Month: May 2015

The Intersection of U.S. Federal Tax Law with Collection of International Information – Including other Federal Agencies

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For decades, the IRS largely worked in a vacuum, relative to other government agencies.

Changes started in earnest in 2003 after September 11, 2001, when Congress past various anti-terrorism laws.  For details of the history and how and when the IRS became responsible for these functions, the IRS Internal Passport Inside Back Page - USC Taxation ReferenceRevenue Manual has a detailed explanation – Part 4, Chapter 26, Section 5. Bank Secrecy Act History and Law

In April 2003, the IRS became in charge of civil enforcement of foreign account information under Title 31.  See IRM, Part 4, Chapter 26, Section 16. Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR).

The world has changed dramatically in these past few years and the IRS no longer works in such  a vacuum.  For a history of foreign bank and Congressional influences, see, How Congressional Hearings (Particularly In the Senate) Drive IRS and Justice Department Behavior

Today there are a host of governmental inter-agency activities along with foreign government exchanges of information;  e.g., DHS, Department of State, ICE, USCIS, foreign government exchanges of information under FATCA IGAs, a plethora of federal “intelligence agencies” for “terrorism related requests” as identified in IRM pursuant to IRC Section 6103(i), foreign governments under tax treaty exchanges, among many others.

The law is not even clear as to which agencies qualify as “intelligence agencies” as they are not identified in the statute and many are presumably classified organizations.

  • Who is an “intelligence agency” for purposes of the statute?

The following is a list of some of the intelligence agencies that are presumably included in the federal tax statute Section 6103(i)(7):

National

United States Intelligence Community
Director of National Intelligence
National Intelligence Council [NIC]
National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC)
National Counterintelligence Executive [NCIX]
Official
Official
Official
Official
Official
Central Intelligence Agency Official
National Security Agency Official
National Reconnaissance Office Official
National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency Official
Defense Intelligence Agency Official
Federal Bureau of Investigation Official
Department of Homeland Security Office of Intelligence and Analysis Official

Other Defense Department

Assistant to the Secretary for Intelligence Oversight Official
Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence
Under Secretary of Defense for Policy
Official
Official
Assistant Secretary of Defense for Networks and Information Integration Official
Defense Information Systems Agency Official
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Official
Defense Protective Service Official
Defense Security Service Official
US Special Operations Command Official
Army
Army Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence
Intelligence and Security Command
Official
Official
Official
Navy
Office of Naval Intelligence
Naval Security Group Command
Naval Criminal Investigative Service
Official
Official
Official
Official
Marine Corps Official
Air Force
Air Force Technical Applications Center
Air Intelligence Agency
Official
Official
Official

Other Federal Agencies

National Security Council
President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board
Office of National Drug Control Policy
Official
Official
Official
Energy Department
Office of Intelligence
Official
Official
Justice Department
Justice Intelligence Coordinating Council
OIG – Office of the Inspector General
DEA – Drug Enforcement Administration
NDIC – National Drug Intelligence Center
USNCB – U.S. National Central Bureau
Official
Official
Official
Official
Official
Official
Official
State Department
INR – Bureau of Intelligence & Research
INL – Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs
CT – Counterterrorism Office
DS – Bureau of Diplomatic Security
Official
Official
Official
Official
Official
Treasury Department
Office of Intelligence Support
Office of the Under Secretary (Enforcement)
FINCEN – Financial Crimes Enforcement
FLETC – Federal Law Enforcement Training Center
Official
Official
Official
Official
Official
National Archives and Records Administration
Information Security Oversight Office
Official
Official

A less secret organization is the Social Security Administration which now increasingly intersect with the work of

Passport Inside Back Page - USC Taxation Referencethe IRS.  Also, the Department of State now provides warnings on its Passport applications about tax consequences and requirements of social security numbers (“SSN”s).

See also how in an Application for a U.S. Passport there are now specifically references IRC Section 6039E.

Finally, see also how on the last page (page 28) of currently issued U.S. Passport (“Book“) and paragraph D that explains generally the taxation obligations of citizenship.

Important Correction: Passports Required to Enter and Leave U.S. – but SSNs May be Optional

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application for US passport p1 application for US passport p2 application for US passport p3 application for US passport p4 application for US passport p5 application for US passport p6 application for US passport p7The prior post noted that both a social security number (“SSN”) and a U.S. passport is required to enter the U.S. for U.S. citizens (“USCs”).

