Certification Requirement of Section 877(a)(2)(C)
I have not actively written on this blog for one and a half years. There has certainly been a lot to write about in the area of taxation, expatriation, citizenship renunciation and abandonment of lawful permanent residency status in that time. I was distracted (20/20) starting in the last quarter of 2018 when my writing was suspended. At least one good distraction among others was some awesome underwater cave exploration (see cave and cenote entrance below of one just discovered last year in the Yucatán peninsula). Plus membership into the Explorer’s Club – along with a case of dengue after a cave exploration excursion in the jungle. The latter not being a good distraction. https://www.explorers.org/about/about_the_club
None of which has anything to do with tax-expatriation matters, but I will now be back to writing about new developments in the tax law.
This jump starts the Tax-Expatriation blog which has been viewed by hundreds of thousands (from around the world) since its inception. Hopefully it will have valuable information for you as you peruse its contents.
Most topics covered by this blog are civil in nature and not criminal. However, unlike Kipling’s ” . . .Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet. . . ” federal tax law sometimes crosses over from civil to criminal. That’s the story of the recently unsealed indictment of a naturalized U.S. citizen, 52 year old Mr. Tinkov. The IRS reviewed his tax filings, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office (Northern District of California) has brought an indictment for filing a false IRS Form 8854 and a false tax return, for under-reporting his net worth. The indictment charges Tinkov with two counts of filing false returns or other documents in violation of 26 U.S.C. § 7206(1). The Indictment was filed under seal and the docket can be reviewed here.
The press release of the DOJ can be reviewed here.
This is not the first time the U.S. federal government has used IRS Form 8854, required to be filed by those who “expatriate”, as part of a criminal tax case.
The twain shall meet. See, the 2016 indictment of a NY business professor discussed here: Expatriation Tax Form 8854 is Part of Criminal Tax Case
Importantly, when the taxpayer signs their U.S. federal tax return, they do so under declaration of penalty of perjury. This declaration generally applies to and includes any statements, attached forms and IRS Form 8854, Initial and Annual Expatriation Statement (in those cases where the individual is “expatriating” from a taxation perspective). This “expatriation” Form 8854 has its own signature block that must be signed under penalty of perjury. This specific declaration plays a prominent role in the indictment.
The indictment alleges Mr. Tinkov became a U.S. citizen by naturalization in 1996 and he renounced his U.S. citizenship in October 2013. Therefore, if he was a naturalized citizen, he necessarily would have become a “covered expatriate” had he met any of the three statutory tests: (a) the net worth test, (b) tax liability test, or (c) the certification test (IRC Section 877(a)(2)(C)). The government alleges he met the net worth test.
The indictment charges that he met the net worth test and IRS Form 8854 (COUNT TWO) and IRS Form 1040 (COUNT ONE) were false. False, the indictment alleges (COUNT ONE), since he did not reflect his deemed “mark to market” gains from his property that he owned in 2013 at the time he became a “covered expatriate” on his income tax return. The indictment uses “technical tax” language calling such a “gain” as arising from a “constructive sale.”
The relevant portion of the indictment as to Form 8854 (COUNT TWO: 26 U.S.C. § 7206(1) -Making and Subscribing A False Document or Statement) provides –
On or about April 15, 2014, in the Northern District of California, and elsewhere, the defendant, OLEG TINKOV, a/k/a Oleg Tinkoff, did willfully make and subscribe a Form 8854, Initial and Annual Expatriation Statement, for the calendar year 2013 (the “Expatriation Statement”), which was verified by a written declaration that it was made under penalties of perjury and which defendant TESfKOV knew was not true and correct as to every material matter. The Expatriation Statement, which was prepared, signed, and which TINKOV caused to be prepared and signed, in the Northern District of California and was filed with the IRS, (1) falsely reported on Part IV, Section A, Line 2, that TINKOV’s net worth as of his expatriation date was$300,000; (2) fraudulently failed to report any property in Part IV, Section B; and (3) falsely stated that to the best of TINKOV s knowledge and belief, the Expatriation Statement was true, correct, and complete, whereas TINKOV knew and believed his net worth as of his expatriation date was greater than $300,000, and that he was required to list property and report information related to such property on the Expatriation Statement, in violation of Title 26, United States Code, Section 7206(1).
