Category Archives: citizenship based taxation

Cook v. Tait: More About The Meaning Of Citizenship Than About The Scope Of Taxation

Introduction And Purpose

The focus of this blog has always been on citizenship, taxation and citizenship taxation. Although taxation has always been perceived as a necessary burden, citizenship has sometimes been a benefit and sometimes been a burden. James Dale Davidson, writing in “The Sovereign Individual”, expressed the view that in the 20th Century US citizenship was generally a benefit. In the 21st (digital) century US citizenship based taxation has transformed US citizenship into a burden. The numbers of people renouncing US citizenship are a testament to this new reality.

The Weaponization Of US Citizenship – Two Methods

The history of US citizenship as documented in Amanda Frost’s “You Are NOT American”, is an epic story of the “weaponization of citizenship”. I highly recommend Professor Frost’s book – “You Are NOT American” to those interested in the evolution of US citizenship.

Method 1: Weaponization By Claiming The Individual Does NOT Meet The Requirements Of Citizenship

Regardless of the benefits or burdens of US citizenship, it is clear that the United States has a long history of “weaponizing US citizenship”. Professor Amanda Frost in her superb book “You Are NOT American” provides many examples of how the United States has used the concept and status of citizenship to either punish or reward individuals. Generally, Professor Frost describes a history where the use (or misuse) of America’s “nationality laws” has created hardships for people. Citizenship is a part of who people are. It’s part of their personal identity. Citizenship (presumptively) gives people a place or country they can call home. Citizenship (presumptively) gives people a place where they can live without fear of removal. Citizenship matters and the loss of citizenship can be a frightening and destabilizing event in the lives of an individual. It was not until 1967 that the United States Supreme Court in Afroyim ruled that US citizenship was conferred by the Constitution, belonged to the individual and could not (at least if born or naturalized in the US) be taken by the Government. (Of course that is of little comfort to those who can’t prove their US citizenship.)

Method 2: Weaponization By Claiming The Individual Does Meet The Requirements Of Citizenship

A minority of countries in the world confer citizenship based on and only on birth in the country.

Only two countries in the world impose worldwide taxation based on and only on the fact of citizenship.

The United States is the ONLY country that does both!

FATCA assisted the United States in exporting US taxation into other countries and on to the individuals who live in and are tax residents of those countries. In short: the accusation of being a US citizen living outside the United States subjected one to the “disabilities” and “criminalization” imposed by the US extra-territorial tax regime.

The US Supreme Court, Justice Joseph McKenna, And Citizenship In The Early Part Of 20th Century
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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

For Americans Abroad: Ending FATCA Would Not End Citizenship Tax, But Ending Citizenship Tax Would End FATCA

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 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 Likely End The Application Of FATCA To Americans Abroad

The US Internal Revenue Code applies to ALL US citizens. 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 likely end.

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

1. 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.

2. 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.

Conclusion

Ending “citizenship taxation” AKA “severing US citizenship from US tax residency” should solve the FATCA problem for Americans abroad. Ending FATCA 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!

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.

Part II: Biden Proposal Changes the Taxation Game for Gifts and Inheritances – Americans Abroad Hit Hard

Today’s post, Part II, was written by Virgina La Torre Jeker, J.D. and John Richardson, J.D.

Part I of this blog post discussed President Biden’s Green Book proposal that would change the tax rules for unrealized capital gains when assets are gifted or passed at death. To recap, the major thrust of the Green Book proposal (starting at page 30) is to treat gifts and bequests as “deemed sales at fair market value” triggering a capital gains tax which would be payable with respect to the year of the transfer. The net investment income tax / 3.8% surcharge looks as if it can certainly apply in addition to the capital gains tax (full detail on the 3.8% surcharge is here). The Green Book contains no proposals to eliminate or change the current Estate and Gift Tax rules and we believe that taxing gifts and bequests from an income tax perspective while keeping the Estate and Gift Tax regime in place is only a recipe for tax disaster.

