Category Archives: U.S. tax treaties

Considering renouncing US citizenship? #citizide – There are times when US citizenship can save you from foreign taxes!

Should other nations be permitted to impose taxation on U.S. citizens or corporations?
At first blush, the question sounds absurd. Is there something about being a U.S. citizen that should exempt individuals from taxation in or by a another country? Some time ago, this question was explored in a discussion on a Facebook group. Interestingly, most participants thought the discussion was absurd and did not take it seriously. But truth can be stranger than fiction. When it comes to taxation there can be some benefits to being a U.S. citizen. In fact, in certain cases, U.S. citizenship can act as a “cloaking device” – a device that shields you from taxation in another country.

The two certainties are “death and taxes” …

It’s in the area of “death” where U.S. citizenship can be helpful. Sometimes it can be to your benefit to die as a U.S. citizen. Sometimes U.S. citizenship can be helpful when somebody dies leaving you part of their estate.
What follows are some categories where U.S. citizenship can protect you from taxation. These possibilities should be considered prior to renouncing U.S. citizenship.
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Part 21 – @ACAVoice makes presentation at October 22/18 IRS @USTransitionTax hearing – argues both that Regulatory Flexibility Act should apply and/or that de minimis rule be created

Introduction


This is Part 21 of my series of posts about the Section 965 transition tax.
The Section 965 “Transition Tax” saga continues. Americans abroad may have political differences. They may have philosophical differences. They may live in different countries with different tax treaties. But, opposition to the Section 965 Transition Tax and GILTI appear to have unified all Americans abroad.


To put it simply: The application of the Section 965 transition tax to the small businesses operated by Americans Abroad is the most unjust, most punitive, most egregious and most unjustified piece of legislation over to come from the Homeland (assuming – which I doubt – that it was every intended to apply to Americans abroad in the first place). Significantly, the transition tax is a benefit to Homeland Americans but can confiscate the retirement plans of Americans abroad. In other words, the transition tax is one more punishment that America is meting out to its citizens who dare to leave the United States.
Boldly Go, where no fictitious tax event has gone before …
The transition tax is also a direct attack on the tax base of the countries where Americans abroad live. To put it simply: the transition tax is a fictional tax event, that allows the United States to take a preemptive tax strike against the tax base of other countries. By so doing, the transition tax allows the United States to siphon tax revenue from other countries, that it could never siphon before. (Well, the S. 877A Exit Tax rules also create a fictitious tax event that allows the United States to siphon capital from other countries.) The impact of the transition tax on Canadian residents (who are also U.S. citizens) has been explored in CBC reporter Elizabeth Thompson’s series of posts about the transition tax.
The Transition Tax when applied to Americans abroad is:

The retroactive taxation of undistributed earnings of a non-US corporation, based on NO event that generates taxable income, which almost certainly subjects Americans abroad to double taxation.

The parts I have bolded provide arguments for why the “transition tax” violates numerous tax treaties.
In Part 20 I explored the arguments for why/how the Treasury Regulations are not compatible with the Regulatory Flexibility Act. Part 20 included a discussion of the arguments made by ACA for why the Regulatory Flexibility Act should apply to the regulations.
In Part 21 (this post), I am highlighting the submission of American Citizens Abroad (ACA), who argues IN ADDITION (this is a no brainer) that there should be a threshold level of undistributed earnings before the Section 965 confiscation can apply – period.
Thanks to ACA (“American Citizens Abroad”) for taking the time to organize these arguments and present them at the October 22, 2018 IRS hearing on the “transition tax”.
What follows is the email I received from ACA – I strongly suggest that you follow the links. ACA has done a superb job of demonstrating how the Treasury can exempt Americans abroad from this particularly draconian and confiscatory piece of legislation.
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The proper care and feeding of the Green Card: How physical presence in the US affects the right to live permanently in the US and eligibility for US citizenship

United States permanent residence and the right to travel outside the United States with the Green Card

Beginning with my answer to a similar question on Quora …

Read John Richardson‘s answer to Can a person living in the US with a Greencard travel to other countries? on Quora

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"Non-citizenship" has its privileges: An overlooked reason why a Green Card holder may NOT want to become a U.S. citizen

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”

