Somehow I missed this which is shocking because I don’t normally miss anything. I will also add this letter was CCed to our friend Kevin Shoom at the Department of Finance in Ottawa.
The U.S. through the introduction of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) and other means is targeting activities in tax havens – Canada, with its long history of collaboration and effective tax-treaty agreements with the U.S., is clearly not in that category.
In this context we believe the application of PFIC rules, now and in the future, to Canadian mutual funds has a significant adverse impact on American mutual fund investors who are living in Canada. These include: payment of a higher than required level of tax; potential levying of punitive tax charges; and significant compliance costs due to the complexity of the regime. As a result mutual funds may be avoided as an investment and individual securities chosen instead as the PFIC rules do not apply.
Under U.S. PFIC rules, dispositions of Canadian mutual funds along with certain distributions from these funds are taxed at the rates that apply to earned income (as opposed to the preferential tax rates that apply to capital gains). Depending on the timing of the distributions and/or dispositions, punitive interest charges may also be imposed.
The complexity of the PFIC regime leads to significant compliance costs both for the American investor resident in Canada and the Canadian mutual fund company. Our concern is that when faced with the prospect of the punitive tax treatment and/or the additional tax return preparation costs, American investors will choose to divest themselves of their Canadian mutual funds rather than deal with the alternative.
The IRS estimates that 5 to 7 million American citizens reside abroad. Of that total, approximately 1 million American citizens are estimated to reside in Canada. The implementation of FATCA beginning in 2014 will likely increase the number of Americans residing in Canada who will file US tax returns each year. Although the intent of FATCA is to catch Americans evading U.S. tax by investing offshore, these rules cast a wide net, and will include compliant Canadian taxpayers who are Americans by birth and have lived and worked the majority of their lives in Canada.
As financial services companies in Canada will comply with FATCA, there will be a much greater awareness of who is a U.S. tax filer and how the U.S. tax filings are complicated by the PFIC rules for mutual funds – an issue not well understood to date.