Category Archives: U.S. tax issues

Poll: Is it common for #Americansabroad to have a higher U.S. income tax bill than a comparably situated Homelander?

Imagine the following two people:

We are comparing “Homelander Ted” to “Expat Benedict Arnold”.

Assume that “Homelander Ted” lives and works in the Homeland and purchases in ONLY U.S. dollars. He would not consider using any other currency.

Assume the Expat Benedict Arnold” (having escaped from the Homeland) lives and works in Canada and purchases in ONLY Canadian dollars. He would NOT consider using any other currency.

Assume that each of “Homelander Ted” and “Expat Benedict Arnold” own a home in their respective countries of residence, have employment income, engage in personal finance which includes retirement planning. “Homelander Ted” commits “personal finance” ONLY in the Homeland. “Expat Benedict Arnold” commits “personal finance abroad”.

Assume that “Homelander Ted” and “Expat Benedict Arnold” have financial situations that are comparable in their respective countries of residence.

To be specific both of them:

1. Have a principal residence in that they have owned for more than two years and that was sold on November 30 of the year. Assume further that there was NO capital gain measured in local currency. Assume that the sale included a discharge of an existing mortgage and that interest was paid on the mortgage up to the November 30 sale. Assume further that they each carry a “casualty” insurance policy on the property.

2. Have employment income and have pensions provided under the terms of their respective employment contracts.

3. Have and use mutual funds as a retirement planning vehicle.

4. Have a 401(k) plan in the USA and an RRSP in Canada.

5. Have spouses and must consider whether to use the “married filing separately” or the “married” filing category. “Expat Benedict Arnold” is married to an “alien”.

6. Give their respective spouses a gift of $500,000 on January 1 of the year.

 

U.S. Tax owing – versus TAX MITIGATION PROVISIONS

Assume further that each of “Homelander Ted” and “Expat Benedict Arnold” each prepare a U.S. tax return. Imagine that the Internal Revenue Code does NOT have (TAX MITIGATION PROVISIONS) either the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion (Internal Revenue Code S. 911) or the Foreign Tax Credits (Internal Revenue Code 901). Imagine further that there is no U.S. Tax Treaty that mitigates tax payable to the USA under these circumstances.

The question is how much tax “Expat Benedict Arnold” would be required to pay the U.S. Government if there were no TAX MITIGATION provisions.

How likely is that without the TAX MITIGATION PROVISIONS that the “Expat Benedict Arnold” would be required to pay HIGHER U.S. taxes than “Homelander Ted”. In other words:

Does the Internal Revenue Code:

First, impose higher taxes on “Expat Benedict Arnold” for the crime of committing “personal finance abroad“?

Second, mitigate those higher taxes through one of the TAX MITIGATION PROVISIONS described above?

Are U.S. Taxes (not including foreign taxes) actually higher for Americans abroad than for Homelanders?

Please consider the questions (without considering tax paid by “Expat Benedict Arnold” to Canada) in the following poll:

How does the U.S. tax bill of an American Abroad compare to the U.S. tax bill of a comparably situated Homelander?
(polls)

 

Advertisements

Snapshot in time: Eyewitness account of evolution of Schedule B and the #FBAR Form TDF 90-22.1 from 1981 to 1986

The above tweet references a fascinating discussion about Mr. #FBAR in the early years prior to the “The FBAR Fundraiser“.

Interestingly for the years 2003 to 2008 (if memory serves), IRS Publication 54 did NOT reference the FBAR requirement.

OAP says
October 11, 2016 at 4:23 pm

@heidi, @pacifica777

Now you’ve peaked my curiosity, and I’ve done a sad thing. My first filing from abroad was in 1981 and I’m sure I filed an FBAR, so I’ve dug out all the old records.

1981

A. Schedule B – It contains Part III and the question about financial accounts in a foreign country.
(I believe the instructions for Sch. B referenced FBAR.)

