After my post regarding how CBC news article carried IRS water, Calgary411 has published two email responses from Ian Johnson of CBC News*, which explain why they corrected the initial article. I was glad for the corrections. However, the letters also explained the CBC rationale behind the articles. In the first letter, Johnson wrote:
This story was written as part of a CBC income tax season editorial package. It was intended as a primer for Canadians who were born in the U.S. or who hold dual citizenship, in order to provide them with basic information about actions being taken by the IRS that they might not be aware of, and which could have direct tax implications for them.
In a second letter, he repeats this same reasoning.
I do want to point out again that while the taxation story itself has many interesting and important angles, this particular story was written specifically for a tax season editorial package and was intended to be a basic primer for American-born or dual-citizenship Canadians who are unaware of the US taxation issue. It wasn’t meant to be an examination of the impact the IRS actions are having, which I agree is extensive – there’s only so much ground that can be covered in a single story. This is a major issue affecting an enormous number of Canadians, and you can be assured it’s not the only piece of coverage CBC has offered, or will continue to offer, particularly as we approach the FATCA dates.
Now, I want to say that I really appreciate the corrections that the CBC made. But I do not believe that this complex issue needs a primer of this sort. A “primer” (pronounced with a short “i”) is typically a short book which helps a person get started on subject. For example, the Latin language has numerous primers which explain the basics of grammar and provide a vocabulary of the most common words so that a person might begin to read the language. A news article may be a “primer” only because of the dumbing down of a population: the sort of the basics of what you need to know in only 800 words. Right. A Latin primer takes a year of intensive study to learn. This is exactly why my description of the original article as carrying the IRS water is so accurate. The article is a primer only in the sense that the it would bear more appropriately the following title: “What the IRS wants you to know so that their shake down of Canadians might lead to better revenue collection in Canada”.
Do you want a true “primer”? Just Me, the most famous person from the 2009 OVDI, has some suggestions in the post that we have left at the top of this blog: The OVDI Drudgery for Minnows. There is no way to learn this subject by reading a single article. Indeed, the knowledge that one would gain from such an article is only enough to be dangerous. After reading similar articles in the media in 2011, numerous Canadians entered the 2011 OVDI program, and spent thousands of dollars on lawyers, accountants and IRS taxes and fines. This is exactly what the IRS wants. They want the media to publicize their requirements and their “amnesty” programs so that unsuspecting people become fearful and hand over money that they would never need to pay. If I were to do a primer article, I would offer the title, “Canadian residents should tell the IRS to shove their demands where the sun don’t shine!”. Why? Because (1) the demands are unconstitutional, unreasonable and unethical; (2) the Canadian government has offered the following protections: not to collect tax for IRS from Canadian citizens; not to collect FBAR fines from anyone; (3) the best protection that Canadians can have is to get their asses (i.e., their persons) and their assets (investments, condos, homes) out of the United States. I would mention that the recent application of insane extra-territorial tax laws are a casus belli–an attempt to extract tribute from other countries. I would also invite Canadians who have extensive savings (e.g., RRSP, RESP, RDSP, TFSA) in Canada but work in the United States, to come home as soon as possible. I would not recommend that a Canadian fill out an FBAR or enter the OVDI. I do not believe that the United States government is acting in a lawful manner. An unjust law is no law. Canadians may have to take seemingly drastic measures in order to protect their life savings. That is the article that I would write.
The legacy media still has attention from the public. But they cover few issues with sufficient depth that they can be understood. Their reporters are spread to thin. Thus, when it comes to the issues affecting the Isaac Brock Society, we can only expect more IRS propaganda from the legacy media.
*Ian Johnson is CBCnews.ca Senior Producer for Features, Special Projects, and for Technology and Science coverage.
I agree. One article by the CBC does very little for Canadians. More needs to be done. I know I was one of those who entered the 2011 OVDI based on news cast and advice from a well-meaning American Tax lawyer. I still think the best we can do is to flood our MPs and MLAs with letters about our stories, fears and discontents. We need to be a united force, not just across Canada, but the rest of the world.
It is true that I have taken the steps to renounce, so my feeling is I’m done. However, my task now is to make sure Canadians know they should not put anyone with Dual US citizenship in a position of signing authority or any kind of business partnership. As we both know this exposes Canadians to the IRS through FBAR reporting. Also, I am concerned about Canadian politicians who hold dual US citizenship. I think this should be an issue in any upcoming provincial and federal election.
As for administering the blog, that is not my skill, sorry Petros.
We should also be writing to Ms. Jennifer Stoddart, Canada’s Privacy Commissioner regarding the potential infringement on our privacy due to FATCA regulations. Hopefully, Ms. Stoddart can then remind all of our MP’s about our Charter Rights and Right to Privacy
@itacaf, tiger: I agree “we need to be a united force, not just across Canada, but the rest of the world.” Governments around the world need to put pressure on the USA to stop its citizenship based taxation, especially since the USA is the only democracy in the world that harasses its expats with this ridiculous, unjust law which is thievery.
