A move to another country is a very significant life decision. A “Green Card” is actually a “permanent resident” immigrant visa. A U.S. “permanent resident” visa comes with significant opportunities and significant responsibilities. Permanent resident visa for immigration purposes: The visa is valid for immigration purposes only as long as the person retains the subjective intent to live permanently in the United States. Permanent resident visa for tax purposes: Under United States law, one’s status for immigration purposes is different from one’s status for tax purposes. Generally the rules for “tax residence” are found in Internal Revenue Code Sec. 7701(b).
What follows is my answer on Quora that considers the “benefits and burdens” of the Green Card. I suggest that you read all answers to this question. Read John Richardson's answer to What are the benefits of getting a "green card"? How has your life changed after being a green card holder? on Quora
But, wait! There’s more. If you have the Green Card for 8 years or more, you can’t leave the United States without being subject to the S. 877A Exit Taxes. Read John Richardson's answer to Must one pay U.S. exit tax on foreign assets? on Quora
In July of 2018 I moderated a discussion on “tax residency”. The discussion was at an immigration conference in Los Angeles that was primarily focused on the EB-5 program. The EB-5 program will lead to a Green Card (meaning that one becomes a permanent resident of the United States).
Here is a video of the discussion. Some parts are audible and others not. But, I decided to create a post which focuses on the issues discussed.
Introduction to the world of Global Mobility
Global mobility is the norm in the 21st century. The United States, Canada and Australia are prime destinations for those seeking “permanent residency” and ultimately a second “citizenship”. Canada has been a pioneer in investor immigration. The United States has long been an area of prime interest. It is important to distinguish between “residency” for immigration purposes (are you legally allowed to live in a country) from “residency” for tax purposes (to what extent are you subject to taxation in the country).
The purpose of this post is to create awareness of some aspects of what it means to become a “tax resident” of the United States. When a non-citizen becomes a U.S. “permanent resident” (for immigration purposes), one becomes a “tax resident” of the United States. Once a “tax resident” of the United States (1) very specific procedures must be followed to sever “U.S. tax residency” and (2) “long term residents” will be subject to the S. 877A Exit Tax rules.
The Internal Revenue Code of the United States imposes worldwide income taxation on ALL individuals who are U.S. citizens or who are otherwise defined as “residents” under the Internal Revenue Code. “Residents” includes those who have a visa for “permanent residence” (commonly referred to as a Green Card). A visa for “permanent residence” is a visa for immigration purposes. Once an individual receives a visa for “permanent residence” he will be considered to be a “resident” under the Internal Revenue Code. His status as a “resident” for tax purposes continues until he fulfills specific conditions to sever his “tax residency” with the United States. The conditions required to sever “tax residency” with the United States are found in S. 7701 of the Internal Revenue Code. (Basically a Green Card holder can’t simply move from the United States and sever tax residency.)
In the same way that U.S. citizens are subject to taxation on their worldwide income even if they don’t reside in the United States, “permanent residents” will continue to be subject to taxation on their worldwide income until they take specific steps to sever tax residency in the United States. In certain circumstances Green Card holders living outside the United States can avoid filing some of the “forms” that are required of U.S. citizens living abroad.
The steps to sever tax residency are found in S. 7701(b) of the Internal Revenue Code. Those wishing to explore this further are invited to read my earlier posts about Gerd Topsnik: Topsnik 1 and Topsnik 2. Those “permanent residents” who qualify as “long term residents” will be subject to the S. 877A Exit Tax rules if they try to sever tax residency with the United States. It’s probably easier to secure a “permanent residence visa” for immigration purposes, than it is to sever tax residency for income tax purposes.
On September 5, 2018 I had the opportunity to participate in a conversation with Mr. Gary Clueit who has been a permanent resident of the United States for 34 years. Interestingly Mr. Clueit is one more Green Card holder who never applied for U.S. citizenship. There are both advantages and disadvantages to a “Green Card” holder becoming a U.S. citizen. One often overlooked disadvantage to a Green Card holder becoming a U.S. citizen is discussed here. In general, “permanent residents” (Green Card holders) of the United States have certain “tax treaty benefits” that are denied to U.S. citizens. Because of the “savings clause” U.S. citizens are denied the benefits of tax treaties. Interestingly (at least until now) other countries have failed to understand that the inclusion of the “savings clause” in U.S. tax treaties means that the treaty partner is agreeing that the United States can impose worldwide taxation on the citizen/residents of the treaty partner country. The reason is simple:
The primary impact of the “savings clause” is that assists the United States in imposing “worldwide taxation”, according to U.S. rules on people who are “tax residents” of other countries and who do not live in the United States!
The following tweet links to the podcast of the conversation. Anybody considering moving to the United States as a “permanent resident” should listen to this podcast.
“Non-citizenship” has its privileges: An overlooked reason why a Green Card holder may NOT want to become a U.S. citizen https://t.co/yzxRjFikhp
— John Richardson – lawyer for "U.S. persons" abroad (@ExpatriationLaw) July 30, 2018
U.S. Tax Residency – The “Readers Digest” Version
Last week I participated in a “panel discussion” titled: “Tax Residency In A World Of Global Mobility: What Tax Residency Means, How To Sever It, The Role Of Tax Treaties and When Exit Taxes May Apply”
— John Richardson – lawyer for "U.S. persons" abroad (@ExpatriationLaw) May 20, 2018
“Understanding U.S. Tax Residency …
The United States uses a form of “deemed tax residency“.
The Internal Revenue of the United States deems that all “individuals” (wherever they live in the world – including citizens and residents of other countries) except “nonresident aliens” are subject to taxation in the United States on their world wide income. One qualifies as a “nonresident alien” unless one is a:
1. A U.S. citizen
2. A U.S. resident as defined by Internal Revenue Code Sec. 7701(b) Continue reading →