The panel included a discussion of  the “pre-immigration planning” that should be undertaken prior to becoming a “tax resident of the United States”. U.S. citizens and U.S. residents are “tax residents” of the United States and (from an income tax perspective) are taxable on their world wide income. (There are separate “tax residency” rules for the U.S. Estate and Gift Tax Regime.) For the purposes of “income taxation”, the definition of “U.S. resident” includes “Green Card holders” , who by definition are “permanent residents” of the United States. Those who come to America and get that “Green Card” have subjected themselves to the U.S. “worldwide taxation” regime. Note that a Green Card holder who becomes a “long term” resident of the United States has also subjected himself to the S. 877A Expatriation Tax Regime! In other words, a Green Card holder may NOT be able to move from American without subjecting himself to a significant confiscation of his wealth! To put it simply: If a prospective immigrant is “well advised”, the S. 877A Exit Tax rules will provide a strong reason to NOT become a “permanent resident” of the United States. But, remember:
The S. 877A Exit Tax rules apply to “permanent residents” who become “long term residents”.

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"Tax residence" for US Estate and Gift and "tax treaty tiebreakers with overlapping domicile

Introduction – Two kinds of tax systems – Two kinds of “tax residency”
Title 26, the Internal Revenue Code of the United States is composed of twelve subtitles. Subtitle A deals with “Income Taxes”. Subtitle B deals with “Estate and Gift Taxes” AKA the “transfer tax regime”. The two subtitles are administered separately. They also have different definitions of “tax residence”.
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Canada U.S. Tax Treaty: Article XVIII incorporating the 5th Protocol of September 21, 2007 – An American moves to Canada with a #Roth

Part 1 of 3 – The 5th Protocol to the Canada U.S. Tax Treaty – U.S. Residents Moving To Canada With a ROTH

This is the another post describing an aspect of the September 21, 2007 5th Protocol to the Canada U.S. tax treaty. This post describes how the owner a Roth IRA can maintain significant advantages from a Roth IRA which has been funded prior to a move to Canada. In my next post I will argue that the same provisions should apply to a TFSA that was funded prior to a Canadian resident moving to the United States.
http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/I-3.3/FullText.html#h-82

Introduction – The United States taxes ONLY one thing! Everything!

The United States has one of the most (if not the most) comprehensive and complicated tax systems in the world.

1. Who is subject to U.S. taxation?

The United States is one of only two countries to impose taxation on its citizens who do NOT live in the United States. In practical terms, (in a world of dual citizenship), this means that the United States imposes taxation on the citizens and residents of other nations. This is to be contrasted with a system of “residence based taxation” – a system where only “residents of the nation” are subject to full taxation. A system of “residence based taxation” assumes that the purpose of taxes is so that the government can  provide services to residents. A system of “citizenship-based taxation” assumes that the purpose of taxation is so that taxpayers can fund the activities of the government. (It’s interesting that the United States is (1) the only modern country with “citizenship” taxation and (2) a country that provides comparatively few services to its residents.

2. What is the source of the income that is subject to U.S. taxation?
The United States (along with Canada and most other countries) uses a system of “worldwide taxation”. In other words a U.S. citizen who is a tax-paying resident of France, is expected to pay taxes to the United States on income earned anywhere in the world. This is to be contrasted with “territorial taxation”. A country that uses a “territorial tax system” imposes taxes ONLY on income earned in the country.


3. What are the rules that determine how the tax owed is calculated?

The American citizen living in France as a French citizen is subject to exactly the same rules in the Internal Revenue Code that Homeland Americans are subject to. The problem is that the Internal Revenue imposes a different kind of tax regime on “foreign income” and “foreign property. In effect, this means that the United States imposes a separate and more punitive regime on people who live outside the United States. (This has the effect of making it very difficult for American citizens living outside the United States to engage in rational financial and retirement planning.)
The Impact of Tax Treaties in General and the “Pension Provisions” in Particular

4. What about tax treaties? How do they affect this situation?
In general (except in specific circumstances) U.S. tax treaties do NOT save Americans abroad from double taxation. In fact, the principal effect of most U.S. tax treaties is to guarantee that Americans abroad are subject to double taxation. This is achieved through a tax treaty provision known as the “savings clause“. Pursuant to the “savings clause”, the treaty partner country agrees that the United States can impose U.S. taxation, according to U.S. tax rules on the residents of the treaty partner countries who are (according to the USA) U.S. citizens.

