Famous Former U.S. Citizens – Oscar-winning actor Yul Brynner (Tax Rates Then and Now)

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Yul Brynner was born as Yuliy Borisovich Briner in 1920 in Russia.

He won an Academy Award for best actor and two Tony Awards for the King and IYule B Declaration P1He also played the Egyptian king Ramses II in The Ten Commandments.

He started the process for naturalization of U.S. citizenship in 1943 according to the document, Declaration of Intention, filed with the U.S. federal district court in the Southern District of New York.

Note the photograph and prior residence identified as Dairem South Manchuria,      

as his last place of foreign residency; which is a major port city located in China in the  Liaodong peninsula.  Apparently, Dairem is popular with Russian tourists.  He was Russian.

Yule B Declaration P2

This is particularly interesting, since Yul Brynner was Russian and apparently moved to what was then known as “South Manchuria”?

He renounced citizenship in 1965 in Bern, Switzerland, apparently for tax reasons according to a biography about his life.

The highest U.S. federal income tax rate in 1965 was 70% (compared to today’s 39.6% rate). See, Personal Exemptions and Individual Income Tax Rates, 1913-2002.  The income tax rate was substantially higher then, compared with the current rate, although it is a bit like comparing “apples” and “oranges”; since the tax deductions, exemptions and credits that existed in 1965, look little like the current law.

Social security taxes in 1965 were about 1/2 the tax rate as today, but it only applied to the first US$4,800 of income (which represents about $36,125 in inflation adjusted dollars today).  Current social security rates apply to the first $117,000 of income, without limits on the Medicare portion of 2.8%.  For historical social security rates, see,

 

 

 

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Social Security Retirement Benefits – for former USCs and LPRs (Intersection of U.S. Tax and Social Security Law)

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The basic law of social security, regarding retirement income (not survivors or dependent’s benefits) is set out below, and does not consider those countries with a Totalization Agreement (of which there are 26 countries, 25 which are currently in force):

  • Generally, a worker must have 40 quarters (which is 10 years) of “covered employment” to be eligible for Social Security retirement benefits.Social Security Emblym - SSA
  • U.S. citizens have virtually no limitations imposed upon them for receiving retirement benefits, provided they have met the 40 quarters of “covered employment”.
  • Covered employment largely means the individual was
  1. self employed in the U.S. (and paid social security taxes) or
  2. was working for a U.S. employer (where the actual employer was/is a U.S. corporation or otherwise a U.S. tax resident) either in or outside the U.S.; and
  3. the employment must generally be full time.
  • Historically, there were no limits on Social Security payments to non-U.S. citizens.
  • Congress then passed a law in 1956 that required non-citizens to generally reside in the U.S. to receive Social Security payments.
  • Subsequently, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 added Section 202(y) to the Social Security Act.  Section 202(y) of the act, which became effective for applications filed on or after December 1, 1996, states:
  • Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no monthly benefit under [Title II of the Social Security Act] shall be payable to any alien in the United States for any month during which such alien is not lawfully present in the United States as determined by the Attorney General.

More details on social security retirement benefits regarding former USCs and former LPRs to come in a further post; specifically including a discussion of how the vested retirement benefits under the Social Security Act are not terminated upon a change of immigration status or loss of U.S. citizenship.

See also, What happens to social security benefits to former USCs and LPRS including a “covered expatriate”?

 

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The IRS does not give a “Certificate of Expatriation” or similar tax document . . .

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After a U.S. citizen has formally renounced (or relinquished) their U.S. citizenship, the U.S. Department of State provides a “Certificate of Loss of Nationality” (“CLN”).  This form can be located here at – Certificate of Loss of Nationality of the United States, Form DS-4083 (CLN)

Certificate of Loss of Nationality of the United States, Form DS-4083 (CLN)Also, lawful permanent residents who formally abandon their “green card” status will do so by filing an Abandonment of Lawful Permanent Resident Status Form I-407.

Those LPRs who mail the Form I-407, will never receive any type of confirmation from the government, other than their own copies of documents filed and proof of mailing it (e.g., certified mail, return receipt).  If the Form I-407 is presented to the U.S. Consulate or Embassy, the individual should receive a stamped copy of the form which should be given to the former LPR by the consular officer.

However, the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) which has very different responsibilities as compared to the U.S. Department of State, does not issue any sort of similar document to the CLN.  There is no equivalent “Tax CLN.”  Indeed, many individuals feel let down or “without closure” when they learn that it is a one-way flow of information;  from the individual to the IRS.  The IRS does not have an obligation to even confirm  receipt of the documents filed with the IRS.

This is quite disorienting for many USCs and LPRs residing overseas, where the revenue authority in their country will regularly give a confirmation of tax documents received.  Sometimes, a government will provide a confirmation of the taxes owing and paid through some specific type of feedback or response.

