Category Archives: Americans abroad

Take 1: Digging The Foundation To Build The House Of US Residency-based Taxation

Prologue

This is the fifth of a series of posts focussing on the need to end US citizenship-based taxation (practised only by the USA) and move to a form of pure residence-based taxation (practised by the rest of the world). The first post was titled “Toward A Definition Of Residence-based Taxation For Americans Abroad“. The second post was titled “Toward A Movement For Residence-based Taxation For Americans Abroad“. The third post was “Toward An Explanation For Why Some Americans Abroad Are Complacent About Citizenship Taxation“. The fourth post explains why some Americans Abroad actually OPPOSE changes to citizenship-based taxation. This fifth post in the series is to begin a discussion of what would be the basic changes (to the existing Internal Revenue Code) that would move the United States toward the world standard of pure residency-based taxation.

It’s about “pure residency-based taxation” and not citizenship-based taxation with a “carve out”

I have previously advocated that the United States should move to to a system of pure residence-based taxation. A system of pure residency-based taxation, means that:

Citizenship is NOT a sufficient condition for tax residency. If citizenship is not a sufficient condition for tax residency, income sourced outside the United States, which is received by people who are not residents of the United States, should not be taxable by the United States.

Note that pure residency-based taxation is NOT citizenship-based taxation with a “carve out” for US citizens living abroad. To put it another way: US citizens, simply because they are US citizens, would NOT be defined as US tax residents and subject to US worldwide taxation. This is different from US citizens being defined as US tax residents, but allowing (like the FEIE) for their foreign income to be excluded from US taxation. Note also that this is a legislative proposal. It is therefore different from our earlier proposal for “A Regulatory Fix To Citizenship Taxation“.

It is my opinion and the opinion of the members of SEAT, that only a system of pure residency-based taxation will solve the many problems of Americans abroad!

How is residency to be determined?

Residency is commonly determined in various ways. For example, Canada determines residency based on an objective deeming provision (number of days spent in Canada and through a “facts and circumstances” test described as ordinary residence). Generally, citizenship (if it is a factor at all) is not a significant issue in determining ordinary residence. The Canadian experience is proof that it is possible to have very sticky tax residency without citizenship being an issue.

Purpose of this post:

The purpose of this post is to propose some simple amendments to the Internal Revenue Code which would provide a foundation for the United States to transition from citizenship-based taxation to pure residence-based taxation. The goal is modest. The post is not intended to (I will write a separate post) deal with those who are CURRENTLY US citizens living outside the United States. It is NOT to address all the issues. That said, most of the Internal Revenue Code focuses on the taxation of those who are US tax residents. Little in the Code focuses on the actual definition of US tax residency.

The purpose of this post is begin with the fundamentals and ask:

How could the existing Internal Revenue Code be modified to provide a framework for residency-based taxation? Of course, readers will be left with many questions. But, the proposed foundation would allow for:

1. US citizens to move from the United States and sever tax residency with the United States.

2. US citizens to move from the United States and continue to be treated as tax residents of the United States.

Under either scenario, US citizens would remain US citizens. They would NOT be required to relinquish US citizenship in order to sever tax residency.

Obviously there will be many complications. But, every journey begins with a modest beginning. This is intended to be only a modest beginning. It is to begin digging the foundation to build the house of “residency-based taxation”.

The post is composed of the following parts:

Part A – Residents Are Subject To Worldwide Taxation

Part B – Nonresidents Are Not Subject To Worldwide Taxation

Part C – Definition Of Resident and Nonresident- 7701(b)

Part D – Definitions That Require Change “US Person”, “Relinquishment Of Residency”, etc.

Part E – Relinquishment Of Residence

Part F – Living abroad without relinquishing US residence

Generally, I believe that amendments to a small number of sections of the Internal Revenue Code provide the foundation from which to grow. Note that this proposal solves the problems of the “Retirees Abroad” (they don’t give notice under the new 877(a)(g)) and the problems of accidentals (they were never tax residents in the first place). There would be regulations (like the Canada Revenue Agency folio) for what constitutes residence. In Canada tax residency is defined largely by “ordinary residence” – a concept that is very sticky).