Flaherty has stated that the CRA will not collect FBAR fines etc. but that is not good enough. Canada should demand that the USA stop citizenship based taxation entirely. Canada does not do this to its expats living in the USA, so I do not understand why the USA is able to get away with their
Great point about Canadian politicians who hold dual Canadian/U.S. citizenship. I hadn’t thought before about the angle of “divided loyalties” and representing Canadians. I mentioned to my oldest son, who really loves the Green party, that Elizabeth May seemed to be keeping rather quiet on this whole issue and did not seem to respond to letters written to her about the issue. He was shocked and dismayed. Does the lack of response indicate she is okay with FATCA and the IRS taxation of Candians and all the other forms they require? Because if it does, perhaps an issue needs to be made about this.
CBC just needs to allow publicly visible comments so that all of you can post links to the blog!
Personally I go a lot further than saying that Canadian politicians should not be dual citizens of Canada and the US. I’ve always believed that no MP, public servant, judge, police officer, or military person should be a dual citizen (of any country, not just the US). All these people are supposed to serve the CANADIAN public and be loyal to CANADA, and their salaries and pensions are paid solely by CANADIAN (both citizen and resident) taxpayers. My fellow taxpayers deserved, and got, my absolutely undivided loyalty and allegiance when I was a federal public servant. From Day One (I became a Canadian and relinquished my USC some eight months before I got my job with the feds). And they still have it.
A hint for anyone who is filing for relinquishment and is including as an expatriating act service in Canadian public service (federal, municipal, or local) or in the Canadian Forces. If you agree with my point and can swear you’ve always agreed with it since committing your expatriating act, I think it’s worth including this point in a sworn affidavit submitted as part of your documentation to State.
@ Schubert: I agree 100% with your statement that serving Canada in government should preclude dual citizenship. In my own statement of relinquishment, I made that your very point, only in regard to the oath of citizenship:
There are probably a lot of people who have trouble with dual citizenship in public service. Certain party leaders in Canada have tried to be duals and I think it weakens their candidacy.
Even in the United States, Obama’s dual citizenship with both Kenya and Indonesia was never brought up in the media much, since it would have scuttled his run for president. That’s why the whole issued was buried in deafening silence. Yet it makes no sense that in the United States, certain levels of security clearance require non-duals, and the president himself is so patently and obviously a dual citizen of two other countries.
That’s something I personally found really offensive about suddenly being considered to a citizen of a country I’m not a citizen of.
As a delegate to national policy conferences of my political party, at which we debate and formulate party platform, I sure as heck wasn’t considering the interests of the US or any foreign country. To me, that would be an outrageous thing to do … so I would sure wouldn’t want to be perceived as doing it either.
Having an interest in politics and wishing to get really involved was one of the many reasons why I chose *not* to be dual citizen and one of the many reasons it is so important to me and I am so adamant that I have not been a USC all these years.
Any talk about the problems of dual citizenship are addressed right on the US Embassy’s own website: “The U.S. Government acknowledges that dual nationality exists but does not encourage it as a matter of policy because of the problems it may cause. Claims of other countries on dual national U.S. citizens may conflict with U.S. law, and dual nationality may limit U.S. Government efforts to assist citizens abroad. The country where a dual national is located generally has a stronger claim to that person’s allegiance.”
Yep, that’s what most of us believe. That’s why most of us haven’t considered ourselves US citizens for years or decades–because the whole concept of a dual citizen makes no sense whatsoever. But, of course, we’re not dealing with logic with US or IRS.
I agree with Schubert about public jobs. Most of my career was spent working for a provincial government. I only ever considered myself a Canadian when applying and working there. That was only logical.
I was actually quite aghast when one of my management colleagues (who had come to Canada as a draft dodger!) waited until 1995 when the US recognized dual citizenship to become Canadian.
I’m going to have to disagree a bit with the anti-dual nationality consensus that has begun to form here. Hardline rules about restricting public jobs to those with a single citizenship cannot always be voluntarily obeyed. It is nigh impossible to renounce Greek and Moroccan citizenship, and Argentina makes renunciants travel to Buenos Aires in person, probably to make it extremely difficult to actually renounce. Not everyone could renounce citizenship even if they wanted to, and many people inherit multiple citizenships when they are born involuntarily.
I think what is more important is that somebody with dual citizenship in a public position should not openly exercise any of the rights of the other citizenship: ie should not vote or use the foreign passport, etc. I think that a lot of the fuss over politicians with dual citizenship is all over nothing. Nobody complained that Arnold was working against Californian interests with Austria in mind whilst he was governor. Did Canadians makes as much fuss over John Turner’s dual British-Canadian citizenship as they have with Mulcair? Even in Mulcair’s case he said that the only reason he took out French citizenship was so that he go through EU immigration controls with his French wife and children together. I don’t think that he is planning a French takeover of Canada!
Within the EU at least I wouldn’t see any problem whatsoever with somebody in a public position holding dual nationality between two EU member states, since both entail almost identical benefits and responsibilities. The European Court of Justice has even outlawed US-style double taxation of dual EU nationals within the EU, so there are absolutely no dangers to holding multiple EU passports. Lots of the current generation of politicians or their children already hold multiple EU nationalities due to the intermix in Brussels and elsewhere of the European elite, so I imagine that this will either become a huge issue or become entirely a non-issue. For the moment dual EU nationality seems to be of no concern as far as I can tell.