In practice this means that the United States imposes “worldwide taxation” on residents of other countries. In fact, the United States imposes a separate and punitive tax system on those who reside in other countries.
5. The specific problem of pensions are recognized in many tax treaties
Many U.S. tax treaties address the issue of pensions. The Canada and U.K. tax treaties give strong protection to the rights of individuals to have pensions. The Australia tax treaty has very weak pension protection. The problem of how the Australian Superannuation interacts with the Internal Revenue Code has been the subject of much discussion. The “Pensions Provisions” are found in Article XVIII of the Canada U.S. Tax Treaty (as amended over the years).
The 5th Protocol – effective September 21, 2007 – made numerous changes to the pensions provisions (Article XVIII of the Canada U.S. Tax Treaty)

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Canada U.S. Tax Treaty – Article XXVIA: How the 5th Protocol Enhances protection for Canadian citizens


Introduction – The Purpose of this post
This is an addition to “The Little Red Tax Treaty Book“.
I was recently asked the following question:
I heard that the Canada U.S. Tax Treaty means that the Canada Revenue Agency will not help the United States collect a U.S. tax debt on a Canadian citizen, provided that the person was a Canadian citizen at the time the U.S. tax debt arose. But, what if the person was NOT a Canadian citizen when the U.S. tax debt arose? Will the Canada Revenue Agency help the United States collect U.S. tax debt?
My answer to the question:
On September 21, 2007 Canada and the United States signed the 5th Protocol to the Canada U.S. tax treaty (first entered into in 1980). As a result of the 5th protocol, Paragraph 8 (a) of Article XXVIA now reads:
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Part 3: Responding to the Sec. 965 "transition tax": They hate you for (and want) your pensions!


Introduction
This is the third in my series of posts about the Sec. 965 Transition Tax and whether/how it applies to the small business corporations owned by tax paying residents of other countries (who may also have U.S. citizenship). These small business corporations are in no way “foreign”. They are certainly “local” to the resident of another country who just happens to have the misfortune of being a U.S. citizen.
The first two posts were:
Part 1: Responding to The Section 965 “transition tax”: “Resistance is futile” but “Compliance is impossible”
Part 2: Responding to The Section 965 “transition tax”: Is “resistance futile”? The possible use of the Canada U.S. tax treaty to defeat the “transition tax”
Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it
Immediately prior to the passing of President Obama’s “Affordable Care Act” (which was subsequently ruled to be constitutional BECAUSE it was a “tax”), legislators were faced with a comprehensive, complex and incomprehensible piece of legislation. Very few members of Congress understood the details and impact of what they were voting for.


Nancy Pelosi secured her in place of history by suggesting that:
“We really need to pass the law so that you can see what’s in it!”
Ms. Pelosi meant (I think) that it’s one thing to know what a law says. It’s quite another to know how it actually impacts people.
Notwithstanding the April 15, 2018 deadline for the first “transition tax” payment, very few “tax professionals” understand what the Internal Revenue Code Sec. 965 “transition tax” says, (let alone what it actually might mean – assuming it applies).
What the application of the “transition tax” might actually mean in the life of an individual owner of a Canadian Controlled Private Corporation
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U.S. Citizenship clarification: Time between your actual renunciation and the date your CLN is issued