I am identifying the building blocks that could define tax residency under a US system of residency-based taxation, with few modifications to the Internal Revenue Code. (These building blocks are generally compatible with the existing Internal Revenue Code.) Once the foundation has been built we would then build our way out. This initial foundation solves the PFIC problem, the CFC problems and most problems related to foreign source income. The FinCEN 114 (FBAR) rules currently reference Internal Revenue Code 7701(b). Therefore, the proposals in this post would solve the FBAR problem.

I will discuss other issues impacting Americans abroad in subsequent posts.

I have included only the sections of the Internal Revenue Code that I consider the foundation of US tax residency. When a word is IN CAPS that means that there has been a change to facilitate a change to pure residence-based taxation.

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Toward An Explanation For Why Some Americans Abroad Oppose Changes To Citizenship Taxation

Prologue

This is the fourth of a series of posts focussing on the need to end US citizenship-based taxation (practised only by the USA) and move to a form of pure residence-based taxation (practised by the rest of the world). The first post was titled “Toward A Definition Of Residence-based Taxation For Americans Abroad“. The second post was titled “Toward A Movement For Residence-based Taxation For Americans Abroad“. The third post was “Toward An Explanation For Why Some Americans Abroad Are Complacent About Citizenship Taxation“. This fourth post explains why some Americans Abroad actually OPPOSE changes to citizenship-based taxation.

My last post discussed those who were complacent about citizenship-based taxation. In other words people who are actually indifferent. Their indifference contributes to the difficulty in cultivating a strong movement in support of pure residence-based taxation.

The purpose of this post is to discuss those who actually support the current system of citizenship-based taxation because they fear any change will harm them. They are NOT indifferent. They support the current system fo citizenship-based taxation.
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Toward An Explanation For Why Some Americans Abroad Are Complacent About Citizenship Taxation

Prologue

This is the third of a series of posts focussing on the need to end US citizenship-based taxation (practised only by the USA) and move to a form of pure residence-based taxation (practised by the rest of the world). The first post was titled “Toward A Definition Of Residence-based Taxation For Americans Abroad“. The second post was titled “Toward A Movement For Residence-based Taxation For Americans Abroad“. This third post is “Toward An Explanation For Why Some Americans Abroad Are Complacent About Citizenship Taxation“.

Why are some Americans Abroad not concerned about citizenship-based taxation? Why will many Americans Abroad continue to vote for the same political party that continues to damage them? What does this imply for unifying Americans Abroad in support of a movement toward residency-based taxation? This post will explore these issues.

In The Life Of Many Americans Abroad: Citizenship-based taxation is not a problem until it is!!

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Toward a definition of residence-based taxation for Americans abroad

Introduction

The discussion of tax reform for Americans abroad is increasing in intensity. Whether through amendments to the Internal Revenue Code or a “Regulatory Fix To Citizenship-based Taxation“, Americans abroad are in desperate need of change. The US tax system as it impacts Americans abroad is forcing renunciations of US citizenship.

The language in the discussion for change reflects a desire (on the part of individuals and organizations) to move from the US system of “citizenship-based taxation” to a system of “residence-based taxation”. Various individuals and groups describe the goal using the language of “residence-based taxation” AKA RBT. It would be a mistake to assume that RBT means the same thing to different people. The purpose of this post is to describe definitions of RBT and and how those definitions may be defined for different individuals or groups.

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Comments from Americans abroad about the effects of #FATCA and @CitizenshipTax

Those contributing to conversations on Social media about FATCA and US citizenship-based taxation would find the following to be of great value.

Those who are trying to provide education on this topic should use this book.

Those who are trying to learn about this topic should use this book.

