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Welcome to Citizenship Solutions (and Green Card solutions) – John Richardson

Welcome to Citizenship Solutions – The blog of John Richardson

I am guessing (actually I know for sure) that you arrived here because of some aspect of being a U.S. citizen living outside the United States. Maybe you are a Green Card holder. Perhaps you are a former U.S. resident who has just learned that you may still be subject to U.S. “worldwide taxation” even though are a “tax resident” outside the USA. I also know how you are feeling.

“U.S. citizens” and “Green Card holders” are referred to as “U.S. Persons”. So, if you are a “U.S. Person Abroad”, well, life is pretty tough. in fact living as a “U.S. Person” outside the United States is: hard, expensive, confusing and (quite frankly) unsustainable.

Some of you are NOT in compliance with the intricate and (almost) impossible to understand web of tax and reporting requirements. Non-compliance has its share of problems.
Some of you ARE in compliance (as far as you know) with the intricate (and almost) impossible to understand web of tax and reporting requirements. Compliance also has its share of problems (stress, expense, anxiety).

Whether you are in compliance or not in compliance, you have problems. This is because:
U.S. citizenship is the one citizenship in the world that affects virtually every aspect of your life. in addition to the information on this blog, I help people with the following kinds of specific problems/questions (which include):

1. Are you a U.S. citizen at all? Have you relinquished U.S. citizenship along the way? If you have relinquished U.S. citizenship, are you a “U.S. Person” for FATCA and tax filing purposes?

2. Have you just received a “FATCA Letter” addressed to you as an INDIVIDUAL or to you as an ENTITY (corporation, trust, etc.)? How to respond. What’s a W9? What’s a W-8BEN-E anyway?

3. What about that old Green Card sitting in your drawer? You may still be subject to U.S. taxation, even when you don’t live in the USA! What are the tax obligations of Green Card holders? What to do? ….

4. Renouncing U.S. citizenship – What’s the “right way”? What’s the “wrong way”? The better question is “what’s the safest way”? What about that “back dated” relinquishment?

5. Green Card expatriation – How to exit the tax system and the U.S. immigration system.

6.  Oh My God!! The moment many of you will never forget. Yes it’s a problem. No it’s not as much of a problem as you think. Make certain that you respond and not react. If all you want to do is file U.S. taxes

7.  U.S. S. 877A “Exit Tax” consulting. If you think you can leave the “Land Of The Free” for free, you better think again. A bit about the the United States expatriation taxes. Those of you with a  non-U.S. pension and want to renounce U.S. citizenship should take specific note!

8. Retirement and financial planning (including pensions) as a “U.S. Person” abroad – You will be surprised at the problems you will have living as a U.S. tax compliant American abroad. Think (or maybe you shouldn’t) “PFIC“.

9. Coming into U.S. tax complianceWhat are the various options?  Why one option over another? What about “Streamlined” compliance? 99% of you should NEVER use “OVDP”!!

10. Non-U.S. AKA “Foreign Corporations” – Yes, these can be a BIG problem. Caution: The U.S. CFC tax rules may attribute income to YOU that you never received!

11. Getting a divorce? Are you a U.S. citizen married to a non-citizen? – Your U.S. citizenship will play a role.

Respond, don’t react! – Do NOT make any decisions without understanding the present and FUTURE consequences of those decisions.

So, how do I know this?

First, I am a person (Toronto based lawyer actually) who was born in the United States and has lived almost all of my life outside the United States. In other words, I have lived and do live these problems.
Second, I have spent the last few years of my life assisting “U.S. Persons abroad” survive the unjust imposition of FATCA, FBAR and “CBT” (AKA U.S. “place of birth taxation”) on Americans abroad. I work with many groups of people including: “accidental Americans“, long term dual citizens who wish to retain U.S. citizenship, long term dual citizens who feel they must renounce U.S. citizenship, Green Card holders (whether they live in the United States or not) and those who have ONLY U.S. citizenship. It’s what I do.

Third, I have been (and continue to be) actively involved in efforts to oppose FATCA in the courts and in the process of making submissions to the U.S. Treasury. If you want to learn about the Alliance For The Defense of Canadian Sovereignty lawsuit against the Government of Canada, see here.

I work with people all around the world! I have given “live presentations” about the “Problems of U.S. citizenship” all over Canada and Europe. I have given a number of “media interviews” about FATCA and the problems of U.S. citizenship. I have testified as a witness before the Canadian House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance (May 2014). I have written hundreds of articles and blog posts about FATCA, FBAR and U.S. taxation-based citizenship. I have and continue to teach courses both for Americans abroad and for professionals who counsel U.S. citizens abroad.

Anyway, the blog is free. The counselling and assistance require individual consultations. Contact me if you want me to help you solve these problems as they apply to YOUR SITUATION.

John Richardson

P.S. Here is the one of the very first posts that I wrote on for this blog. Some posts are “timeless”. “What you need to consider BEFORE consulting a lawyer or tax professional“.

 

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"Coming Into Tax Compliance Book" – How Americans can come into U.S. tax compliance in a FATCA world

Are you “Coming To America” by entering the U.S. tax system as an American Abroad?

