The architecture of the international tax system was designed in the 1920s. A century later in the 2020s very little has changed …
Introduction: As Goes Tax Reform For US Multinationals, So Escalates The Harm To Individual Americans Abroad
— John Richardson – lawyer for "U.S. persons" abroad (@ExpatriationLaw) April 14, 2021
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:
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.)
Introduction and July 2021 update …
If @citizenshiptax continues in ANY form, #expats will always live in fear of unintended consequences like this: "@WydenPress @SenSherrodBrown attempt to reinforce the punishment of #GILTI on #Americansabroad" https://t.co/G1yrUTtwBn via @expatriationlaw
— John Richardson – lawyer for "U.S. persons" abroad (@ExpatriationLaw) July 13, 2021
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!
— John Richardson – lawyer for "U.S. persons" abroad (@ExpatriationLaw) March 15, 2020
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.
In June of 2019, US Treasury proposed that all foreign income subject to high foreign tax be excluded from definition of #GILTI. The "High Tax Kick Out" that applied to passive income was extended to active income. https://t.co/rEOomMZN1l via @expatriationlaw
— John Richardson – lawyer for "U.S. persons" abroad (@ExpatriationLaw) March 15, 2020
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!
— John Richardson – lawyer for "U.S. persons" abroad (@ExpatriationLaw) March 15, 2020
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
Look here – Canadians may be required to fiance Homelander Health Care! "Distributions from Canadian RRSPs are subject to #Obamacare surtax while distributions from US plans exempt" https://t.co/EK32yVbRO3 via @ExpatriationLaw
— John Richardson – lawyer for "U.S. persons" abroad (@ExpatriationLaw) June 9, 2019
This is Part 32 of my series of blog posts about the Sec. 965 transition tax. I recently received a message from a person who says that he was assessed a Section 1411 Net Investment Income Tax assessment on the amount of the Section 965 transition tax. Although not intended as legal advice, I would like to share my thoughts on this. I don’t see how the transition tax could be subject to the NIIT.
Let’s look at it this way:
Why Section 965 Transition Tax Inclusions Are NOT Subject To The Sec. 1411 Net Investment Income Tax
A – The Language Of The Internal Revenue Code – NIIT Is Not Payable On Transition Tax Inclusions
I see no way that the language of the Internal Revenue Code leads to the conclusion that the transition tax can be subject to the NIIT.
My reasoning is based on the following two simple points:
1. The NIIT is based on Net Investment Income which is generally defined as dividends, interest and capital gains as per this tweet:
Definition of "Net Investment Income" for purposes of 3.8% NIIT does not include Subpart F and excludes income from an active business. Therefore, @USTransitionTax income should NOT be subject to IRC Sec. 1411 NIIT (Net Investment Income Tax) – See also https://t.co/p5LeHAEfwE pic.twitter.com/xZ7Fh55lZC
— John Richardson – lawyer for "U.S. persons" abroad (@ExpatriationLaw) June 9, 2019
2. Subpart F income by legal definition (controlling case law) is NOT interest, dividends or capital gains as per this tweet
Subpart F income is taxed to the shareholder as ordinary income and not as interest, dividends or capital gains – per 5th Circuit in Rodriguez. Therefore an income inclusion bc of @USTransitionTax should not be subject to 3.8% Net Investment Income Tax. https://t.co/v63A3HydZH pic.twitter.com/qR4plVVYr9
— John Richardson – lawyer for "U.S. persons" abroad (@ExpatriationLaw) June 8, 2019
B – The Purpose Of The Section 965 Transition Tax
3. The whole point of the transition tax is to go after active income that was not subject to U.S. tax when it was earned. There is nothing about the transition tax that converts active income into investment income by making it a subpart F inclusion as per this tweet:
One reason why the 3.8% NIIT should NOT be payable at the time the @USTransitionTax is assessed – Second reason: The fictitious Subpart F inclusion doesn't change business income to investment income See:
"Section 965 and Net Investment Income Tax" https://t.co/JoCEiNyXWy
— John Richardson – lawyer for "U.S. persons" abroad (@ExpatriationLaw) June 7, 2019
Therefore, (and this is speculation on my part) the NIIT charge must be based on something specific to your tax filing – likely treating the transition tax inclusion as meeting the definition of Net Investment Income – specifically Dividends, Interest or Capital Gains.
Under no circumstances should you or anybody else impacted by this simply pay a NIIT surcharge on the transition tax, without a careful and meticulous investigation of the reasons for it. Have a good look at your tax return.
The mandatory disclaimer: Obviously this is not intended to be legal advice or any other kind of advice. It is simply intended to give you the framework to discuss this issue with your tax preparer if you were one of the unfortunate victims who received an NIIT tax assessment on your acknowledged transition tax liability.