B. FBAR, top instructions – “This form blah, blah blah. You are not required to file a report if the aggregate value of the accounts did not exceed $1,000.”
(That’s not a typing error, it says $1,000.)

C. FBAR Line 9 – “ If you had a financial interest in one or more….accounts which are required to be reported, and the total maximum value of the accounts exceeded $10,000 during the year,….”
(Note total maximum value of the accounts, not maximum aggregate value of the accounts, and $10,000 figure.)

D. Instructions on back of FBAR – Unfortunately, for 1981 I only have the top copy and not the back.

1982
A. Schedule B – It contains Part III and the question about financial accounts in a foreign country.

B. FBAR, top instructions – Same as 1981

C. FBAR Line 9 – Same as 1981

D. Instructions on back of FBAR – Unfortunately, top copy only..

1983

A. Schedule B – It contains Part III and the question about financial accounts in a foreign country.
(For 1983, includes directions to FBAR instructions and now asks for which countries the accounts are located in.)

B. FBAR, top instructions – “This form blah, blah blah. You are not required to file a report if the aggregate value of the accounts did not exceed $5,000.”
(That’s not a typing error, it says $5,000.)

C. FBAR Line 9 – Same as 1981.

D. Instructions on back of FBAR, Who must file – Each United States Person who has financial interest in or signature authority or other authority over bank, …..or other financial accounts in a foreign country which exceeds $5,000 in aggregate value at any time during the calendar year, must report that relationship each calendar year by filing TD F 90.22.1….”
(Note $5,000 figure.)

1984

A. Schedule B – Same as 1983

B. FBAR, top instructions – “This form blah, blah blah. You are not required to file a report if the aggregate value of the accounts did not exceed $5,000.”
(That’s not a typing error, it says $5,000.)

C. FBAR Line 9 – “ If you had a financial interest in one or more….accounts which are required to be reported, and the total maximum value of the accounts exceeded $10,000 during the year,….”
(Note total maximum value of the accounts, not maximum aggregate value of the accounts.)

D. Instructions on back of FBAR, Who must file – Same as 1983. ($5,000)

1985

A. Schedule B – Same as 1983.

B. FBAR, top instructions – “This form blah, blah blah. You are not required to file a report if the aggregate value of the accounts did not exceed $5,000.”
(That’s not a typing error, it says $5,000.)

C. FBAR Line 9 – Same as 1981.

D. Instructions on back of FBAR, Who must file – Unfortunately, only top copy.

1986

A. Schedule B – Same as 1983.

B. FBAR, top instructions – “This form blah, blah blah. You are not required to file a report if the aggregate value of the accounts did not exceed $10,000.”
(It now says $10,000.)

C. FBAR Line 9 – Same as 1981.

D. Instructions on back of FBAR, Who must file – Unfortunately, I only have the top copy.

From my limited files confusion reigns. For 1983, as for 1981, (C) FBAR Line 9 mentions “total maximum value of accounts exceeded $10,000″, but the instructions on the back of the FBAR states “which exceeds $5,000 in aggregate value at any time during the calendar year”. The (B) Top instructions don’t mention $10,000 until 1986.

I’m now off to find a life.

Relinquished US citizenship in the 1970s? Are you still a U.S. “Tax Slave”?

The above tweet references a comment at the Isaac Brock Society.

Returning to the purpose of this post:

The question asked by Stephen Kish is how should Caroline be advised. Mr. Reed proposes two interpretations of S. 877A which he calls the “literal approach” and the “common sense” approach. One problem of reading articles written by the tax compliance community is, that by focusing on the theoretical, they minimize the “real life” consequences to the people they advise. So, what are the “real life consequences?” The “literal approach” results in the destruction of your life. The common sense approach means that you still have a life. (Which do you think is the better approach?)

Here is why.

