13 thoughts on “Letters”

  1. Beazley, Kim

    4/3/15

    Thanks for raising this issue with me.

    As flagged in my earlier email, I have made some enquiries within the Australian Government and can confirm that we are aware of the problem you outline (which stems from a mismatch between the Australian and US taxation treatment of Australian individuals’ superannuation entitlements). You are also correct that a solution will require renegotiation of the Australia/US tax treaty to specifically address the problem (by inserting provisions similar to those in more recent tax treaties that the US has with some other countries).

    In July last year the Australian Treasury invited public submissions on the countries with which Australia should seek to negotiate new or updated tax treaties, as well as the key outcomes Australia should seek in such negotiations. This issue was raised by a number of stakeholders. The Government has noted it and will seek to address it when the Australia/US tax treaty is next reviewed.

    That said, tax treaties are generally not renegotiated on a single issue basis and often take considerable time to negotiate because of the need to work through all the issues of importance to both countries. In addition to the renegotiation process itself, changes to tax treaties require legislative change. This also adds time to the process and makes it subject to other legislative priorities.

    Best Wishes
    Kim

  2. Many letters on http://isaacbrocksociety.ca/fatca-and-australia/comment-page-36/#comments including Senator.Lindgren

    Good letter

    © 2016 Atlantic Insight

    An Open Letter to the United States Government on citizenship based taxation
    February 25, 2016
    To the President, Secretary of State and members of Congress of the United States of America,

    Being a U.S. citizen should be a privilege. Citizens should expect the US to be a country that values the idea of its citizens living all over the world and acting as ambassadors for a country that protects its citizens abroad as opposed to complicating their lives.

    However, being an American has become a handicap if living abroad. The U.S.’ actions when it comes to requiring financial reporting on worldwide income and taxing Americans abroad even when the only connection they have to the country is a passport are simply wrong. The U.S.’ double taxation policy aims to make Americans pay the same amount of tax as if they were living in the U.S. and speaks to an embarrassing problem: the U.S. government’s indifference to Americans living abroad. It speaks to an injustice that can no longer be left undiscussed and that has resulted in Americans renouncing their citizenships all over the world in record numbers.

    Dealing with U.S. tax returns is such a complicated task that people need to hire expensive consultants for help, when they are already filing tax returns in their country of residence. In addition many foreign banks simply will not open accounts for U.S. citizens and strict limits are placed on the securities that Americans can invest in from abroad. Keeping such tabs on citizens living abroad and placing such limits on what they may do with their own capital seems like the height of hypocrisy coming from the country that claims to be the champion of freedom and capitalism.

    Our understanding is that the U.S. was largely built on doing what is right and on fighting injustice – the Boston Tea Party illustrates this point well. In renouncing citizenship, former Americans are not being anti-American, they are protesting an injustice. That, in our opinion, is the most American action a person can take. The reason the author of this letter renounced his citizenship is exactly that.

    A strong interest in U.S. politics and foreign policy has shown us that the U.S. is capable of doing many great things but often fails to question its own actions. Americans who renounce their citizenship are not anti-American and deserve no criticism for taking this action. The U.S. government is to blame for requiring mountains of information from its citizens abroad, for taking their money even though they derive no benefit from the services that taxes are directed towards and for having an incomperehensible tax code.

    We understand that reporting worldwide income is aimed at preventing American citizens in the country from hiding large amounts of assets abroad but American citizens who reside abroad and are only connected to the U.S. by their passport have become casualities of this policy.

    Ladies and Gentlemen, we respectfully write this letter to say that it is time to right a wrong. It is time for American citizens living abroad to be treated fairly. Finally, it is time for the U.S. to hear the protests of renunciants and to repeal an unfair policy that no other country in the world has – apart from Eritrea.

    We urge you to offer your support and protection to Americans who do not live in the United States. They deserve to be treated fairly and not to be put in a situation that makes them want to renounce the citizenship of a country that has achieved so many great things.