John Richardson – Follow me on Twitter @Expatriationlaw
Introduction – In The 21st Century The Most Important Thing About A Person Is His Tax Residency
Interestingly the U.S. UK tax treaty appears to have created a "saving clause" for some #GreenCard holders – looks like they may have no residency tie breaker option (very bad!) Why should some Green Card holders be treated worse than others? https://t.co/M6l3KonN01 pic.twitter.com/63gEsj4C14
— John Richardson – lawyer for "U.S. persons" abroad (@ExpatriationLaw) March 26, 2019
Green Card holders are deemed to be U.S. tax residents under the Internal Revenue Code. In most circumstances, Green Card Holders are also treated as U.S. tax residents under U.S. tax treaties.
U.S. Green Card holders have traditionally been able to use tax treaties to sever “tax residence” with the United States. This decision carries both burdens and benefits and should never be undertaken without competent professional advice. (For Green Card holders who are “long term residents“, the use of a “tax treaty tie breaker” will result in expatriation. Expatriation may trigger the imposition of the Sec. 877A Expatriation Tax.)
The tax treaty tie breaker is available if and only if the individual is, according to the tax treaty, a tax resident of BOTH the United States and the treaty partner country.
Typically the tax treaty tie breaker is a mechanism where one uses the provisions of the tax treaty to assign tax residency to one and only one country according to the tax treaty.
To repeat: a condition precedent to the use of the tax treaty tie breaker is that the individual be a tax resident of both countries according to the tax treaty.
Most tax treaties provide that if an individual is a tax resident of Country A according to domestic law, then the individual is a resident of Country A under the treaty. In other words, tax residency under the terms of the treaty follows from tax residency under domestic law.
Prior to the U.S. U.K. Tax Treaty of July 24, 2001, tax residency for Green Card holders according to the tax treaty, followed from tax residency under domestic law.
The U.S. U.K. Tax Treaty of July 24, 2001 changed this basic rule. The July 24, 2001 tax treaty contains a provision that provides that tax residency under the U.S. U.K. tax treaty, does not necessarily follow from tax residency under U.S. domestic law. Specifically Article 4 Paragraph 2 states that Green Card holders will NOT be treated as U.S. tax residents under the U.S. U.K. Tax treaty except as follows:
2. An individual who is a United States citizen or an alien admitted to the United States
for permanent residence (a “green card” holder) is a resident of the United States only if the
individual has a substantial presence, permanent home or habitual abode in the United States and if that individual is not a resident of a State other than the United Kingdom for the purposes of a double taxation convention between that State and the United Kingdom.
Paragraph 2 of Article 4 provides a presumption against U.S. tax residency, under the tax treaty, for Green Card holders. This results in a situation where the Green Card holder is a U.S. tax resident under the U.S. Internal Revenue Code, but NOT a U.S. tax resident under the treaty.
The purpose of this post is to explore the implications of this unusual provision and how it impacts Green Card holders who are tax residents of the U.K. The post will be divided into the following six parts:
Part A – U.S. U.K. Tax Treaty – Prior to July 24, 2001 (1975)
Part B – The U.S. U.K. Tax Treaty – signed July 24, 2001
Part C – The meaning of the two necessary conditions to qualify as a U.S. tax resident under the treaty: Joint Committee of Taxation Comments on Paragraph 2 of Article 4
Part D – The meaning of the two necessary conditions to qualify as a U.S. tax resident under the treaty: U.S. Treasury Technical Interpretation
Part E – IRS Commentary – July 3, 2018
Part F – What are the implications for Green Card Holders who are tax residents of the UK?
The United States imposes a separate and more punitive tax system on US dual citizens who live in their country of second citizenship https://t.co/OLCYn7G211
— John Richardson – lawyer for "U.S. persons" abroad (@ExpatriationLaw) March 12, 2019
Do you recognise yourself?
You are unable to properly plan for your retirement. Many of you with retirement assets are having them confiscated (at this very moment) courtesy of the Sec. 965 transition tax. You are subjected to reporting requirements that presume you are a criminal. Yet your only crime was having been born in America (something you didn’t even choose) and attempting to live as a U.S. tax compliant American outside the United States. Your comments to my recent article at Tax Connections reflect and register your conviction that you should not be subjected to the extra-territorial application of the Internal Revenue Code – when you don’t live in the United States.
The Internal Revenue Code: You can’t leave home without it!
Treasury issues final regulations on the Sec. 965 @USTransitionTax and (apparently) ignores the rape and pillage of the pensions of Canadians and other #Americansabroad – #YouCantMakeThisUp! https://t.co/ngh8U9DyvO
— John Richardson – lawyer for "U.S. persons" abroad (@ExpatriationLaw) January 16, 2019
This is Part 30 of my series of blog posts about the Sec. 965 transition tax.
Because of the importance and significance of this news I am writing this post without having read the 305 pages of Treasury regulations which relate to the Sec. 965 transition tax which are found here. I am relying on Monte Silver’s analysis which concludes that the regulations propose NO regulatory relief for the small businesses of Americans abroad. This is disappointing after the lobbying efforts that have been undertaken.