The “How To Come Into U.S. Tax Compliance” book for Americans abroad

John Richardson, LL.B, J.D.

I have contributed to establishing the new “Citizenship Taxation” site. As part of launching that site, I have written a series of posts providing relevant information (in a broad sense) about how Americans abroad, who did not know about their U.S. tax obligations, can come into U.S. tax compliance.

Sooner or later, it’s likely that many people will receive a FATCA letter. In your panic, you should be careful. There are a number of things Americans abroad should consider before consulting a lawyer or tax professional.

This series of posts developed from my “Educational Outreach” program for Americans abroad. It is an effort to respond in a practical way to the questions that people have.

The chapters of “Coming Into Compliance Book” are:

Chapter 1 – “Accepting Cleanliness – Understanding U.S. Citizenship Taxation – To remain a U.S. citizen or to renounce U.S. citizenship

Chapter 2 – “But wait, I can’t renounce U.S. citizenship if I’m not a U.S. citizen. How do I know if I am a U.S. citizen?”

Chapter 3 – “No matter what, I must come into U.S. tax compliance – Coming into U.S. tax compliance for those who have NOT been filing U.S. taxes

Chapter4 – “Oh no, I have attempted U.S. tax compliance by filing tax returns. I have just learned that I have made mistakes. How do I fix those mistakes?”

Chapter 5 – “I don’t want to renounce U.S. citizenship. How to live outside the United States as a U.S. tax compliant person

Chapter 6 – “I do want to renounce U.S. citizenship. This is too much for me. How the U.S. “Exit Tax” rules might apply to me if I renounce

Chapter 7 – “I really wish I could do retirement planning like a “normal” person. But, I’m an American abroad. I hear I can’t invest in mutual funds in my country of residence. The problem of Americans Abroad and non-U.S. mutual funds explained.

Chapter 8 – “We all have to live somewhere. Five issues – “The problem of Americans Abroad and non-U.S. real estate explained

Chapter 9 – “Receiving U.S. Social Security – #Americansabroad and entitlement to Social Security

Chapter 10 – “Paying into Social Security – #Americansabroad, double taxation and the payment of “Self-employment” taxes

Chapter 11 – “Saving the children – INA S. 301 – “Residence” vs. “Physical Presence” and transmission of US citizenship abroad

Chapter 12 – “Issues surrounding 401k, IRAs, Roths and Americans Abroad

Chapter 13 – “Married filing separately” and the “Alien Spouse” – the “hidden tax” on #Americansabroad

Chapter 14 – “The Obamacare “Net Investment Income Tax” – Pure double taxation of #Americansabroad

Chapter 15 – “To be “FORMWarned is to be “FORMArmed” – It’s “FORM Crime” stupid!!

Chapter 16 – “Most “Form Crime” penalties can be abated if there is “reasonable cause”

Chapter 17 – “How to get “credit” for taxes (foreign) paid to your country of residence

Chapter 18 – “I don’t pay taxes in the country where I live. Can I “exclude” my foreign income from the U.S. tax return?

Chapter 19 – “Is it better to take the “Foreign Tax Credit” or the “Foreign Earned Income Exclusion” – a discussion


Chapter 20
– “The child tax credit: take it, leave it or how to take it

Chapter 21 – “How #Americansabroad can continue to use the #IRA as a retirement planning vehicle

Chapter 22 – “To share or not to share” – Should a U.S. citizen share a bank account with a “non-citizen AKA alien spouse? – Reporting Edition

The “Coming Into Compliance Book” is designed to provide an overview of how to bring some sanity to your life.
 Coming to America

You may remember the old Eddie Murphy movie about “Coming To America”.

Welcome to the confusing and high stakes rules for U.S. taxation and Americans abroad.
The United States has the most complex, confusing, most penalty ridden and most difficult anti-deferral regime in the world. McGill Professor Allison Christians has noted that Americans abroad are both:

“deemed to be permanently resident in the United States for tax compliance and financial reporting purposes” …

and are

“subject to the most complex aspects of the U.S. tax code regardless of any activity in the United States, and facing extraordinary compliance costs and disclosure risks even for nil returns”

Although Americans abroad are deemed to be resident in the United States, their assets are treated as “offshore”. In addition Americans abroad are subject to taxation in their country of residence.

All of this means that:

1. Americans abroad are subject to the worst and most punitive aspects of the U.S. tax system (there is no Homelander who is treated as badly as an American abroad); and

2. Denied most benefits of the tax systems of their country of residence.

To put it simply, Americans abroad get the worst of all possible tax systems.

The most horrific aspects of the U.S. tax system are saved for Americans abroad. Prepare to be shocked. As one commenter at the Isaac Brock Society site recently said:

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Renouncing US citizenship? How the S. 877A "Exit Tax" may apply to your Canadian assets – 25 Parts

Introduction:

usexittax

There is much discussion of the U.S. rules which operate to impose taxation on the residents of other countries and income earned in those other countries. You will hear references to “citizenship taxation”, “FATCA Canada“, PFIC, etc. It is becoming more common for people to wish to relinquish their U.S. citizenship. The most common form of “relinquishment is renunciation”. The U.S. tax rules, found in the Internal Revenue Code, impose taxes on everything. There is even a tax on “renouncing U.S. citizenship”. I don’t mean the $2350 USD administrative fee which everybody has to pay. (Isn’t that really a tax?). I mean a tax on your assets. To be clear:

You must pay a price to NOT be a U.S. citizen.

