Integrity Legal

Posts Tagged ‘US Taxes’

21st November 2019

As the US-China trade tensions continue (notwithstanding some hope that a trade deal may soon be reached) many foreign businesses in China are looking to relocate to other jurisdictions. For example, in a recent article is was noted that German businesses in China are seeking alternatives to China for certain types of manufacturing. Meanwhile, American businesses, which are presumably the most impacted by the trade war, are also taking steps to alter their supply chains in order to optimize their business structures under current circumstances.

While there are many jurisdictions in Asia which may appear accommodating to American business, this blogger would argue that Thailand is the best jurisdiction for American business in Asia. First, Thailand boasts a long history of friendly relations with the United States. As America’s oldest ally in Asia Thailand has been conducting business with the United States for years. Concurrently, the United States and Thailand share a multitude of bilateral agreements which can operate to the benefit of American businesses in the Kingdom. Most notably, the US-Thai Treaty of Amity provides “national treatment” to American businesses in Thailand. This allows American business to be treated in the same manner as Thai businesses operating in Thailand. As a practical matter this can provide substantial benefits to American businesses in Thailand. For example, such enterprises are not subject to the provisions of the Foreign Business Act in Thailand as such operations are treated as Thai. Therefore, those companies do not need to have the same type of Thai majority shareholding structure that other similar operations need that are of different nationality.

Another substantial benefit of conducting business in Thailand under a Thai Amity Treaty Company is an interpretation of relevant American law which argues that Thai Amity Treaty companies are not “controlled foreign corporations” and therefore not subject to the new tax liabilities created under the legislation colloquially referred to as Trump Tax. Due to the domestic nature of American Treaty laws, the organization and certification of an American company under the Amity Treaty in Thailand could be construed as a the creation of a domestic corporation thereby negating the enforcement of laws creating liabilities for Americans owning foreign corporations.

If an Amity company is deemed to be “domestic” rather than “foreign” this, in and of itself, could be very beneficial for an American company in Thailand. This benefit could be compounded by the exemptions regarding taxation created under the Double tax agreement between the United States and Thailand. Furthermore, those companies operating in Thailand that receive benefits, including tax holidays, from the Thai Board of Investment (BOI) could see themselves in a very advantageous position overall. In summation, for the reasons noted above and many more it should be noted that Thailand is a jurisdiction which should not be overlooked when making a decision as to which jurisdiction a corporation should shift to for logistical and operational purposes.

TO COMPLY WITH U.S. TREASURY REGULATIONS, WE ADVISE YOU THAT ANY U.S. FEDERAL TAX ADVICE INCLUDED IN THIS COMMUNICATION IS NOT INTENDED OR WRITTEN TO BE USED, AND CANNOT BE USED, TO AVOID ANY U.S. FEDERAL TAX PENALTIES OR TO PROMOTE, MARKET, OR RECOMMEND TO ANOTHER PARTY ANY TRANSACTION OR MATTER.

THE ABOVE INFORMATION SHOULD NOT BE CONSTRUED AS SPECIFIC LEGAL ADVICE NOR RELIED UPON AS SUCH. THOSE INTERESTED IN THIS TOPIC SHOULD OBTAIN PROFESSIONAL ADVICE REGARDING THEIR SPECIFIC SITUATION.

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9th February 2017

In the aftermath of the new year, there have been many announcements which have had significant impacts upon those living outside the USA. It recently came to this blogger’s attention that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) of the United States is poised to begin certifying delinquent taxes and communicating such certification to the United States Department of State. To quote the official IRS website directly:

The IRS has not yet started certifying tax debt to the State Department. Certifications to the State Department will begin in early 2017…If you have seriously delinquent tax debt, IRC § 7345 authorizes the IRS to certify that to the State Department. The [State] department generally will not issue or renew a passport to you after receiving certification from the IRS…Upon receiving certification, the State Department may revoke your passport. If the department decides to revoke it, prior to revocation, the department may limit your passport to return travel to the U.S.

As of January 1, 2016 US Federal statutes were amended to allow US passport revocation for those individuals who were delinquent in taxes under statutorily defined circumstances. Notwithstanding the fact that this law had been promulgated, it appears that until now the IRS had not put a frame work in place for notifying the State Department that an individual had tax delinquency issues. As can be seen from the IRS’s own website, that is no longer the case moving forward. For this reason it is prudent for those who may have tax delinquency issues to retain the services of a competent professional in order to rectify such issues before a situation arises where one is unable to get a passport issued, or a passport is revoked either in the USA or while traveling abroad.