Please note that the current application for passports include the following language and provisions throughout the application (which have been partially reproduced below):

International tax lawyer, Roy Berg at Moody’s in Calgary, Alberta, Canada brought my attention to several key issues regarding this assertion:

(e) Revocation Or Denial Of Passport In Case Of Individual Without Social Security Account Number.—

(1) DENIAL.—

(A) IN GENERAL.—Except as provided under subparagraph (B), upon receiving an application for a passport from an individual that either—

(i) does not include the social security account number issued to that individual, or

(ii) includes an incorrect or invalid social security number willfully, intentionally, negligently, or recklessly provided by such individual, the Secretary of State is authorized to deny such application and is authorized to not issue a passport to the individual.

(B) EMERGENCY AND HUMANITARIAN SITUATIONS.—Notwithstanding subparagraph (A), the Secretary of State may issue a passport, in emergency circumstances or for humanitarian reasons, to an individual described in subparagraph (A).

(2) REVOCATION.—

(A) IN GENERAL.—The Secretary of State may revoke a passport previously issued to any individual described in paragraph (1)(A).

(B) LIMITATION FOR RETURN TO UNITED STATES.—If the Secretary of State decides to revoke a passport under subparagraph (A), the Secretary of State, before revocation, may—

(i) limit a previously issued passport only for return travel to the United States; or

(ii) issue a limited passport that only permits return travel to the United States.

(f) Effective Date.—The provisions of, and amendments made by, this section shall take effect on January 1, 2016.

Finally, Mr. Berg also noted that there is a procedure for USCs without SSNs, at least currently, to apply for U.S. passports; albeit subject to the US$500 money penalty described above.  See, proposed Form 13997 by the U.S. Treasury Department and the comments:

The purpose of this form,and the necessity to collect information, is to obtain a valid SSN, TIN, a written statement of reasonable cause, or an explanation from the individual as to why they don’t have a SSN or TIN.

USCs without a Social Security Number (and a Passport) Cannot Travel to the U.S.

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Recent posts have focused on the dilemma facing U.S. citizens (USCs) who have no social security number (“SSN”).  See an older post (23 July 2014) –  Why do I have to get a Social Security Number to file a U.S. income tax return (USCs)?

These problems are quickly coming to the surface, now that financial institutions US Passport(“FFIs”) around the world and private companies and trusts (e.g., non-financial foreign entities -NFFEs) must have their owners and clients certify they are not U.S. citizens; OR report the accounts of such U.S. citizens to the IRS under FATCA and the intergovernmental agreements (“IGAs”).

See, U.S. Citizens Overseas who Wish to Renounce without a Social Security Number will Necessarily be a “Covered Expatriate”

The intricacies of this problem are highlighted in a technical paper I recently drafted and presented to the U.S. Treasury Department and the Joint Committee of Taxation, among other federal government groups.  Some key excerpts of that paper titled URGENT NEED FOR U.S. CITIZENS RESIDING OUTSIDE THE U.S. TO BE ABLE TO OBTAIN A TAXPAYER IDENTIFICATION NUMBER (“TIN”) OTHER THAN A SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER are set out below in this section:

The U.S. tax law imposing taxation on the worldwide income of USCs[1] residing overseas has created a dilemma that prejudices these USCs without a SSN. This strict SSN/TIN regulatory rule undermines the basic tax administration system and discourages tax compliance for those USCs who never obtained a SSN.  This dilemma affects numerous USCs throughout the world, which is now compounded by the certification and reporting requirements of USCs and third parties, such as FFIs and NFFEs[ under the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (“FATCA”).

In short, USCs without a SSN, necessarily cannot be in compliance with U.S. federal tax law.  As I point out in my paper, such –

A law that cannot be complied with is surely a bad law, the same as a “ . . .law that cannot be enforced is a bad law.”[a]

[a] See, The Case Against Taxing Citizens, Reuven S. Avi-Yonah (March 31, 2010), University of Michigan School of Law, Law & Economics Working Papers.

