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.”


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

    Virginia La Torre Jeker, J.D. said:
    August 9, 2016 at 7:34 am

    US citizen-taxpayers wishing to become tax compliant through use of OVDP or Streamlined procedures who lack a SSN can obtain something called an IRSN while they await issuance of their SSN. I have been successful in obtaining such IRSNs for clients in such IRS disclosure programs. More on this here http://blogs.angloinfo.com/us-tax/?p=2608 Once the IRSN is obtained and the necessary 5 years of tax compliance is achieved, I see no reason a T cannot expatriate. If the SSN is not issued by the time his final tax returns and Form 8854 are due, what prevents him from using the IRSN? Once the SSN is issued, IRS reps have told me that it later matches it up with the formerly used IRSN. While I have never tested this, I am suggesting that having achieved full tax compliance and filing the required returns and Form 8854 certifying tax compliance etc. using the IRSN should prevent “covered expatriate” status even if the T has not received his SSN! In addition, I would point out that the instructions to the Form 8854 (see page 4) recognize that a taxpayer may not have a SSN and, in such case must attach an explanation as to why. They also point out that a missing SSN can cause big tax problems and/or a fine with regard to those expatriating, but if someone has an IRSN through which he can be identified by the IRS, I would not think this should happen. Look forward to your comments!

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