Meanwhile, it appears that authorities in Thailand have adjusted the tax structure for certain taxpayers in Thailand. To quote directly from the Bangkok Post:

A revamped personal income tax structure aimed at increasing disposable incomes for taxpayers has officially come into effect…The amendment to the Tax Code, published in the Royal Gazette on Jan 27, applies to incomes received from Jan 1, 2017 to be filed in 2018…

It appears that under the restructure individuals will be able to make larger deductions for certain expenses while certain filing requirements have been changed requiring a larger number of individuals to file taxes. Those interested in these developments are strongly encouraged to read the article cited above and consult appropriate professionals in order to be apprised of the posture of a given tax situation.

Finally, The United States Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand has recently increased their official exchange rate to 37-1 (baht to dollars). This change reflects the fact that the Baht has been weakening against the US dollar in recent months and may be a signal that said currency may weaken further. The US Embassy in Thailand utilizes a set exchange rate which provides a level of certainty regarding the cost (in baht terms) of service fees for services provided by the US Embassy personnel.

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9th May 2016

In a recently published article on CNN’s official website it was noted that based upon published data from 2015 the number of renunciations of United States Citizenship appears to be rising:

The number of citizens and long-term residents cutting their official ties to Uncle Sam jumped more than 20% last year to 4,279, according to a CNNMoney analysis of the latest government data.

First, let’s take note of a nuanced facet of this issue that the article quoted above does not delve into: Lawful Permanent Residence. The article used figures which showed the number of those renouncing U.S. Citizenship along with those surrendering their green card. These are two very different legal issues. The renunciation of one’s citizenship results in an inability to obtain a United States passport, enjoy all of the legal benefits of U.S. law, and the an inability to obtain various services at United States Embassies and Consulates abroad, to name just a few things. Lawful Permanent Residents of the USA, aka Green Card holders, presumably have an underlying nationality. Many of those who surrender their green card do so in connection with a return to their native country. The motivations behind citizenship renunciation and green card surrender are often very different.

To some, this renunciation trend is rather alarming. For those Americans who have lived abroad for a significant period of time the information above is unlikely to be a surprise. With recent changes to the laws regarding the reporting of financial information pertaining to Americans residing abroad and the fact that American citizens are supposed to pay taxes on their world wide income the recent increase in renunciations of United States Citizenship does not seem as bizarre as it may seem at first glance as the aforementioned article goes on to elucidate:

Many of those severing links are Americans living overseas who are tired of dealing with complicated tax paperwork, a headache that has worsened since new regulations came into effect…Unlike most other countries, the U.S. taxes its citizens on all income, no matter where it’s earned or where they live. For Americans living abroad, that results in a mountain of paperwork so complex that they are often forced to seek professional help…

To be clear, renunciation of United States citizenship is a very serious matter. In this blogger’s personal opinion one should not renounce one’s citizenship unless one has taken a significant period of time to seriously contemplate such an endeavor. In many cases, renunciation of US citizenship could result in new unforeseen tax liability. Meanwhile there are those who are under the impression that they must renounce their citizenship when in fact a renunciation is not required.

If one is thinking of giving up their US citizenship simply for reasons related to taxation, then prior consultation with a tax expert would be wise. Those thinking generally about renouncing their United States Citizenship should consult with a legal professional prior to making any irrevocable decisions as renunciation of one’s citizenship could have dire consequences.

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5th December 2015

In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal a new bill proposed by the United States Congress was discussed:

Under a new law expected to take effect in January, the State Department will block Americans with “seriously delinquent” tax debt from receiving new passports and will be allowed to rescind existing passports of people who fall into that category. The list of affected taxpayers will be compiled by the Internal Revenue Service using a threshold of $50,000 of unpaid federal taxes, including penalties and interest, which would be adjusted for inflation.

