Category Archives: Americans abroad

Should tax residency Be Based On The “Circumstances Of Your Birth” Or The “Circumstances Of Your Life”?

Panel session – US Expat Tax Conference from Deborah Hicks on Vimeo.

Should taxation be based on the “circumstances of your birth” or the “circumstances of your life”? President Obama doesn’t think (apparently) that the “circumstances of your birth” birth should determine the “outcome of your life”. Should the “circumstances of your birth” determine your tax residency?

This is a second post exploring what is the true meaning of U.S. citizenship-based taxation. In an earlier post – “Toward A Definition Of Citizenship Taxation” – I explored the contextual meaning and effect of U.S. “citizenship taxation”. The only “contextual effect” and “practical meaning” of U.S. citizenship taxation may be described as:

Therefore, the practical meaning of “citizenship taxation” is the United States imposing taxation on the non-US source income earned by people who live in other countries. To be clear: citizenship taxation means that the United States is claiming the residents of OTHER countries as US residents for tax purposes!

That’s amazing stuff! Most countries believe that they are sovereign and that includes sovereignty over matters of taxation. Yet, any country that is a party to a U.S. tax treaty has actually agreed that a subset of the treaty partner’s tax residents are ALSO U.S. tax residents! Although nobody questions the right of the United States to prescribe its own definition of tax residency, few would agree that the United States has the right to claim the residents of other countries as U.S. tax residents. Yet, this is what the U.S. citizenship taxation regime means. This U.S. extraterritorial claim of taxation is at the root of the FATCA administration problems and at the root of the the events that led to Treasury Notice 2023-11 (released on December 30, 20220).

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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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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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John Richardson – Information Session – London, UK – Thursday Oct. 13/22 – 19:00 – 21:00

Attention!! Date, time and location updated!! – Thursday Oct. 13/22 – 19:30 – 21:30 – New location! See here.

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John Richardson – Information Session – London, UK – Thursday Oct. 13/22 – 19:00

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

When: Thursday October 13, 2022 – 19:00 – 21:00

Where: Pret A Manger – Directly Across From Russell Square Tube (careful to choose the correct Pret)
40 Bernard Street, London, WC1N 1LE
https://www.pret.co.uk/en-GB/shop-finder/l/london/40-bernard-street/284

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Buying Their Freedom: Toward A More Efficient Process Of US Citizenship Renunciation

Buying Their Freedom – A More Efficient Renunciation Process – The “Readers Digest” Version Of This Post …

The effects of US citizenship taxation enforced by FATCA are causing great distress to the US citizens who reside in and are tax residents of other countries. They are being constructively forced to renounce US citizenship because of (1) the out of pocket costs of US tax compliance (2) the possibility of double taxation (3) the US taxation of things that are not taxable in their country of residence (4) the “opportunity cost” of their inability to engage in financial and retirement planning and in some cases (5) the threat or reality of bank/financial account closures. In addition, these circumstances are unfair to their countries of residence who are forced to deal with a group of people who are more likely to require “social assistance” in their retirement years. US citizenship is a problem for US citizens who attempt to live outside the United States and for the countries where they live.

Although many people are constructively forced to renounce US citizenship, the US has made renunciation very difficult from both a cost and availability perspective.

The purpose of this post is to suggest that the process of renouncing US citizenship should be facilitated in the US citizen’s country of residence by that government. Renunciation could be achieved more quickly, at lower cost and (under my proposal) partially subsidized by the government of residence (which would justify this as “buying back their citizens” from any US claim of taxation or other regulatory burdens). I believe that this proposal would benefit the individual US citizen, the US citizen’s country of residence and the United States itself. The following post describes how this can be achieved under the existing US laws.

As President Obama once said:

“The circumstances of one’s birth should not determine the outcome of one’s life.”

This post is composed of the following parts:

Part A – Introduction
Part B – The US Government And The Oppression OF Americans Abroad
Part C – The Legal Framework Of Renunciation
Part D – The Logistics – How The New Renunciation Process Would Work
Part E – Reviewing The Benefits Of The New Renunciation Process
Part F – The Revised Renunciation Fee
Part G – Democratizing Renunciation – Making It Available To All – A Financing Proposal
Part H – Sadly this could all be be prevented if the United States were to end citizenship taxation and adopt the world standard of residence taxation. But, …
Part I – Conclusion – “All Roads Lead To Renunciation”

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The Weaponization Of Citizenship: From “You Are NOT American” to “You ARE American”