Today’s post, Part II, looks at how the proposal will particularly impact the American abroad, its exemptions and carve-outs and how it complicates tax planning for individuals wishing to give up their US citizenship or green card.

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Biden 2023 Green Book: Six Ways The Proposals Would Affect Americans Abroad

Update April 13, 2022 …

Here is yet a seventh waythe treatment of gifts as capital gains – that the Biden Green book would impact Americans Abroad

Introduction

As long as the United States employs citizenship taxation any proposed changes to the US tax system will have an impact (some intended and some unintended) on Americans abroad.

The Biden Green Book for fiscal year 2023, released on March 28, 2022, contains a number of proposals to both increase tax rates and increase the tax base by increasing the number of activities that are taxable events. Generally the proposals include a number of provisions to create and enhance taxation on both income from capital and capital itself. These provisions continue to generate discussion in the mainstream media including: The New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal. This is certain to generate much discussion in the tax compliance community.

The 2023 Green Book is available here.

Much will be written about how the proposals would affect resident Americans. Far less will be written about how the proposals would affect Americans abroad. The US rules of citizenship taxation steal from Americans abroad (and the countries where they reside) in hundreds of ways. Some are intended and foreseeable. Others are the unintended consequences that result from tax changes that apply to people who are not considered in the political process.

Significantly the Green Book does not suggest a move away from US citizenship taxation toward resident taxation as embraced by the rest of the world. In their totality, the proposals (particularly those that create income realization events when a gift is made) suggest a worsening of the situation for Americans abroad. That said, one proposal “might” (depending on Treasury) allow for the relaxation for the 877A Exit Tax rules, for a narrow group of Americans abroad under certain circumstances.

The purpose of this post is to identify six ways (and I assure you that there are more) that the Green Book would impact Americans abroad. The “Group Of Six” includes:

1. Raising The Corporate Tax Rate To 28 percent – Creating Subpart F Income and Making More Americans Abroad GILTI – Page 2

Verdict: This will have the effect of increasing the number of Americans abroad subject to taxation on income earned by their small corporations but not received by them personally.

2. An increase in the Corporate rate would increase the GILTI rate (suggesting to 20 percent) – Page 2

Verdict: More Americans abroad will be GILTI and will possibly (depending on a combination of country specific factors and their specific circumstances) be subject to GILTI taxes at a higher rate).

3. Reducing Phantom Gains And Losses: Simplify Foreign Exchange Rate And Loss Rules For Individuals And Exchange Rate Rules For Individuals – Page 90

Verdict: This in interesting. While reinforcing that Americans abroad are tethered to the US dollar it does suggest a recognition of the unfairness of how the phantom gain rules harm the purchase and sale of residential real estate outside the USA). Imagine how this would interact with the proposed rules converting gifts to taxable capital gains?

4. Strengthening FATCA: Provide For Information Reporting by Certain Financial Institutions and Digital Asset Brokers For the Exchange Of information – Page 97

Verdict: This is an attempt to reinforce the core principles of FATCA which are about the identification of US citizens outside the United States.

5. Expatriation – The Stick: Extend The Statute Of Limitations For Auditing Expatriates To Three Years From The Date From Which 8854 Should Have Been Filed (Possibly Forever) – Page 87

Verdict: This is theoretically very bad. It means that those who renounce without filing Form 8854 would be subject to a lifetime of risk. Practically speaking these provisions are not understood on the retail level. Hence, I doubt this will influence many people.

6. Expatriation – The Carrot: Exempting Certain Dual Citizen Expatriates From The Exit Tax – Page 87

Verdict: This is good news for the narrow group of people impacted by this – mainly “Accidental Americans”. It is bad news for the rest because the existing rules will continue to apply to those “who are left behind”.

I assure you that the Green Book contains a large number of ways that Americans abroad will be impacted. I will leave it to others to add to this list.

The principle is:

Citizenship taxation can steal from Americans abroad at least a thousand ways. If you can understand even one hundred of them you are doing well!

