Category Archives: territorial taxation

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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The common law "revenue rule": From whence it came to where it's going

Introduction – What is the Revenue Rule?


The “Revenue Rule” can be overridden by statute of by treaty. The United States is attempting to override the “Revenue Rule” through changes to tax treaties. Because the United States imposes worldwide taxation on the residents of other countries, the United States would be advantaged overriding the “Revenue Rule”.
Putting the “Revenue Rule” in historical context. Does the Revenue Rule still matter?
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Americans abroad opposing "taxation-based citizenship" should retire the "Taxation Without Representation" argument

In a recent comment reproduced as a post at the Isaac Brock Society and at Citizenship Taxation, I argued that it’s time for people to unite with one simple message. The message captured in the following tweet:


“The United States must not impose “worldwide taxation” on those who have “tax residency” in other countries and do not live in the United States!”
I propose this for the following reasons:
1. There is not a single person or organization on the planet that could not support this and credibly claim that they want to end U.S. extra-territorial tax policies.
2. It places the focus of U.S. tax policies on how the policies affect the citizens and residents of other countries and NOT on those who identify as U.S. citizens living abroad AKA “Homelanders Abroad”. There is no suggestion of seeking exemptions for certain “tax compliant people”, …
3. It resonates with “accidentals” (AKA those carbon life forms that the United States considers to be life long tax slaves) because they were born in the United States.
4. It naturally leads to a discussion of how U.S. extra-territorial taxation affects the economies (“steals from their tax base) of other countries.
5. By focusing on “tax residents” of other countries, it avoids alltogether the idiotic “baff gablle” of: “Well, you are a member of the political community”, “patriotism”, “right to live in the USA” and all of these “academically focussed) distractions.
6. It avoids getting into the incredibly difficulty problem of explaining precisely HOW the Internal Revenue Code applies in different countries (in practical terms it applies differently in different countries). Almost nobody understands how the Internal Revenue Code actually applies in other countries (including the IRS) …
7. It bypasses arguments like: “What do you mean you are complaining? I hear you exclude about 100,000 using this thing called the “Foreign Earned Income Exclusion”. If you can exclude 100,000 when you don’t even live in the USA, then why can’t I as a Homelander exclude at least 100,000″ …
Again to agree to the message:
“The United States must not impose “worldwide taxation” on those who have “tax residency” in other countries and do not live in the United States!”
should avoid the distractions described in points 1 – 7.
“Taxation without representation argument”
But, I want to focus on an argument/point that I think is a particular time waster and probably hurts the cause rather than helps it.
The ONLY Americans who have representation in the political process are those who have the money to “buy the laws” that they want. The American legislative process is nothing more and nothing less than a “pay to play casino”. It’s that simple. America is one of the world’s most dysfunctional democracies. In fact it is a democracy only in the sense that some Americans (including some but not all Americans abroad) have the right to vote. Having a vote is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for a functioning democracy. A vote matters only if there are viable candidates to vote for. In the America of today, who the candidates are, is tightly controlled by the political parties. Do you really think that if America had a functioning democracy, that allowed for democratically selected candidates, that the 2016 election would have come down to:
Donald Trump vs. Hilary Clinton?
Not a chance. My point is that almost no Americans have political representation in any case. By making the “taxation without representation argument”, Americans abroad are asking for something that Homelanders don’t have!

So, please let’s retire the:


“Taxation without representation argument”!

John Richardson
My morning thoughts on this were generated by the comments in the following tweets (all of which were generated by the Financial Times discussion on the Sec. 965 Transition Tax:

Part 2: The problem is NOT “worldwide taxation”. The problem is imposing “worldwide taxation” on people who don’t live in South Africa or the USA and are “tax residents’ of other countries.

As goes taxation, so goes civilization.

This is Part 2 of my post discussing the South Africa tax situation. Part 1 is here.

This is a follow up to my post exploring whether South Africa is moving to a tax system that is based on “citizenship-based taxation” or (in the case of the United States of America) “taxation-based citizenship”. That post was the result of a “special request”. The response from that first post included:

I now understand the difference between the SA system and the US. I believe that the similarity that caused the consternation when this first came up was the issue of “tax residency”. CBT mandates that those declared US citizens by the US are simultaneously declared US tax residents. In a similar fashion SA has a concept of tax residency that *does* include some people who do not physically reside in SA but NOT just because they’re citizens. I get it. Thanks again for clarifying this!
That being said, I think the term “tax residency” is crazy. I wish that someone with the power to influence terminology in the general usage of language could come up with something that accurately describes the basis on which a person can be taxed by a country in which that person does not live. Taxes don’t reside; people do, and they can only live one place at a time. Any ideas? 🙂

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Part 1: South Africa is NOT attempting to compete with USA by challenging the US monopoly on citizenship-based taxation

As goes taxation, so goes civilizations

This is Part 1 of my posts discussing the South Africa situation. Part 2 is here.

There have been a number of suggestions in various blogs that South Africa is somehow taxing on the basis of citizenship. American citizens (whether by accident or design) are most sensitive to any discussion of “citizenship-based taxation”. After all, U.S. tax policies combined with FATCA (which is part of the Internal Revenue Code) are destroying the lives of those who have entered the U.S. tax system.

I recently received an email that asked:

They’re talking about SA expats, people who no longer live in SA, being taxed by SA. Like us, these people are residents and earners in countries other than their country of origin (and, I would assume, citizenship). http://www.internationalinvestment.net/regions/south-african-expats-hit-tax-exemption-removal-plans/ If this is not CBT, on what basis are they being taxed? If SA is just wanting to expand its definition of tax residency on what basis do they feel they can apply this to someone who no longer lives in their country?

