Tag Archives: Green Card expatriation

So, you have received bank letter asking about your tax residence for CRS or FATCA – A @taxresidency primer

Prologue: In the 21st Century, The Most Interesting Thing About A Person Is His/Her Tax Residency

Introduction – So, what’s this “tax residence” stuff about? What does “tax residence” mean?

In 2014, as people started to receive “FATCA letters” I wrote a lengthy post describing “What to do if you receive a FATCA letter“. Information exchange under the Common Reporting Standard “CRS” has begun in 2018. As a result, I am writing this post which is to explain what the CRS is and how it relates to the FATCA letter. It is important to understand that the “CRS letter is actually a combined “CRS/FATCA” letter which is more likely to be received than the original FATCA letter. I urge that those who have received a letter of this type to read this post PRIOR to seeking professional advice!!!

You are reading this post because you have received a letter from your bank that is asking you to identify the countries where you are a “tax resident” and/or whether you are a “U.S. Person”.

The purpose of this post is to help you understand:

– why you are receiving the letter
– what the letter means
– what is the meaning of “tax resident”, “tax residence” and “tax residency” (terms which are used interchangeably)
– why “tax residency” is important to you
– the significance of being a U.S. citizen or Green Card holder
– how to identify where you may be a “tax resident”

Why are you receiving this letter?

The letter is intended to fulfill the bank’s due diligence obligations under both the OECD Common Reporting Standard (all countries of “tax residence” except the United States) and FATCA (whether you are a “tax resident” of the United States).

In other words, the letter is for the purpose of satisfying bank “due diligence” under two separate reporting regimes – FATCA and the OECD Common Reporting Standard “CRS”

This is long post which is broken into the following parts:

Part A – How does FATCA differ from the “CRS”?

Part B – The Combined FATCA/CRS Letter

Part C – “Tax Residency 101”: It’s about where you should be paying your taxes

Part D – Different definitions of “tax residence” – Not all countries define “tax residence” in the same way

Part E – Oh My God! I think I might be a “tax resident” of two countries – What is a “tax treaty tie breaker”? How does a “tax treaty” tie breaker work?

Part F – A “U.S. citizen” cannot use a “tax treaty tie breaker” to break U.S. “tax residence”. How then does a “U.S. citizen” cease to be a “U.S. tax resident”?

Part G – How a “permanent resident” of the U.S. – AKA “Green Card Holder” – ceases to be a U.S. tax resident

Part H – Are you, or have you ever been a U.S. citizen or Green card holder? Sometimes it’s not what it seems.

Part I – “Relinquishments of U.S. citizenship and loss of U.S. citizenship for tax purposes

Part J – Beware! You don’t sever “Tax Residency” From Canada or the United States without being subject to massive “Exit/Departure Taxes!” – You may have to buy your freedom!

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"Non-citizenship" has its privileges: An overlooked reason why a Green Card holder may NOT want to become a U.S. citizen


U.S. Tax Residency – The “Readers Digest” Version
Last week I participated in a “panel discussion” titled:
“Tax Residency In A World Of Global Mobility: What Tax Residency Means, How To Sever It, The Role Of Tax Treaties and When Exit Taxes May Apply”
The panel included a discussion of  the “pre-immigration planning” that should be undertaken prior to becoming a “tax resident of the United States”. U.S. citizens and U.S. residents are “tax residents” of the United States and (from an income tax perspective) are taxable on their world wide income. (There are separate “tax residency” rules for the U.S. Estate and Gift Tax Regime.) For the purposes of “income taxation”, the definition of “U.S. resident” includes “Green Card holders” , who by definition are “permanent residents” of the United States. Those who come to America and get that “Green Card” have subjected themselves to the U.S. “worldwide taxation” regime. Note that a Green Card holder who becomes a “long term” resident of the United States has also subjected himself to the S. 877A Expatriation Tax Regime! In other words, a Green Card holder may NOT be able to move from American without subjecting himself to a significant confiscation of his wealth! To put it simply: If a prospective immigrant is “well advised”, the S. 877A Exit Tax rules will provide a strong reason to NOT become a “permanent resident” of the United States. But, remember:
The S. 877A Exit Tax rules apply to “permanent residents” who become “long term residents”.
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Considering the EB-5 Visa? The IRC S. 877A Expatriation Tax Demonstrates that "Not All US @TaxResidency Is The Same!"