The attitude of U.S. Treasury
Assuming no relief for Americans abroad, coupled with the vast campaign that was undertaken to educate Treasury, we can assume that the denial of relief was intentional and with full recognition of the harm caused to a political minority, who do not even live in the United States.
To put it simply: It is the intention of U.S. Treasury to confiscate the retirement assets of Canadians with Canadian Controlled Private Corporations and similarly situated individuals in other countries. No other conclusion is possible.
The attitude of Congress – As I have previously said:
The problem is NOT that Congress doesn’t care about Americans Abroad. The problem is that they con’t care that they don’t care!
The only remedy is with the courts and I strongly suggest that you support the transition tax lawsuit being organized by Monte Silver.
The attitude of the Courts
I anticipate that Monte Silver’s lawsuit (described in the previous paragraph) is now inevitable.
Here is what actually has happened this week …
First – as reported on January 15, 2019 before issuing final regulations …
Second – and on January 16, 2019 – for the encore the final Sec. 965 regulations are issued and guess what?
For further commentary I refer you to Monte Silver at Americans for Small Business.
For those who can stomach it, the final (supposedly) regulations are here.
Follow me on Twitter: @ExpatriationLaw
Introduction – As the year of the “transition tax” comes to an end with no relief for Americans abroad (who could have known?)
As 2018 comes to and end (as does my series of posts about the transition tax) many individuals are still trying to decide how to respond to the Sec. 965 “transition tax” problem. The purpose of this post is to summarize what I believe is the universe of different ways that one can approach Sec. 965 transition tax compliance. These approaches have been considered at various times and in different posts over the last year. As 2018 comes to an end the tax compliance industry is confused about what to do. The taxpayers are confused about what to do. For many individuals they must choose between: bad and uncertain compliance or no attempt at compliance. (I add that the same is true of the Sec. 951A GILTI provisions which took effect on January 1, 2018.)
But first – a reminder: This tax was NEVER intended to apply to Americans abroad!!!
A recent post by Dr. Karen Alpert – “Fixing the Transition Tax for Individual Shareholders” – includes:
There have been several international tax reform proposals in the past decade, some of which are variations on the final Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) package. None of these proposals even considered the interaction of the proposed changes with taxing based on citizenship. One even suggested completely repealing the provision that eliminates US tax on dividends out of previously taxed income because corporate shareholders would no longer be paying US tax on those dividends anyway.
and later that …
One of the obstacles often mentioned when it comes to a legislative fix is the perceived requirement that any change be “revenue neutral”. While this is understandable given the current US budget deficit, it shouldn’t apply to this particular fix because the transition tax liability of individual US Shareholders of CFCs was not included in the original estimates of transition tax revenue.
The bottom line is:
Congress did not consider whether the transition tax would apply to Americans abroad and therefore did not intend for the transition tax to apply to them. Within hours of release of the legislation, the tax compliance industry, while paying no attention to the intent of the legislation, began a compliance campaign to assist owners of Canadian Controlled Private Corporations to turn their retirement savings over to the IRS. There was (in general) no “push back” from the compliance industry. There was little attempt on the part of the compliance industry to analyze the intent of the legislation. In general (there are always exceptions – many who I know personally – who have done excellent work), the compliance industry failed their clients. By not considering the intent of the legislation and not considering responses consistent with that intent, the compliance industry effectively created the “transition tax”.
In fairness to the industry, Treasury has given little guidance to practitioners and the guidance given came late in the year. In fairness to Treasury, by granting the two filing extensions, Treasury made some attempt to do, what they thought they could, within the parameters of the legislation.
The purpose of this post …
This post will summarize (but not discuss) the various options. There is no generally preferred option. This is not “one size fits all”. The response chosen will largely depend in the “stage in life” of the individual. Younger people can pay/absorb the “transition tax”. For people closer to retirement, for whom the retained earnings in their corporations are their pensions: compliance will result in the destruction of your retirement.
Introduction – “Indifference being the worst form of abuse”
— John Richardson – lawyer for "U.S. persons" abroad (@ExpatriationLaw) November 29, 2018
A quick summary of this post:
On November 26, 2018 the House Ways and Means Committee under the leadership of Chairman Brady announced a bi-partisan bill which contains a number of “Technical Fixes” to the December 22, 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. While specifically addressing the Sec. 965 transition tax, the bill contains neither mention nor relief for Americans Abroad who are at risk of having their retirement pensions confiscated by the U.S. Government. (While the transition tax may actually be beneficial for Homeland Americans, it is simply devastating for Americans abroad.)
In other words: The proposed legislation is NOT neutral. By specifically addressing the Sec. 965 transition tax and NOT providing relief for Americans abroad, it has exacerbated a difficult situation. My understanding is that many Americans abroad have requested filing extensions to December 15, 2018. The failure of this proposed bill to provide relief means that many Americans abroad with small businesses are in an untenable situation where compliance may well be impossible.
My analysis and discussion follows …