This tax is found in S. 877A of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code.

It’s defined as the:
Tax responsibilities of expatriation

Few people are aware of this tax. Fewer still understand how it works.  As FATCA operates to enforce U.S. taxation on many Canadian citizens, and increasing numbers wish to NOT be U.S. citizens, the importance of understanding the U.S. “Exit Tax” increases.

It is particularly important to understand what triggers the “Exit Tax”. You will be subject to the “Exit Tax” if you are a “covered expatriate”. You must know what that means and why, sooner or later, everybody will become a “covered expatriate”.
The “Exit Tax” is not a simple “token tax”. For Canadians, the tax can be a significant percentage of their net worth. Furthermore, the tax is payable NOT on actual gains, but on “pretend gains”. (Where would the money come from to pay the tax?)
Hang on to your seats. You will shocked, amazed and horrified by this.

Since the advent of FATCA in Canada, this issue is increasingly important.*

To be forewarned is to be forearmed!

This is a 25 part series which is designed to provide you  with some basic education on:

How the U.S. S. 877A Exit Tax rules work; and

How they particularly affect Canadians with a U.S. birthplace, who lived most of their lives in Canada.

This will be covered over a 9 day period in a “9 part” series. (It has since been expanded to 25 posts and counting.)

Although this series is beginning on “April Fools Day”, I assure that this is NOT a joke.

The 25 parts are:

Part 1 – April 1, 2015 – “Facts are stubborn things” – The results of the “Exit Tax

Part 2 – April 2, 2015 – “How could this possibly happen? “Exit Taxes” in a system of residence based taxation vs. Exit Taxes in a system of “citizenship (place of birth) taxation

Part 3 – April 3, 2015 – “The “Exit Tax” affects “covered expatriates” – what is a “covered expatriate“?”

Part 4 – April 4, 2015 – “You are a “covered expatriate” How is the “Exit Tax”  actually calculated

Part 5 – April 5, 2015 – “The “Exit Tax” in action – Five actual scenarios with 5 actual completed U.S. tax returns

Part 6 – April 6, 2015 – “Surely, expatriation is NOT worse than death! The two million asset test should be raised to the Estate Tax limitation – approximately five million dollars – It’s Time

Part 7 – April 7, 2015 – “Why 2015 is a good year for many Americans abroad to relinquish U.S. citizenship – It’s the exchange rate

Part 8 – April 8, 2015 – “The U.S. “Exit Tax vs. Canada’s Departure Tax – Understanding the difference between citizenship taxation and residence taxation

Part 9 – April 9, 2015 – “For #Americansabroad: US “citizenship taxation” is “death by a thousand cuts, but the S. 877A Exit Tax is “death by the guillotine”

Part 10 – April 10, 2015 – “The S. 877A Exit Tax and possible relief under the Canada U.S. Tax Treaty

Part 11 – April 11, 2015 – “S. 2801 of the Internal Revenue Code is NOT a S. 877A “Exit Tax”, but a punishment for the “sins of the father (relinquishment)

Part 12 – April 12, 2015 – “The two kinds of U.S. citizenship: Citizenship for “immigration and nationality” and citizenship for  “taxation” – Are we taxed because we are citizens or are we citizens because we are taxed?”

Part 13 – April 13, 2015 – “I relinquished U.S. citizenship many years ago. Could I still have U.S. tax citizenship?

Part 14 – April 14, 2015 – “Leaving the U.S. tax system – renounce or relinquish U.S. citizenship, What’s the difference?

Part 15 – May 22, 2015 – “Interview with GordonTLong.com – “Citizenship taxation”, the S. 877A Exit Tax, PFICs and Americans abroad

Attention: Parts 16 – 21 focus on the “dual citizen exemption in the context of Canada’s Citizenship laws.

Part 16 – February 16, 2016 – “Why the S. 877A(g)(1)(B) “dual citizen exemption” encourages dual citizens from birth to remain US citizens and others (except @SenTedCruz) to renounce” – Note that this module is composed of Parts 16 – 21 – six posts.

Part 17 – February 16, 2016 – The history of Canada’s citizenship laws: Did the 1947 Canada Citizenship Act affirm citizenship or “strip” citizenship and create @LostCanadians?

Part 18 – February 16, 2016 -The S. 877A “dual citizen” exemption – I was born before the first ever Canada Citizenship Act? Could I have been “born a Canadian citizen”?

Part 19 – February 16, 2016 – The S. 877A “Dual Citizen” exemption: The 1947 Canada Citizenship Act – Am I still a Canadian or did I lose Canadian citizenship? (The “Sins Of The Father”)

Part 20 – February 16, 2016 -The S. 877A “Dual Citizen” exemption: The 1947 Canada Citizenship Act and the requirements to be “born Canadian

Part 21 – February 16, 2016 – “The S. 877A “Dual Citizen” exemption: I was born a dual citizen! Am I still “taxed as a resident” of Canada?

Part 22 – February 29, 2016 – “The S. 877A “Dual Citizen” exemption: MUST certify tax compliance for the five years prior to relinquishment

More on the United States Expatriation Tax – ongoing miscellaneous:

Part 23 – “How the 1966 desire to “poach” capital from other nations led to the 2008 S. 877A Exit Tax

Part 24 – “Clinton Treasury representative Les Samuels explains why the U.S. Exit Tax SHOULD apply to the assets of Americans abroad

Part 25 – “Relinquishing US citizenship: South African Apartheid, the Accidental Taxpayer and the exit tax
 
________________________________________________________________________________________
* Why this is of increased importance: The role of FATCA and U.S. taxation in Canada

A picture/video tells a thousand words. Have a look at the “Rick Mercer FATCA video” in the following tweet:

FATCA is U.S. law which is designed to identify financial assets and people, outside the United States, that the U.S. believes are subject to its tax laws. (It makes no difference whether the person is a Canadian citizen”.) This includes people who were:

– born in the U.S.

– Green card holders

– people born to U.S. parents in Canada

– “snow birds” who spend too much time in the United States

The Government of Canada is assisting the United State to implement FATCA in Canada. To be specific:

– on February 5, 2014 the Government of Canada formally agreed to change Canadian law to identify “U.S. connected” Canadians in Canada

– in May of 2014, the Government of Canada passed Bill C 31 which contained the implementing legislation

– on July 1, 2014 FATCA became the law in Canada

– since July 1, 2014 many Canadians have received a “FATCA Letter” (can the U.S. claim you as a taxpayer?)

The Alliance For The Defence Of Canadian Sovereignty has sued the Government of Canada in Federal Court on the basis that the participation of the Canadian Government in FATCA, is in violation of the Charter Rights of Canadians. You can keep up with their progress on the Alliance blog” which is here.
FATCA is a tool to enforce “U.S. taxation in Canada”. The result is that more and more Canadian citizen/residents  will be forced to pay U.S. taxes. But, U.S. tax rules include much more than tax. They are source of comprehensive information gathering and “information returns”. Typical returns required by U.S. taxpayers in Canada include: FBAR, FATCA Form 8938, Form 5471, Form 3520, Form 3520A and many more.

In addition, U.S. tax rules are different from Canadian tax rules. The most painful example is that when:

– Canada allows a “tax free” capital gain on your principal residence
– the U.S. imposes a 23.8% tax on the sale of your principal residence (you get a $250,000 deduction)

Sound horrible?

It is, but:

It’s only Canadian citizens with a past “U.S. connection” who will be subject to these taxes. It is estimated that approximately one million Canadians may be subject (as “U.S. Subjects”) to these rules. But, Canadians with a “U.S. connection” are members of families. Therefore, U.S. taxation in Canada will impact all members of a Canadian family which has at least one “U.S. connected” member.

John Richardson Follow me on Twitter @Expatriationlaw

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What you should consider before contacting a lawyer

decision

The Reality of U.S. Citizenship Abroad

Nobody denied that the unintended targets of Congressional legislation aimed at those who supposedly “owe allegiance” to the USA, now assisted by craven foreign governments anxious lest their financial services entities lose access to the US market, are mostly unlikely to do anything at all. But the whole idea of universal self-assessment of taxation is to keep the taxpayer in an anxious condition, to make him overpay if possible, but at least not to underpay. Those now faced with an unprecedented, even retroactive, enforcement campaign and who must, if they wish to become compliant and avoid penalty or even prosecution (should they be identified in the future), sacrifice much of their wealth, even become insolvent.

Comment at the Isaac Brock Society blog – July 29, 2013

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Some US Citizens And Green Card Holders Resident In Belgium Are Excluded From Benefits Under The Tax Treaty Available To US Citizen Residents

Prologue

I was recently alerted to a provision in the US Belgium Tax Treaty (a similar but not identical provision also appears in the US UK Tax Treaty – which I have explored in this earlier post.). Normally all US Citizens and Green Card holders are defined as “US Residents” under US tax treaties. The US Belgium Tax Treaty (and the US Uk Tax Treaty) contain an interesting exception to the general principle that US citizens and Green Card holders are “US Residents” under the Tax Treaty. Think of it as a “residency carve out”. The purpose of this post is to describe this “carve out” and explore the (some) practical implications of what this means. Interestingly it is one more example of how the US tax treatment of Americans abroad depends on their country of residence.

Just when you think the US tax treatment of Americans abroad couldn’t be worse, the US never ceases to amaze. Seriously, this is the tax treaty version of “Shock and Awe”! It demonstrates that any general discussion about tax treaties is, well just “general”. One must always understand the specific provisions of the specific treaty. Before, anybody gets overly upset, no need to worry. Even those US citizens who do get the benefits of the US Belgium tax treaty don’t (because of the “saving clause”) get much. Nevertheless, the US Belgium Tax Treaty affords a good opportunity to read tax treaties carefully. It also provides a good reminder that the “saving clause” excludes US citizens from most benefits of the tax treaty (even when US citizens meet the residency requirements of the treaty). Finally, this analysis reinforces how carefully tax treaties must be read. Does a provision talk about “citizens”, “nationals”, “residents” …?

