Although there is a general misconception that U.S. citizens can relinquish their citizenship in order to escape high U.S. taxes, most of the time this is not true. If you are contemplating such a move, it is essential to understand the basic rules relating to expatriation for purposes of tax avoidance, as the taxes and fines can be costly. Under IRS rules, U.S. citizens who renounce their citizenship, as well as long-term lawful permanent residents (also know as “green card” holders), can still be taxed on their worldwide income provided that statutory exceptions are not met.
Expatriation Tax Rules Explained
U.S. citizens and resident aliens generally must pay income taxes on worldwide income, regardless of where individuals live. Under the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) Sections 877 and 877A, U.S. citizens who renounce their citizenship within ten-years of earning U.S.-source income are still subject to U.S. taxes on such income if citizenship was relinquished for tax avoidance purposes.
In addition, pursuant to IRC Section 877(a)(1), nonresident aliens (generally defined to be individuals who are not citizens or residents of the U.S.) who, within a ten-year period immediately preceding the close of the taxable year, lost U.S, citizenship may also be subject to taxes on their U.S.-source income if the purpose of their expatriation was to avoid U.S. taxes. It is presumed that tax avoidance was the purpose if any of the following criteria are met:
1) the average annual net income tax (as defined in IRC section 38(c)(1)) of such individual for the period of 5 taxable years ending before the date of the loss of United States citizenship is greater than $124,000 (subject to adjustments)
2) the net worth of the individual as of such date is $2,000,000 or more, or
3) such individual fails to certify under penalty of perjury that he has met the relevant requirements of IRC for the 5 preceding taxable years or fails to submit such evidence of such compliance as the Secretary may require.
The tax provisions of IRC Section 877 also apply to long-term lawful permanent residents who cease to be taxed as U.S. residents. A long-term permanent resident is defined to be any individual (other than a citizen of the United States ) who is a lawful permanent resident of the United States in a least 8 taxable years during the 15-years ending with the taxable year in which an individual ceases to be a lawful permanent resident of the U.S. However, generally, an individual shall not be treated as a lawful permanent resident for any taxable year, if such individual is treated as a resident of a foreign country for the taxable year under an income tax treaty between the U.S. and the other country, and does not waive the benefits of such treaty.
Additionally, there are exceptions for certain individuals with dual citizenship, or who are minors.
Individuals will continue to be treated for tax purposes as U.S. citizens or residents until Form 8854 (expatriation notification form) and other required information is filed. There are different rules noted in the form depending upon the date of expatriation. In certain specified cases, Form 8854 must also be filed on an annual basis.
There is a potential $10,000 fine for failure to file the form, if required.
This is a general overview of the taxation rules relating to individuals who expatriate in order to avoid U.S. taxes. There are many other complex issues that may apply, depending upon the circumstances. Are you facing taxes or possible fines relating to expatriation issues? Sherayzen Law Office can assist you with these matters. Call us to set up a consultation with an experienced international tax attorney today!