I have received an okay to publish these notes from the Speaker of Part 2 of the meeting that was held in Toronto on June 15. I apologize that they are not in narrative form; I don’t have total memory of all that was said nor did I understand everything that was said and I fear giving the wrong impression if I were to attempt to elaborate. Hopefully, the general sense is correct. I wanted to do them as a separate post so that more might see them; it seems less people will benefit if they were buried as comments only. Many ideas were remembered by commentors on the original post but there are some important ideas that need to come out. The Speaker did an excellent job outlining and organizing a lot of information that many will need as they try to figure out what to do about their own situation. Also, I did not take any notes on the first session as it was my understanding that it was to be completely private and I thought it would be inappropriate for me to do so.
Notes on June 15, 2013 Meeting at Don Mills United Church
Session II: US Citizenship Abroad and Compliance Issues
- Where we have come from
- Where we are
- Where we may be going
*The 14th Amendment forbids forcing a US citizen to forfeit their citizenship
*For those in this situation, the emotional aspect dwarfs the practical
*Speaker has been in Canada for 40 years and has studied much regarding
“What is the law of US citizenship?”
*Can foresee a day when the Department of State and the IRS operate from completely different definitions of citizenship
*As a practical exercise, can consider as many as 16 different scenarios when trying to consider a course of action
WHERE WE HAVE COME FROM
The acquisition of US citizenship is by birth or the naturalization process.
The US government has always used citizenship as a weapon.
In the 1960’s-1970’s, there were two expatriating acts that always resulted in aggressive stripping of USC:
- taking on a 2nd citizenship
- voting in a foreign election
1967, a seminal case of Afroyim v. Rusk the Supreme Court of the United States per Justice Black, 5-4 vote, the US government cannot strip those born or naturalized in the U.S. (14th amendment citizenship) of their U.S. Citizenship and affirmed the Right to Expatriate; they cannot force you out of the political community
The Constitution is what protects the people from the government
an audience member asks – “What is naturalization?”
Speaker – “The process of establishing status in a country via residency, green card to becoming a citizen.”
The big problem in our situation is the US place of birth on the Canadian passport.
If born abroad to a US citizen, do not automatically assume that you are a US citizen. Investigate this.
The most severely damaged people by all this are long-term residents of another country who are all of a sudden told, <that they are US citizens.>
Did you perform an expatriating act? According to INS 349 (a) (5) the 7 evils
INA: ACT 349 – LOSS OF NATIONALITY BY NATIVE-BORN OR NATURALIZED CITIZEN
Sec. 349. [8 U.S.C. 1481]
(a) A person who is a national of the United States whether by birth or naturalization, shall lose his nationality by voluntarily performing any of the following acts with the intention of relinquishing United States nationality-
(1) obtaining naturalization in a foreign state upon his own application or upon an application filed by a duly authorized agent, after having attained the age of eighteen years; or
(2) taking an oath or making an affirmation or other formal declaration of allegiance to a foreign
state or a political subdivision thereof, after having attained the age of eighteen years; or
(3) entering, or serving in, the armed forces of a foreign state if
(A) such armed forces are engaged in hostilities against the United States, or
(B) such persons serve as a commissioned or non-commissioned officer; or
(4) (A) accepting, serving in, or performing the duties of any office, post, or employment under the government of a foreign state or a political subdivision thereof, after attaining the age of eighteen years if he has or acquires the nationality of such foreign state; or
(B) accepting, serving in, or performing the duties of any office, post, or employment under the government of a foreign state or a political subdivision thereof, after attaining the age of eighteen years for which office, post, or employment an oath, affirmation, or declaration of allegiance is required; or
(5) making a formal renunciation of nationality before a diplomatic or consular officer of the United States in a foreign state, in such form as may be prescribed by the Secretary of State; or
(6) making in the United States a formal written renunciation of nationality in such form as may be prescribed by, and before such officer as may be designated by, the Attorney General, whenever the United States shall be in a state of war and the Attorney General shall approve such renunciation as not contrary to the interests of national defense; or
(7) committing any act of treason against, or attempting by force to overthrow, or bearing arms against, the United States, violating or conspiring to violate any of the provisions of section 2383 of title 18, United States Code, or willfully performing any act in violation of section 2385 of title 18, United States Code, or violating section 2384 of said title by engaging in a conspiracy to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, if an d when he is convicted thereof by a court martial or by a court of competent jurisdiction.