The Readers Digest Version Of This Post

US citizens and Green Card holders are US tax residents wherever they live in the world. Most US tax treaties define citizens and Green Card holders as US tax residents. Yet, there are some treaties that “may” not define “US Persons Abroad” as “residents of the United States”. The treaties that “may not” define Green Card holders and citizens as “residents of the United States” include Belgium and the UK. It appears that Green Card holders are the biggest losers. That said, the Belgium and UK tax treaties demonstrate that “US Persons Abroad” may receive fewer tax treaty benefits than resident Americans. Significantly this means that there are certain US tax treaties that actually discriminate against US citizens and Green Card Holders who live outside the United States without a residential nexus to the United States.

Although perhaps enacted without considering the impact on “US Persons Abroad”, this demonstrates (yet again) how attempts to curb certain abuses create negative consequences for Americans abroad because and only because of citizenship taxation. We have seen these consequences in conjunction with the 877A Exit tax rules, the PFIC rules, Subpart F, the Transition Tax, GILTI and now “treaty shopping”.

Surely, this is one more example of the clear principle that US citizens abroad are subjected to a more punitive tax system than resident Americans.

It is absolutely essential that the United States end citizenship taxation and transition to residency based taxation that completely severs US citizenship from US tax residency..

For those who want to better understand this …

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Americans Abroad With Local Investments That Are “Foreign To The US” Live Under The Sword Of Damocles

Prologue – The “Take Away” And Summary For Americans Abroad

The general message is contained in the above twitter thread. Americans abroad are likely to have financial involvements with a number of different kinds of “entities” that are “local” to them and “foreign to the United States. Examples may include: pension plans, tax advantaged savings plans, small business corporations and more. The descriptive title of these “entities” is irrelevant to their classification under US tax rules. What an individual understands to be a foundation, trust, corporation, pension or anything else could be classified under US tax rules in in a number of different (and unexpected) ways. The US classification for tax purposes will be determined by the “facts and circumstances” and characteristics of the entity. Furthermore, the classification will determine BOTH (1) how the entity is subject to US taxation and (2) the specific reporting requirements (and potential penalties) that apply to that entity.

(It is important for Americans abroad to understand the risk that income earned by the “foreign to the US” corporation or trust (but local to them) may be deemed to have been earned by the individual. This may be true even when that income has not been received by the individual. This is the consequence of Subpart F, GILTI and the Grantor trust rules. These specific topics will be left for separate posts.)

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Financial Planning For Americans Abroad and By Americans Abroad

Prologue

In the 21st century it has never been more true that:

On the one hand responsible money management, investing and financial planning is a necessity.

On the other hand Americans abroad have been severely disabled from those essential activities by the US tax system.

US citizens presumptively do NOT benefit from tax advantaged financial planning options outside the United States. The circumstance of US citizenship makes participation in non-US pension plans difficult. The PFIC regime operates to make even investing in non-US mutual funds a difficult proposition. Those Americans abroad who attempt to create private pension plans by using small business corporations will likely find that the CFC, Subpart F and GILTI rules make this difficult.

It’s entirely understandable that many Americans abroad have lost their incentive to care financially for themselves and their families.

The message is clear:

When it comes to investing, financial planning and retirement planning US citizenship is presumptively a disability!

That said, it’s essential that US citizens do NOT allow the US extra-territorial tax regime to cause them to NOT engage in retirement and financial planning! They must adopt a “can do” attitude and understand that even with the disability of US citizenship, they can – with the proper advisors – invest for retirement like the citizens of all other countries. In fact, those who are successful, can take pride in the fact that they succeeded NOT because they were American but in spite of being American! Those who are successful can proudly and defiantly say:

“I’m American, but I’m gonna invest for retirement anyway!”

For Americans abroad investing and retirement planning requires a positive mindset and often a competent advisor.

At a minimum, Americans abroad need financial advisors who understand what it means to be an American abroad.

Creveling and Creveling – Financial Planners For Americans Abroad By Americans Abroad

Investment advisors for Americans abroad is a growing industry. I recently had the opportunity to meet and talk with Peggy Creveling, who is one of the two Crevelings who is part of Creveling and Creveling a Thailand based financial planning firm. Investing and financial planning is a “long term” commitment in the same way that health and fitness is a long term commitment. Most people need a mentor and motivator. This requires that they meet the right kind of mentor who will guide them toward their specific goals.

As part of my podcast series for the American Expat Financial News Journal I had the opportunity to meet and chat with Peggy Creveling. This resulted in the following two podcasts:

Part 1 – From growing up in Ohio to West Point to Thailand – The Making Of A Financial Planner
https://americanexpatfinance.com/podcasts/35-basic-financial-fundamentals-that-makes-all-the-difference-for-americans-who-live-abroad-3

Part 2 – Thinking about financial planning and investing – the difference between investing and speculating
https://americanexpatfinance.com/podcasts/36-thoughts-on-financial-planning-for-u-s-expats-part-2

Bottom line: Americans abroad really need to commit to investing and financial planning. You are likely to find the insights and thoughts of Peggy Creveling to be helpful!