The short answer …

South Africa imposes “worldwide taxation” on those who are “tax residents” of South Africa. The rules for an individual to qualify as a “tax resident” of South Africa are here. South African “tax residency” is irrelevant to citizenship.

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#Taxreform17 means that the USA should stop imposing U.S. taxation on the residents of other countries! @SpeakerRyan @RepKevinBrady @SenateJamLdr @OrrinHatch @Stevenmnuchin1

Some of you may be interested in the “short letter” that I sent by regular mail to the “powers to be” in Washington who are working on “Tax Reform”.
A “Town Hall” interview with Speaker Ryan suggests that Tax Reform is going to happen.


The interview confirms that there is pressure to move U.S. corporations to “territorial taxation”. See also the following tweet from the House Ways And Means Committee.


The question is whether individuals will also be considered. In January of 2017 Republicans Overseas proposed “territorial taxation” for individuals. This week the Republican National Committee adopted a resolution from Republicans Overseas urging that “territorial taxation” for individuals be adopted.


Both U.S. corporations and U.S. citizens are “U.S. persons”. If the United States moves to “territorial taxation” for corporations then “territorial taxation” for individuals should follow.
The United States would be will advised to stop imposing U.S. taxation on the tax paying residents of other countries.
What follows is my “short letter”. A PDF copy of the letter is here:
taxreform
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Why is the United States imposing full U.S. taxation on the Canadian incomes of Canadian citizens living in Canada?

This is post is “based on” (not identical to)  one of two submissions that I submitted in response to Senator Hatch’s request for submissions regarding tax reform.
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Why is the United States imposing full U.S. taxation on the Canadian incomes of Canadian citizens living in Canada?
The Internal Revenue Code mandates that ALL “individuals” , EXCEPT “non-resident aliens”, are subject to full taxation, on their WORLDWIDE income, under the Internal Revenue Code. The word “individuals” includes U.S. citizens regardless of where they live and regardless of whether they are citizens and residents of other countries where they also pay tax. This means that, by its plain terms, the United States imposes full taxation on the citizens and residents of other nations, because they are also (according to U.S. definitions) U.S. citizens. The United States is the only country in the world that has a definition of “tax residency that mandates full taxation based ONLY on citizenship.
How “U.S. citizenship” and U.S. “taxation” interact
Principle 1: The United States is one of the few countries in the world that confers citizenship based SOLELY on birth on its soil.
Principle 2: The United States is the ONLY country in the world that imposes full taxation ON THE WORLD INCOME of its citizens, REGARDLESS OF WHERE THE U.S. CITIZEN LIVES IN THE WORLD.
Bottom line: The United States is the ONLY country in the world that imposes full taxation, on WORLDWIDE income, based ONLY on the “place of birth”!
A practical example: A person whose only connection to the United States is that he was born in the United States, who lives in Canada (and may have never lived in the United States and whose only income is earned in Canada), is required to pay U.S. tax on that income. This resident of Canada is treated AS THOUGH HE WAS A U.S. RESIDENT. NOTE ALSO THAT THIS INDIVIDUAL IS REQUIRED TO PAY TAX TO CANADA! He is subject to “double taxation”. (This “double taxation” is only partially mitigated through “foreign tax credits”, tax treaties and the “foreign earned income exclusion”.)
Therefore: What academics and government officials refer to as “citizenship-based taxation” (they really don’t understand its practical effects) is PRIMARILY  “place of birth taxation” and therefore a convenient way to impose U.S. taxation on the citizens and residents of other countries. As a blog devoted to “citizenship taxation” (noting the difference between the theory and reality) points out:

“A supporter of citizenship taxation is someone who THINKS about “citizenship taxation”. An opponent of citizenship taxation is anybody who has tried to LIVE under citizenship taxation.”

How did this happen? It certainly didn’t start this way!

The evolution of “U.S. citizenship”
The result of legislative change and various U.S. Supreme Court decisions (primarily Afroyim ) has meant that “U.S. citizenship” is far easier to obtain and far harder to lose. 
Furthermore, as people become more and more mobile, it is not unusual for somebody to have been “Born In The USA” but live outside the USA. Global mobility is now the rule, rather than the exception.
The evolution of U.S. taxation and the Internal Revenue Code
The Internal Revenue Code has become more and more complex and impacts more and more activities of daily life. Because “U.S. citizens” (even though they are citizen/residents of other countries) are subject to U.S. taxation, they have been tremendously impacted by the “creeping complexity” of the Internal Revenue Code (which applies equally to ALL Americans wherever they may live).
This “creeping complexity” has evolved slowly through the years. The problems have been exacerbated because Congress does NOT consider that when amending the Internal Revenue Code they are impacting the lives of tax paying residents of other nations (who happen to be U.S. citizens). Congress is “indifferent” to the plight of Americans abroad (indifference being one of the worst forms of abuse).
Through the years, slowly and consistently …

The evolution of the Internal Revenue Code combined with ease of retaining U.S. citizenship has built a “fiscal prison” (legislative brick by legislative brick), in which  to keep the tax paying residents of “OTHER NATIONS”, who just happen to have been born in the United States.

Tax Reform 2017
The United States is “making noises” about “tax reform”. Senator Orrin Hatch requested submissions from “steak stake holders” on what should be included in tax reform. He has clearly received (as did the Ways and Means Committee in 2013 and the Senate Finance Committee in 2015) many suggestions advocating the repeal of “citizenship-based taxation”.
As noted at a site compiling the submissions of those affected by U.S. extra-territorial taxation:
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