Rather than frame the issue as “the literal approach” vs. the “common sense approach”, the issue should be framed as:

Approach 1 – Your Life Is Over: Under this “literal” interpretation of S. 877A, you poor dumb former American will have to turn your life savings over to the IRS (and pay the adviser to help you do this) because you did not go out and obtain a CLN. It doesn’t matter that a CLN was not required by law. It doesn’t matter that you didn’t know what one was. It doesn’t matter that the U.S. Government was threatening you with the loss of your U.S.citizenship if you became Canadian. It doesn’t matter that in some cases the U.S. was denying entry to the USA to those who had become Canadians. What matters is ONLY that this is what the statute says NOW!!!!!!! So, you better step right up and turn your life savings over to the IRS.

Approach 2 – It’s Your LIfe! Why don’t you keep it!: Let some “common sense” prevail. You were one of the smart ones. Because you relinquished U.S. citizenship – according to the clear laws of the USA in the 1970s – you are not affected by this new law. The only people affected by this new law are the “dumb bunnies” who decided it was a good idea to be a U.S. citizen AND were U.S. citizens when this law took effect on June 16, 2008. I don’t think you should draw attention to yourself. You might want to document the circumstances that led to your becoming a Canadian citizen in 1978. When documenting those circumstances, you probably should make it clear that you were intending to relinquish U.S. citizenship. But, either way you have to sleep. So, you might as well – Sleep well!. There is no good reason to turn your assets over to the IRS and pay your adviser to help you do it.

A fair reading of the legal commentary on this issue appears to be:

One group of lawyers (including the three who commented on this article) do NOT believe that the “literal” (or as Michael Miller says, the “absurd”) approach is correct.

A second group of lawyers thinks that the “literal” approach MIGHT be correct. But, they aren’t really sure. Even though they are not sure, for reasons known only to them, they usher clients into turning their assets over to the IRS. Hmmmm, …

Given the existing commentary and lack of certainty (on the part of those who recognize the “literal approach”), what I can’t understand is:

1. How any adviser could possibly advise a client that the “literal” approach is correct (turn your assets over to the IRS). Yet, we know that a very large number of people are being advised to do just that. (Note that, since June 16, 2008 a CLN is most certainly required lose U.S. tax subjectness. But NOT before.)

2. How any client, given the existence of conflicting views, could possibly allow themselves to be guided into accepting that they should turn their assets over to the IRS. (Actually I know the answer. It’s because there is ONLY one certainty in life. If you turn over all your assets to the IRS, then you will never have tax problems again. But, you won’t have a life either and then you will have a different set of tax problems.)

This reality notwithstanding:

There is/are a large number of people who clearly relinquished U.S. citizenship many years before the current laws, who have allowed themselves to be guided into the “literal appraoch” – turning their assets over to the IRS.

Conclusion: The result that you get will be determined by your choice of adviser. Think about it!

Exactly why does the US Government hate #Americansabroad so much? (Homelanders too)

Once upon at time, there appeared a comment that was so good that it deserved a post of its own (from Russell) …

Good points that highlight, yet again, the absurdity and detachment of the U.S. political system from 9 million of their citizens now living in an ever globalized and ever more competitive world. The U.S. political class and presidential candidates disinterest in this ever-growing and important group of citizens only speaks to the total stupidity, general ignorance, global unawareness, profound provincialism and confirms a totally dysfunctional and archaic system that is today the United States. A country that attacks and harms its diaspora and through its laws has succeeded in turning its own citizens into international pariahs with international banks, in international business partnerships, in marriage and in the general perception outside of the U.S.

