Are you “Coming To America” by entering the U.S. tax system as an American Abroad?
The “How To Come Into U.S. Tax Compliance” book for Americans abroad
John Richardson, LL.B, J.D.
I have contributed to establishing the new “Citizenship Taxation” site. As part of launching that site, I have written a series of posts providing relevant information (in a broad sense) about how Americans abroad, who did not know about their U.S. tax obligations, can come into U.S. tax compliance.
Sooner or later, it’s likely that many people will receive a FATCA letter. In your panic, you should be careful. There are a number of things Americans abroad should consider before consulting a lawyer or tax professional.
This series of posts developed from my “Educational Outreach” program for Americans abroad. It is an effort to respond in a practical way to the questions that people have.
The chapters of “Coming Into Compliance Book” are:
Chapter 1 – “Accepting Cleanliness – Understanding U.S. Citizenship Taxation – To remain a U.S. citizen or to renounce U.S. citizenship”
Chapter 2 – “But wait, I can’t renounce U.S. citizenship if I’m not a U.S. citizen. How do I know if I am a U.S. citizen?”
Chapter 3 – “No matter what, I must come into U.S. tax compliance – Coming into U.S. tax compliance for those who have NOT been filing U.S. taxes”
Chapter4 – “Oh no, I have attempted U.S. tax compliance by filing tax returns. I have just learned that I have made mistakes. How do I fix those mistakes?”
Chapter 5 – “I don’t want to renounce U.S. citizenship. How to live outside the United States as a U.S. tax compliant person”
Chapter 6 – “I do want to renounce U.S. citizenship. This is too much for me. How the U.S. “Exit Tax” rules might apply to me if I renounce”
Chapter 7 – “I really wish I could do retirement planning like a “normal” person. But, I’m an American abroad. I hear I can’t invest in mutual funds in my country of residence. The problem of Americans Abroad and non-U.S. mutual funds explained.
Chapter 8 – “We all have to live somewhere. Five issues – “The problem of Americans Abroad and non-U.S. real estate explained”
Chapter 9 – “Receiving U.S. Social Security – #Americansabroad and entitlement to Social Security”
Chapter 10 – “Paying into Social Security – #Americansabroad, double taxation and the payment of “Self-employment” taxes”
Chapter 11 – “Saving the children – INA S. 301 – “Residence” vs. “Physical Presence” and transmission of US citizenship abroad”
Chapter 12 – “Issues surrounding 401k, IRAs, Roths and Americans Abroad”
Chapter 13 – “Married filing separately” and the “Alien Spouse” – the “hidden tax” on #Americansabroad”
Chapter 14 – “The Obamacare “Net Investment Income Tax” – Pure double taxation of #Americansabroad”
Chapter 15 – “To be “FORMWarned is to be “FORMArmed” – It’s “FORM Crime” stupid!!”
Chapter 16 – “Most “Form Crime” penalties can be abated if there is “reasonable cause””
Chapter 17 – “How to get “credit” for taxes (foreign) paid to your country of residence”
Chapter 18 – “I don’t pay taxes in the country where I live. Can I “exclude” my foreign income from the U.S. tax return?”
Chapter 19 – “Is it better to take the “Foreign Tax Credit” or the “Foreign Earned Income Exclusion” – a discussion”
Chapter 20 – “The child tax credit: take it, leave it or how to take it”
Chapter 21 – “How #Americansabroad can continue to use the #IRA as a retirement planning vehicle”
Chapter 22 – “To share or not to share” – Should a U.S. citizen share a bank account with a “non-citizen AKA alien spouse? – Reporting Edition”
The “Coming Into Compliance Book” is designed to provide an overview of how to bring some sanity to your life.
Coming to America
You may remember the old Eddie Murphy movie about “Coming To America”.
Welcome to the confusing and high stakes rules for U.S. taxation and Americans abroad.
The United States has the most complex, confusing, most penalty ridden and most difficult anti-deferral regime in the world. McGill Professor Allison Christians has noted that Americans abroad are both:
“deemed to be permanently resident in the United States for tax compliance and financial reporting purposes” …
“subject to the most complex aspects of the U.S. tax code regardless of any activity in the United States, and facing extraordinary compliance costs and disclosure risks even for nil returns”
Although Americans abroad are deemed to be resident in the United States, their assets are treated as “offshore”. In addition Americans abroad are subject to taxation in their country of residence.
All of this means that:
1. Americans abroad are subject to the worst and most punitive aspects of the U.S. tax system (there is no Homelander who is treated as badly as an American abroad); and
2. Denied most benefits of the tax systems of their country of residence.
To put it simply, Americans abroad get the worst of all possible tax systems.
The most horrific aspects of the U.S. tax system are saved for Americans abroad. Prepare to be shocked. As one commenter at the Isaac Brock Society site recently said: