I am increasingly convinced that the November 6 Presidential election is the most important election in my lifetime. If I am right, that would also make it the most important election in your lifetime. The United States of America – AKA “Form Nation” – is in a state of paralysis. Here we are October 29, 2012 and Americans don’t even know what rate of tax they will be paying next year. For example:
The Obama campaign is trying to draw an analogy between Mitt Romney and an Etch A Sketch. The idea being that Romney’s positions are forever evolving and are evolving in unpredictable directions. Don’t know whether that is true or not. An Etch A Sketch drawing is a drawing in a continuous line. At least we know where the line started. The line can always be traced back to its roots.
But, since the Obama campaign is comparing Romney to a toy, I suggest that President Obama should be compared to another toy – specifically: The Magic Slate.
The Magic Slate is a great thing. One can completely erase the original position. What position? It never existed to begin with. Example: Wasn’t there something about closing Guatonomo?
Shades of 1980. We have a weak Democrat incumbent up against a hard working Republican challenger.
Although I hate to predict election results, I am going to predict that:
Barack Obama will lose the November 6 election.
Note that I am not saying that I predict a Romney victory. I do predict an Obama loss. My reasoning is as follows: Continue reading
is an article that appeared in the Wall Street Journal on October 19, 2012. The article was reported at the Isaac Brock Society. The article is fairly good. But, what is really interesting are comments. The comments reveal that “Homelanders” and US citizens abroad life in “different worlds”. If you have the time, I suggest reading all the comments. But, since you don’t I have tweeted some of the more interesting ones.
To me, the comments confirm that one can understand the problems of life as a US citizen abroad if you have actually lived the life of one. I find the comments very discouraging. It seems to me that there are now two kinds of US citizens abroad:
1. Those who are not tax compliant and will keep their heads buried in the sand. This group is just hiding.
2. Those who are tax compliant and cannot live with the expense and time that continued US tax compliance requires. This group is renouncing their citizenship.
Either way, unless you live in the Homeland, US citizenship is a difficult cross to bear. Continue reading
Anecdotal evidence suggests that the majority of Americans Abroad and Green Card holders are not in compliance with their tax and FBAR filings. Much has been written on this in the last year. Of particular interest are a series of posts written by former IRS attorney Steven J. Mopsick.
In order the posts are:
Tax Justice for Americans Abroad – July 16/12
On January 9, 2012 the IRS reopened the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program “OVDP”. You should exercise caution when considering whether to enter OVDP. During the last year I have written a number of posts about OVDI and OVDP.
Here are some selected updates.
Financial planning is difficult for US citizens abroad. I have been writing a series of posts that describe the tax treatment of US citizens abroad in very specific circumstances. Few would imagine many of these circumstances. I have recently written about when US citizens abroad sell a principal residence and why US citizens abroad should not invest in TFSAs. I have written about why PFICs must be avoided.
My topic today is how the fluctuating exchange rates can create “phantom gains”. AARO has noted and proposed the following as part of legislative tax reform for US citizens abroad:
Based on current tax law, for Americans living abroad, currency fluctuations create U.S. dollar capital gains or losses even on daily transactions as well as on movements of short and long term investments done in local currencies. The exchange rate on the purchase date and the exchange rate on the sale date determine the capital gain for the U.S. Treasury.
Allow Bona fide foreign residents the option to choose a foreign currency as their functional currency and calculate all capital gains/ loss transactions in that currency before converting to U.S. dollars. The current average annual exchange rate with the U.S. dollar is then used to convert any gains/ losses into dollar amounts from the foreign currency. Since the use of a functional currency is allowed for foreign subsidiaries of U.S. corporations, it is only reasonable that a similar logic be applied to U.S. citizens abroad.
Obviously fluctuating FX rates are a problem for US citizens abroad. My inspiration for this post comes from the following comment by Lisa on the Isaac Brock Society site. Anybody who has taken out a mortgage loan will have to deal with this problem.