Clearly this proposed legislation could have significant ramifications for Americans living abroad. Presently, Americans abroad could only see their passports rescinded or applications for renewals denied where said applicants have outstanding criminal warrants in the United States of America or are delinquent on their child support. The proposed legislation comes after the relatively recent  implementation of FATCA (the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act) which requires foreign banking institutions to report the financial activities of American citizens making financial transactions abroad. There have been some who disapprove of FATCA and there have been moves made in the US Federal Court to challenge the law’s constitutionality. However, at present the law remains part of the current American legal framework with respect to overseas bank accounts. As a possible consequence, in recent years there have been a growing number of individuals who have opted to renounce their United States Citizenship. It is clear that more and more people are opting to renounce their United States Citizenship. Each individual’s renunciation is likely based upon a different calculus, but it seems clear that recent changes to American tax policy have had a significant impact upon Americans living abroad.

The recent announcement that passports could be revoked as a consequence of tax delinquency seems likely to cause the number of Citizenship renunciations to increase. Although, it remains to be seen if this new policy will have a significant impact upon renunciations. Regardless of the fact that 50,000 USD seems like a substantial amount of money it will be interesting to see if the proposed legislation will allow for a form of COLA (Cost of Living Adjustment) style system whereby the amount of money in tax delinquency which would trigger a passport renunciation would increase year by year in order to track inflation. It is unlikely that such a scheme would be implemented because Foreign Bank Account Reporting (FBAR) requirements have not changed since the late 70′s. Therefore it stands to reason that the passport issuance requirements will stay frozen. Therefore, this legislation, although unlikely to have a significant impact upon Americans abroad anytime soon could have serious ramifications for Americans in 15-20 years time when 50,000 USD is not the representation of wealth that it is today.

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5th February 2011

One of the Founding Fathers of the United States, and a true Renaissance man, Benjamin Franklin was once quoted as stating, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Truer words may never have been uttered as taxation and death seem as ubiquitous now as they likely did in the 1700′s. With that in mind, this blogger has recently noticed a great many American people outside of the USA who have misconceptions regarding the current state of American law with regard to taxation of Americans resident abroad. It would appear that there are those under the mistaken impression that individuals outside of the United States are not subject to American income tax. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth pursuant to current United States tax rules.

To quote directly from the official website of the Internal Revenue Service: IRS.gov:

If you are a U.S. citizen or resident alien, the rules for filing income, estate, and gift tax returns and paying estimated tax are generally the same whether you are in the United States or abroad. Your worldwide income is subject to U.S. income tax, regardless of where you reside.

As can be seen from the above quotation, Americans working or earning income abroad are still subject to American taxation regardless of the fact that they are physically located outside of the jurisdictional confines of the United States of America. There are many who do not agree with the current tax policies regarding individuals resident abroad, but as the law currently stands Americans must pay taxes even on income earned outside of the USA. That said, from a practical perspective there are some benefits accorded to Americans residents abroad. To quote further from the same page of the Internal Revenue Service website:

If you reside overseas, or are in the military on duty outside the U.S., you are allowed an automatic 2-month extension to file your return until June 15. However, any tax due must be paid by the original return due date (April 15) to avoid interest charges.

Of further note to Americans resident abroad is the foreign earned income exclusion which may allow Americans resident abroad to obtain a exemption from paying taxes on earned income up to a certain specified level. To quote directly from the Internal Revenue Service’s web page regarding the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion:

If you are a U.S. citizen or a resident alien of the United States and you live abroad, you are taxed on your worldwide income. However, you may qualify to exclude from income up to an amount of your foreign earnings that is now adjusted for inflation ($91,400 for 2009, $91,500 for 2010, $92,900 for 2011). In addition, you can exclude or deduct certain foreign housing amounts.

It should be noted that “living abroad” should not be construed to mean short term periods of residence outside of the USA. In fact, one wishing to claim the aforementioned exclusion would likely be required to spend a substantial period of time outside of the USA. In fact, the IRS currently uses a Physical Presence Test in order to determine whether or not an American who has been abroad qualifies for the foreign earned income exclusion. To quote further from another page of the IRS.gov website:

You meet the physical presence test if you are physically present in a foreign country or countries 330 full days during a period of 12 consecutive months. The 330 qualifying days do not have to be consecutive. The physical presence test applies to both U.S. citizens and resident aliens.

This posting is merely intended to act as a primer for those interested in American tax issues and how United States tax rules impact Americans resident abroad. This posting should not be viewed as a complete or comprehensive analysis of an individual’s current tax situation. Those interested in obtaining advice regarding American tax matters are well advised to contact a licensed professional. At the time of this writing the Integrity Legal Network includes an American attorney licensed to practice law before the United States Tax Court.

For related information please see: Expat Tax Return.

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