Submission_SFC

Also, see the following video accounts here:

http://www.vimeo.com/citizenshiptaxation

John Richardson – Follow me on Twitter @Expatriationlaw

To punish 100 #GILTI Corporations is to punish millions more individuals

Introduction: As Goes Tax Reform For US Multinationals, So Escalates The Harm To Individual Americans Abroad

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:

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US Senate Finance Hearing Affects Americans Abroad AKA Mini-Multinationals – Action Needed!

Introduction

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.)

Okay ….

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Part 2 – The Warren “Ultra-Millionaire Tax Act of 2021” and The Wealth Of Other Nations

The fact that …

Leads to the obvious question of …

Hmm…

The fact is that Senator Warren is proposing to impose her wealth tax on property located outside the United States, purchased by individuals who live outside the United States, who have no connection to the United States other than (perhaps) the circumstance of having been born in the United States. Yup, it’s true.

On March 18, 2021, FATCA will turn on 11. The Senator’s proposed wealth tax explicitly states that FATCA is to be used to enforce this tax! Finally an (il)legitimate use for FATCA.

In the 18th Century Adam Smith wrote “The Wealth Of Nations”. In the 21st Century Senator Warren is proposing to impose a wealth tax on “The Wealth Of OTHER Nations”.

Discussion And Analysis

This is the second of what I expect to be a multi-part series on Senator Warren’s proposed wealth tax of 2021. As the above tweet makes clear, the practical utility of the tax depends on US citizenship-based taxation (to whom it applies) and FATCA (how are non-US assets located). In my first post, I referenced Senator Warren’s statement that:

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Elizabeth Warren’s “Ultra-Millionaire Tax Act of 2021”: Coming Soon To A Neighbour (and maybe a nonresident spouse) Near You

The Contextual Background – Elizabeth Warren – January 28, 2021

Excerpts from a recent CNBC interview (see the following link for context) …

https://www.cnbc.com/2021/01/28/first-on-cnbc-cnbc-transcript-senator-elizabeth-warren-d-mass-speaks-with-cnbcs-closing-bell-today.html

WARREN: Based on fact, the wealthiest in this country are paying less in taxes than everyone else. Asking them to step up and pay a little more and you’re telling me that they would forfeit their American citizenship, or they had to do that and I’m just calling her bluff on that. I’m sorry that’s not going to happen.

WARREN: Look, they want to use American workers. They want to use American highways. They want to use American police forces. They want to use American infrastructure, but they just don’t want to help pay to support it. And that’s the trick, a wealth tax needs to be national because you can still get advantages, if you move from state to state. But the idea behind wealth tax is you have to pay it if you’re an American citizen. It doesn’t matter whether you live in Texas or California or even whether you move to Europe or South America. If you want to keep your American citizenship, you pay the wealth tax and it doesn’t matter where you put your assets. You can try to hide them in the Cayman Islands, you can try to put them up in Switzerland, but it doesn’t matter, you still pay the two-cent wealth tax. And here’s the nice thing about that, you know, a lot of the wealth is quite visible and easy to see, it’s right there in the stock market. A two-cent wealth tax changes this country fundamentally because it means we say as a nation, we are going to invest in the next generation. We’re going to invest in creating opportunity not just for a handful at the top, we’re going to create opportunity for all of our kids. That’s how we build a strong future in this country.

Prologue: For Whom The Tax Tolls – What Is An “Ultra” Millionaire?

One dictionary definition of “Ultra” includes:

ultra noun [C] (PERSON)

usually disapproving

a person who has extreme political or religious opinions, or opinions that are more extreme than others in the same political party, etc.:

Soon the ultras on the right of the party will resume their criticism of the prime minister.

On August 20, 2019 Forbes reported that Elizabeth Warren had a net worth of approximately 12 million USD. A large part of these assets are her pensions. But apparently her proposed wealth tax doesn’t apply (it’s unclear to what extent it would apply to pensions) to her. At a minimum, the proposal applies ONLY to “Ultra” millionaires (at least today).

