Few LPRs Who Leave (Emigrate from) the U.S. Formally Abandon their Immigration Status: Important Tax Consequences (Part I)
There are generally important tax consequences to lawful permanent residents (“LPRs”) who leave the U.S. See, for instance an earlier post, Timing Issues for Lawful Permanent Residents (“LPR”) Who Never “Formally Abandoned” Their Green Card. There are a range of income, withholding and potentially estate and gift tax consequences depending upon the circumstances of each LPR. See, Oops…Did I “Expatriate” and Never Know It: Lawful Permanent Residents Beware! International Tax Journal (2014).
The next few posts will explain the significance of key immigration law concepts for LPRs (e.g., filing Form I-407, Record of Abandonment of Lawful Permanent Resident to formally abandon LPR status). They discuss formal administrative or judicial abandonment of LPR status and the specific relationship to U.S. tax law requirements.
MILLIONS HAVE LEFT – YET FEW HAVE FORMALLY ABANDONED – NO FORM I-407: Apparently a few million LPR individuals have emigrated from the U.S. with their green card in their pocket/purse and most are probably still deemed “United States persons” for federal income tax purposes. This conclusion comes from comparing (i) federal government data indicating the number of LPRs who have emigrated (3.6 million LPRs through 2019) contrasted with (ii) those who have filed Form I-407. The next few posts explore the important tax/legal distinctions of LPRs who formally abandon and those who simply leave the U.S. ignorantly blissful of the complex U.S. tax laws.
A LPR is a so-called “resident alien” by application of the U.S. federal tax law if she or he satisfies the statutory requirements of IRC Section 7701(b)(6), without application of an applicable income tax treaty. Tax treaties can change everything. A “resident alien” includes those who have LPR status who have not formally abandonment that status. See, the Treasury regulations that provide for the so-called “green card test” –
(1) Green card test. An alien is a resident alien with respect to a calendar year if the individual is a lawful permanent resident at any time during the calendar year. A lawful permanent resident is an individual who has been lawfully granted the privilege of residing permanently in the United States as an immigrant in accordance with the immigration laws. Resident status is deemed to continue unless it is rescinded or administratively or judicially determined to have been abandoned.Treas. Reg. § 301.7701(b)-1(b).
There is extensive LPR data published by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). These reports identify the estimated number of LPRs who currently reside in the U.S. and those who have left-emigrated. See, Estimates of the Lawful Permanent Resident Population in the United States and the Subpopulation Eligible to Naturalize: 2015-2019.
The number of LPRs emigrating exceed 3 million starting in 2015. These numbers bear no correlation to the formal abandonment numbers registered with the government, which require filing Form I-407, Record of Abandonment of Lawful Permanent Resident.
As one DHS report points out there is no reliable direct measurements of LPR emigration. It does not exist. A 2019 Office of Immigration Statistics report states:
Emigration. Estimating emigration accurately is difficult.The U.S. government has not collected official statistics since 1957. Most observers agree that emigration of the LPR population from the U.S. is substantial. Between 1900-90, an estimated one-quarter to one-third of LPRs emigrated from the U.S. (see Warren and Kraly, 1985; Ahmed and Robinson, 1994; Mulder, et al., 2002).DHS: Estimates of the Legal Permanent Resident Population and Population Eligible to Naturalize in 2002 (May 2014)
This apparent lack of information is what drove me to file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the government to ask for the number of USCIS Forms I-407 that are filed with the government.
The information I obtained in the FOIA response was surprisingly low, since the government had record of only 46,364 Forms I-407 filed in the years 2013 through 2015, as follows:
SOURCE: Federal Government Response to FOIA Request: Office of Performance and Quality (OPQ), Performance Analysis and External Reporting (PAER), JJ
This represents an average of 15,455 individuals annually who formally abandoned their LPR status. Contrast this relatively small number with the more than 3.6 million LPRs estimated to have emigrated up to and through the year 2019 per the DHS report. This leaves a massive gap of some millions (assuming about 15,000 per year file Form I-407) of LPRs who have left-emigrated from the U.S. yet never formally abandoned by filing Forms I-407.
What about the tax consequences? How many of them know, understand or have any idea whatsoever of their federal tax filing obligations regarding their continued status? Subsequent posts will explore these consequences.
What is the takeaway from (i) the Office of Immigration Statistics reporting and (ii) the LPR – I-407 information provided by the government’s response to my FOIA request? There is a discrepancy in the millions of individuals. Millions of LPRs where most of them are simply not aware of how the U.S. federal tax law continues to impact their lives after they have left the country.
The successive posts will discuss the language and definition of a “lawful permanent resident” for purposes of the tax law and what it means for individuals residing outside the U.S. that still hold their green card in their purse/pocket:
(6) Lawful permanent resident. . . . an individual is a lawful permanent resident of the United States at any time if—
(A) such individual has the status of having been lawfully accorded the privilege of residing permanently in the United States as an immigrant in accordance with the immigration laws, and
(B) such status has not been revoked (and has not been administratively or judicially determined to have been abandoned). [emphasis added]IRC Section 7701(b)(6) without flush language.
Note: The USCIS provides quarterly reports that “Contains quarterly performance data on the abandonment of lawful permanent resident status, organized by field office and country.” Form I-407, Record of Abandonment of Lawful Permanent Resident Status. Fiscal Year 2020, 1st Quarter (17 forms processed); Fiscal Year 2019- 4th Quarter (693 forms processed); Fiscal Year 2019, 3rd Quarter (4,102 forms processed); Fiscal Year 2019, 2nd Quarter (3,874 forms processed); Fiscal Year 2019, 1st Quarter (3,886 forms processed); Fiscal Year 2018, 4th Quarter (3,559 forms processed); Fiscal Year 2018, 3rd Quarter (3,633 forms processed); Fiscal Year 2018, 2nd Quarter (2,725 forms processed); Fiscal Year 2017, 2nd Quarter (3,315 forms processed); Fiscal Year 2017, 1st Quarter (3,153 forms processed). The average annual Forms I-407 filed are approximately 14,000 annually in these years.