The paper referenced above explains how difficult it is for USCs residing overseas to ever obtain a SSN.  Specifically, it explains how difficult it is to have an in-person interview at only 18 different locations around the world with a U.S. Department of State employee.  See,  12 Year Old (and Older) U.S. Citizens Residing Outside the U.S. Must Have An “In-Person” Interview in a U.S. Embassy or Consulate for SSN Application in 1 of Just 17 Posts WorldwideExpatriates US citizens renounced chart through 2014

As a USC residing somewhere around the world, you might decide to simply spend the time, money and resources to travel internationally to arrive in the U.S. to apply for a SSN directly with the Social Security Administration within the U.S.  Unfortunately, any USC is now legally prohibited from traveling in or out of the U.S. without a U.S. passport.  There are few exceptions to this general rule, none of which contemplate U.S. federal tax compliance.    See, the relevant excerpts from the white paper:

C.               Travel to the U.S. is Also Not An Option for a USC without a SSN, Due to 22 CFR § 53.1 Requiring a U.S. Passport

A possible solution to this TIN/SSN dilemma may appear to be a trip to the U.S. by the USC to apply for a SSN in the U.S. Unfortunately, this simply creates another dilemma, since the USC must have a U.S. passport to travel to the U.S.   The immigration law regulations 22 CFR § 53.1 require that a U.S. citizen have a U.S. passport to enter or depart the United States. The relevant part of the regulations is § 53.1(a) which provides as follows:

Passport requirement; definitions.

(a) It is unlawful for a citizen of the United States, unless excepted under 22 CFR 53.2,[2] to enter or depart, or attempt to enter or depart, the United States, without a valid U.S. passport.

These regulations were first published in 2006 and unfortunately, simply create another dilemma for the USC residing overseas without a SSN. This additional dilemma is that an application[3] for a U.S. passport requires the individual have a SSN; a vicious circle back to the inability to obtain a SSN.

At the end of the day, the restrictions imposed on USCs make it legally impossible for a USC without a passport to travel to the U.S. (even if they wish they could) to obtain a SSN.

[1] See, IRC § 61 and Treas. Reg. §§ 1.1‑1(b) and 1.1‑1(a)(1)..

[2] The exceptions set forth in this regulation would not generally be applicable in the case of USCs residing overseas without a SSN.

[3] Application for a U.S. Passport – http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/212239.pdf.

12 Year Old (and Older) U.S. Citizens Residing Outside the U.S. Must Have An “In-Person” Interview in a U.S. Embassy or Consulate for SSN Application in 1 of Just 17 Posts Worldwide

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As previous posts have mentioned, U.S. citizens (USCs) residing overseas can only comply with U.S. tax law and FATCA certifications if they have a social security number (SSN).  See, U.S. Citizens Overseas who Wish to Renounce without a Social Security Number will Necessarily be a “Covered Expatriate”Kim Cattrel Actress Sex and City

See key excerpts of the paper titled URGENT NEED FOR U.S. CITIZENS RESIDING OUTSIDE THE U.S. TO BE ABLE TO OBTAIN A TAXPAYER IDENTIFICATION NUMBER (“TIN”) OTHER THAN A SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER  that explains this dilemma:

This dilemma affects numerous USCs throughout the world, which is now compounded by the certification and reporting requirements of USCs and third parties, such as FFIs and NFFEs[2] under the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (“FATCA”).

* * *

The regulations provide the specific rule that all USCs must have a SSN[1] as their TIN. There are no general exceptions in the regulations to the requirement that a USC must have a SSN as their TIN.

This regulatory requirement specifically directs the USC to the forms that must be completed and filed with the SSA, in order to obtain a SSN, as follows:[2] 

(1) Social security number.   Any individual required to furnish a social security number pursuant to paragraph (b) of this section shall apply for one, if he has not done so previously, on Form SS-5, which may be obtained from any Social Security Administration or Internal Revenue Service office. He shall make such application far enough in advance of the first required use of such number to permit issuance of the number in time for compliance with such requirement. The form, together with any supplementary statement, shall be prepared and filed in accordance with the form, instructions, and regulations applicable thereto, and shall set forth fully and clearly the data therein called for. Individuals who are ineligible for or do not wish to participate in the benefits of the social security program shall nevertheless obtain a social security number if they are required to furnish such a number pursuant to paragraph (b) of this section. [emphasis added]

These Title 26 regulations discuss individuals requesting forms from “any Social Security Administration or Internal Revenue Service office” which clearly implies that the SSA and the IRS have offices overseas.

Unfortunately, this is not the case, as the IRS recently announced it is closing its full-time walk-in offices in London, Frankfurt and Paris, as the office in Beijing, China was closed in 2014.[3] Similarly, the SSA has no overseas offices, but does have limited field office operations in Canada, the British Virgin Islands and Samoa.[4] 

Therefore, it is clear that the above regulations are speaking to individuals who reside and live in the U.S., and not USCs residing overseas when it requires USCs to “ . . . make such application far enough in advance of the first required use of such number to permit issuance of the number in time for compliance with such requirement. [5]

These Title 26 regulations require the application be made well in advance of any tax filing requirements are not realistic for USCs residing overseas as is explained herein. This author has seen the issuance of SSNs take more than 6 months, even when the USC could have an interview in their country of residence.