(b) Whenever the loss of United States nationality is put in issue in any action or proceeding commenced on or after the enactment of this subsection under, or by virtue of, the provisions of this or any other Act, the burden shall be upon the person or party claiming that such loss occurred, to establish such claim by a preponderance of the evidence. Any person who commits or performs, or who has committed or performed, any act of expatriation under the provisions of this or any other Act shall be presumed to have done so voluntarily, but such presumption may be rebutted upon a showing, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the act or acts committed or performed were not done voluntarily.
The court ruled that citizenship is yours to do with what you want.
If you commit an expatriating act with the intention to lose citizenship
In 1986, USC was not automatically re-bestowed; the SCOTUS just turned it back to the way it was.
People used to swear an affidavit; taking CDN citizenship without relinquishing USC. Would send a second copy to self, unopened
an audience member pointed out he had done just that.
LOOK AT THE LAW OVER THE YEARS
Many CDN politicians are dual
You might find something to say you are not a USC
Board Appellate Reviewed those who wanted it back
Very long history
Determine if you are a USC
Remember that trials are not searches for truth but searches for proof
Did you get a Social Security number or a US passport – not if you do not consider yourself a US Person
These are not determinative, just factors.
Petros says “The DoS accepted the argument that a son of <?> was forced to get a US passport by bad treatment of a border patrol guard and that such passport was not proof of USC
What if you are?
Petros asks “What if you are a CDN but used a US passport? They won’t let you enter the country without one.”
This is a circumstance used against you when determining expatriating factors.
Petros says “<Become a citizen?> but not filing your taxes, because you don’t consider yourself a US is an argument.
What is important is your state of mind at the time of expatriating
Speaker does not see a passport as a determinative factor; voting is a more difficult issue
A Social Security number has nothing to do with citizenship issues
The state of mind in affidavits mentioned above, are the state of mind “frozen in time”
There is no clear proof of what the state of mind is
A clear factor – dual citizenship, swearing of oath
Richards case in the 1970’s – U.S. Citizen became a Canadian citizens and took Canadian citizenship oath which required renunciation of U.S. Citizenship – oath of citizenship changed/ prior, the CDN oath required renunciation of all other citizenships….but, it is not as simple as it sounds
Find something you did wrong against the US government – have you committed an expatriating act?
an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure
Re: U.S. Tax Compliance – Only U.S. Persons need to be in U.S. Tax compliance
Find the law and stick to your position
Taxes are a form of life-residency control
What to do? So many situations and different factors
There are very few tax compliant USCs abroad because they either don’t know they have to file or they feel they don’t have to since they don’t owe anything
In 2011, this whole situation exploded
Speaker feels a general principle of citizenship is to obey the law however, the US government is a great teacher of the fact that laws have no moral force and that law is unequal to morality. Tax = confiscation
It’s almost impossible to be tax compliant; the law clearly has nothing to do with taxation.
In August 2011, the media began to publish information regarding OVDI- NEVER ENTER THE OVDP/OVDI
For criminals, with large amounts of untaxed dollars, the program is an unbelievable “professional courtesy” to criminals.
For criminals the ‘in-lieu-of penalty’ is awfully cheap; so much less than the income tax that they would have to pay on that money
US politicians concerned with so much crime; perhaps there is so much crime because there are so many laws.
OVDP extended because of hurricane; 9 more days of agony in deciding whether to enter or not
Respect that the Harper government has taken a position
What happens after September 9 – Capp & Drysdale, a law firm closely affiliated with Department of Treasury and others, such as Charles Rettig, start writing articles……Is Canada “OFFSHORE?” “Where’s the water?”
Petros says “Lake Ontario” Nobledreamer says “Lake Erie” LOL
OVDI was designed by criminals for criminals and grew out of the debacle of UBS etc. Shulman said, “Those who came in early would pay less….” This is your last chance……”
2009 version OVDP a misunderstanding regarding FAQ 35, the bait-and-switch; “under no circumstances would anyone pay more than they would normally pay, outside the program”
Not going to consider reasonable cause
October 18 US Amb to Canada David Jacobson suggested that these problems would be resolved. In early December came Fact Statement 2011-13 There’s no safe way to file but the FS was linked from a previous page with instructions to Canadians, the UK, etc which basically implied they should go ahead and just file – “reasonable cause” was acknowledged.