Summary: Once again this shows how all proposed changes to US tax law impact Americans abroad in a world of citizenship taxation. There is nothing in this that suggests a move toward residence taxation. There are few crumbs which might make citizenship taxation easier to live with (example relaxing phantom gains). But, on balance these provisions are a “doubling down” on the problems of citizenship taxation. The provision to allow easier expatriation for “Accidental Americans” does nothing to make life easier for the rest.

If you have seen enough you can stop here. For those who want more of the details and explanation, continue on …

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The Story of US Citizenship Taxation and FATCA: Documenting The Issues

Few US residents are aware of US citizenship-based taxation and FATCA. Legislative change will be aided by educating US residents and politicians about US citizenship-based taxation, FATCA and how they interact.

Citizenship-based taxation and FATCA are difficult to explain in short clips. It’s simply too difficult. At it’s core:

Citizenship-based taxation is a form of taxation where the USA imposes direct taxation on income earned outside the United States by individuals who do not live in the United States. FATCA is the law that is the enforcement tool for citizenship-based taxation.

In order to provide a summary of resources which can be used to better explain US citizenship-based taxation and FATCA, I have compiled the following resources.

https://www.linktr.ee/fatca

Please circulate this link widely!

John Richardson – Follow me on Twitter @Expatriationlaw

The Competent Authorities Should Agree That the Canadian TFSA Has The Same Treaty Status As The US Roth IRA

2018 Prologue

In 2018 I wrote a post arguing that it is reasonable to conclude that the text of the Canada US Tax Treaty should be interpreted to mean that a Canadian TFSA is – like a US ROTH IRA – a pension within the meaning of the Canada US Tax Treaty. The 2018 post was arguing for equal treatment without the intervention of the respective Canadian and American Competent Authorities.

The Punitive Taxation Of US Citizens Living Outside The United States Continues

I have previously and repeatedly made the point that:

The United States imposes a separate and more punitive system of taxation on US citizens living outside the United States than on US citizens living in the United States.

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The State Department Should Allow For US Citizenship Renunciations To Take Place By Video

This post has been co-authored by Diane Gelon* (see “Reflections Of An Expatriation Lawyer“) and John Richardson

Prologue

In September of 2021 the Paris based “Accidental Americans Association” filed a lawsuit against the US State Department. The lawsuit was brought in an attempt to force the State Department to allow individuals to renounce their US citizenship. (A prior lawsuit by the “Accidental Americans Association” was based on the excessive $2350 renunciation fee.)

The lawsuit is evidence of the extreme frustration that many Americans abroad are experiencing because they (1) are unable to renounce US citizenship and (2) justifiably feel that they are prisoners of the circumstances of their birth.

It was recently announced that “The US Department of State (DOS) is suspending in-person interview requirements at local consulates for a year for numerous non-immigrant work visa categories and their families (spouse and dependent children“. In London the US Embassy is conducting telephone meetings to deal with Social Security issues. (Prior to Covid this would have required an in person meeting at the Embassy.) The State Department is clearly reducing the number and kinds of services that require “in person” Consulate visits.

The purpose of this post is to argue that renunciations of US Citizenship need not take place through in person interviews at a US Embassy or Consulate. Rather renunciations of US citizenship can and should take place through video conferencing. The backlog in processing renunciations is explained as being related to the Covid-19 pandemic. A response to the pandemic has been that more and more legal proceedings are taking place through video conferencing. Both Canada and the UK (and certainly other countries) are conducing citizenship ceremonies by video, entire court cases are held via video conferencing, and documents can be witnessed and certified by video. We have discussed various aspects of this issue with each other over a long period of time as well as benefiting from discussions with Dubai based lawyer Virginia La Torre Jeker and Esquire Founder Jimmy Sexton.

There is no law that requires that renunciations of US citizenship take place inside a US Consulate or Embassy!

This post is composed of the following seven parts leading to the following conclusion:

Americans abroad and their representatives should pressure the State Department to use their statutory authority to allow renunciations by video conferencing. The State Department has the statutory authority to do so. The fact that the State Department does not currently allow renunciations through video conferencing doesn’t mean that it cannot allow renunciations through video conferencing!

