Why Most LPRs Residing Overseas Haven’t a Clue about the Labyrinth of U.S. Taxation and Bank and Financial Reporting of Worldwide Income and Assets (Part I)

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This is a companion post to explain why lawful permanent residents (LPRs) who have left the U.S. and do not continue to reside principally in the country are generally unaware of the detailed federal tax (Title 26) and foreign bank account (FBAR – Title 31) rules. It covers many of the same issues discussed for United States Citizens residing outside the U.S. See, Why Most U.S. Citizens Residing Overseas Haven’t a Clue about the Labyrinth of U.S. Taxation and Bank and Financial Reporting of Worldwide Income and Assets.

1998 Report from Department of Treasury to Chairman of House Committee on Ways and Means

Whether you have a “foreign bank account” for instance, is not intuitive, if you reside principally in a country outside the U.S. In other words, the accounts one may have in their country of tax residency (e.g., Germany, Canada, U.K., India, the U.S., Denmark, Mexico, etc.) will not seem like a “foreign bank account” at all. Rather, it is an account in a financial institution in their country of residency, i.e. a “domestic account.” Similarly, a U.S. bank account for an LPR residing outside the U.S. will intuitively seem like a “foreign bank account.” This is just one counter-intuitive example. Others will be explored in subsequent posts – e.g., “foreign corporations” and “foreign partnerships” among others.

This post focuses on those LPRs who have left the U.S., but never formally abandoned their immigration status by filing Form I-407. See, Few LPRs Who Leave (Emigrate from) the U.S. Formally Abandon their Immigration Status: Important Tax Consequences (Part I)

To better understand how even those in Congress at the U.S. federal government (in 1998) did not have a good understanding of the expansive global application of the tax law applicable to individuals residing outside the U.S., see Income Tax Compliance By U.S. Citizens And U.S. Lawful Permanent Residents Residing Outside The United States And Related Issues

There is a particularly formal way of abandoning LPR status, which is by filing Form I-407, Record of Abandonment of Lawful Permanent Resident. The very instructions to the form imply that it is not the only way to abandon – as the form ” . . . is designed to provide a simple procedure to record an individual’s abandonment . . . “

To complicate the law further, Treasury regulations provide for the so-called “green card test” – but do not contemplate the application of an income tax treaty for which we have nearly 70 with various countries:

(b) Lawful permanent resident –

(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).

To review the nearly 70 income tax treaties with different countries, they can be reviewed on the IRS website – United States Income Tax Treaties – A to Z – The application of these treaties to LPRs will be explored in later posts. Incidentally, no where on the actual “green card” is there express reference to tax obligations as exists on the back page of a U.S. passport.

I will leave you with an excerpt from the 1998 report referred to above starting on page 14:

” . . . Other factors also operate to limit both compliance measurement and improvement. Because the United States asserts taxing jurisdiction over those with little or no connection to the United States other than citizenship or status as a lawful permanent resident, in many cases overseas U.S.taxpayers are difficult to trace or contact. Moreover, even when valid tax assessments can be made against overseas taxpayers, IRS has limited enforcement recourse if the taxpayer’s assets are physically located outside of the United States. In addition, persons may be unaware of their status as U.S. taxpayers with an obligation to file a U.S. tax return. As described in Section II.B, supra, IRS has undertaken various taxpayer education initiatives to increase awareness of filing and payment obligations. In some cases, however,education may not be sufficient. For example, an individual who was born outside the United States and has never even visited the country may, nevertheless, be a U.S. citizen by reason of his parents’ U.S. citizenship. Such a person may not even know that he is a U.S. citizen and thus likely will not know of his obligation to file a U.S. tax return. Similarly, the United States imposes tax on greencard holders who no longer reside in the United States but who have not surrendered their greencards. Although the immigration laws may no longer recognize the validity of the green card if the holder attempted to reenter the country, and the individual may no longer consider himself entitled to lawful permanent resident status, the individual [generally] remains subject to U.S. tax under the Code. [emphasis added along with clarifying language in brackets]

Importantly, no where throughout all of this extensive 1998 report is there even a mention of the foreign bank account reporting obligations. Imagine, the Treasury never once in their report explained how and to what extent FBAR reporting applied to these taxpayers – even-though the ” . . . report responds to section 513 of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, Pub. L. 104-191, which directs the Secretary of the Treasury to prepare a report that describes income tax compliance by U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents residing outside the United States . . . “

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