Recommended Reading For Americans Abroad

I recently came across the book “You Are NOT American” by Professor Amanda Frost. I read very few books from beginning to end. This particular book I read twice. The subtitle of the book is “Citizenship Stripping From Dred Scott To The Dreamers“. Ms. Frost documents the struggles of those unlikely people who were conscripted into the an internal struggle – invisible to all except those affected – in the United States. I think of this struggle as the “weaponization of citizenship”. Historically this struggle has resulted from the attempts of the United States to reconcile its ugly history of slavery with its beautiful aspirations of freedom. The book is well researched and Ms. Frost was able to tell the stories of the principal “warriors”, bringing them to life in a way that humanized them. Although each person/warrior was the public face of a legal issue (many of their cases were heard by the Supreme Court Of The United States) we learn and understand the facts and circumstances that brought them to the court. While reading the book, I could feel the pain, the frustration and the injustice. We learn how the laws of the day impacted the people of the day. This knowledge comes from Ms. Frost digging into the archives and finding many original sources. The footnotes constitute a “treasure trove” of information akin to reading old newspapers. The book tells the story of “citizenship stripping” as a commentary on American history, culture and values in a broader sense.
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Thinking About Financial And Life Planning For US Citizens Living Outside The United States

Introduction

This week I am giving a (short) presentation on this topic. I created some slides that are designed to provide the categories for discussion. I thought I would share the slides in this blog post.

John Richardson – Follow me on Twitter @Expatrationlaw

Part 1 – For Americans Abroad: Ending FATCA Would Not End Citizenship Tax, But Ending Citizenship Tax Would End FATCA Under The Internal Revenue Code

Introduction

Americans Abroad are crumbling under the weight of the application of US citizenship taxation to their “every day lives”. Pursuant to America’s “citizenship taxation regime”, the United States is actually imposing a more punitive and more penalty laden reporting regime on US citizens who do NOT live in the United States than on those who do live in the USA.

Think of it:

For every other country in the world, if one ceases to be a resident of the country and establishes residence in another country, one ceases to be taxed by the first country. US citizens who move from the United States: (1) not only continue to be subject to US taxation, but (2) are “subject(s)” to a more punitive taxation than if they remained in the United States!

In 2010 President Obama signed FATCA into law. The effect of FATCA was to (1) institute a “world wide search” for US citizens living outside the United States and (2) to create significant public awareness of US citizenship taxation. I have previously argued that the effect of FATCA was to expand the US tax base into other countries.

FATCA applies to Americans abroad because and only because of US citizenship taxation (the rule that says that Americans abroad are treated as US tax residents even if they don’t live in the United States). Because FATCA created awareness of US citizenship taxation many people have trouble understanding the difference between US citizenship taxation and FATCA. It is understandable that many believe that FATCA and citizenship taxation are the same.

How to understand how/why citizenship taxation is different from FATCA:

1. US citizenship taxation is the rule that says that all US citizens regardless of where they live are subject to all the provisions of the US Internal Revenue Code. These provisions include taxation, reporting penalties and of course full US taxation on all income earned earned while they are living outside the United States. Many US residents do NOT end up actually owing any US tax. Similarly, many US citizens living outside the United States do NOT end up owing any US tax.

2. FATCA is part of the Internal Revenue Code. Because the Internal Revenue Code applies to all US citizens, FATCA (as part of the Internal Revenue Code) applies to all US citizens (including US citizens living outside the United States). Generally FATCA is a provision to require non-US financial institutions to identify their US citizen customers and report their identity to the Internal Revenue Service. FATCA also imposes additional “reporting requirements” on US citizens (including those who live outside the United States) who have non-US bank and financial accounts.

Ending FATCA Would NOT End Citizenship Taxation, But Ending Citizenship Taxation Would – Under The Internal Revenue Code – Likely End The Application Of FATCA To Americans Abroad

The US Internal Revenue Code applies to ALL “individuals”. Because US citizens are “individuals”, the Internal Revenue Code applies to US citizens wherever they live. FATCA is just one part of the Internal Revenue Code. Even if FATCA were repealed the Internal Revenue Code would continue to apply to all US citizens AND its discriminatory impact on Americans abroad would continue.

But, if the United States ended citizenship taxation by severing citizenship from US tax residency (people can no longer be taxed by the United States just because they are a US citizen) the application of FATCA to US citizens abroad would (under the Internal Revenue Code) likely end.

Here is why – some technical “mumbo jumbo” for those interested

1. The Existing Statute Which Under The Citizenship Tax Regime: IRC 1471 (the operative FATCA section) refers to IRC 1473 for the definition of “Specified United States Person” which is defined partly in terms of “United States Person”. The point is that by ceasing to be a “United States Person”, one ceases to be a “Specified United States Person” for FATCA purposes.