Understanding U.S. Tax Residency …
The United States uses a form of “deemed tax residency“.
The Internal Revenue of the United States deems that all “individuals” (wherever they live in the world – including citizens and residents of other countries) except “nonresident aliens” are subject to taxation in the United States on their world wide income. One qualifies as a “nonresident alien” unless one is a:
1. A U.S. citizen
2. A U.S. resident as defined by Internal Revenue Code Sec. 7701(b)
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What's a #GreenCard anyway? It's NOT what you don't know. It's what you know that isn't true!

Introduction – It’s about the right to live permanently in the United States
There are tens of thousands of people who have “Green Cards” who live outside the United States. Some of them want to maintain their Green Cards which they understand to mean maintaining their right to live permanently in the United States. Otherwise do NOT want to maintain their Green Cards meaning they do NOT want to maintain their right to live permanently in the United States.
The “Green Card” itself, is different from the “right to live permanently in the United States”.
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The Green Card and the "Oh My God" Moment: You know you want to leave the USA? Not so fast!


Well he won the lottery. Specifically he won the “Green Card” lottery. He and his wife came all the way from an Asian country to “Live The Dream” – specifically the dream of living in the United States of America.
He spoke English. His wife did not speak English. He believed in strict compliance in the law. His wife relied on him to ensure her compliance with the law.
As a Green Card holder he was vaguely aware that he could be deported if he were convicted of certain kinds of offenses. But, mainly he believed in compliance with the law for its own sake.
As a Green Card holder and as a U.S. resident he was subject to laws that were never explained to him. He didn’t realize that he was taxable on his WORLD income (including a small pension that he received from his country of citizenship).
In 2009 the “Offshore Jihad” began. He didn’t think of himself as having “offshore accounts”. After all, he was a just citizen of another country. Surely it could NOT be criminal to have a bank account in his country of origin. Did he have to report his small foreign pension to the IRS? That pension was in no way related to the United States of America? And then he learned about the alphabet soup of “reporting requirements” – Mr. FBAR, Uncle FATCA, etc. He began to learn what the “reporting requirements” were. But, the penalties (as least described) were certain. He could not believe the extent of the penalties.
It was at this moment that his “Oh My God” moment began. He was confused and mentally disorganized. At that moment, all of his life assumptions were reversed.
Assumption 1: He had always believed that he was a good, moral “law abiding” person. How could it be that he was NOT in compliance with the law. He had no reason to believe that the reporting requirements would even exist.
Welcome to the United States of America where any involvement with anything “foreign” makes you a presumptive criminal.
Assumption 2: He had always believed that the United States was a “just nation”. How could the United States threaten to impose such penalties on a person in his situation?
Welcome to the United States of America where justice is NOT the norm.
What’s a poor “Green Card” holder to do?
He was ill prepared to deal with the situation in which he found himself.
He strived to learn what he could. The IRS would not answer his questions – suggesting that he go to a “tax professional”
The “tax professionals” gave him different, conflicting and contradictory answers.
His greatest frustration was that he could NOT completely understand what was expected of him – although he did understand the threat of penalties, penalties and more penalties.
He eventually decided that he had to move back to his home country. He did this NOT to escape U.S. taxation, but because:

  1. He could not completely understand what was required of him to be U.S. tax complaint; and
  2. He was worried that he would die and leave his wife in a situation where she would not know how to be U.S. tax compliant.

In order to prepare for leaving he:

  • entered the streamlined program (domestic  version) and “back filed” for 3 years
  • stayed in America for two more years so that he could certify the “five years of tax compliance” when he handed in the I-407
  • even filed the “Sailing Permit” (The 1040C) that is required of ALL aliens (resident or nonresident) when they leave the United States

He in now trying to file his final return and 8854. Fortunately he will not be subject to the S. 877A Exit Tax. He is currently focusing on staying alive long enough to complete his U.S. tax filings. He feels that it is important that he NOT die and leave the U.S. tax compliance problem to his wife.
His emotional state:
Like many he is living in a state of fear. I pointed out to him that he was a small insignificant person and that nobody in the U.S. Government cared about him. He thanked me for telling him that “nobody in the U.S. Government cared about him”. He said that it was the first time in his life that he felt good that nobody cared about him.
Epilogue:
One more day. One more life ruined. One more person chased out of America because of the Internal Revenue Code.
His greatest wish is that he lives long enough to file Form 8854 to log him and his wife out of America.
Nobody, but nobody should move to America without reading the fine print!
#YouCantMakeThisUp!
John Richardson
 
 
 
 
 

The teaching of Topsnik 2 – 2016: #Greencard expatriation and the S. 877A "Exit Tax"

What! You want to abandon your Green Card and leave the USA!