It is curious that no further charges were brought, such as tax evasion ((26 U.S.C. § 7201) and there were no Title 18 crimes charged. The indictment alleges he under-reported his total income (not including the “mark to market” gains from the IRC § 877A(1)) and therefore it would seem to be ripe for a tax evasion charge? Interestingly, while the indictment uses the language “constructive sale” that term is found nowhere in the statute or the regulations. Instead, the statute uses the language “mark to market” and provides that –
(1) Mark to market§ 877A(1)
The term “constructive” or “deemed” (e.g., “deemed sale” or “constructive distribution” or “constructive ownership”) are terms commonly used by U.S. tax professionals and the federal tax law throughout. It refers to a “legal fiction”, since there is no actual transaction that must occur; such as a sale, distribution or some type of actual ownership. Therein lies the “legal fiction.” Importantly, nowhere is “constructive” or “deemed” used in the specific expatriation language of IRC §§ 877 or 877A. The statute uses instead the terminology “mark to market” that treats the U.S. taxpayer (i.e., the “covered expatriate”) “as if” all of their property was ” . . . sold on the day before the expatriation date for its fair market value. . . .” Herein is the legal fiction in these tax expatriation rules since no sale actually occurs.
There is important case law that supports the argument that the government cannot impose taxation until an actual sale or exchange of property occurs. For an excellent review of the 1920 U.S. Supreme Court’s decision of Eisner v. Macomber, see the article prepared by Professor Henry Ordower at Saint Louis University – School of Law –
The Expatriation Tax, Deferrals, Mark to Market, the Macomber Conundrum and Doubtful ConstitutionalityPittsburgh Tax Review, Vol. 15, No. 1, 2017, Saint Louis U. Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2018-3
Maybe the U.S. Attorney’s office did not charge tax evasion ((26 U.S.C. § 7201) in the Tinkov case, because of their concerns that the “mark to market” tax imposed by statute may not even be Constitutional? Maybe they did not want to try to pursue a criminal charge on a tax, the very essence of it, which could be challenged by applying the realization principles set forth by the U.S. Supreme Court?
A post in August 2014 explained the basic rule of who is a “long-term resident” as that technical term is defined for tax purposes in IRC Section 877 (e)(2). There is much confusion about how the tax law defines a “lawful permanent resident” (“LPR”) versus how immigration law defines what is almost the same concept. The statutes are different and have definitions in two separate federal codes (Title 26, the federal tax provisions and Title 8, the immigration law provisions).
Posted on August 19, 2014
This follow-up comment is to highlight some key concepts about why it matters if you become a “long-term” resident as that term is defined in the tax law.
- A LPR can reside for substantially shorter periods in the U.S. (shorter than the apparent 7 or 8 years identified in the statute), and still be a “long-term resident” per IRC Section 877 (e)(2) depending upon the facts of any particicular case.
- There are far more LPRs who abandon their status (formally) than U.S. citizens who formally take the oath of renunciation. See the table above reflecting those who have formally renounced U.S. citizenship versus those who have formally abandoned their LPR status.
- Plenty of LPRs informally abandon their LPR status for immigration purposes by moving and living permanently outside the U.S.
- An individual who has/had LPR status, has no control over the timing of when their status ends; if it is determined to have been legally abandonmened by a federal immigration judge. See, The dangers of becoming a “covered expatriate” by not complying with Section 877(a)(2)(C).
- There are plenty of timing issues for LPRs surrounding how and when they have “abandoned” their LPR status for purposes of IRC Section 877 (e)(2). See –
Lawful Permanent Residents – Tax Law vs. Immigration Law – University of San Diego School of Law – Procopio International Tax Institute
The 12th annual international tax conference was held on campus on October 20 & 21st, 2016: The University of San Diego School of Law – Procopio International Tax Institute.
This specific course was addressed by tax and immigration law experts and views from a federal immigration court judge, as follows:
Course 3B: U.S. Lawful Permanent Residents – Tax Law vs. Immigration Law
Residentes legales permanentes de los Estados Unidos – Ley fiscal vs. Ley de inmigración
The Honorable Rico J. Bartolomei, assistant chief immigration judge of the federal immigration courts
The speakers addressed numerous issues, including the immigration consequences of filing IRS Form 8833, Treaty-Based Return Position Disclosure Under Section 6114 or 7701(b), and the specific impact of IRC Section 7701(b)(6) that provides in relevant part as follows:
- An individual shall cease to be treated as a lawful permanent resident of the United States if such individual commences to be treated as a resident of a foreign country under the provisions of a tax treaty between the United States and the foreign country, does not waive the benefits of such treaty applicable to residents of the foreign country, and notifies the Secretary of the commencement of such treatment. [emphasis added]
Act of Abandonment for Immigration Law Purposes?
Some of the key points made by the immigration law experts, including the immigration judge were:
- Permanent resident card is not a tourist visa.
- DHS will make a finding of abandonment following a single trip outside the U.S. of more than one year.