  3. http://www.forbes.com/sites/robertwood/2016/02/18/dear-mrs-obama-why-i-gave-up-my-u-s-citizenship/#349b9c444429

    FEB 18, 2016 @ 08:41 AM 41,632 VIEWS
    Dear Mrs. Obama, Why I Gave Up My U.S. Citizenship

    FORBES / Robert W. Wood , CONTRIBUTOR

    4, 2016. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

    Dear Mrs. Obama:

    I gave up my U.S. citizenship this year, so I cannot vote. And if I could, I wouldn’t vote Democrat. It’s not that I hate liberals. I am one. And the Republicans honestly make me sick. The bottom line is America has lost its way in this world, and neither party, in my humble opinion, is going to make any headway in making it better.

    I have lived abroad most of my life. This is my 46th year in Canada. I married Canadian, my kids are Canadian, not American, I have worked my entire life in Canada. I invest here, and will retire here. I am Canadian, but as you are likely aware, giving up that USA brand is not easy. I have many relatives living in the 50. I used to love to visit them. At the moment, I couldn’t care less if I ever cross that border again.

    This brings me to my main reason for handing in my passport: you are still taxing me. I hope you continue reading, as I get the sense that homelanders typically shrug off our complaints as sour grapes and tax avoidance. It is anything but. My issues are fundamental. My issues are based on American values and the Constitution. Since those values and the Constitution have failed me, I am gone, as are thousands of others. It is a national disaster, that in my opinion, will be a black mark on your husband’s legacy.

    I want you to consider the duty to file and pay taxes based on citizenship. It sounds patriotic, and all red, white, and blue, but I’d like to reword it for you: “citizens shall pay taxes to the United States because the U.S. owns them.” They do not have the right to walk away from this obligation, despite what the United Nations proclaims, because the U.S. owns them.

    They are chattel. They are economic slaves. I am being treated as a slave. I live, work, and pay taxes in Canada, yet my master needs his payment. The concept is against everything I consider American.

    Consider also sovereignty of foreign nations, something I can’t claim the U.S. has ever respected. The U.S. does not allow foreign countries to step in and tax its businesses and its citizens at home, its economic contributors. America’s practice of taxing its citizens abroad is basically what Mr. Trump accuses Mexico of doing: sending its citizens to America to generate dollars to send home. It is a despicable concept which the Democratic Party has rightly laughed at. Yet this is what you do with citizenship-based taxation, FBARs, and FATCA.

    You tax monies earned abroad by your citizens. You tax capital gains on private homes in the UK. You apply Social Security and Obamacare taxes on mom & pop businesses operating overseas. You tax lottery winnings considered tax-free economy boosters in foreign lands. Your actions pirate money from foreign economies, and you pretend it is okay because we victims are American.

    We are not the only victims. Our families, our communities, and our host nations all suffer from your syphoning. You steal funds, jobs, and debt. America is the biggest tax cheater of them all. The fact that you justify it based on patriotism is disgusting to me, and to almost all of the 8.9 million citizens abroad.

    I could write all day about how I am personally abused. I cannot invest in mutual funds. I face invasions of my privacy and my family’s privacy. I cannot save for retirement, cannot open the financial accounts my neighbours can, etc. America upping its fees to prevent us from leaving is nothing more than extortion. The American government is nothing more than a disgusting bully. If I could still vote, I’d vote for the worst of the opposition, because I hate what your husband and his cabal are doing to American citizens like me.

    Sincerely,

    A Canadian, no longer American, in New Brunswick, Canada”

  4. Letters.

    Let’s build on our previous letters. A meeting with one’s MP is believed to be a highly effective means of communicating the issues.

    JD met with his MP who forwarded his letter (on tax treaty gaps that guaranteed double taxation) to Senator Lindgren (no longer a Senator), who forwarded the letter to Treasurer Scott Morrison, who replied to Lindgren.

    Morrison replied that such matters should be raised with the US government in the first instance. Such reflex response is what needs to be the focus in future letters, to head off and block such easy exit of the politician on the issues.