Introduction – Introducing Gerd Topsnik – The World According to Facebook

“This case will be seen as the first of an (eventual) series of cases that determine how the definition of “long term resident” applies to Green Card holders. The case makes clear that if one does NOT meet the treaty definition of “resident” in the second country, that one
cannot use that treaty to defeat the “long term resident” test. A subsequent case is sure to expand on this issue. Otherwise, the case confirms that the S. 877A Exit Tax rules are “alive and well” and that the “5 year certification” test must be met to avoid “non-covered status”
Topsnik may or may not be a “bad guy”. But even “bad guys” are entitled to have the law properly applied to their facts. It would be very interesting to know how the court would have responded if Topsnik had been paying tax (a nice taxpayer) in Germany as a German resident.”

A nice summary of Topnik 1 and Topsnik 2


This is part of a series of posts on: (1) “tax residency“, (2) the use of “treaty tiebreakers” when an individual is a “tax resident” of more than one jurisdiction and (3) how to use “treaty tiebreakers” to end “tax residency” in an undesirable tax jurisdiction.
This is the second of the two Topsnik posts.
Topsnik 1 focused on the “tax residence” of Green Card Holders. The decision in Topsnik 1 is here:
topsnikdiv.halpern.TC.WPD
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The teaching of Topsnik 1 – 2014: Taxation for #GreenCard @TaxResidency and "tax treaty tiebreakers"

Introduction
This is part of a series of posts on: (1) “tax residency“, (2) the use of “treaty tiebreakers” when an individual is a “tax resident” of more than one jurisdiction and (3) how to use “treaty tiebreakers” to end “tax residency” in an undesirable tax jurisdiction.
Topsnik 1: It’s about the taxation (not expatriation) of  Green Card Holders
The 2014 decision in Topsnik is an interesting example of how these components interact. Mr. Topsnik was given a Green Card in 1977. He moved from the United States in 2003 and did NOT formally abandon his Green Card. He then attempted to argue that because he was a “tax resident” of Germany that he could use a “treaty tie breaker” to argue that he was NOT a “U.S tax resident”.
In summary the court ruled on a number of questions which INCLUDED:
1. Was Mr. Topsnik a U.S. “tax resident”?
Because Mr Topsnik never formally abandoned his Green Card (as required by the regulations) that he WAS a “U.S. tax resident” for ALL relevant years. This meant that he was taxable in the United States on all of his world income.
For clarity the regulations to Internal Revenue Code 7701(b) specifically state:

(b)Lawful permanent resident –
(1)Green card test. An alien is a resident alien with respect to a calendar year if the individual is a lawful permanent resident at any time during the calendar year. A lawful permanent resident is an individual who has been lawfully granted the privilege of residing permanently in the United States as an immigrant in accordance with the immigration laws. Resident status is deemed to continue unless it is rescinded or administratively or judicially determined to have been abandoned.
(2)Rescission of resident status. Resident status is considered to be rescinded if a final administrative or judicial order of exclusion or deportation is issued regarding the alien individual. For purposes of this paragraph, the term “final judicial order” means an order that is no longer subject to appeal to a higher court of competent jurisdiction.
(3)Administrative or judicial determination of abandonment of resident status. An administrative or judicial determination of abandonment of resident status may be initiated by the alien individual, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), or a consular officer. If the alien initiates this determination, resident status is considered to be abandoned when the individual’s application for abandonment (INS Form I-407) or a letter stating the alien’s intent to abandon his or her resident status, with the Alien Registration Receipt Card (INS Form I-151 or Form I-551) enclosed, is filed with the INS or a consular officer. If INS replaces any of the form numbers referred to in this paragraph or § 301.7701(b)-2(f), refer to the comparable INS replacement form number. For purposes of this paragraph, an alien individual shall be considered to have filed a letter stating the intent to abandon resident status with the INS or a consular office if such letter is sent by certified mail, return receipt requested (or a foreign country’s equivalent thereof). A copy of the letter, along with proof that the letter was mailed and received, should be retained by the alien individual. If the INS or a consular officer initiates this determination, resident status will be considered to be abandoned upon the issuance of a final administrative order of abandonment. If an individual is granted an appeal to a federal court of competent jurisdiction, a final judicial order is required.

