Category Archives: citizenship based taxation

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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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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A simple regulatory fix for the problem of US citizenship taxation

Background

In 2016 I first made the suggestion that citizenship-based taxation could be changed through Treasury regulation. In October of 2020 John Richardson, Dr. Karen Alpert and Dr. Laura Snyder completed a paper titled “A Simple Regulatory Fix For Citizenship Taxation”. The idea advanced is that:

Although Congress and the Internal Revenue Code created the problem of “citizenship-based taxation”, Treasury has the authority and moral duty to fix the problems of citizenship-based taxation.

Discussion

In 1924 the Supreme Court of the United States considered U.S. citizenship-based taxation in the case of Cook v. Tait. Of course in 1924, the laws of both citizenship and taxation were very different. I have previously explored the evolution of citizenship, taxation and citizenship-based taxation.

The article has received fairly wide distribution (including in the academic community).

Abstract

This article explains the simple regulatory actions that United States Department of the Treasury can take that would, in the absence of legislative change, improve the lives of Americans living overseas and permit the IRS to better focus its limited resources to more effectively administer the U.S. tax system.

The article can be read at SSRN here.

The 2020 article can be at Tax Notes here.

I welcome your comments.

John Richardson – Follow me on Twitter @Expatriationlaw

Citizenship Matters With @RonanMaCrea Part 2: The Nature Of Citizenship In A Global World

Introduction

This is a continuation of my discussion with Ronan McCrea on “citizenship matters”. My first discussion with Ronan McCrea focused on issues surrounding “citizenship by descent”. This second podcast focuses on the nature of citizenship.

The questions included:

What does citizenship mean?

What are the rights of citizenship?

What are the obligations of citizenship?

What are the different ways of acquiring citizenship?

What obligations to citizens living abroad have to their fellow citizens living at home?

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Americans Abroad And Voting Part 1: How To Vote In The November 3, 2020 US Election

Introduction – Democracy Is Not A Spectator Sport

The 21st century has been notable for an evolving assault on representative democracy.

Examples include:

1. The rise of the head state who is to serve for life.

2. An unhealthy mass of power in the hands of political parties in general and small parts of the party in particular. Does the individual/local representative (Congressman or MP) even matter?

3. A sentiment that individual votes no longer matter or that they are no candidates worth voting for.

Variants of these themes are being played out all over the world.

In general, politicians operate on the principle that:

“The business of the public is none of the public’s business.”

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China does not have and is not moving toward US style citizenship-based taxation

Readers Digest Version: The Bottom Line Is …

As reported by American Expat Finance, which discusses an interview with Dr. Bernard Schneider of Queen Mary …

You can listen to the podcast …

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The Longer Version: “Tax Residency” Based Information Exchange In The 21st Century

The 21st Century has ushered in FATCA, CRS, voluntary disclosure programs and a general awareness of taxation. Many people have been subjected to the FATCA inquisition (“Are you or have you ever been a US citizen?) or a CRS motivated inquiry about “tax residence” (“List all countries where you are a tax resident.”)

In the 21st, the “citizenship by investment industry” is booming. There are many opportunities to acquire (through investment programs) “permanent residency” in a county. (I will refer to these programs collectively as “economic migration”). The value of these “economic migration” programs, to a specific individual, is largely determined by considerations of tax residency.

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Renunciation is a process of transitioning from US citizen to nonresident alien. How does this affect your tax situation?

On June 25, 2020 Dr. Karen Alpert and I did a series of podcasts where we discussed how renunication will affect your interaction with the US tax system. The key point is that you will still be taxable by the United States on US source income. What does that mean? Under what circumstances could renunication of US citizenhip actually increase your US tax liability?

John Richardson – Follow me on Twitter @ExpatriationLaw

The S. 911 Foreign Earned Income Exclusion: It’s origins, journey, opportunities and limitations

I recently participated in a podcast discussing both the opportunities and limitations associated with the Section 911 FEIE (“Foreign Earned Income Exclusion”). It is short and explains why the FEIE is not the answer to the problems experienced by Americans abroad. You can listen to it here:

https://prep.podbean.com/e/us-taxation-of-americans-abroad-do-the-foreign-tax-credit-rules-work-sometimes-yes-and-sometimes-no/

The podcast was the subject of a post at American Expat Finance. That post prompted me to explore more deeply, the origins of the FEIE. When was it enacted? What was it designed to do? I found a fantastic article that I thought I would/should share.

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Americans abroad and relief under the CARES Act: How do they get it and how much do they get

The context

Many countries including Canada and the United States have offered monetary relief to help their residents during these difficult times. (In addition to monetary relief, as Virginia La Torre Jeker as reported here and here: the United States has relaxed the deadline for filing 2019 tax returns. Canada has made similar allowances.)

Interestingly, with respect to access to monetary relief:

Canada’s “CERB Benefit” approach appears to be to simply get cash into the hands of affected people. The benefits may or may not be taxable. But, filing a tax return is not a prerequisite to receipt of benefits.

The U.S. “CARES Act” approach appears to use the tax system as the mechanism for delivery of benefits. Early indications suggest that (at least for Americans abroad) filing tax U.S. tax returns will be a necessary condition for the receipt of benefits. Could benefits really be conditional on filing tax returns, when there are so many people who do not meet the threshold for filing U.S. tax returns?

It appears to be much easier to access the relief in Canada than to access the relief in the United States. Additionally, Canadians do NOT need a lawyer or accountant to understand the program. But, that’s an issue for another day …
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IRS Relief Procedures For Former Citizens Update – Relief For Former Green Card Holders Coming!

Introduction

On December 17, 2019 Gary Carter published a post on Tax Connections, which outlined the “Options Available For U.S. Taxpayers With Undisclosed Foreign Financial Assets“. It contained an excellent overview and analysis which included a discussion of the IRS definition of “non-willfulness” under the Streamlined Program. In commenting on the definiton of “non-willful” he noted that:

The IRS definition of non-willful covers a lot of territory. Negligence, for example, includes “any failure to make a reasonable attempt to comply with the provisions of the Code” (IRC Sec. 6662(c)) or “to exercise ordinary and reasonable care in the preparation of a tax return” (Reg. Sec. 1.6662-3(b)(1)). Further, “negligence is a lack of due care in failing to do what a reasonable and ordinarily prudent person would have done under the particular circumstances.” (Kelly, Paul J., (1970) TC Memo 1970-250). The court also stated that a person may be guilty of negligence even though he is not guilty of bad faith. So the fact that you ignored the FBAR filing requirements for many years, and failed to report your foreign income, might be negligent behavior, but it’s probably not willful. That means you likely qualify for one of the new streamlined procedures. On the other hand, if you loaded piles of cash into a suitcase and lugged it over to Switzerland to conceal it from the IRS, you don’t qualify, because that is willful conduct. If you believe your behavior may have been willful under these guidelines, consult with an attorney before submitting returns through one of the streamlined procedures. We work with attorneys who are experts in this field and we would be happy to provide a referral, free of charge or obligation.

Notably, the definition of “non-willfulness” for the Streamlined Program is the same as the definition for the new “IRS Relief For Former Citizens Program”.

Part A – IRS Relief For Former Citizens Who Relinquished U.S. Citizenship After March 18, 2010 (the date FATCA became law)

The program was announced on September 6, 2019.

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