- Rebuttable presumption of abandonment following a single trip outside the U.S. of six months to one year.
- Residency may be deemed abandoned following multiple trips abroad, even if no single trip exceeds six months.
–Factors include the noncitizen’s family ties, employment, property holdings, and business affiliations in the U.S. and in the foreign country
–Filing a U.S. income tax return as a tax nonresident alien raises a rebuttable presumption of abandonment.
See prior posts regarding how and when lawful permanent residents can be deemed to have expatriated:
IT AIN’T FAIR: First (1) taxing me as a U.S. citizen and then (2) taxing me on my relinquishment or renunciation of U.S. citizenship or LPR abandoment and further (3) taxing my children on their inheritance from me!@!@!, Oct. 25, 2015
U.S citizens (USCs) and Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs): Caution When Making Gifts. US Tax Court Recently Ruled a 1972 Gift by Sumner Redstone Still Open to IRS Challenge
The statute of limitations is one of the most important considerations for any individual when considering what tax consequences the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) might argue they have for years past. This can occur many years into the future as explained further below.
Former USCs and LPRs can be in a particularly precarious position, as was recently demonstrated by a U.S. Tax Court case for a gift that was made decades ago in 1972. See, Redstone vs. Commissioner (TCM 2015-237). Although this U.S. Tax Court case involving Sumner Redstone had nothing to do with renunciation of citizenship, it shows how the IRS can reach back many years and even decades in assessing taxes it claims are owing. The newly (in year 2010) added IRC Section 6501(c)(8) makes this highly likely under current revised law.
Former USCs and any U.S. beneficiaries of theirs (e.g., U.S. resident children or grandchildren who might receive gifts or bequests from the former USCs) should be cognizant of the statute of limitations. See a prior post from 2014, When the U.S. Tax Law has no Statute of Limitations against the IRS; i.e., for the U.S. citizen and LPR residing outside the U.S.
As this prior post noted, there are at least three basic scenarios when there is no statute of limitations for federal tax matters are as follows:
1. The former USC or LPR does not file a U.S. income tax return, when they had a requirement to so file. IRC Section 6501(c)(3). See a post from 2014, When do I meet the gross income thresholds that require me to file a U.S. income tax return?
2. There is fraud on the part of the taxpayer (e.g., the taxpayer intentionally does not report income). IRC Sections 6501(c)(1), (c)(2).
3. The USC or LPR fails to report certain foreign transactions, including inadvertently neglecting to report. IRC Section 6501(c)(8). This rule was only recently adopted as part of the “HIRE Act” which also created FATCA. The types of transactions set above in the table provides a brief summary of when transactions can give rise to an “open” statute of limitations period. In other words, as many years and decades can pass (see Redstone 1972 gift transaction) before the IRS ever has to make a proposed assessment of taxes and penalties. These include numerous ownership or economic interests in foreign (non-U.S.) companies, partnerships, foreign trusts, foreign investment accounts, among others.
This is indeed one of those areas where the IRS can argue a “gotcha moment”; simply because the former USC or LPR was not aware of the extremely complex rules of reporting assets (normally in their own country of residence outside the U.S.). The consequences to these families can go on indefinitely, per post from September 2015, Finally – Proposed Regulations for “Covered Gifts” and “Covered Bequests” Issued by Treasury Last Week (Be Careful What You Ask For!)
Denial of U.S. Passports: President Obama and Congress Pass Law that will Require Department of State to Deny a U.S. Passport for a “Seriously Delinquent Taxpayer”
Entry in and out of the U.S. has just gotten more problematic under a new law for those U.S. citizens who the IRS asserts owes taxes. A new statutory concept has been added to the tax law called “seriously delinquent tax debt”; which is defined by new IRC Section 7345 as a tax that has been assessed, is greater than US$50,000, and where a notice of lien has been filed or levy made.
Prior posts have addressed current legal requirements surrounding social security numbers for U.S. federal tax compliance purposes. See, USCs without a Social Security Number (and a Passport) “Cannot?” Travel to the U.S., posted on May 17, 2015.
Other 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)?
The Joint Explanatory Statement of the Committee of the Conference provides the key provisions summary of the law as follows:
Part II: C’est la vie Ms. Lucienne D’Hotelle! Tax Timing Problems for Former U.S. Citizens is Nothing New – the IRS and the Courts Have Decided Similar Issues in the Past (Pre IRC Section 877A(g)(4))
This is Part II, a follow-on discussion of older U.S. case law and IRS rulings that address how and when individuals are subject to U.S. taxation before and after they assert they are no longer U.S. citizens.