Green Card holders must understand that they do NOT end their status as “U.S. tax residents” by leaving the United States and taking up residence in another country! Specific steps (related to notification) are required.
2. Could Mr. Topsnik use the “treaty tiebreaker” to argue that he was a “tax resident” of Germany and NOT a “tax resident” of the United States?
No. The use of a “treaty tiebreaker” requires that an individual be a “tax resident” of both countries. In this case the “treaty tie breaker” could be used ONLY if Mr. Topsnik was a “tax resident” of both Germany and the United States. The court held that Mr. Topsnik was NOT a “tax resident” of Germany but was a “tax resident” of the United States.
Note that the fact that Mr. Topsnik was NOT a “tax resident” of Germany meant that he was NOT eligible to use the “tax treaty tie breaker” rules. Eligibility to use the “tax treaty tie breaker” rules would NOT guarantee that Mr. Topsnik would be a “German tax resident”.
Conclusion: Mr. Topsnik was ONLY a “U.S. tax resident” and was therefore taxable in the United States on his world income!
Moral of the story: If a Green Card Holder ceases to reside in the United States he as NOT ended his status as a U.S. “tax resident”.
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Green Card Holders and #Americansabroad: "Residence", "Long Term Residence" and the S. 877A "Exit Tax"

Tax jurisdiction and residential ties
The two types of residential ties considered for all aliens
When considering the meaning of “residence” for tax purposes, attempting to ascribe a place of “residence “to an individual, and imposing taxation on individuals, the Internal Revenue Code considers:
A. The extent of “residential ties” to the United States; and
B. The extent of “residential ties” to another country.
We see both aspects of residence considered as a way to defeat the “substantial presence” test in Internal Revenue Code S. 7701(b). If the country of residence is uncertain, or if a person is considered to be a “tax resident” of the United States and another country, the Internal Revenue Code considers ties to both the United States and the other country in question.
For “resident aliens” (Green Card Holders):
– both past and present residential ties to the United States and to other nations are considered in at least three ways under the Internal Revenue Code itself; and
– residential ties to both the United States and the other country of residence are considered in determining residence under Article IV of the Canada U.S. (and other) tax treaties**.
Green Card Holders and tax residence
A previous post discussed the fact that:

  1. Internal Revenue Code S. 7701(a)(30) defines “U.S. Persons” as including “citizens” and “residents”
  2. The combined effect of Internal Revenue Code S. 7701(b)(1) and S. 7701(b)(6) define Green Card Holders in a way that ensures that they meet the statutory test of “residence”. (Of course Green Card Holders  may be able to defeat the status of “resident” by making use of the Treaty Election in Article IV of the Tax Treaty)
  3. The statutory defenses to “residence” found in S. 7701(b) of the Internal Revenue Code, available to “aliens” who are NOT Green Card Holders, take into account and are a function of the extent of residential ties to other jurisdictions

Residence matters and residence matters hugely. Hence, the definition of “resident” matters and matters hugely.
Congress has directed its attention to the question of the kind of physical connection to the United States, that justifies deeming one to be a “resident” for tax purposes. Interestingly, the definition of “citizenship” has NOT received the same attention. Nor is “U.S. citizen” defined in the Internal Revenue Code.
The purpose of this post is to consider how actual U.S. residence affects the taxation of Green Card Holders.
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Are Green Card holders resident outside the USA "US persons" under the #FATCA IGA?

Introduction …


The above tweet references a comment that was left on Olivier Wagner’s Tax Samurai blog. Olivier is discussing an earlier post of mine called “When It Comes To FATCA, There Are Four Kinds Of Americans Abroad“.
I highly recommend his “post about my post”.
The comments discuss the question of:

Is a Green Card Holder resident in Canada a “U.S. Person” for the purposes of FATCA?

The last comment notes that the Canada Revenue Agency is advising U.S. Green Card Holders who are resident in Canada that they should NOT identify as “U.S. Persons” under the FATCA IGA.
The exact text of the comment reads:

Green Card holders in Canada are interpreting the following statement from the Government of Canada to mean that FATCA does NOT apply to them:
http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/tx/nnrsdnts/nhncdrprtng/ndvdls-eng.html
“I hold a U.S. green card. How does this affect my tax residency?
If you are a green card holder (that is, a lawful permanent resident of the U.S.), the U.S. considers you to be a U.S. resident.
However, if you are a resident of Canada for tax purposes and do not hold U.S. citizenship, you should not identify yourself as a U.S. person to your Canadian financial institution.”
The actual IGA is here.
http://www.fin.gc.ca/treaties-conventions/pdf/FATCA-eng.pdf
The definition section includes “U.S. residents” which presumably means tax residents (which in the case of Green Card Holders may be affected by a Treaty election).
The plain reading of the statement on the CRA site will mean that Green Card holders resident in Canada will NOT identify as being U.S. tax subjects.
Note: I tried to leave a similar comment a moment ago, but it didn’t seem to show up. This is a duplicate. Feel free to pick one comment or the other.
– See more at: http://www.taxsamurai.com/index.php/2014/09/06/four-kinds-americans-abroad-response/#comment-7

The purpose of this post is to expand this discussion …
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