More importantly, there are very few countries (only 17) where in-person interviews can even be held. See, discussion below.

USCs who have lived most, if not all of their lives outside the U.S., commonly do not have a SSN. The procedural requirements imposed by the SSA to obtain a SSN in these cases are complicated and unrealistic for USCs living overseas.[6] This author has seen cases where USCs residing overseas have even spent the money and resources and time to travel to the U.S. to apply for a SSN, yet were turned away by the SSA, due to various procedural requirements which were not satisfied.  

Often times obtaining a SSN overseas is nearly impossible, depending upon which country and where within that country the USC resides.    

A.            Obtaining a SSN Outside the US by a USC – Much More than Just Filing SSA Form SS-5

The SSA does not have offices outside the U.S. although they have a so-called “Office of International Operations.”[7] The focus of OIO is the administration of social security benefits, not obtaining SSNs for USCs residing overseas. Since the SSA is assisted by the U.S. Department of State (who are not SSN experts), USCs have to rely upon various U.S. embassies and consulate offices around the world, as they try to obtain a SSN.

B.            Tax Return Filing Requirements – Minimum Gross Income

Any USC individual is obligated under the U.S. federal tax law to file a federal income tax return IRS Form 1040 if they meet minimum thresholds of income. For the tax year 2015, the thresholds are low, and are reached once the gross income is at least the sum of (i) the “exemption” amount (currently $4,000) and (ii) the “standard deduction” amount (currently $6,300 for single and married filing jointly and $12,600 for married couples filing jointly).[8]

This is true, even if all of the income is earned income and eligible for the foreign earned income exclusion, which is $100,800 for the tax year 2015. [9]

Additionally, USCs living overseas necessarily have a U.S. tax return filing requirement, when they meet these low thresholds of gross income. In these cases, tax returns that are not filed by the 15th of June are not considered timely filed.[10]

II.           The Social Security Administration Rules Make it Nearly Impossible for Many USCs Overseas to Reasonably Obtain a SSN

The policy and procedures of the SSA regarding issuing SSNs have changed significantly over the years.[11] The Social Security Administration (SSA) provides a detailed chronology of the major changes in policy and procedures regarding filing for and obtaining a SSN.[12]   One of the most significant revisions in the last decade came from The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (P.L. 108-458), which imposes various standards for the verification of documents or records submitted by an individual.

A.            Only a Few Countries Around the World have Personnel at U.S. Embassies or Consulate Offices that Can Process SSN Applications – SSA Form SS-5-FS

Applying for SSNs overseas is severely restricted compared to an application in the U.S.

According to the U.S. Department of State, Foreign Affairs Manual (“FAM”), only certain “Claims-Taking Posts” in specific countries “may” include “processing applications for Social Security Numbers.” [13]

These 17 countries (and a city in the case of Jerusalem) with Claims-Taking Posts include:

Austria, Argentina, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Jerusalem, Mexico, Norway, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Spain, and the United Kingdom.

Noticeably absent are many Western European countries, virtually all of Latin America, virtually all of Asia, virtually all of Eastern Europe, all of the Middle East (except Jerusalem), all of the African continent, all of the Australian continent and surrounding island countries and Russia, among many other significant countries, including OECD member countries.[14]

Nothing in the FAM requires any of these “Claims-Taking Posts” to actually process applications for a SSN. Plus, there are of course hundreds of other countries throughout the world, not listed above, which do not have such a U.S. Department of State Post. For these reasons, USCs in countries such as China must travel to a U.S. Department of State Post (e.g., the Philippines) which is able to process applications for SSNs.

B.            In Person Interview Required for Individuals Older than 11 Years Old

Individuals who are older than 11 years old must personally go to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate with a Claims-Taking Post.  See 7 FAM 530, pages 7, 12, 13 and 7 FAM EXHIBIT 530(D)   Mandatory In-Person Interview Worksheet SSN Applicant Age 12 or Older – Original SSN * * *

All of these rules makes you wonder whether foreign born individuals, such as actress Kim Cattrall from Sex & the City  fame would have ever obtained a social security number overseas while she lived in Canada or the UK.

[1] See, Treas. Reg. § 301.6109-1(a)(1)(ii)(A).

[2] See, Treas. Reg. § 301.6109-1(d)(1).