    If one is an Australian Citizen living in Australia – calling Australia home for decades – then on the issues of US extraterritorial tax they rightfully should raise the issues with the Australian government in the first instance.

    The Australian/US Tax Treaty and Australian FATCA IGA are Australian laws and those impacted are Australian residents who are US persons.

    There are different views on how to proceed. I favor highlighting government malpractice in lack of proper due diligence in quantifying impacts on resident Australians from tax treaty gaps. I believe the tax treaty was passed as it was believed to be an “all good”agreement, without knowledge of where it guarantees double taxation.

    An aim should be Parliamentary Inquiry into these matters.

    In addition to tax treaty gaps, there are the issues of the decades long treaty amendment process evidenced by the fact that superannuation is not exempted decades after introduction. Additionally, a further weakness in the treaty is its opened and detrimental nature meaning that changes in either the Australian tax code or US tax code may result in additional double taxation.

    What is needed is comprehensive exemption from double taxation for Australian residents.

    Here is my response to Lindgren on Morrison’s reply:

    http://isaacbrocksociety.ca/fatca-and-australia/comment-page-33/#comment-7561948

  5. Fellow concerned FTT members,

    We need to grow our membership. There is strength in numbers and thus issue clearly impacts all American Citizens within Australia (resident or dual citizen). Most of you will know others, please invite them to join and get involved.

    To help make this easier, here is the letter I have been sending to my circle of Americans within Australia. Feel free to use or modify as you wish.

    ———————–

    Dear xxxx

    As an American citizen living in Australia, you, like us, are impacted by the unfair practices of the United State’s policy of Citizenship Based Taxation. In our case, we face material impacts despite the fact that we have lived in the Southern Hemisphere nearly 27 years and receive essentially no services from the USA.

    Many people are unaware of the impacts and obligations of the US CBT policy where some of the worst are:
    • complex and costly annual reporting requirements where failure to file penalties far outweigh the impact of any tax not paid;
    • double taxation; particularly on Australian superannuation which is not recognised as a retirement account by the US
    • US prohibition against owning “Foreign” passive investment funds (PFICs) with potential confiscatory penalties.

    Now with FATCA, which is facilitated by the US / Australia Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA), Australian financial institutions are required by law to seek out American citizens within Australia and report financial information to the IRS which will make it increasingly infeasible to remain “under the radar” and non-compliant with the IRS. If this hasn’t touched you yet, it will.

    There are international groups seeking to change this within the US but there has been little political will to do so for many years. There are also lawsuits underway against FATCA and CBT that I financially donate to and would encourage you to also support if possible.

    However, I have chosen to get involved at a local level within Australia. I am an Australian citizen and this is my home. Australia’s acceptance of CBT creates a subclass of Australian citizens that are discriminated against where US CBT practices undermine Australia laws and domestic policy. I find this discrimination unacceptable and have huge concerns that US policy makes saving towards a self funded retirement within Australia difficult to impossible.

    Like minded Australians are banding together to take this issue on here in Australia and to bring about change. Led by Karen Alpert, we have recently formed a group that seeks to advocate that the Australian government renegotiate the Aus / USA Tax Treaty and FATCA provisions to protect Australian residents. While this will not end all of the impacts of US CBT, it will go a long ways towards mitigating negative impacts. It is right that Australia ensures all residents are treated fairly and equally.

    Karen has launched a website: http://fixthetaxtreaty.org.

    We also have a closed Facebook group (you need to be on FB and have to ask to join but comments aren’t public and won’t be picked up by search engines). If you wish, you can create a FB alias, as many do given they are concerned over non-compliance and at drawing the USA’s attention.

    Our first step is to reach out to as many of the 100,000+ people in Australia impacted by US CBT and to develop an organised approach to affecting change. The more of us who stand up and get involved, the more likely that we will successfully bring about positive change. I encourage you to visit these sites and get involved!