The compliance lawyers did not interpret the December 2011 FS favorably. However, the Speaker does not see it that way it was more like, wink, wink – this is reasonable cause, to not know about while the lawyers said the FS means nothing (different)
Jacobson said to Barrie McKenna (G&M) that there would be a refund of penalties – This was a 2nd betrayal because there was nothing like this in the FS
January 2012 Shulman, (Orwell is his idol), says the OVDP program is back. Later comes the ‘streamlined’ program, which is just a watered-down version of OVDI. The Fact Statement is clearer then either OVDP or Streamlined.
Logical options offered by UK-based- tax practitioner listed
- Do nothing
This is the preferred option for many but obviously, is becoming more dangerous with FATCA coming. No lawyer or accountant can recommend this. Furthermore, at some point something must be done.
- File some tax returns (Quiet Disclosure)
in Speaker’s opinion on QD-different than the prevailing perception
in March GAO claimed the IRS was not collecting enough penalties; not enough QD’s audited, etc.
Speaker: in context of OVDI program “people evading taxes”
- Compliance going forward
- Traditional Voluntary Disclosure the IRS always had a VD program; the OVDI is a subset of VD
after the OVDI expired in September 2011, VD was still an option
“small time” or “big time” – where lawyers would make deals so could return for non-prosecution
VD reasonable cause letter 100 or so from Fact Statement 2011-13
an audience member said in 2007 had sent letter plus 6 returns and going forward that is VD
re: VD the “Front Door” is to file with CI the “Side Door” is to file with IRS
Don’t fear the FBAR and don’t fear compliance. Rethink the financial.
RRSP and tax-deferred savings the US is attacking tax deferral plans.
Don’t enter OVDI don’t enter streamlined.
But here’s the problem. First, who you are i.e., the emotional and second, what are the objective facts? US tax issues and also, information form issues, the SOL doesn’t run until both are done; example of info form is if you are Canadian Controlled Private Corporation and have to file a f5471 the absence of a filing means not complete tax filing
What to do
1st – get an assessment of what your tax situation is
don’t send an accounting firm your name, the account numbers; not hiring them to file, just play with the numbers to get idea OR
2nd – do same with lawyer OR
3rd – use an Enrolled Agent – better than 90% of lawyers and 70% of accountants. EA’s are a class of tax professional, less expensive
6 years SOL filing, FBAR
DO YOU OWE TAX?
Presuming you have no other information returns to do in addition to FBAR
- Owe some tax; have filed tax returns; have filed FBAR
sold principle residence etc/incompatible tax systems
SOL on tax -run after 3 years
- owe tax, filed tax, not filed fbar
the rules for FBAR- if you don’t owe tax, no penalties for not filing fbar
don’t enter programs and file fbar
clean up tax liabilities before
FAQ 17 OVDP especially if interest on an undisclosed return
- owe tax, no tax filed, no fbar filed
better than filing tax returns with excluded income
- nothing owed, filed tax, filed FBAR
Think this is okay?
No, you are IN THE SYSTEM & demonstrated you are aware so you’d better keep it up
- nothing owed, filed taxes, not filed fbar
just get over 25 accts there is no disclosure required for more than 25 accounts $10k attached or more
The law is one thing, the regulations are something else
SPECTRE (SPecial Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion)
Dr No – 4 pillars of control/ the 2 siamese fighting fish
The IRS has become the 4th arm of the government and terrorizes the other 3
- don’t owe tax, filed no returns, have filed fbars
example of this is a housewife with no income yet may have signatory control over some accounts
- owe nothing, not filed taxes, not filed fbars
It is unlikely USC’s / Canada is a high-tax country;
need tax deferral to accumulate wealth which puts them in the crosshairs of the US
no SOL on tax things omitted some kind of generated income
- owe nothing, filed taxes, filed no info returns or fbar
the MOST DANGEROUS
accounts generate income and are undisclosed
an audience member says– too much of a risk to reveal pension
historical discussion first
In 1986, there were none of these problems
Reagan was interested in Tax Reform
votes were bought and sold/ special interest groups
Mutual Funds a pro-rata base; pay out every year and cannot be deferred
Out of Step – rewarding such special interest groups
1986 Tax Equity came PFIC’s = Passive Foreign Investment Corporations
The reason this was established, companies were angry that Homelanders could invest offshore and defer tax
What is a PFIC?
