and destroying their futures – The expansion of the Subpart F Regime to active business income

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US Treasury proposes that foreign income subject to high foreign tax be excluded from definition of #GILTI

In general – Good News For American Entrepreneurs Abroad …

On Friday June 14, 2019 US Treasury proposed in Notice 2019-12436 that any foreign income earned by Controlled Foreign Corporations be (subject to election) excluded from the definition of GILTI income. This will be particularly welcome to Americans living outside the United States, who are attempting to carry on business in their country of residence, through non-U.S. corporations.

For those who are concerned with understanding the hows and whys, I suggest you read Treasury’s Notice which includes a good history and description of the Subpart F rules, some Legislative History leading to the GILTI rules, and Treasury’s attempt to piece it all together. You will find it all here.

Treasury Notice 2019-12436
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