Part I – Introduction: Why Americans Abroad Are Renouncing US Citizenship
Part II – An appointment to renounce US citizenship is hard to find
Part III – Why there is NO legal requirement that renunciation appointments must take place inside a US Embassy or Consulate
Part IV – The State Department website does not specifically state that renunciations must take place inside the US Consulate or Embassy
Part V – Americans abroad and their organizations must push the Biden administration to allow renunciations of US Citizenship through video conferencing
Part VI – Interesting Bobby Fisher anecdote supporting the view that renunciations are not required to take place inside US Consulates
Part VII – Diane Gelon and John Richardson update their November 29, 2020 podcast with a December 29, 2021 podcast

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The Beyer “Tax Simplification For Americans Abroad Act”: A First Look

Updates November 22, 2021:

1. I have also written a post on the SEAT site which compares (in a general way) the Beyer Bill of 2021 to the Holding Bill of (2018). Any attempt to solve this problem through amending the FEIE actually has the effect of strengthening citizenship based taxation.

2. With respect to the 402(b) exclusion:

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Update – Podcast November 24, 2021

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Introduction

On November 19, 2021 a post on the Democrats Abroad site introduced Congressman Beyer’s “Tax Simplification For Americans Abroad Act”. The Bill has been introduced as HR6057. I just saw this a few hours ago. Therefore, this post is necessarily a summary of my first impressions. It is likely that this will evolve and be updated over the next few days.

For those who do not want to read this relatively long post, the following excerpt provides an executive summary:

The Beyer Bill does NOT end US “citizenship-based taxation” and does NOT enact “residence-based taxation” as understood in the rest of the world. That said, the Beyer bill is intended to provide administrative (less to do) and substantive (less to pay) relief to middle class Americans abroad as long as they are not “entrepreneurs abroad” who carry on business through a CFC. “Entrepreneurs abroad” continue to be presumptively GILTI. If I am reading this correctly, GILTI income appears to NOT be included in the expansion of the scope of 911. Furthermore, the bill appears to provide conflicting directives on some “foreign pensions” (specifically excluding 402(b) pensions from the proposed new 911 exclusion while generally allowing foreign pensions generally to be excluded). It is my understanding that many Australian residents treat employer Superannuations as 402(b) pensions under the Internal Revenue Code.)

Like all “carveouts” the proposal purports to provide relief to a narrowly defined group of Americans abroad. In addition (this cannot be overemphasized) the bill retains US citizenship-based taxation. It should be clearly understood that ANY attempt to provide relief through expanding the FEIE (including the 2018 Holding bill) necessarily assumes the continuation of citizenship-based taxation.

This post is composed of the following four parts:

Part A – The General Purpose

Part B – General Impressions

Part C – The relevant modifications to IRC 911 Foreign Earned Income Exclusion

Part D – Tentative conclusion

* Appendix – The text of 911 with the proposed changes

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How The World Should Respond To The US FATCA Driven Attack On The Tax Base Of Other Countries

This purpose of this post is to continue the general theme of focusing on the difference between what a law says and what the law means in application and effect. Yesterday’s post (The Pandora Papers, FATCA, CRS And How They Have Combined To Create Tax Haven USA) focussed on the role that the 2010 US FACTCA law played in in facilitating the rise of Tax Haven USA. (To be clear, I am not saying that FATCA was the sole cause.) That said, the unwillingness of the USA to sign the CRS (“Common Reporting Standard”) has also played a role in the growth of the US as a tax haven.

Many believe that FATCA is just the US version of the CRS. Because of this belief the US has received little or no resistance to its refusal to join the CRS. This belief that FATCA and the CRS are fundamentally the same is wrong. They are very different.

The purpose of this post is two-fold.

First, to explain how/why FATCA is very different from the CRS.

Second, to explain how FATCA is used to export the “original sin” of US citizenship-based taxation into other countries. To put it simply FATCA assists the United States in capturing the tax residents of other countries and subjecting them to direct US taxation.

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