The IRS does no such a thing; and there is no document that will come from the IRS certifying “tax expatriation” has occurred.I-407 Abandonment Form

The legal burden is therefore generally on the taxpayer to be able to prove the filing of the tax returns and IRS Form 8854. See, How many former U.S. citizens and long-term lawful permanent residents have filed (or will file) IRS Form 8854?

Filing the returns through an overnight courier service (e.g., DHL, Federal Express, etc.) and maintaining the proof of mailing and delivery is always important.  If the tax documents are filed from the U.S., they should always be sent with such proof, or via U.S. certified mail, return receipt.  One recommendation/pointer, is to ask the IRS to stamp date the receipt (e.g., a copy of the cover/transmittal letter) and return it to you in a self-addressed return envelope.

All of this is quite important, particularly to get the “clock ticking” against the IRS to bring an audit, under the statute of limitations period.  See, 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.

Collateral Affects of Renouncing U.S. Citizenship & LPR status – U.S. Driver’s License

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Renouncing USC or formally abandoning your LPR can have consequences that you may not have contemplated.  For instance, many States in the United States will not issue or renew a driver’s license to a non-USC who has a certain immigration status.

As an example, Delaware will not issue a driver’s license to someone who has an A-1, A-2, B-2, B-1, or WB visa holder.

Other States, such as Texas have extensive requirements, depending upon the immigration status of the former USC or LPR.CA DMV drivers license samples

California laws restrict many non-citizens from having a driver’s license.  California does accept a Canadian passport or birth certificate as a valid document and proof of eligibility.  Also a valid Mexican border crossing card (aka “laser visa”) with a valid I-94 is acceptable in California.  See, California DMV.

Almost every State has a different set of unique rules.  See, for instance, New Hampshire, New York, Florida, Washington State, Illinois and Washington, D.C.  Illinois, for instance, has a law passed in 2013 that allows a driver’s license to be issued to an “undocumented” temporary visitor.Illinois drivers license

Washington State currently has one of the most liberal set of rules for obtaining a license; including acceptance of “multiple documents issued by: Mexican government [&] Guatemalan government

Of course, if you are living almost exclusively outside the U.S., a driver’s license from a State within the United States, will certainly not be necessary.  However, some U.S. insurance companies will not provide certain insurance coverage for non-citizens without a U.S. driver’s license.  Losing your U.S. driver’s license may be little more than an inconvenience.

 

 

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POLL: How Did You Become a U.S. Citizen? Check the Appropriate Answer Below.

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Surprise – You are Not a Citizen After All . . . NYT Article – After Forming Deep Roots in U.S., Man Discovers He Isn’t a Citizen

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The New York Times has a fascinating article titled After Forming Deep Roots in U.S., Man Discovers He Isn’t a Citizen, May 12, 2014, by Lizette Alvarez.

The article discusses the “opposite” of someone considering expatriation; rather when a long-term resident of the U.S., who always thought he was a U.S. citizen, discovers he is not, to his dismay.

Ironically, if Mr. Mario Hernandez was never a U.S. citizen (and never a lawful permanent resident) he would be able to leave the U.S. without having adverse U.S. income tax consequences (nor his family and friends having adverse gift or inheritance tax consequences), if he can comply with the certification requirement of Section 877(a)(2)C).  Never being a USC or a LPR is a blessing in disguise, when it comes to the application of the “expatriation tax” rules. 

Since the resources dedicated in tax-expatriation.com focus on USCs and LPRs who reside outside the U.S., this is just a theoretical observation that surely would not be in the interest of this gentleman who has lived most of his life in the U.S. and has always considered himself a “U.S. person.”

NYT’s article –

. . . Mario Hernandez made a discovery recently that rattled him to his core: He is not an American citizen. In fact, he is not even a United States resident.

Nobody had ever told him. Not his mother or his grandparents. Not the United States Army, where he served for three years in the 1970s. Not the election supervisors in four states who tallied his votes in every major election since Jimmy Carter won the White House. Not the two state agencies where he was employed, one in Washington State and the other in Florida. And not the two federal agencies, including the Justice Department, where he spent most of his career as a prison supervisor handling notorious inmates and undergoing thorough background checks every five years. Citizenship is a requirement for the job.

The revelation came only after Mr. Hernandez and his wife, Bonita, started planning a trip to celebrate his recent retirement from the Bureau of Prisons after 22 years. The two had settled on a Caribbean cruise, which would have been Mr. Hernandez’s first time out of the country since arriving in 1965 as a Cuban refugee. On a cruise line website, he found out that a United States passport was a requirement. He did not have one and wondered whether he even had naturalization papers.

