— U.S. Citizen Abroad (@USCitizenAbroad) August 30, 2016
Today the E.U. ruled that the “tax deal’” that Apple negotiated with the Government of Ireland violated the E.U. prohibition on “State Aid”. Understand that this decision was NOT about taxation. It was about the Government of Ireland giving a benefit to one company (zero tax) which they wouldn’t give to other companies. It just so happened that the benefit given was a generous tax deal.
Anxious to characterize the E.U. decision has a “tax related decision” (probably because the United States perspective is that EVERYTHING is about taxation), the Obama Treasury commissioned a “White Paper” which was released on August 24. (You can read it below.) The “White Paper” is evidence of a standard of hypocrisy which should be an embarrassment for even the administration of Barack Obama. One of the objections (among many) was that (assuming that this is about taxation, which it actually is not) the E.U. was engaging in “retroactive” tax enforcement.
See the following from page 15 of the Obama Treasury White Paper:
III. The Commission Should Not Seek Retroactive Recoveries Under Its New Approach
Where State aid involves impermissible subsidies provided through the tax system, the Commission requires the Member State to recover the amount of tax that, in the Commission’s view, should have been imposed in the first place. These amounts can be significant, since the Commission can require recovery for up to ten prior years, with interest for the period the illegal aid is granted until the aid is recovered.
In Fiat and Starbucks, the Commission has ordered the Member States to recover the allegedly unpaid tax with respect to prior tax years.
Because the Commission’s approach in the State Aid Cases is new and was not foreseeable by the relevant companies, recovery of past allegedly unpaid tax would constitute retroactive enforcement of a newly adopted approach to State aid.
With no indication of the Commission’s new approach, U.S. companies have been receiving transfer pricing rulings from EU Member States for decades and had no reason to doubt their legality. Under these circumstances, recovery of past allegedly unpaid tax would be inconsistent with EU legal principles and the Commission should void retroactive enforcement.
As I read the complaint of the Obama Treasury, I thought that …
III. The U.S. Treasury Should Not Seek Retroactive PFIC Penalties Under Its New Tax Treatment of Americans abroad
Where the investment in mutual funds involves impermissible tax deferral provided through the retirement planning system, the U.S. Treasury requires the American living abroad to pay the “interest charge” imposed on investing in a non-U.S. mutual – the amount of tax/interest that, in the Treasury’s view, should have been imposed in the first place. These amounts can be significant, since the United States Treasury can require recovery for many years dating back to 1986, with interest for the period that the illegal mutual fund was owned until the interest is recovered.
In Streamlined and OVDP, the IRS has ordered the taxpayer abroad to pay the allegedly unpaid interest charges with respect to prior tax years.
Because the U.S. Treasury’s approach in the treatment of Canadian (and other non-U.S. mutual funds is new and was not foreseeable by the taxpayers abroad, recovery of past allegedly unpaid tax and interest charges would constitute retroactive enforcement of a newly adopted approach to IRS treatment of Canadian mutual funds.
With no indication of the IRS’s new approach, U.S. citizens living abroad have been investing in non-U.S. mutual funds purchased from non-U.S. mutual fund companies for decades and had no reason to doubt their legality. Under these circumstances, recovery of past allegedly unpaid tax, interest and penalties would be inconsistent with fair tax principles and the U.S. Treasury should avoid retroactive enforcement.
There’s hypocrisy, extreme hypocrisy and the Obama administration!