    I would be happy to answer questions you might have to the best of my ability.

    Please pass this on to other stakeholders within Australia that you may know. We are keen to grow through word of mouth.

    Rgs,

    —————

  6. Hon. Malcolm Turnbull, Prime Minister
    Hon. Julie Bishop, Minister for Foreign Affairs
    Hon. Steven Ciobo, Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment

    Re: Foreign Policy White Paper Public Submission

    Trump Will Understand: Australian Sovereignty Should Be Defended From Extraterritorial Law
    http://www.FixTheTaxTreaty.org !

    Australia has a sovereign right to defend Australians when other nations claim extension of their laws onto Australian soil. The Australian Government should not continue to defend Non-Australians in far off lands (via speeches, international aid, and military might) without a focus on defending resident Australians from unjust extraterritorial laws of other countries.

    America is exceptional in its claim of tax jurisdiction over resident Australian citizens with U.S. citizenship or a Green card. Yet why does Australia make exception to its own public policy of residence based taxation and allow Australian law to support U.S. citizenship based taxation? Why does the Australian government acquiesce in the tax treaty to the surreal U.S. claim that Australian residents are also residents of the U.S. for U.S. tax purposes?

    Australian law, by not stating otherwise in the tax treaty and FATCA IGA, obliges the overlay of the 76,000+ page U.S. tax code on top of the Australian tax code. Australia is considered a higher taxing country than the U.S. Tax credits are recognised for like for like taxes. However, it is the mismatch of the two codes that double taxation comes into play on any lower threshold, higher rate, tax by a different name, or different tax the U.S. has such as the U.S. designation of superannuation as a nonqualified pension fund.

    DFAT should act to block U.S. punitive law for local accounts, assets, earnings, and superannuation designated “foreign” by the U.S. tax code. How can the Australian Government say to resident Australians paying their fair share of tax to Australia (just like their Non-U.S. Australian neighbours – from any range of Non-US countries), that your tax payment is not fair enough? You need to pay more to the U.S. and ignore some very good Australian tax incentives and structure your finances for the U.S. tax overlay?

    What is the Australian domestic policy objective of this extra tax and the permitted undermining of domestic Australian tax incentives such as superannuation?

    The Treasurer Honourable Scott Morrison does not grasp international convention when he states:

    “…under US law, the US can tax its citizens on the worldwide income, regardless of where they reside. In this regard, your concerns about the application of US tax law to your Australian superannuation entitlements are, in the first instance a matter for you to pursue with the US Government.”

    As perhaps DFAT may better appreciate than Treasury, for an individual to pursue the US Government in the first instance would make sense in the case of an Australian resident in the United States. For the Australian government to question US tax and compliance law in such circumstance might be characterised as Australian intervention into the internal domestic affairs of the U.S. Under the internationally accepted convention of The Master Nationality Rule, the law of the country one is in prevails to the exclusion of laws of other sovereign states.

    Morrison appears to have missed the nuance that of question is Australian citizens resident in Australia, impacted by laws of another country intervening into the internal affairs of Australia.

    Morrison’s statement is similar to saying that the US can decide gun laws for US Persons in Australia – based on U.S. law and the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution – “The Right to Bear Arms.” This is exactly what he is saying: it is ok for US law to apply here in Australia! It sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? Common knowledge and international practice is that the laws one is governed by are the laws of the country one is in. “Tax residency” is another level to justify exclusion of tax laws from other countries.

    Morrison and Australia shirks an obligation to protect Australians. Additionally the Australian Government via the ATO website misleads by stating that tax treaties “prevent double taxation” with no footnote regarding the Australian-US tax treaty. While the tax treaty mitigates double taxation, it guarantees double taxation and double compliance of unfathomable complexity.

    These matters of double taxation are beyond common sense and comprehension for mere mortals. When tax expertise is sought to sort out the compliance that is when the punitive nature of Australian-US Tax Treaty omissions and the U.S. tax code lands. Tax preparers are inclined to be conservative in areas lacking clarity adding to the harshness and expense.