- the income test
- the asset test ½ corporation or 75% of income PFIC
- PFICs not subject to tax but to Confiscation
Think of Mutual Funds as stock; say you have one share of stock in Telus; the dividends are paid out quarterly
Your income is taxed. Dividends in Canada are taxed subject to principles of integration and are very different than those in the US.
That income is either dividends or when sell, capital gains
Say you have a share that you buy for $100 and sell for $200; the gain is called a capital gain which you have to report and pay tax on the gain
<?share of stock – tax 100% of?>
A fundamental choice of US is to attack deferrals as the Treasury Department sees this as money of theirs being taken, so they punish
PFIC Mutual Funds prevent US homelanders offshore
keep track of their dividends
lack of consistency
If a dividend exceeds 125% average 3 preceding years – a special penalty – it is an “excess distribution”
if sold, one would think a capital gain but NO
Gain is taxed at the highest rate of tax in the Code in the year sold
depriving us of <?tax?> every year you’ve owned
Have for 20 years capital gain $100 capital gain
Attach the prescribed rate every year
THE TAX CAN EXCEED THE GAIN
Triggered – Is a Mutual Fund a PFIC?
Most complicated, punitive thing in the tax world
5 years ago – didn’t know that Mutual Funds would become the most cancerous tumor in your retirement fund
in 2010, an IRS lawyer memo said CDN Mutual Funds are corporations under US law and thus are PFICs
a means to your financial destruction
in reality the IRS has never finalized the PFIC regulations
but the treatment of MFs are based on an IRS 2010 memo
The PFIC regulations have not been passed – therefore there is room to argue …
Nobledreamer asks “Is this situation only in Canada? Do they have these in say, London?”
A Presumably yes, but ours are very different than UK MF’s
- licensed lawyer – don’t designate MFs as PFICs
- group discussion
- advice is totally personal
Petros says/asks The IRS cannot unilaterally issue regulations. Wouldn’t that be a violation of the Treaty and of NAFTA?
The 8938 is massive, requires reporting of stocks, etc and is supposed to include PFIC – missed the boat but is on the horizon
If you know the value of your pension, you can reasonably expect to have to include it on 8938
for 8854, you have to know it
gets complicated, such as the elections on 8621, etc
One good thing about the streamlined program, 8891’s are in
There is no relationship between TAX and RENUNCIATION/RELINQUISHMENT
the 8854 is to establish whether one owes exit tax
in 2008, James Dale Davidson anticipated this in “The Sovereign Individual”
Covered or not?
*annual tax liability of $145k and over across the 5 years
*assets of $2mn
*failure to certify last 5 yrs of filing, including info returns
What happens if you are “covered?”
a Mark to Market regime, as if all your assets (US or not) are sold the day before your expatriation
know the Adjusted Cost Basis, Fair Market Value; the difference is gains deemed sold or what your CGs would be
< ?an exclusion amount?> of ~$700k
$2mn is the threshold, if you have 1.9mn, you are not covered
would think they would have set it differently
ways to get under the $2mn
*sell assets and pay the tax in Canada
*spend the money – on that around the world trip or whatever it is you’ve always wanted
*watch the exchange rates, remember all of this is in Canadian dollars
When thinking of others or these explanations, all sounds completely rational yet, when think of one’s own situation, it becomes completely irrational
Suggestion: get a renunciation buddy, discuss, bounce off, support, etc
Petros asks “If one doesn’t pay because they are CDN, can you be thrown in jail for trying to cross the border?”
and “Can they extract 45% tax on inheritance to children?”