I recently met with three start-ups at a fair in Germany, two from the UK and one from Sweden. In my work as a headhunter they were hiring me to find them some talented people for their growing and successful startups. In all three cases, and each in separate meetings with me, the startups told me that they did not want any Americans or Europeans with U.S. Green cards or passports. They were all wisely warned by their banks and financial advisors not to bring any U.S. Persons into their business. Two of them knew the reasons and the risk that any American presence would bring to the business. The other one learned the hard way. They had an American investor who got them into his FATCA mess, reporting his holdings and his American tax consultant demanding the business’s bank details and the personal details of the owners. They returned his investment, threw him out and agreed never again to get involved with any U.S. persons in their business. This is now widely known and even if FATCA and all of the other reporting requirements for Americans would be eliminated, the damage is already done. The perception out there is to avoid hiring any Americans and also avoiding their investments. They are too much trouble and their government is an intrusive bully that thinks it can control the entire world. That spirit is so foreign to the young brilliant startup minds out there today. The U.S. has become a has-been and definitely not seen as a cool place anymore.

The world has moved on and the U.S. politicians and presidential candidates still haven’t realized that the world has changed since their anachronistic citizenship based tax system dating from the Civil War. Truly, a nation of idiots.

I wonder what Russell really thinks.

Part 1 – Congressional and administrative barriers to exercising the right of expatriation – the relinquishment fee

The election of Barack Obama ushered in the era of “Change you can believe in”. For Americans abroad it is has resulted in the need to relinquish U.S. citizenship. Although the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that there is a constitutional right to relinquish U.S. citizenship and the 1868 “Right to Expatriate” statute is still on the books, the United States continues to impose barriers to relinquishing U.S. citizenship.

This will be a series of post designed to explain the administration (think Obama administration) and Congressional barriers (think laws) to relinquishing U.S. citizenship.

 

There are at least three categories of barriers. To be specific there are:

  1. Financial – Barriers imposed by the cost of relinquishing U.S. citizenship
  2. Mental – Barriers imposed by a requirement that that the potential renunciant “understand what he/she is renouncing”
  3. Physical – Barriers imposed by the requirement that the renunciation take place outside the United States and at a U.S. Consulate

Each of these barriers is deserving of a separate post.

Today, we will begin considering the financial barriers to renouncing U.S. citizenship.

To put it simply, it is far from “free” to relinquish the citizenship of the “Land of the Free”.

Although the administrative fee to relinquish U.S. citizenship is on only one (and for many the smallest) component of relinquishing U.S. citizenship, it imposes a barrier for many. The current fee for relinquishing U.S. citizenship is $2350 USD. As Robert Wood has discussed, the United States has the highest relinquishment of citizenship fee in the world. (Check out the comments to his article.) It is reasonable to conclude that the purpose of the fee is to discourage people from exercising their right to expatriate. It is clear, that many people Americans abroad have difficulty affording that fee. See this recent Facebook discussion at Keith Redmond’s American Expatriates group. It’s clear that many families are beginning to include “U.S. citizenship renunciation” in the family budget.

Renunciation Fund – “Put a little love in your heart” – A possible humanitarian gesture …

Next – tax compliance fees and the relinquishment of U.S. citizenship.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FATCA – FBAR – OVDP: Comparing inside looking out (Homelanders) to outside looking in

https://twitter.com/USCitizenAbroad/status/647391630773751808

This is really worth  a watch. By the way, the prevailing view is that the Homeland does NOT care about how FATCA affects Americans abroad.

 

 

Few people believe either the form or the extent of the way USA abuses #Americansabroad

I came across an interesting discussion at Keith Redmond’s American Expatriates Facebook group.

The discussion starts here:

Interesting observation for the week. I have had the opportunity to explain to my fellow Australians the dire situation we face as US expats at the hands of the US government. I get the impression that the people I have told are doubting my facts because they find the unfairness of CBT so frigging unbelievable, the intrusiveness of FATCA so arrogant it couldn’t possibly be true. The shock on their faces is somewhat gratifying. So this is the type of “ambassadors” the US has made of 8.7 million  expats.

I encourage you to read the comments. I agree with this. In my experience the reality of the abusiveness of the U.S. government towards it’s citizens abroad that many people do NOT even believe it’s possible.

Confession: I didn’t think it was possible either.

Renounce and rejoice!