[3] See, Bloomberg article, 14 January 2015 by Kocieniewski, IRS Will Shut Last Overseas Taxpayer-Assistance Centers: “After budget reductions over the last four consecutive years, the IRS is forced to make tough choices during this period of fiscal austerity and these closures have relatively little impact on taxpayers and treaty partners,” said Julianne Breitbeil, an IRS spokeswoman. Also, see IRS website that still reflects the London and Paris offices as open http://www.irs.gov/uac/Contact-My-Local-Office-Internationally.

[4] See, SSA website, Service Around the World, http://www.ssa.gov/foreign/

[5] See, Treas. Reg. § 301.6109-1(d)(1).

[6] See discussion below, regarding requirements to obtain a SSN. I.II, I.I,The Social Security Administration Rules Make it Nearly Impossible for Many USCs Overseas to Reasonably Obtain a SSN

[7] See SSA website, “Office of International Operations” – http://www.ssa.gov/foreign/Service Around the World – Welcome to SSA’s Office of International Operations (OIO) home page. The purpose of this site is to assist Social Security customers who are outside the U.S. or planning to leave the U.S. OIO is responsible for administering the Social Security program outside the U.S. and for the implementation of the benefit provisions of international agreements. Since SSA has no offices outside the U.S., OIO is assisted by the Department of State’s embassies and consulates throughout the world.

[8] See, IR-2014-104, Oct. 30, 2014 and IRS Publication 501.

[9] See, IRC § 911 and IRS Publication 54.

[10] See, Treas. Reg. § 1.6081-5.

[11] See, SSA website, The Story of the Social Security Number, by Carolyn Puckett, Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 69 NO. 2, 2009 (http://ssa.gov/policy/docs/ssb/v69n2/v69n2p55.html.

[12] See, SSA website, Significant Milestones in Social Security Number Policy. A detailed chronology of the major changes in policy and procedures. http://www.ssa.gov/history/ssn/ssnchron.html.

[13] See 7 FAM 530, page 2 of 64.

[14] In contrast to these 17 countries (and one city – Jerusalem) where a USC residing overseas must travel to apply for a SSN, the Treasury Department has announced it has around 100 countries that have signed, or “have reached agreements in substance” a FATCA IGA. USCs throughout the world are required by the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (“FACTA”) to provide their U.S. TIN to financial institutions throughout the world (on IRS Form W-9, or its equivalent), which under current law necessarily must be a SSN. Of course, if they have no SSN, they cannot sign IRS Form W-9 which provides in Part II: “Under penalties of perjury, I certify that: 1. The number shown on this form is my correct taxpayer identification number . . .

[15] See, 7 FAM 534.3 e.

When does “Covered Expatriate” Status -NOT- matter?

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Maybe this question, “When does “Covered Expatriate” Status -NOT- matter?” sounds more like a philosophical question?

What does “matter” mean in this context? !?!?!?

Back to being a bit more practical and serious . . .      😉

Assuming the point of the discussion is taxes, and whether additional taxes will ever be owing, being a “covered expatriate” can have adverse tax consequences.  Sometimes, however, being a “covered expatriate” will cause no additional taxation to either (1) the “covered expatriate” or (2) future beneficiaries.

It all depends upon the facts of the particular circumstances.

BTW – Did detective Joe Friday from Dragnet ever say – “Just the facts, ma’am“?

“Covered expatriate” status is the “general rule” for U.S. expatriation tax rules.  There are some exceptions (income tax liability, net worth, and dual nationality exceptions), which hopefully a particular U.S. citizen (“USC”) or long-term resident can fall into, so as to avoid the adverse tax consequences of “covered expatriate” status.

Those adverse tax consequences can be summarized into two categories of taxes:

  1. “Mark to Market” taxation on unrealized gains of worldwide assets, arising from the renunciation of U.S. citizenship (i.e., the so-called “exit tax”);  See, Inflation Adjusted Exclusion Amounts Since Inception of 2008 “Mark to Market” Expatriation Tax Law: Example   and
  2. The tax payable by U.S. beneficiaries whenever they receive so-called “covered gifts” and/or “covered bequests.”  See, The “Hidden Tax” of Expatriation – Section 2801 and its “Forever Taint.”

The first tax is what most people talk and write about.

The second tax, can often times be the most costly over the long-run and is little understood for lots of reasons; the least of which is the Treasury and IRS have still not issued required regulations.  See, Proposal to U.S. Treasury and IRS: awaits Final Regulations on “Covered Gifts” and “Covered Bequests”

People of modest means often think they have nothing to worry about if they are a “covered expatriate” at the time they cease being a USC or a long-term resident.  This is where they may be deeply mistaken; if they have any future U.S. beneficiaries (e.g., children who were born in the U.S. or who might move to the U.S. many years out into the future).  Moreover, these U.S. beneficiaries do not need to receive substantial assets, in order to be subject to sizable U.S. taxes in the future.