Speaker believes that in 2-3 years, there will be a shift to residence-based taxation and no longer required to pay US taxes
- prepare to renounce
- vast majority of USC’s abroad – organize your affairs so that you do not owe US tax
- if you have MF’s with very small gains, get rid of them; the best thing in this situation – accept that you made some bad investments
ACB (adjusted cost base) of fund per unit – reinvestment / if not a lot of gains – SELL IT
<??? if gains holding period low rates due to erosion via management fees>
an audience member says RRSP form 8891 exempt by the treaty; complex area as MFs are in the RRSP’s
make a sandbag; make sure it doesn’t affect you
Finally: You must think with your pen – make sure you understand the tax implications of anything you do!
Thank you so much for doing this! Excellent over view of all the information for that portion of the meeting! It was a lot of information to handle so I’m very thankful to see this. You put a lot of work into this and it’s so beneficial.
Thank you for chronicling the event. I’m sorry I had to miss it. It’s encouraging that the speaker thinks that RBT will happen in a few years, but what a rip off that would for those who didn’t ride it out…
The tax form for PFICs doesn’t cover the calculation so one must prepare a spreadsheet to calculate any gains or excess distributions and taxes thereon and attach it to the return.
There isn’t even a line on the form 1040 to show the tax on PFICs so one must show it on the margin, per the instructions!
Pretty much any foreign mutual fund is a PFIC, including foreign money market funds.
When selling PFICs each lot of shares (bought/sold on a different date) is treated separately.
Losses on one lot of PFIC shares do not offset the gains in another lot. So if you bought some PFIC shares for $5K, sold them for $6K (for a gain of $1K) then bought $6K of the same PFIC but sold it for $5K ($1K loss) the gain and losses do not cancel each other out. You will pay tax on the $1K gain at the highest marginal rate of 35%, plus interest if you had owned the fund in previous years, regardless of what your marginal income tax rate is on your return. You will not get the lower capital gains tax on the PFIC gain. As to the loss, you can use it to offset capital gains from domestic investments, but if the tax rate on those investments would be 5%, then your benefit of applying the $1K loss is only 5%.
Thanks for your comments. I don’t have any of these and have yet to comprehend all I have read about them. Hopefully, somebody who may need this info will see it.
Damn those cursed mutual funds!
VERY glad we didn’t invest in any until after renounced. Not planned that way but very lucky!
One way to deal with pfics, especially those in a RRSP, is to ignore them. Ask yourself, ‘what ever can they do about it?”
This entire thing is totally at odds with the advice we recently got from my husbands planner. Canadian of course. He wants ME to open a separate RRSP from my spouses. I told him I could not do that right now and explained why. He totally disagreed with me and consulted a “friend” who “knows about U.S. tax matters” Well, the “friend” STILL advised it was okay to open this. AND TFSA’s in my name. Even the financial planners here are giving people BAD advice. This man seemed to smile and feel very benevolent towards the U.S. saying, “Oh, surely they won’t be that harsh with this.” They don’t even know what they are doing! I’m very grateful to have gone to that meeting.
FATCA is leaving people stuck. There’s just no way to plan or any way you can move really unless you renounce and get on with your life. Well, maybe if you are uber wealthy and don’t care how much a great tax attorney would cost each year. Otherwise this entire thing is just an impediment to saving. I wonder if Harper knows how poor some of us will be in our old age if he goes along and allows FATCA here? You can’t save, you can’t sell your house, you can’t put a little away for your children.
And yesterday the POTUS said they were going to rebuild infrastructure by “repatriating taxes”
The notes of these meetings need to make their way somehow to every “U.S. person” abroad. I have to laugh when someone says we get “services” from the U.S. embassies around the world. THIS Is the kind of service that could help…meetings and information about what to do and not to do.
The PFICS are only a pain if you are trying to ‘comply’. Otherwise, I agree its best to ignore them – particularly the ones in registered accounts.
I often wonder how likely the IRS will go after Expats if they just treated their PFICs like ordinary shares,especially if they at least see declared all the income and accounts; I’d like to think that one could still argue reasonable cause by claiming they didn’t know about PFIC taxation, especially as I don’t believe that Publication 54 even mentions form 8621 for that matter!
I’d like to think that they’d be reasonably happy with a minnow honestly declaring all their income and filing 1040 and FBAR (and 8938 if necessary ).
ML. Well said! Exactly!
No offense, but Who Cares?