Two questions that I frequently receive from people who have renounced U.S. citizenship are:
I. An immigration question: What if I attempt to travel to the United States during the period of time between my actual renunciation of U.S. citizenship and actually receiving my CLN (which is my proof of having renounced U.S. citizenship)?
II. A tax question: At what point after I renounce U.S. citizenship do I cease to be treated as a U.S. citizen for U.S. tax purposes? For example, when am I free to sell my house (located outside the USA) and NOT be subject to U.S. capital gains taxes?
Two kinds of U.S. citizenship: How the issuance of a CLN affects (1) U.S. citizenship for Immigration purposes and (2) U.S. citizenship for tax purposes
1. How the issuance of a CLN affects U.S. citizenship for immigration and nationality purposes:
Immigration and Nationality Act S. 349(a) (U.S. Code 1481(a)) make it clear that the issuance of a CLN is completely irrelevant to your status as a U.S. citizen for immigration purposes. A CLN is of value ONLY for the purposes of PROVING that you are not a U.S. citizen.
Therefore, one ceases to a U.S. citizen for immigration purposes on the date of the relinquishing (renunciation) act.
2. How the issuance of a CLN affects U.S. citizenship for U.S. tax purposes
Internal Revenue Code 877A(g)(4) mandates that those relinquishing/renouncing U.S. citizenship after June 16, 2008:
– will continue to be treated as U.S. citizens for U.S. tax purposes until the CLN is actually issued; and
– the date of ceasing to be a U.S. citizen for U.S. tax purposes will be the actual date of the relinquishing act (date of renunciation).
Therefore, (assuming a relinquishing act after June 16, 2008) one continues to be a U.S. citizen for tax purposes until the CLN is issued.
These distinctions are discussed in an earlier post:
Renunciation is one form of relinquishment – It’s not the form of relinquishment but the time of relinquishment
Bottom line: One ceases to be a U.S. citizen for immigration purpose before one ceases to be a U.S. citizen for tax purposes.
Generally people are more concerned with travelling to the USA during the time gap between renouncing U.S. citizenship and before receiving a CLN. Fortunately, we have a “guest post” written by someone who has just experienced this issue from the Immigration perspective. He has shared his thoughts as follows:

Travel Limbo? Keep calm and CLN on.
Recently, I found myself in a potentially sticky situation enroute to a holiday in the U.S while at a Canadian airport. My Canadian passport showed a U.S. birthplace and before allowing me
through, the U.S. Border Officer wanted me to show my Certificate of Loss of Nationality (CLN) or an American passport.
Although I had renounced my U.S. citizenship several months earlier, the U.S. Department of State had not yet issued my CLN. Before this experience, I had always been able to cross the border to the U.S. with my Canadian passport (the only passport I’d ever had).
Fortunately, the situation didn’t escalate. I attempted to give the officer a simple explanation that I had renounced at a U.S. Embassy many months before but the approved CLN had not been couriered in time for my trip. If he would permit me, I would show him my email correspondence with the U.S. embassy.
The officer accepted my explanation. Before he waived me through, I asked if he had any advice to share with anyone caught in travel limbo without their CLN.
Hopefully, his comments will help others to navigate a soft landing:
Keep calm
There is a line-up of people behind you. This is not the time to be outraged or to educate agents about the plight of Accidental Americans or dual citizens.
Show proof
Travel with a copy of your CLN. If you’re still waiting for it, carry a copy of Form DS-4080 (the form you sign when you renounce and swear an oath at a U.S. Embassy). Keep copies on your phone.
Provide a reasonable explanation
If you accidentally forget your documents or booked a trip before your CLN arrives, a simple description of the renunciation process and the long wait times for the approved CLN to arrive will hopefully be reasonable enough to a reasonable officer.

Thanks to our guest blogger for the relaying the above experience!
John Richardson

The teaching of Topsnik 2 – 2016: #Greencard expatriation and the S. 877A "Exit Tax"

What! You want to abandon your Green Card and leave the USA!


Introduction – Introducing Gerd Topsnik – The World According to Facebook

“This case will be seen as the first of an (eventual) series of cases that determine how the definition of “long term resident” applies to Green Card holders. The case makes clear that if one does NOT meet the treaty definition of “resident” in the second country, that one
cannot use that treaty to defeat the “long term resident” test. A subsequent case is sure to expand on this issue. Otherwise, the case confirms that the S. 877A Exit Tax rules are “alive and well” and that the “5 year certification” test must be met to avoid “non-covered status”
Topsnik may or may not be a “bad guy”. But even “bad guys” are entitled to have the law properly applied to their facts. It would be very interesting to know how the court would have responded if Topsnik had been paying tax (a nice taxpayer) in Germany as a German resident.”

A nice summary of Topnik 1 and Topsnik 2


This is part of a series of posts on: (1) “tax residency“, (2) the use of “treaty tiebreakers” when an individual is a “tax resident” of more than one jurisdiction and (3) how to use “treaty tiebreakers” to end “tax residency” in an undesirable tax jurisdiction.
This is the second of the two Topsnik posts.
Topsnik 1 focused on the “tax residence” of Green Card Holders. The decision in Topsnik 1 is here:
topsnikdiv.halpern.TC.WPD
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