I might point out that I am of the belief that we humans always like to hear the news we want to hear; and/or interpret it in the way we find most beneficial to us. Who doesn’t like good news versus bad news? Whether we (laypeople and tax lawyers alike) interpret Section 877A(g)(4) in any particular way; it is of no real consequence when it is the IRS that will enforce the law and ultimately the Department of Justice, Tax Division who will handle any such case interpreting this provision before a U.S. District Court or the Court of Federal Claims. For those who have not litigated before these Courts and seen how aggressive are the government lawyers in advocating for the government, the following discussion will hopefully be illustrative.
The question is what is the correct date of “relinquishment of citizenship” as defined in the statute; IRC Section 877A(g)(4)? Many argue the law cannot be applied retroactively?
However, the specific case discussed here, did just that; applied the law retroactively to determine U.S. citizenship status of an individual and corresponding tax obligations. This was also in a time of a much simpler tax code with (i) no international information reporting requirements (e.g., IRS Forms 8938, 8858, 5471, 8865, 3520, 3520-A, 926, 8621, etc.), (ii) no Title 31 “FBAR” reporting requirements and (iii) no constant drumbeat by the IRS of international taxpayers and enforcement. See, recent announcement by IRS on Oct. 16, 2015 (one day after tax returns were required to be filed by many) Offshore Compliance Programs Generate $8 Billion; IRS Urges People to Take Advantage of Voluntary Disclosure Programs. However, for cautionary posts on the IRS OVDP and the deceptive numbers published (e.g., “$8 Billion”), see How is the offshore voluntary disclosure program really working? Not well for USCs and LPRs living overseas posted May 10, 2014 and The 2013 GAO Report of the IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program, International Tax Journal, CCH Wolters Kluwer, January-February 2014. PDF version here.
Of course, the answer to this question helps determine if and when will the individual be subject to the federal tax laws of the U.S. on their worldwide income and global assets. In the case of Ms. Lucienne D’Hotelle (an interesting 1977 appellate opinion from the firs circuit) she had spent little time in the U.S. and had sent a letter in her native language French to the U.S. Department of State, which stated “I have never considered myself to be a citizen of the United States.” This is not unlike many individuals around the world today; at least as of late – in the era of FATCA, who assert they are not a U.S. citizen because they “relinquish[ed] it by the performance of certain expatriating acts with the required “intent” to give up the US citizenship” and did not notify the U.S. federal government.
The Court nevertheless found Ms. Lucienne D’Hotelle retroactively subject to U.S. income taxation on her non-U.S. source income (up until she received a certificate of loss of nationality from the Department of State); for specific years even when the immigration law provisions of the day said she was no longer a U.S. citizen during that same retroactive period.
There have been many contemporary commentators who argue an individual does not need to (i) have, (ii) do, or (iii) receive any of the following, and yet still should be able to successfully argue they have shed themselves of U.S. citizenship and hence the obligations of U.S. taxation and reporting on their worldwide income and global assets –
(i) receive a U.S. federal government issued document (e.g., a certificate of loss of nationality “CLN” per 877A(g)(4)(C)),
(ii) receive a cancelation of a naturalized citizen’s certificate of naturalization by a U.S. court (per 877A(g)(4)(D)),
(iii) provide a signed statement of voluntary relinquishment from the individual to the U.S. Department of State (per 877A(g)(4)(B)), or
(iv) provide proof of an in person renunciation before a diplomatic or consular officer of the U.S. (per paragraph (5) of section 349(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1481(a)(5)), in accordance with 877A(g)(4)(C)).
Some older tax cases that interpreted similar concepts are worthy of consideration. They will certainly be in any brief of the attorneys for the U.S. Department of Justice, Tax Division and/or Chief Counsel lawyers for the IRS in any case where the individual challenges that none of the above items are required in their particular case to avoid U.S. taxation and reporting requirements.
The D’Hotelle case is illustrative of the efforts taken by the Department of Justice, Tax Division in collecting U.S. income tax on a naturalized citizen. You will notice they did not take a sympathetic approach to her case. Ms. Lucienne D’Hotelle was born in France in 1909 and died in 1968 in France, yet the U.S. government continued to pursue collection of U.S. income taxation on her foreign source income from the Dominican Republic, France and apparently Puerto Rico even after her death during a period of time when she used a U.S. passport. Lucienne D’Hotelle de Benitez Rexach, 558 F.2d 37 (1st Cir.1977). She, not unlike many individuals today, claimed she was not a U.S. citizen – or at least stated “I have never considered myself to be a citizen of the United States.”