John Richardson – Follow me on Twitter @Expatriationlaw

Afroyim v. Rusk – A New Perspective: Do The Specific Rules Of US Citizenship Taxation Result In The Forcible Destruction Of US citizenship?

Prologue

The United States of America is the ONLY country in the world that both:

1. Confers citizenship by birth inside the country; AND

2. Imposes worldwide taxation and regulation based on citizenship.

Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that:

US citizenship is the world’s only true “taxation-based citizenship”.

Afroyim – Should extending constitutional status to US citizenship be understood as a new gift or exacerbating an old curse?

US Citizenship Stripping Before 1967 – The Significance Of Afroyim

The US government was stripping US citizens of their citizenship if they committed various “expatriating” acts. This was codified in statutes that mandated that certain kinds of conduct would result in the loss of US citizenship. At various times the expatriating conduct included (but was not limited to): naturalizing as a citizen of another country, voting in a foreign election, serving in the armed forces of a foreign country and even marrying a non-citizen.

US Citizenship Stripping After 1967 – Afroyim

The 1967 US Supreme Court decision in Afroyim clarified that Congress lacked the power to strip US citizens (who were born or naturalized in the United States) of their citizenship. The Afroyim ruling clarified that:

1. US citizenship belonged to the citizen and could be lost by the citizen only if the citizen voluntarily relinquished US citizenship by voluntarily committing an expatriating act with the intention of relinquishing US citizenship; and

2. Congress cannot enact laws or engage in practices that result in the forcible destruction of citizenship.

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11 Key Moments In The Supreme Court’s Engagement During The Bittner #FBAR Fundraiser Argument

Introduction

On November 2, 2022 the Supreme Court of the United States heard the appeal in the case of:

ALEXANDRU BITTNER, Petitioner, v. UNITED STATES, Respondent

On November 2, 2022 the Supreme Court Of The United States heard the Bittner case. The issue was whether in the context of a non-willful FBAR penalty:

1) The government is restricted to imposing one penalty based on the failure to file one FBAR; or

2) The government is authorized to impose one non-willful penalty for each of the accounts that should have been reported on the single FBAR form.

For example, let’s imagine that a US citizen has ten accounts that are “foreign” and he fails to file an FBAR form. Is the penalty based on the failure to file the form itself (one form means one $10,000 penalty)? Or may the government impose a penalty based on the failure to disclose each of the accounts on the FBAR form (10 times $10,000 = $100,000)?

Mr. Bitter is/was a dual US Romanian citizen who was living in Romania during the years that the FBAR penalties were imposed. According to the closing comments of his lawyer, Mr. Bittner (while living in Romania) had filed US tax returns for years that he had a business connection to the United States (apparently investing in a relative’s business in California). In other words, there is some evidence that Mr. Bittner was not fully aware that as a US citizen, his US tax and reporting obligations applied even when he did not live in the United States. In any case, Mr. Bitter argues that he should have received one $10,000 penalty for each of the five years ($50,000). The government imposed penalties of 2.7 million dollars based on a failure to report 52 accounts.

On Wednesday November 2, 2022 the Supreme Court of the United States heard argument on the “per account vs. per form” issue.

A transcript of the arguments is here:

http://citizenshipsolutions.ca/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/21-1195_5i36.pdf

A post describing the background and some initial discussion is here.

The briefs are available here.

Purpose of this post

The purpose of this post is to identify the questions and dialogue with counsel that suggest which areas the Justices found most important, interesting and troubling. Although one cannot predict the outcome, the dialogue suggests the following three broad themes and areas of concern:

First: Many of the Justices had difficulty agreeing (based on the plain text of 5314) with the Government’s claim that it can impose a separate FBAR penalty based on and only on a failure to report each account. Justices Jackson, Gorsuch and Thomas appeared to be the strongest advocates of this position. (Justices Kagan and Sotomayor comprised the most vocal opposition.)

JR Comment: The issue is whether the Justices will decide the case based on what the statute actually says (which favors the per account interpretation) or based on what they think Congress “might have intended” in the complete legislative scheme. The legal arguments for the “per form” penalty were compelling.

Second: A number of the Justices were clearly troubled by the their view that the “per form” penalty would mean that all non-willful FBAR penalty violators would be assessed penalties based on the “form”. Basing the penalty on and only on single form, would mean that a $10,000 penalty would be the maximum non-willful penalty regardless of the facts. Should a person who fails to report one simple checking account be assessed the same penalty as someone with millions of dollars and multiple accounts? Justices Roberts and Kagan seemed particularly focussed on this issue. (See the audio clip of Justice Roberts below.)

JR Comment: Interestingly the hearing did not discuss (in the question and answer) that non-willful violators can be assessed ZERO penalties. My impression was that the argument proceeded on the basis that the $10,000 penalty was the default penalty for the failure either file the form or report the account. The default penalty is NOT $10,000. The language of 5321(1)((5) includes: “Except as provided in subparagraph (C), the amount of any civil penalty imposed under subparagraph (A) shall not exceed $10,000. Neither the assessment of penalties NOR the $10,000 penalty is automatically assessed. My point is that the statute does allow for the calibration of penalties based on the facts of the case.