The sequence of reasoning under the existing Internal Revenue Code is:

1. If “United States Account” then FFI has FATCA reporting obligations (1471(b)).

2. If account held by “specified United States Person” then “United States Account” (1471(d)(1)

3. If individual “United States Person” then “specified United States Person” (1473(3)).

4. If US citizen or resident then “United States Person” (7701(a)(30)).

The key point is that if an individual is a “US Citizen” (or resident) the FFI must treat the account as a “United States Account”. A “United States Account” exists if and only if there is a US citizen or US resident which triggers the sequence of 1. Becoming a “US Person” and 2. Then becoming a “Specified United States Person” 3.Then becoming a “United States Account” and 4. As a “United States Account” subjecting the FFI to reporting obligations.

The statute is written so that “United States Accounts” that are reportable. By changing the definition of “US Person” one changes whether an account is a “United States Account”. If Congress were to amend the definition of “United States Person” to include “All Blue Eyed Individuals” then accounts held by “Blue Eyed Individuals” would become United States accounts and therefore subject to FATCA reporting.

Bottom line: The disclosure obligations of FFIs applies to “United States Accounts”. Accounts held by “United States Persons” are “United States Accounts”. But any change in the definition of “United States Person” will change the characteristics/definitions of “United States Accounts”. Congress controls the meaning of “United States Account” by controlling the definition of “United States Person”.

2. A Proposed Statute Pursuant To Which The US Transitions To Residence-based Taxation: As part of ending citizenship taxation IRC 7701(a)(30) would be amended to exclude “citizen” from the definition of “United States Person”:

(30)United States person

The term “United States person” means—

(A)a citizen or resident of the United States,
(B)a domestic partnership,
(C)a domestic corporation,
(D)any estate (other than a foreign estate, within the meaning of paragraph (31)), and
(E)any trust if—
(i)a court within the United States is able to exercise primary supervision over the administration of the trust, and
(ii)one or more United States persons have the authority to control all substantial decisions of the trust.

By changing the definition of “United States Persons” to be “residents” the FATCA obligations imposed on FFIs would be determined under the following sequence of reasoning:

1. If “United States Account” then FFI has FATCA reporting obligations (1471(b)).

2. If account held by “specified United States Person” then “United States Account” (1471(d)(1)

3. If individual “United States Person” then “specified United States Person” (1473(3)).

4. If US resident then “United States Person” (7701(a)(30)).

A change to the definition of “United States Person” which defines a “United States Person” as a “resident” would mean that FFIs would no longer be required to disclose accounts held by US citizens but only by US residents.

Conclusion

Ending “citizenship taxation” AKA “severing US citizenship from US tax residency” should solve the FATCA problem for Americans abroad. That said, ending FATCA for Americans abroad would leave the citizenship taxation problem intact!

Ending FATCA would solve “A problem” for Americans abroad. Ending “citizenship taxation” would solve “THE problem” for Americans abroad! At, least under the Internal Revenue Code.

In Part 2, I will explore why ending citizenship taxation under the Internal Revenue Code would NOT solve the FATCA problem for Americans abroad under the FATCA IGAs!

John Richardson – Follow me on Twitter @Expatriationlaw

Appendix – How Severing Citizenship From Tax Residency Would Impact The FATCA IGAs

The definitions section of the Canada US FATCA IGA (see page 7) includes:

ee) The term “U.S. Person” means

(1) a U.S. citizen or resident individual,
(2) a partnership or corporation organized in the United States or under the laws of the United States or any State thereof,
(3) a trust if
(A) a court within the United States would have authority under applicable law to render orders or judgments concerning
substantially all issues regarding administration of the trust, and
(B) one or more U.S. persons have the authority to control all substantial decisions of the trust, or
(4) an estate of a decedent that is a citizen or resident of the United States.

This subparagraph 1(ee) shall be interpreted in accordance with the U.S. Internal Revenue Code.

For the full text of the US Canada FATCA IGA see:

FATCA-eng

Assuming citizenship were severed from US tax residency, either:

1. The definition of “U.S. Person” would require amendment to exclude “U.S. citizen” in (1); and/or

2. The FATCA IGA would simply be interpreted to exclude “U.S. citizen” from the definition of U.S. tax residency.

In other words, the IGAs might require amendment to ensure that its provisions are not triggered by and only by a finding of U.S. citizenship.