The first “mark to market” tax is not an issue, if the USC has relatively little assets and relatively little “unrealized gains” in those assets.  For instance in 2015, the unrealized gains excluded from taxation is US$690,000.  See, The “Phantom” Gain Exclusion from the “Mark to Market” Tax – Increases to US$690,000 for the Year 2015  (15 November 2014). Only individuals with assets of significant value, i.e., with unrealized gains greater than US$690,000 would be concerned with this first tax.

However, those former USCs who have future U.S. beneficiaries who might receive gifts or bequests, will be subject to the second tax that is currently 40% of the amount of the gift or bequest received.  This imposes the tax at effectively the highest estate and gift tax rate, which is currently 40%.

If, the covered expatriate has no unrealized gains of greater than US$690,000 and no future U.S. beneficiaries, they probably will not be too concerned with their status as a “covered expatriate.”

The problem is that someone today may have little or no idea that although today, she or he has no U.S. beneficiaries, they may have one more in the future.

In other words, someone might renounce their citizenship today with no U.S. citizen or resident children.  However, in the future, one of those children might move to the U.S., might marry a U.S. citizen and have U.S. citizen children (grandchildren to the “covered expatriate”) or become a naturalized U.S. citizen.

If that were to be the case, the former U.S. citizen (e.g., mom or dad) might be reluctant to leave any assets for their child who later moves to the U.S., knowing that effectively 40% of the value of those assets will go to Uncle Sam for the tax under IRC Section 2801.

As stated earlier, it all depends upon the facts of the particular family and life circumstances; some of which might change in the future in unforeseeable ways.

– “Just the facts, ma’am

Inflation Adjusted Exclusion Amounts Since Inception of 2008 “Mark to Market” Expatriation Tax Law: Example

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The current “expatriation” “exit tax” forces a “covered expatriate” to pay U.S. income taxation on their unrealized gains (the “mark to market” concept) as if they sold their worldwide assets.

An “unrealized gain” is the amount of gain “built into” the property or other investment of the individual, which has yet to be sold or otherwise disposed of by the him or her.  For instance, the Table of Mark to Market Gain from Expatriation Article p 52diagram below reflects various assets held by a “Covered Expatriate” which includes Mexican real estate with a tax basis of US$200,000 but a current fair market value of US$1.1M.  This means the unrealized gain in that Mexican real property is US$900,000 (US$1.1M – US$200K).

Who is a “covered expatriate” is a very important legal analysis that needs to be considered for each U.S. citizen who wishes to renounce or “long-term resident.”  See, The dangers of becoming a “covered expatriate” by not complying with Section 877(a)(2)(C)  (9 March 2014).

Importantly, the law provides for an exclusion from taxation on the former (a) U.S. citizen’s (“USC”) or (b) long-term resident’s unrealized gains. (See, Who is a “long-term” lawful permanent resident (“LPR”) and why does it matter? – 19 Aug. 2014).  In other words, no U.S. income tax is due and payable by a “covered expatriate” if they did not have assets with unrealizeInflation Adjusted Chart of Unrealized Gains free from Tax - Expatriation - Mark to Market Taxd gains greater than a certain threshold amount.

That threshold amount  has been changing annually, since the initial US$600,000 that was originally adopted into the law in 2008.  It is changing due to annual inflation adjustments.

The current 2015 exclusion amount adjusted for inflation is US$690,000.  See, The “Phantom” Gain Exclusion from the “Mark to Market” Tax – Increases to US$690,000 for the Year 2015  (15 November 2014).

Hence, in this case, if the only asset owned by the “covered expatriate” (assuming she became one in 2015) was the real estate in the above example with unrealized gain of US$900,000, only US$210,000 would be subject to the “mark to market” tax on expatriation (i.e., the exit tax).  This is because $690,000 of the total US$900,000 unrealized gain will be excluded from taxation (US$900K – US$690K).

The Mark to Market tax regime imposes taxation on this amount, even though the real estate is never sold.  This means, the “covered expatriate” must come “out of pocket” to find the cash and means necessary to pay the tax imposed under the law.

There is no economic benefit obtained from this annual inflation adjustment if a U.S. citizen or long-term resident waits to become at a later time a covered expatriate; unless they consume, deplete or lose their assets in the interim.  But at least, there is an inflation adjustment, so the taxpayer is not subject to an increasing amount of gain subject to tax as time progresses and inflation eats away at the true economic value and economic growth of the individual’s assets.