Some of the particularly interesting facts relevant to Ms. D’Hotelle, a naturalized citizen, which are relevant to the question of U.S. taxation of citizens, were set forth in the appellate court’s decision as follows:
Lucienne D’Hotelle was born in France in 1909. She became Lucienne D’Hotelle de Benitez Rexach upon her marriage to Felix in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 1928. She was naturalized as a United States citizen on December 7, 1942. The couple spent some time in the Dominican Republic, where Felix engaged in harbor construction projects. Lucienne established a residence in her native France on November 10, 1946 and remained a resident until May 20, 1952. During that time s 404(b) of the Nationality Act of 19402 provided that naturalized citizens who returned to their country of birth and resided there for three years lost their American citizenship. On November 10, 1947, after Lucienne had been in France for one year, the American Embassy in Paris issued her a United States passport valid through November 9, 1949. Soon after its expiration Lucienne applied in Puerto Rico for a renewal. By this time she had resided in France for three years.
* * *
On May 20, 1952, the Vice-Consul there signed a Certificate of Loss of Nationality, citing Lucienne’s continuous residence in France as having automatically divested her of citizenship under s 404(b). Her passport . . . was confiscated, cancelled and never returned to her. The State Department approved the certificate on December 23, 1952. Lucienne made no attempt to regain her American citizenship; neither did she affirmatively renounce it.
* * *
Predictably, the United States eventually sought to tax Lucienne for her half of that income. Whether by accident or design, the government’s efforts began in earnest shortly after the Supreme Court invalidated *40 the successor statute4 to s 404(b). In in Schneider v. Rusk, 377 U.S. 163 (1964), the Court held that the distinction drawn by the statute between naturalized and native-born Americans was so discriminatory as to violate due process. In January 1965, about two months after this suit was filed, the State Department notified Lucienne by letter that her expatriation was void under Schneider and that the State Department considered her a citizen. Lucienne replied that she had accepted her denaturalization without protest and had thereafter considered herself not to be an American citizen.
There are other facts that make clear the government was not fond of her husband, the income that he earned and how he managed his and his wife’s assets during and after her death. The Court also discusses at length the fact that she had used a U.S. passport during the years when she alleges she was not a U.S. citizen. The Court goes on to analyze her U.S. citizenship, and the following discussions are illustrative of the ultimate tax consequences.
The government contends that Lucienne was still an American citizen from her third anniversary as a French resident until the day the Certificate of Loss of Nationality was issued in Nice. This case presents a curious situation, since usually it is the individual who claims citizenship and the government which denies it. But pocketbook considerations occasionally reverse the roles. United States v. Matheson, 532 F.2d 809 (2nd Cir.), cert. denied 429 U.S. 823, 97 S.Ct. 75, 50 L.Ed.2d 85 (1976). The government’s position is that under either Schneider v. Rusk, supra, or Afroyim v. Rusk, 387 U.S. 253, 87 S.Ct. 1660, 18 L.Ed.2d 757 (1967), the statute by which Lucienne was denaturalized is unconstitutional and its prior effects should be wiped out. Afroyim held that Congress lacks the power to strip persons of citizenship merely *41 because they have voted in a foreign election. The cornerstone of the decision is the proposition that intent to relinquish citizenship is a prerequisite to expatriation.
411 F.Supp. at 1293. However, the district court went too far in viewing the equities as between Lucienne and the government in strict isolation from broad policy considerations which argue for a generally retrospective application of Afroyim and Schneider to the entire class of persons invalidly expatriated. Cf. Linkletter v. Walker, supra. The rights stemming from American citizenship are so important that, absent special circumstances, they must be recognized even for years past. Unless held to have been citizens without interruption, persons wrongfully expatriated as well as their offspring might be permanently and unreasonably barred from important benefits.6 Application of Afroyim or Schneider is generally appropriate.* * *
During the interval from late 1949 to mid-1952, Lucienne was unaware that she had been automatically denaturalized.
* * *
The First Quarter of 2015 saw a large number of published names of former U.S. citizens: 1,335 total for the first quarter.
In addition, the second quarter saw a total of 460, for a cumulative total for the year (mid way through the year of 1,795). At this pace, the year 2015 could be a slight record of U.S. citizenship renunciations compared to the record year of 2014.
The names of each citizen can be located in the list published in the Federal Register.
There are a number of key considerations and strategic decisions that most all U.S. citizens need to consider prior to renouncing citizenship. See, for instance –
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.
“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:
- “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
- 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.
Inflation Adjusted Exclusion Amounts Since Inception of 2008 “Mark to Market” Expatriation Tax Law: Example
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 diagram 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 unrealized 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.