    There are 100,000 Australian residents impacted of which approximately 54% hold Australian citizenship. This number is increased when Australian only family members are considered where the Australian government indifference on double taxation permitted by the tax treaty undermines the security of the family financial unit. Additionally there are 200,000 Australians living in the U.S.

    No doubt interaction with America adds to the growth and prosperity of Australia. There are shared values, common language, a free trade agreement, and the U.S. is the largest global market. Such benefit to Australia and Australians may increase with tax treaty modification to enforce the globally accepted rules of residence based taxation; and a tax treaty that provides the utmost clarity and simplicity in regards to ones tax and compliance obligations.

    On February 4 2017 a Financial Review article mentioned hopes of enticing Australians back from Silicon Valley to spur innovation in Australia. These Australians over years may have gained a Green card, U.S. citizenship, and U.S. family members. One way to ease return of such talent is to exempt all Australian residents from U.S. tax and compliance on their Australian property and income.

    For no group of Australians are the injustices of Australian Government acquiescence to U.S. extraterritorial law more apparent than for “accidental Americans.” Some fully Australian accented US Persons may have lived their entire lives in Australia but gained citizenship through a parent. Or, they may have acquired U.S. citizenship through birth in the U.S. and moved back to Australia as a child. Yet, the Australian government through the FATCA IGA has acted as if it were right to report their Australian accounts to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS). One impact of this is apprehension in regards to travel to the U.S. either for work requirement or to visit relatives. If one is a US Person then one needs a U.S. passport to enter. To obtain a U.S. passport one needs a U.S. Social Security Number.

    For the U.S. to allow accidental Americans (and others) to pay $US2,350 to renounce U.S. citizenship they must first enter the U.S. tax system (if not in it already) and file three years of taxes, on the basis of tax residency in the U.S with punitive treatment for Australian, a.k.a. “foreign”, assets and accounts. For some this may cost tens of thousands of dollars. For others, wealth for toil in Australia may mean the prohibitive U.S. exit tax may apply even though they may have never lived in the U.S.

    Australia should not pretend that U.S. taxation of Australians is justified within our borders. The U.S. does not provide government services to Australian residents to justify its taxation (roads, hospitals, unemployment, etc.). Nor does the U.S. provide for protection of property within Australia.

    How is all this right? For no other nationality does the Australian government force such an imbroglio and a 2nd class of Australian citizenship and opportunity. There should be a level playing field for all Australians in regards to tax.

    Australia has turned its back. Perhaps the issues of Australian sovereignty and extraterritorial tax are less glamourous and attention-grabbing than the billions Australia spends on the military and overseas aid. Perhaps the reflex has been to agree with whatever the U.S. asks. Or, perhaps government officials may have thought that they know best on these matters (without due diligence) and have been dismissive instead of connected with concerns raised.

    The Australian Government has an obligation to protect Australians, full stop. Australia should atone for past disinterest and tax treaty malpractice.

    A simple way forward is the establishment of a Parliamentary Inquiry into Australia-U.S. tax treaty gaps that permit double taxation and double compliance; and as a basis for pursuit of remedy through tax treaty revision. Donald Trump will understand when Australia pursues tax treaty revision on the following bases: (1) Australia First; (2) the existing agreement is not fair for Australia and Australians.

    The Whitepaper should include focus on defending Australia and Australians from extraterritorial law.

    For more background:
    http://www.FixTheTaxTreaty.org
    http://www.smh.com.au/national/us-citizens-renouncing-because-of-tax-laws-affecting-australian-superannuation-20160910-grdb0a.html
    https://storify.com/FixTheTaxTreaty/can-the-us-tax-my-super
    http://isaacbrocksociety.ca/fatca-and-australia/comment-page-33/#comment-7561948

    Regards,
    Joe Citizen
    @JCDoubleTaxed

    This is a public submission and will be posted on the web. The author consents to reprint.

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