U.S. Citizens Overseas who Wish to Renounce without a Social Security Number will Necessarily be a “Covered Expatriate”

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U.S. Citizens Overseas who Wish to Renounce without a Social Security Number (“SSN”) will Necessarily be a “Covered Expatriate”

  • The Dilemma of SSNs, TINs and USCs Residing Overseas

The prior post discussed some of the complications of United States Citizens (“USCs”) who reside outside the U.S. and do not have a social security number (“SSN”) .  This dilemma exists, even though USCs are not generally required to file for or SSN Application Form - SSAobtain a SSN (e.g., at birth – See, SSA Publication – “Social Security Numbers For Children”  page 2, It is not obligatory to file for a SSN at birth. “Must my child have a Social Security number? No. Getting a Social Security number for your newborn is voluntary. But, it is a good idea to get a number when your child is born. . . . ).

Indeed, it is the U.S. federal tax law that requires the USC must have a SSN for their taxpayer identification number (“TIN”).  I will reference various excerpts from a recent paper I drafted and presented titled URGENT NEED FOR U.S. CITIZENS RESIDING OUTSIDE THE U.S. TO BE ABLE TO OBTAIN A TAXPAYER IDENTIFICATION NUMBER (“TIN”) OTHER THAN A SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER , including the following:

 . . . the IRS’ increased focus on international tax compliance has made clear that USCs residing overseas have U.S. tax return filing obligations, even if they have no assets, no income, or no real personal connections in or with the U.S. See IRS notice from 2011 which addresses numerous aspects of tax compliance for USCs overseas, including various penalties under the law[1]:

. . . U.S. Citizens or Dual Citizens Residing Outside the U.S. . . .

The IRS is aware that some taxpayers who are dual citizens of the United States and a foreign country may have failed to timely file United States federal income tax returns or Reports of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBARs), despite being required to do so. . . . 2.  Penalties imposed for failure to file income tax returns or to pay tax . . .  3.  Possible additional penalties that may apply in particular cases . . . 6.  Possible penalties for failure to file FBAR . . . 7. New reporting requirement for foreign financial assets . . . [emphases added] 

USCs residing overseas are subject to the range of tax penalties that apply to all individual taxpayers (e.g., negligence penalties, failure to file penalties, late payment or failure to pay penalties, etc.).[2] Additionally, USCs residing overseas are subject to other, typically much harsher penalties for not timely filing U.S. federal information returns regarding assets located outside the U.S.[3]; alluded to above in the IRS 2011 notice.[4] 

These civil penalties typically are a minimum of US$10,000 per statutory violation. USCs who live outside the U.S. necessarily have assets, such as financial accounts in their country of residence. These Title 26 information reporting requirements[5] are referred to herein as “International Information Returns.”

The IRS will not process federal tax returns and International Information Returns without a valid TIN.[6] Plus, the law does not provide for an exception for USCs overseas who do not file returns, if they do not have a SSN. Late filed, or incomplete International Information Returns and tax returns (e.g., lacking a SSN) will typically subject USCs to these penalties even in those cases when the taxpayer has no federal income tax liability.[7]   

[1] See, IRS FS-2011-13, December 2011, updated February, 2014.

[2] See, IRS FS-2011-13 and as a sample of some of the many statutory penalties that could typically apply, IRC §§ 6048, 6652(f), 6677, 6654, 6655, 6698, 6699, 6166, 6653, 6675, 6715, 6715A, 6717, 6718, 6719, 6720A, 6725, et. seq.

[3] See, IRC §§ 6038, 6038B, 6038D, 6039F, 6039G, 6046, 6046A, 6048, et. seq.

[4] See, IRS FS-2011-13, December 2011, updated February, 2014.

[5] See, IRC §§ 6038, 6038B, 6038D, 6039F, 6039G, 6046, 6046A, 6048, et. seq.

[6] See, IRS website, “General ITIN Information” – http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/General-ITIN-Information – “IRS no longer accepts, and will not process, forms showing “SSA”, 205c”, “applied for”, “NRA”,& blanks, etc.”

[7] See, IRC §§ 911 (foreign earned income exclusion) and 901 (foreign tax credit), et. seq. A USC residing overseas may have no actual federal income tax liability (for various reasons), typically due to the foreign earned income exclusion and/or foreign tax credit calculation.

The above explains fairly clearly the dilemma facing USCs residing overseas.