The article highlights a number of key considerations.  First, how any U.S. citizen, living in any part of the world, must have a U.S. passport to enter into the U.S.  See an earlier post –  Coming to America. . . Accidental Americans Beware – The Law Requires a U.S. Passport!

There are a host of practical problems for people who live both in and outside of the U.S. who do not have a U.S. passport.  This article highlights a very important example.

The article also demonstrates the complexity of anyone knowing with certainty, their own citizenship status and whether they are a “U.S. person” for U.S. federal income tax purposes.  Imagine, the difficulties that financial institutions and companies throughout the world will have to comply with FATCA, as they attempt to identify whether their existing or new customer accounts or owners validly hold USC or LPR status.  See, The Catch 22 of Opening a Bank Account in Your Own Country – for USCs and LPRs.  

Incidentally, in the case of Mr. Mario Hernandez, he was a “U.S. person” for U.S. federal income tax purposes for all of the years he resided in the U.S.  This is true, even if he had no legal immigration status to live in the U.S.  Anyone satisfying the physical residency rules (“substantial presence test”), regardless of their legal or illegal immigration status, will be a U.S. income tax resident and subject to income tax and reporting on their worldwide income.  See, “Tax Simplification: The Need for Consistent Tax Treatment of All Individuals (Citizens, Lawful Permanent Residents and Non-Citizens Regardless of Immigration Status) Residing Overseas, Including the Repeal of U.S. Citizenship Based Taxation,”  by Patrick W. Martin and Professor Reuven Avi-Yonah, 2013.

 

 

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Loss of US Nationality – Renunciation versus Relinquishment?

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[The following is a Guest Post from Immigration Lawyer Ms. Teodora Purcell and does not address tax issues.

A word of caution – Do not be lulled in to thinking that by “relinquishment” you have escaped the federal tax consequences of Sections 877, 877A, 2801, 7701(a)(50), et. seq.   See, Why Section 7701(a)(50) is so important for those who “relinquished” citizenship years ago (without a CLN)]   See also, How many former U.S. citizens and long-term lawful permanent residents have filed (or will file) IRS Form 8854?]

 

Loss of US Nationality – Renunciation versus Relinquishment?

If you are a US citizen or a US non-citizen national,[1] you can lose your nationality (“expatriate”) by committing certain acts specified in the immigration statute [2] voluntarily and with the intention to relinquish your nationality.[3]US Passport

Expatriation is a personal right that cannot be exercised by another, for example, a parent cannot renounce the US citizenship of a minor child. Your motivation is also not relevant, unless you later claim you gave up your US citizenship under duress or involuntary

How can you lose US nationality?

You can lose your US nationality as a result of renunciation or relinquishment and if you make such a claim, the burden is on you to show by preponderance of the evidence (i.e. more likely than not) that all requirements have been met.[4]

The most unequivocal and the formal way of losing your US nationality is by virtue of renunciation, i.e. when you formally give up your US citizenship by taking a sworn renunciation oath before a diplomatic or consular officer abroad[5].

Other expatriating acts under the immigration statute include: entering or serving in the armed forces of a foreign state engaged in hostilities against the United States or serving as a commissioned or non-commissioned officer in the armed forces of a foreign state; or accepting policy level employment with a foreign government after the age of 18 (if you have the nationality of that foreign state or an oath of allegiance is required in accepting the position);; or if are convicted of treason against the US Government.[6]

The expatriating act must occur abroad (except for an oath of renunciation taken during the state of war or conviction of treason) for it to be effective.[7]

If you perform an expatriating act listed in the statute, there is a rebuttable presumption that it was voluntarily.

If you relinquish your US citizenship, you must establish not only the expatriating act, but also your intent to expatriate and complete a detailed questionnaire (Form DS-4079, Request for Determining Possible Loss of US Citizenship) [8] have an interview with a US diplomatic or consular officer abroad, and get it approved by a Department of State (DOS) official which will issue a Certificate of Loss of Nationality of the United States, Form DS-4083 (CLN)[9].

Formal renunciation of citizenship at a US Consulate is the quicker and more unequivocal way to give up your US citizenship.[10]

However, if you renounce your US citizenship, it is much more difficult to establish a lack of intent or duress if you seek reconsideration at a later time.

US Passport

[1] INA § 308

[2] Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”)

[3] INA § 349

[4] INA § 349(a)

[5] INA § 349(a)(5). Also, 7 FAM § 1210 and § 1280

[6] INA § 349 (a)

[7] INA §349(a)(6)

[8] Form DS-4079

[9] Form DS-4082

[10] INA § 349(a)(5). Also, 7 FAM § 1210 and § 1280

 

Teodora Purcell | Attorney at Law
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