This blog is focused primarily on the liabilities of U.S. citizenship. U.S. citizenship is a liability because of the enormous number of unfair regulations imposed on U.S. citizens abroad. The U.S. government has burdened U.S. citizens abroad with such a regulatory stranglehold that few can afford to maintain U.S. citizenship. Renunciations of U.S. citizenship are soaring and widely seen as necessary as a form of protection from the U.S. government – a government that seems to be “hell bent” on destroying its citizens abroad. The U.S. government seems incapable of making the connection between its trade deficit and having U.S. citizens “on the ground” in other countries selling U.S. products. But who cares about U.S. citizens abroad? As a good American, I certainly don’t. How could anybody have the temerity to leave the homeland? After all, the best place for Americans is in America. (Only kidding)
That said, it is also clear that the government is imposing excessive burdens on Homelanders. The U.S. economy is in the dumps. This was largely caused by bad mortgages. By “bad mortgages” I mean mortgages that were the offered by banks who had reason to believe that the borrowers could not pay the money back. But, why would the banks care? After all many of the mortgages were guaranteed by the U.S. government.
Here is an interesting video that explains how mortgages led to the 2008 Global financial crisis. Continue reading
Or for those who are not twitter literate:
Thank you for your well reasoned and articulate comment on this issue.
Much appreciated. You are absolutely right that very lawyers understand this issue. The reason is simple: the cases that you refer to and the context in which they arose were a long time ago. To really understand this area of law, one must almost grow up with it. But the main message that people need to take from your comment is:
“To clarify: If indeed your US nationality was forfeit upon naturalisation in Canada and if it was restored (retroactively but
conditionally) by Supreme Court decision then that restoration was subject (under international law acceded in by the USG) to your consent. You probably gave that assent by applying for a new passport. You should have had legal counsel. Unfortunately there aren’t many lawyers competent in this arcane area to which I have devoted much of my life.”
Introduction – U.S. citizenship has opportunities, liabilities and disabilities
Living as a U.S. citizen outside the “Homeland” is at best difficult and at worst impossible.
Those who wish to remain U.S. citizens and live outside the United States must live by the motto:
“The difficult we do today. The impossible takes a bit longer”.
Many will see the difficulties as being too great, too time consuming and too expensive and will renounce their U.S. citizenship. At the very least, you should fully understands the opportunities, liabilities and disabilities of U.S. citizenship.
The difficulty of financial planning and investing – A Major Disability
As a U.S. citizen you are taxed in the same way and according to the same rules as U.S. citizens who live in the U.S. It is important to understand that the U.S. tax system is almost the exact opposite of Canada’s tax system. The reason is that:
Retirement planning in Canada is based on the principle of tax deferral. That is what an RRSP or TFSA is – a tax deferred investment plan. You will NOT (at least in the short term) pay tax on income earned inside one of these investment vehicles.
The U.S. tax system is designed to attack “tax deferral” (examples PFICS and Subpart F income) and will severely (and if you want to see how bad this is see this post about PFICs) punish you if you invest in these things.
By the way, if you are not already aware of this U.S. citizens should not invest in Canadian based mutual funds. (The are considered by the IRS to be PFICs.)
While I am on a roll, I will also remind you of the problems of:
Now, back to the main point of this post.
The Four Principles Of US Taxation Abroad
The U.S. tax system (at least in relation to U.S. citizens abroad) operates on the following four basic principles:
1. If something is “foreign” it should be punished.
2. The “principle of penalty” – There is no way that somebody can clean up innocent mistakes without paying penalties or the threat of penalties.
3. “No good deed goes unpunished” – Those who have filed (and are in the system) will have greater problems than those who have never filed. (Look at the new Streamlined compliance procedures for evidence of this – those who have filed cannot use the procedure to amend returns)
4. U.S. citizens abroad are tax cheats.
Those four principles sum it up.