Third: The court expressed concern over whether “reasonable cause” really was a defence to a civil non-willful penalty assessment. Presumably if “reasonable cause” were a defence, it would serve the purpose of appropriately calibrating penalties. See the clips of Justices Alito, Gorsuch and Jackson below. The concern appeared to be: Does the “reasonable cause” defence work in practical application?

JR Comment: Does the existence of “reasonable cause” make it easier for the Justices to rule that a “per account” penalty may be permitted? Alternatively were the Justices simply concerned by the draconian potential of the penalties?

These are the three “pieces of the puzzle” that I expect will inform the decision.

The complete audio of the hearing is available here:

And a version from C-span (that picks up the audio from some protestors) is here:

https://www.c-span.org/video/?523324-1/bittner-v-united-states-oral-argument

I have included the statutory provision as *Appendix A below.

I have included the regulations as **Appendix B below.

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November 2, 2022 Supreme Court FBAR Case: ALEXANDRU BITTNER, Petitioner v. UNITED STATES Respondent – No. 21-1195

Here is the audio recording of the November 2, 2022 Bittner FBAR hearing …

On November 2, 2022 the Supreme Court Of The United States heard the Bittner case. The issue was whether in the context of a non-willful FBAR penalty:

1) The government is restricted to imposing one penalty based on the failure to file one FBAR; or

2) The government is authorized to impose one non-willful penalty for each of the accounts that should have been reported on the single FBAR form.

For example, let’s imagine that a US citizen has ten accounts that are “foreign” and he fails to file an FBAR form. Is the penalty based on the failure to file the form itself (one form means one $10,000 penalty)? Or may the government impose a penalty based on the failure to disclose each of the accounts on the FBAR form (10 times $10,000 = $100,000)?

Mr. Bitter is/was a dual US Romanian citizen who was living in Romania during the years that the FBAR penalties were imposed. According to the closing comments of his lawyer, Mr. Bittner (while living in Romania) had filed US tax returns for years that he had a business connection to the United States (apparently investing in a relative’s business in California). In other words, there is some evidence that Mr. Bittner was not fully aware that as a US citizen, his US tax and reporting obligations applied even when he did not live in the United States. In any case, Mr. Bitter argues that he should have received one $10,000 penalty for each of the five years ($50,000). The government imposed penalties of 2.7 million dollars based on a failure to report 52 accounts.

On Wednesday November 2, 2022 the Supreme Court of the United States heard argument on the “per account vs. per form” issue.

The above podcast contains the audio file of the live arguments.

A transcript of the arguments is here:

http://citizenshipsolutions.ca/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/21-1195_5i36.pdf

A recording from C-span is here:

https://www.c-span.org/video/?523324-1/bittner-v-united-states-oral-argument

The following twitter thread reflects my impressions while listening to the arguments …

https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1587807427327655937.html

Earlier podcasts discussing this case are included as an *Appendix to this post.

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How US Tax Treaties And The “Saving Clause” Prevent Countries From Establishing Retirement Programs For US Citizen Residents

Prologue – The Circumstances Of Your Birth Should Not Determine The Outcome Of Your Life …

The above tweet references a “human interest” story where US citizen children are denied benefits in their country of residence that are available to all people who are NOT US citizens.

The description includes:

New Zealand children born to parents’ who are citizens of the United States face a difficult KiwiSaver choice: Give up your US citizenship, or face a KiwiSaver tax compliance bill of $750​ or more a year courtesy of the US taxman.

A petition has been started at Parliament asking MPs to change the KiwiSaver Act to allow people with KiwiSaver accounts facing the unreasonable demands from US tax authorities to close their KiwiSaver accounts.

The issue surfaced as a result of the plight of Auckland dual national Kira Bacal and her four New Zealand-born children, Harper, 13, Rowan, 10 and twins Malachi and Elias, 8.

It appears that the poor (New Zealand born) Bacal children are finding that the US (or at least US tax preparers in New Zealand) consider their KiwiSaver to be a possible vehicle for US tax evasion! Not only is the KiwiSaver a “trust”, but it’s a “foreign trust” which comes with all kinds of penalty laden reporting obligations and no tax advantages. An excellent analysis of the US tax implications of the New Zealand KiwiSaver is here. The story is somewhat comical in that one gets the feeling that the blame should be placed on New Zealand (and not the United States) for New Zealand’s failure to legislate special exceptions for US citizens living in New Zealand.

So what! They’re Americans and therefore they deserve it (you say)!

A previous post explained that for Americans abroad, changes in the laws of their country of residence can change their tax relationship with the United States. The purpose of this post is to expand on that theme by demonstrating that:

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Extradition Is One Way That Changes In Another Country’s Tax Laws May Change Your Tax Relationship With The US

Prologue

As long as the US continues to employ citizenship taxation any changes in US tax law will continue to have unintended consequences on Americans abroad. In March of 2022 I outlined how some of the tax changes proposed in the 2023 Biden Green book would impact US citizens who live outside the United States. As important as US tax changes are, Americans abroad must be aware of how changes in the laws of their country of residence may also impact their “tax relationship” with the United States.

The purpose of this post is provide five simple examples. Some of the examples are based on Canada’s tax laws and others are of a more general nature.

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New Location: John Richardson – Information Session – London, UK – Thursday Oct. 13/22 – 19:30 – 21:30

John Richardson – Information Session – London, UK – Thursday Oct. 13/22 – 19:30 – 21:30

What: John Richardson informal information and discussion session for those impacted by US extraterritorial overreach

When: Thursday October 13, 2022 – 19:30 – 21:30

Where: Sutton Arms – Wine Room
6 Carthusian Street, London, EC1M 6EB

Cost: No charge for the session. You may wish to purchase a beverage at the location.

How to get there: There is a map at the bottom of the home page of the Sutton Arms Site:

https://www.sutton-arms.co.uk/

____________________________________________________________________
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Those Who Renounced US Citizenship Or Abandoned Green Cards NOT Eligible For Biden Pardon

Synopsis

Introduction

On October 6, 2022 President Biden pardoned certain individuals (prospectively and retrospectively) for the simple possession of marijuana (whatever that means). The full text of the pardon is here.

A Proclamation on Granting Pardon for the Offense of Simple Possession of Marijuana

Acting pursuant to the grant of authority in Article II, Section 2, of the Constitution of the United States, I, Joseph R. Biden Jr., do hereby grant a full, complete, and unconditional pardon to (1) all current United States citizens and lawful permanent residents who committed the offense of simple possession of marijuana in violation of the Controlled Substances Act, as currently codified at 21 U.S.C. 844 and as previously codified elsewhere in the United States Code, or in violation of D.C. Code 48–904.01(d)(1), on or before the date of this proclamation, regardless of whether they have been charged with or prosecuted for this offense on or before the date of this proclamation; and (2) all current United States citizens and lawful permanent residents who have been convicted of the offense of simple possession of marijuana in violation of the Controlled Substances Act, as currently codified at 21 U.S.C. 844 and as previously codified elsewhere in the United States Code, or in violation of D.C. Code 48–904.01(d)(1); which pardon shall restore to them full political, civil, and other rights.

My intent by this proclamation is to pardon only the offense of simple possession of marijuana in violation of Federal law or in violation of D.C. Code 48–904.01(d)(1), and not any other offenses related to marijuana or other controlled substances. No language herein shall be construed to pardon any person for any other offense, including possession of other controlled substances, whether committed prior, subsequent, or contemporaneous to the pardoned offense of simple possession of marijuana. This pardon does not apply to individuals who were non-citizens not lawfully present in the United States at the time of their offense.

Pursuant to this proclamation, the Attorney General, acting through the Pardon Attorney, shall administer and effectuate the issuance of certificates of pardon to eligible applicants who have been charged or convicted for the offense of simple possession of marijuana in violation of the Controlled Substances Act, as currently codified at 21 U.S.C. 844 and as previously codified elsewhere in the United States Code, or in violation of D.C. Code 48–904.01(d)(1). The Attorney General, acting through the Pardon Attorney, is directed to develop and announce application procedures for certificates of pardon and to begin accepting applications in accordance with such procedures as soon as reasonably practicable. The Attorney General, acting through the Pardon Attorney, shall review all properly submitted applications and shall issue certificates of pardon to eligible applicants in due course.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this sixth day of October, in the year of our Lord two thousand twenty-two, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-seventh.

JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR.

The Winners

Notably the pardon is available ONLY to those who are “current United States citizens and lawful permanent residents”. Clearly a former US citizen who is not a Green Card holder would NOT be eligible.

The Losers

The pardon is NOT AVAILABLE to:

– former US citizens who relinquished their US citizenship

– possibly (depending on interpretation) former lawful permanent residents who abandoned their Green Card

– US Nationals who are NOT US citizens

– non-citizens currently lawfully present in the United Staes under a visa who are NOT current Green Card holders

– current US citizens or lawful permanent residents who were NOT “lawfully present in the United States at the time of their offense” (think undocumented aliens)

And to be very clear

Regardless of current status, if one was not legally present in the United States at the time of offense then one is NOT eligible for the pardon. (Think undocumented aliens at the time of the offense.)

Why should the “status” of the person matter when offering this pardon?

An excellent twitter thread from David Bier discusses this issue …

It’s very clear that in 2022 no person should be convicted of a criminal offense for the mere possession of marijuana. The pardon is offered in recognition of that sentiment. Possession of marijuana is simply not conduct which should be deemed to be a criminal offense. Since the conduct should NOT be deemed a criminal offense, why should the pardon be restricted to those who are:

current United States citizens and lawful permanent residents

The ONLY possible explanation is that ONLY “current United States citizens and lawful permanent residents” are deserving of fair treatment. Who cares about the rest of them?

Let’s put it this way:

Assuming possession of marijuana should not be a crime, it’s still okay to punish those who are NOT “current United States citizens and lawful permanent residents”.

The pardon should apply prospectively and retrospectively to ANY individual who violates this unreasonable law. Why condition the pardon on status?

John Richardson – Follow me on Twitter @Expatriationlaw