The following was submitted in the form of a comment:
I’d like to have some opinions about the bill that I’m writing to replace citizenship with residence-based taxation. Maybe someone could move this to a different page if it gets too long. By the way, I’m about one third of the way through with the relevant sections in the Internal Revenue Code.
1. To define residence, I am using the current substantial presence test with all of its rules and exceptions. This is the definition that is currently used for foreigners without a green card, so I am just applying it to everyone. I am also adding an exception to consider US government or military employees abroad as residents, because their salaries are sourced in the US and they would pay higher taxes if they were considered nonresidents. I am also adding that US citizens and permanent residents who don’t satisfy the substantial presence test may elect to be treated as residents for tax purposes by simply filing the normal resident tax forms (1040). I understand that there are some cases where this may be beneficial, and I don’t want to increase taxes on anyone.
2. Because some people may elect to be treated as US residents even if not acually residing in the US, I am keeping the foreign earned income exclusion and the exclusion of income from US possessions available. It may be hard for you to imagine, but there are situations where using the exclusions is better than being a nonresident. For example, this occurs for those residing in a low-tax country or US possession who have income from US sources and a low total income.
3. To be consistent with the concept that citizenship should not be used for taxation, I am removing the requirements that certain dependents be “citizens or residents”. If I changed the requirements to only “residents”, some people might not be able to claim dependents that they currently claim, and again I don’t want to increase taxes on anyone.
4. Also to be consistent with eliminating the use of citizenship, I am repealing the sections that allow higher taxes on those whose country of citizenship or residence impose higher taxes on Americans. (I don’t think this provision has ever been used anyway.)
5. Again to be consistent, I am removing the requirement that the spouse be a US citizen for the estate tax exemption. I am also allowing the exemption from US estate taxes to all residents of US possessions, not just who were born there.
6. I was trying to restructure the exit tax based on termination of residence, but I decided to repeal it completely. My understanding is that the main reason for the exit tax in the US is not to collect revenue on unrealized gains, but to penalize rich people who renounce US citizenship to avoid taxes, because certain dual citizens, permanent residents with less than 8 years of residence, any residents only by virtue of the substantial presence test, and any people not considered “rich” are exempt from it, while those who do not certify current tax compliance are not exempt even if not “rich”. The whole idea of renouncing citizenship because of taxes does not exist in a residence-based system. One could argue that taxes would then be a motivation for terminating residence, but I’m not aware of any US state that imposes an exit tax. Some countries have foreign exchange control but not an exit tax per se. As far as I know, only Canada has a real exit tax, and the Netherlands can only impose it under a treaty with the new country of residence. I also don’t agree with taxing unrealized gains because they are not final and could decrease, just like what happened to Eduardo Saverin’s Facebook shares. Besides, the gains may be taxed by the new country of residence once realized; if it doesn’t tax capital gains, it probably collects more revenue from other taxes or other sources instead, or it spends less. Likewise, I decided to repeal the estate tax on inheritance from “covered expatriates”.
7. I am getting tempted to include in the bill a complete repeal of FBAR, FATCA and even the whole estate tax. It’s very easy to write “section #### is repealed”. But those are separate issues and I guess I shouldn’t try to fix everything, I don’t even know if my bill will be introduced at all. I think it’s better leave the unconstitutionality of the FBAR penalties for the courts to decide, a repeal of FATCA for the banks to lobby, and a repeal of the estate tax for the Republicans in Congress. Citizenship-based taxation is the issue that no one else cares about.