The complexity of getting a SSN and the requirements are covered in more detail in the paper.  Some key points are:

I.              The Social Security Administration Rules Make it Nearly Impossible for Many USCs Overseas to Reasonably Obtain a SSN

The policy and procedures of the SSA regarding issuing SSNs have changed significantly over the years.[1] The Social Security Administration (SSA) provides a detailed chronology of the major changes in policy and procedures Social Security Emblym - SSAregarding filing for and obtaining a SSN.[2]   One of the most significant revisions in the last decade came from The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (P.L. 108-458), which imposes various standards for the verification of documents or records submitted by an individual.

A.            Only a Few Countries Around the World have Personnel at U.S. Embassies or Consulate Offices that Can Process SSN Applications – SSA Form SS-5-FS

Applying for SSNs overseas is severely restricted compared to an application in the U.S.

According to the U.S. Department of State, Foreign Affairs Manual (“FAM”), only certain “Claims-Taking Posts” in specific countries “may” include “processing applications for Social Security Numbers.” [3]

These 17 countries (and a city in the case of Jerusalem) with Claims-Taking Posts include:

“Austria, Argentina, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Jerusalem, Mexico, Norway, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Spain, and the United Kingdom.”  

Noticeably absent are many Western European countries, virtually all of Latin America, virtually all of Asia, virtually all of Eastern Europe, all of the Middle East (except Jerusalem), all of the African continent, all of the Australian continent and surrounding island countries and Russia, among many other significant countries, including OECD member countries.[4] 

Nothing in the FAM requires any of these “Claims-Taking Posts” to actually process applications for a SSN. Plus, there are of course hundreds of other countries throughout the world, not listed above, which do not have such a U.S. Department of State Post. For these reasons, USCs in countries such as China must travel to a U.S. Department of State Post (e.g., the Philippines) which is able to process applications for SSNs.

[1] See, SSA website, The Story of the Social Security Number, by Carolyn Puckett, Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 69 NO. 2, 2009 (http://ssa.gov/policy/docs/ssb/v69n2/v69n2p55.html.

[2] See, SSA website, Significant Milestones in Social Security Number Policy. A detailed chronology of the major changes in policy and procedures. http://www.ssa.gov/history/ssn/ssnchron.html.

[3] See 7 FAM 530, page 2 of 64.

[4] In contrast to these 17 countries (and one city – Jerusalem) where a USC residing overseas must travel to apply for a SSN, the Treasury Department has announced it has around 100 countries that have signed, or “have reached agreements in substance” a FATCA IGA. USCs throughout the world are required by the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (“FACTA”) to provide their U.S. TIN to financial institutions throughout the world (on IRS Form W-9, or its equivalent), which under current law necessarily must be a SSN. Of course, if they have no SSN, they cannot sign IRS Form W-9 which provides in Part II: “Under penalties of perjury, I certify that: 1. The number shown on this form is my correct taxpayer identification number . . .

  •  The Necessary “Covered Expatriate Status” of a USC without a SSN

The core point of this post, with the above SSN background, is to explain how a USC without a SSN will necessarily be a “covered expatriate” since they will not be able to truthfully certify they have complied with the federal tax laws (title 26).  See, Certification Requirement of Section 877(a)(2)(C) – (5 Years of Tax Compliance) and Important Timing Considerations per the Statute

As other posts have explained, “covered expatriate” status matters:

See, Why “covered expat” (“covered expatriate”) status matters, even if you have no assets! The “Forever Taint”! (20 May 2014) and The “Hidden Tax” of Expatriation – Section 2801 and its “Forever Taint.” (10 April 2014) and “Covered Expatriate” Status is a “Scarlet Letter” (10 Nov 2014).IRS Form 1040 p1

If a USC has no SSN, they by definition will never be able to comply with the Certification Requirement of Section 877(a)(2)(C) since they will not be able to comply with IRC § 6109(a) and Treas. Reg. § 301.6109-1.  As the SSN/TIN paper explains:

 All United States citizens (“USCs”) must have a social security number (“SSN”) under current law as their TIN to file a federal income tax return.[1]

[1] See, IRC § 6109(a) and Treas. Reg. § 301.6109-1.

The IRS will not process federal tax returns and “International Information Returns”, as defined below, without a valid TIN[1]; which currently must be a SSN for a USC.

[1] See, IRS website, – http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/General-ITIN-Information – “IRS no longer accepts, and will not process, forms showing “SSA”, 205c”, “applied for”, “NRA”,& blanks, etc.”