Obviously a lot of this has to do with the countries in mind. Nobody seems to care about a British-Canadian, but a Russian-Georgian, British-Argentinian or a French-Canadian (it appears!) would be more suspected of possible issues if they were in a government position. Everything is subjective and dependent upon the relationship of both countries and their shared history. As long as a politician doesn’t vote or use the other country’s passport and publicly identifies only with his or her country of residence, then that is good enough for me.
That is shocking re your management colleague. Hard to believe that someone would leave over a political issue and then not become a citizen of the country where they reside. I also have an issue regarding “the right to vote” in the country where you reside. That “right” was and still is important to me. That issue and being a “spiritual draft dodger” is why I became Canadian in 1972. I have certainly never totally agreed with every Canadian and provincial politician that I may have voted for in an election, but I always felt that I would have no right to complain about them, if I had not voted. I even remember having my son drive me to a polling station to vote in a Provincial election, the day after I had gall bladder surgery.
@Don: You make some good points. The thing that astounded me about my management colleague is that he came to Canada to avoid the draft in the U.S. Canada gave him refuge from either killing or being killed in Vietnam. Canada may, in fact, have saved his life.
Yet, for more than 25 years, he was willing to rise through the ranks in the public sector in Canada, but not take out Canadian citizenship because he didn’t want to give up U.S. citizenship–the very country that would have sent him to a war he didn’t believe it.
To me, that really was an affront to Canada, the Canadian and Ontario governments, his employer and Canadian taxpayers. We had a small gathering for him and his wife right after the ceremony with lots of red and white balloons and a maple leaf cake and sang Oh Canada. I really had to bite my tongue not to say anything.
I don’t think Steven Harper’s issue with Mulcair is that his dual citizenship is with France (although he made the same point with Stephan Dion, also dual Canadian-French who is a former leader of the Liberal party). The France issue would be much bigger in the US, (especially with the Newt Gingrich crowd). I think Harper (and many Canadians) would have the same issue with any Canadian who wanted to be Prime Minister, but held dual nationality with another country. I think for many Canadians, it would especially be an issue if the person was dual U.S. and Canada.
The leader of the Green Party was born in U.S, but believed she had renounced when she became Canadian in 1978. (based on what we’re learned, it seems she was right in that assumption). I don’t think anyone is up in arms about that because no one thinks she will become Prime Minister—and she is clear about the fact she thought she renounced. Unfortunately, she has not not replied to a letter I sent to her about FATCA. I understand she has also not responded to others.
I didn’t know about John Turner’s British citizenship so you may have a good point there.
I always felt if I was going to be paid by Canadian taxpayers, I should be sure I was, like our Prime Minster, “a Canadian and only a Canadian.” That wasn’t a legal requirement, but something I personally felt was important. I didn’t consider it as “expatriating” from the U.S. because I was certain I had already severed those ties “permanently and irrevocably.”
@Don, I personally think that multiple nationalities don’t conflict. The only country that wants to make a big deal out of it is the USA.
A couple of points before 1949 there was no such thing as Canadian “citizenship”. All Canadians up to that point were “British”. In fact Australia and New Zealand didn’t have their own citizenships until they late 1960s. John Turner’s case because it was Britain as is the case with Tony Clement is somewhat complicated by this history. The issue as I understand is not that Turner and Clement are British citizens per say it is that both have the right of abode in the United Kingdom as Commonwealth citizens with a direct link to mainland UK. Eric from living in Hong Kong probably knows more about this than me. In fact to this day any Canadian citizen(unlike a US citizen) lawfully residing in the United Kingdom can vote in any British election. Also while I am a monarchist I do note the head of state of Canada is a British “citizen”
In full agreement about your colleague – I would find it outrageous to move somewhere like that and never take up citizenship if I were a public sector employee. Thankfully that would be impossible in the EU since you have to hold the citizenship of a member state to hold any public sector position here whatsoever.
Still think that there would be less fuss if Mulcair were a dual British national. Not saying that the issue would go away – It just seems that having either French or US citizenship would be the worst ones to have as a Canadian politician!
Agreed. You could be a citizen of everywhere except the US and Eritrea and be fine. Just don’t visit any countries with mandatory conscription until you are over the age limit and good to go.
I read once that the Queen actually doesn’t have a UK passport, since passports are issued in the name of the monarch. So she is probably the only person in the world who can freely travel without one. As head of state, I would imagine that she technically is a “citizen” of every commonwealth country of which she is the ruling monarch. It is definitely murky territory, but I believe that Turner and Clement would be considered full UK citizens simply by place of birth under the current rules, much in the same way that Winston Churchill would be considered American if he were still alive today. Clement’s Wikipedia entry even lists him as holding all three nationalities. In any case he is at least a citizen of Canada and Cyprus – A combination that I imagine most Canadians couldn’t care less about!
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