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Part 6: Responding to the Sec. 965 “transition tax”: A "reprieve" until June 15, 2018

This is the sixth in my series of posts about the Sec. 965 Transition Tax and whether/how it applies to the small business corporations owned by tax paying residents of other countries (who may also have U.S. citizenship). These small business corporations are in no way “foreign”. They are certainly “local” to the resident of another country who just happens to have the misfortune of being a U.S. citizen.
This post will draw on the lessons/discussion from the first five posts. The specific purpose of this post is to argue that what the United States calls “taxation” (presumably because it is found in the Internal Revenue Code), as applied to “nonresidents” is actually a separate tax regime that:
1. Imposes different tax rules on “nonresidents” (certain individuals who live outside the United States); and
2. Those rules for “nonresidents” are designed to operate primarily as “confiscations of non-U.S. assets.
The Internal Revenue Code of the United States is based on three principles:
Principle 1: A hatred for all things foreign
Principle 2: A hatred of all forms of deferral (except IRAs, 401Ks and other U.S. sanctioned forms of deferral)
Principle 3: Attempts of prevent “leakage” of “U.S. person” owned assets from the U.S. tax system.
The interaction of these three principles creates a complex, penalty laden, “anti-deferral regime”, that specifically targets income and assets earned in other countries and located in other countries.
The time has come for countries who have U.S. tax treaties that contain the “savings clause” and which have signed to FATCA IGAs to “wake up” to this reality.
To put it simply: What the U.S. calls “taxation” is actually the “confiscation” of assets located in other countries. The “transition tax” is a timely and exceptionally brazen example of how this confiscation works.
The first five posts in my “transition tax” series were:
Part 1: Responding to The Section 965 “transition tax”: “Resistance is futile” but “Compliance is impossible”
Part 2: Responding to The Section 965 “transition tax”: Is “resistance futile”? The possible use of the Canada U.S. tax treaty to defeat the “transition tax”
Part 3: Responding to the Sec. 965 “transition tax”: They hate you for (and want) your pensions!
Part 4: Responding to the Sec. 965 “transition tax”: Comparing the treatment of “Homeland Americans” to the treatment of “nonresidents”
Part 5: Responding to the Sec. 965 “transition tax”: Shades of #OVDP! April 15/18 is your last, best chance to comply!
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Part 1: Responding to The Section 965 "transition tax": "Resistance is futile" but "Compliance is impossible"

Introduction and background …

“This legislation is being interpreted by a number of tax professionals to mean that individual U.S. citizens living outside the United States are required to simply “fork over” a percentage of the value of their small business corporations to the IRS. Although technically “CFCs” these companies are certainly NOT foreign to the people who use them to run businesses that are local to their country of residence. Furthermore, the “culture” of Canadian Controlled Private Corporations is that they are actually used as “private pension plans”. So, an unintended consequence of the Tax Cuts Jobs Act would be that individuals living in Canada are somehow required to collapse their pension plans and turn the proceeds over to the U.S. government” -John Richardson

I have previously suggested that the Section 965 “transition tax” should not be interpreted to apply to Americans abroad. This argument was based largely on a “lack of legislative intention” coupled with the fact that individuals (whether in the USA or living abroad) do NOT get the benefits of the transition to “territorial taxation”.
These are difficult times for many Canadians who are the owners of Canadian Controlled Private Corporations. Canadian residents use Canadian Controlled Private Corporations (“CCPCs”) to operate small businesses and to create pension plans for their retirement. Importantly a Canadian corporation meets the definition of a “CCPC” only if it is controlled by residents of Canada. By definition all “CCPCs” are local to their owners. The use of “CCPCs” reflects the reality of Canadian tax laws going back to 1972. Governments the world over are taking steps to ensure that corporations cannot be used for the deferral or avoidance of taxation.
The election of the Trudeau Liberals resulted in the Government of Canada taking an interest in “Tax Reform” (or at least “tax reform” in relation to Canadian Controlled Private Corporations). On February 27, 2018 Finance Minister Morneau delivered the Liberals third budget. Although not widely publicized, the budget including major changes in how the passive income of CCPCs is to be taxed in Canada.
Of course those “CCPC” owners who have U.S. citizenship must also deal with the U.S. tax system. Interestingly, both the Government of Canada and the Government of the United States have the owners of “CCPCs” on their radar.
Canada – On the “Home front” (meaning in Canada) the Liberal Government of Justin Trudeau and Finance Minister Bill Morneau are targeting the “retained earnings” in their corporations. Specifically they believe that “retained earnings” that were subject to the lower small business tax rate provide an unfair tax deferral, resulting in more capital to invest, which allows for the creation of additional passive income. The February 27, 2018 Canadian budget is a direct response to this perception.
The United States – The “Homeland” has just passed the TCJA (“Tax Cuts Jobs Act”). One provision of the TCJA amended Internal Revenue Code Section 965 to impose a one time tax on the “United States shareholders” of “Deferred Foreign Income Corporations” (a “DFIC”). This tax is based on the “undistributed earnings” of corporations. The application of this tax to U.S. citizens living outside the United States is newsworthy, is debatable (and is being debated). The application of the Section 965 “transition tax (assuming the applicability of the tax to Canadian resident owners of “CCPcs”), would be a direct, retroactive tax on the “retained earnings” of Canadian Controlled Private Corporations. Notably these “retained earnings” were NEVER subject to U.S. taxation before (it’s retroactive). The mechanism that the U.S. Government is using to impose direct taxation on the retained earnings of “CCPCs” is to (1) attribute the corporate undistributed earnings to the individual shareholder and (2) impose taxation directly on the individual shareholder. For “Tax Geeks” (and those who want boring cocktail conversation), from a U.S. perspective this process of income attribution is called “Subpart F” income. (You can learn all about it by reading Internal Revenue Code Sections 951 – 965). I emphasize that a Subpart F inclusion (by definition) attributes corporate income to a “shareholder” without any realization event whatsoever.
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