Elizabeth Warren Introduces Wealth Tax – Version 1

On or about March 1, 2021, Senator Warren introduced her proposed “ULTRA-Millionaire Tax Act Of 2021”. Given that the threshold is $50 million USD, it appears that the Senator, although a millionaire, is not an “ULTRA” millionaire. There is nothing in the proposed act that suggests the plan is indexed to inflation. Even if the threshold is NOT lowered (which it will most certainly be), the inevitability of inflation will ensure that more and more people are ensnared by it. In the same way that the late Senator Kennedy referred to the 877A Exit Tax as the billionaire’s tax (when it applied to everyday people), over time, the wealth tax will become the millionaires’ tax that will be applied to (by the standards of today) thousandaires.

Now, I don’t believe that this is going to become law soon. But, all confiscatory taxation, starts as an idea that germinates, until enough politicians (who would not personally be impacted) are used to the idea and then it will become law. Tax laws have the potential to become law through either accident (a revenue offset measure which nobody reads) or by design (stated purpose of the legislation). This is exactly what happened with the S. 877A expatriation tax (a revenue offset provision).

Part A – The Evolution of Taxation From Taxation Of Income (Sharing Of Income) To Taxation On Wealth (Taking Of Assets)

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German tax authorities reported to be imposing German taxation on US military personnel stationed in Germany

Prologue

This post draws heavily from the reporting of John VanDiver who has written a number of articles in Stripes. His most recent article is here:

“You don’t want to be chased and harassed by a government office. It is scary,” said Melissa Howell, the spouse of a U.S. soldier who is being targeted by a tax office in Germany’s Landstuhl area. “I don’t know how they expect people to come up with that money.”

Howell, a German who lives with her American husband and children, said she ran into trouble in June when she went to file her taxes at the local finance office.

She said she was interrogated about her husband and told to fill out a questionnaire that probed information about his employment.

She then received a letter ordering her to hand over her husband’s W-2 and other tax forms.

“I did it because I didn’t know. I found out that

was a mistake,” she said.

After that, she got a phone call from the tax office, saying that their case was getting handed over to a case manager who handles “American-German couples.”

As reported by John VanDiver in Stripes – July 27, 2020 – ‘Harassed’ by German tax offices, more US military families face financial threats

Certain US Soldiers In Germany Targeted By German Tax Authorities For Taxes On Their Military Wages – Reminiscent Of The “Oh My God Moment

Many Americans abroad have experienced the “Oh My God Moment.” This is the moment that they learn that they are targeted by the USA – a country that they don’t live in – for taxes on their non-US source income. Well, it appears that for some, the shoe is now on the other foot. Germany is apparently targeting certain US soldiers – stationed in Germany – for taxes on their US military pay! The US claim is NOT based on any connection with the United States (other than circumstances of birth). At least (to its credit), Germany’s claim is based on a connection to Germany that makes these US soldiers “tax residents” of Germany. Therefore, the “moment” may be the same. But, the justification for taxation is not he same. To put it simply: Germany is claiming that when the circumstances of a US soldier’s stay in Germany ceases to be “solely” for military service AND their factual circumstances meet the test for tax residency in Germany, they are are subject to German taxation.

Analysis

In an ongoing story, that is certain to be of interest to Americans abroad, Germany has begun treating certain US Military Personnel as tax residents of Germany. In other words, Germany is imposing tax (and apparently penalties) on the income earned by US military personnel stationed in Germany. The starting point is that US Forces in Germany (and other countries) are governed by the SOFA (“Status Of Forces Agreement”) agreement. Among other things, the SOFA agreement exempts US service personnel from being treated as tax residents of the country where they are serving. In simple terms: As long as the individual serviceman meets the conditions in the SOFA agreement, he/she would NOT be treated as a tax resident of Germany.

The provisions of the NATO SOFA are unremarkable. What is remarkable is that Germany appears to be the first country, to determine that certain US Military Personnel, are not entitled to use SOFA as a “shield” against being treated as a tax resident and therefore subject to taxation.

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