Topic No. 858 Alien Tax Clearance – Low compliance rates, not enforced but still the law that aliens (resident or nonresident with some exceptions) are required to obtain a certificate of U.S. tax compliance – AKA "Sailing Permit") before leaving the USA https://t.co/jxHWedTjyY
— John Richardson – lawyer for "U.S. persons" abroad (@ExpatriationLaw) March 18, 2023
Once upon at time (well back in the last century) I knew a person who – along with three other people – shared the rental of a house. The agreement was that they would split the rent equally and that they would split the utilities equally. The agreement also stated that on the last day of each month the group would meet and each contribute their 1/4 share of the utilities owing. The agreement further stated that in the event that any person did not pay his share of the utilities in cash that his property could be used (fair market value assessment) to pay his share. One week prior to the last day of the month one of the four realized that he would not have the money to pay his share of the utilities. As a result, two days before the last day of the month, that individual:
1. Removed all of his belongings; and
2. Moved out of the house.
The legend was that the remaining three had to pay his share of the utilities and his property remained intact. By moving out and removing his property he was able to avoid paying a debt that he owed to the group.
Unsurprisingly the Internal Revenue Code contains provisions to prevent individuals from leaving the United States or removing property from the United States to defeat the payment of tax debts. This is of particular concern to the United States if the individual is an “alien”. The requirement to obtain a “sailing permit” to leave the United States is neither well known nor enforced. That said, the “sailing permit” (even with the existence of “withholding taxes”) remains the law!
— John Richardson – lawyer for "U.S. persons" abroad (@ExpatriationLaw) August 25, 2017
Well he won the lottery. Specifically he won the “Green Card” lottery. He and his wife came all the way from an Asian country to “Live The Dream” – specifically the dream of living in the United States of America.
He spoke English. His wife did not speak English. He believed in strict compliance in the law. His wife relied on him to ensure her compliance with the law.
As a Green Card holder he was vaguely aware that he could be deported if he were convicted of certain kinds of offenses. But, mainly he believed in compliance with the law for its own sake.
As a Green Card holder and as a U.S. resident he was subject to laws that were never explained to him. He didn’t realize that he was taxable on his WORLD income (including a small pension that he received from his country of citizenship).
In 2009 the “Offshore Jihad” began. He didn’t think of himself as having “offshore accounts”. After all, he was a just citizen of another country. Surely it could NOT be criminal to have a bank account in his country of origin. Did he have to report his small foreign pension to the IRS? That pension was in no way related to the United States of America? And then he learned about the alphabet soup of “reporting requirements” – Mr. FBAR, Uncle FATCA, etc. He began to learn what the “reporting requirements” were. But, the penalties (as least described) were certain. He could not believe the extent of the penalties.
It was at this moment that his “Oh My God” moment began. He was confused and mentally disorganized. At that moment, all of his life assumptions were reversed. Assumption 1: He had always believed that he was a good, moral “law abiding” person. How could it be that he was NOT in compliance with the law. He had no reason to believe that the reporting requirements would even exist. Welcome to the United States of America where any involvement with anything “foreign” makes you a presumptive criminal. Assumption 2: He had always believed that the United States was a “just nation”. How could the United States threaten to impose such penalties on a person in his situation?
Welcome to the United States of America where justice is NOT the norm. What’s a poor “Green Card” holder to do?
He was ill prepared to deal with the situation in which he found himself.
He strived to learn what he could. The IRS would not answer his questions – suggesting that he go to a “tax professional” The “tax professionals” gave him different, conflicting and contradictory answers.
His greatest frustration was that he could NOT completely understand what was expected of him – although he did understand the threat of penalties, penalties and more penalties.
He eventually decided that he had to move back to his home country. He did this NOT to escape U.S. taxation, but because:
He could not completely understand what was required of him to be U.S. tax complaint; and
He was worried that he would die and leave his wife in a situation where she would not know how to be U.S. tax compliant.
In order to prepare for leaving he:
entered the streamlined program (domestic version) and “back filed” for 3 years
stayed in America for two more years so that he could certify the “five years of tax compliance” when he handed in the I-407
even filed the “Sailing Permit” (The 1040C) that is required of ALL aliens (resident or nonresident) when they leave the United States
He in now trying to file his final return and 8854. Fortunately he will not be subject to the S. 877A Exit Tax. He is currently focusing on staying alive long enough to complete his U.S. tax filings. He feels that it is important that he NOT die and leave the U.S. tax compliance problem to his wife. His emotional state:
Like many he is living in a state of fear. I pointed out to him that he was a small insignificant person and that nobody in the U.S. Government cared about him. He thanked me for telling him that “nobody in the U.S. Government cared about him”. He said that it was the first time in his life that he felt good that nobody cared about him. Epilogue:
One more day. One more life ruined. One more person chased out of America because of the Internal Revenue Code.
His greatest wish is that he lives long enough to file Form 8854 to log him and his wife out of America.
Nobody, but nobody should move to America without reading the fine print!
#YouCantMakeThisUp! John Richardson