Tag Archives: Canada-US income tax

Asset Seizures

Many governments are desperate for cash. The asset seizures are examples of what governments will do when they need cash. Do not expect the IRS to miss this fact. I am posting this to make sure that you understand just how much they want your money.

Several cynics have said that there is no reason to go into politics unless you want to spend other people’s money. There are far too many politicians who act on this viewpoint. They do not consider taxpayer funds as being real money. The final result is, as you might expect, that many if not most government bodies spend far more money than they can obtain by legal means. The amounts involved are much larger than the average person can comprehend and this results in even more spending.

Many years ago I heard a story about a fellow who was a bit of a spendthrift. Someone asked him why he did not live within his means and he replied that he was having difficulty living within his means PLUS his credit. He was the archetype of many government bodies.
This has resulted in borrowing ridiculous amounts of money, in many cases far more than can ever be repaid.

It is not only federal and state governments who have done this. Unconfirmed reports say that several cities are still paying interest on bonds that were sold to raise money to build sports stadiums that have already been demolished. It is hard to see that cities have any business building sports stadiums in the first place. The team managements convinced the city fathers that a new sports stadium would make the city appear to be big-league, and that the team should get a tax break as well. This lasts until the team manages to sucker in another group of city fathers. Then they move and the stadium becomes a white elephant.

The state and federal governments have borrowed as much as they can and now they have decided to take over the business that the mafia have lost recently. They are going into theft in a big way. According to the Washington Post the amount stolen using various asset forfeiture schemes is more than the amount stolen in burglaries by a margin of 4.5 billion to 3.9 billion. These forfeitures are illegal under the 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th amendments to the US Constitution.

This is often stated as being a part of the War on Drugs. The Departments of Homeland Security and Justice have provided training and financial support to train police officers in how to engage in the practice of “highway interdiction.” This involves using minor infractions as excuses to stop citizens, request warrantless searches, and seize cash.

These remind me of something that happened in the 1950s. There were many speed traps set up on the highway that went from the northeast to Florida. A magazine, possibly Popular Mechanics, published a big article describing every one of these. They told drivers where to slow down so that they would not get a speeding ticket for disobeying a speed limit sign that was hidden behind a shrub or something similar.

Attempts are now being made to nationalize retirement accounts. A new type of retirement account called MyRA has been announced which consists almost entirely of lending money to the federal government, although they said that it was simply to buy government bonds.
FATCA’s purpose is to keep track of any funds that US taxpayers manage to get outside of the US. The net result has been that many financial companies all over the world have closed out all accounts owned by US taxpayers and refused to open new ones for them.

Several months ago James Dale Davidson, who is an international investor among other things, reported that he had tried to wire money, probably a couple million, from his bank to make an offshore investment. He had made many similar international investments in the past, but this time his banker told him that he, the banker, would go to jail if he allowed Davidson to make this investment. Apparently someone in the Treasury Department thought that if he wired this money offshore he might not be wiring it back. The fact that Davidson had paid US income tax on offshore investments many times in the past was not enough to outweigh the fear that he might not bring this one back.

There are several big problems associated with “highway interdiction.” One of the most important it that it destroys trust in police. The basic idea behind police activities is that the citizens will notify the police when they see a crime being committed. Someone who has been robbed by a police officer is much less likely to do this.

One important step that you should take is to never ever give an officer permission to search anything on your person or in your car,

An international body has suggested that all governments should levy a one-time-only 10 % wealth tax to get money to keep their spendthrift ways going. If this actually happens it will not be one time only. It will be announced that way but then it will be repeated a few more times.

It is difficult to see how voters can rein in the big spenders in legislatures. The only method that I know of is to follow the advice of Martin Luther King. A group of black people came to him and said that they were now registered as voters but they had to choose between two white segregationist candidates. He told them to vote against the incumbent. This worked so well that there are probably only a few people under the age of 60 who have ever seen the name of a white segregationist candidate on a ballot.

I would like to suggest that you consider following this procedure next year.

Getting ready for tax year 2015

I specialize in cross-border income taxes. There are believed to be about a million US citizens living in Canada and about the same number of Canadian citizens living in the US.

US citizens or green card holders need to file no matter where in the world they live unless their income is below the minimum. This minimum changes from year to year and depends on your age and family status. I should have the 2015 numbers sometime in January.

Canada only requires people to file for the part of the year that they are in Canada, and also for property, such as real estate, that they own when they are outside the country. When I was working for another agency the head man told me that the agency got Canadians the year that they moved to the US and again the year that they moved back to Canada. In those years they had to file in both countries. The returns work better if the two are prepared at the same time by the same person.

Since one or two years ago the IRS has taken the position that if you were legally married to anyone anywhere you are still married even if you live in a state that does not recognize gay marriage unless you have been divorced somewhere that accepts gay divorce. Canada is more open about it. They have accepted gay marriage and common-law marriage for many years. They have only accepted gay divorce since 2005. The agency head I mentioned above and I were talking to a gay client and the agency head told him that gay divorce was the next logical step to take. The first gay divorce was granted about a month later in Nanaimo, BC. Two lesbian women got married in 2003, separated in 2004, and divorced in 2005.

I have been informed that the software that I use for US taxes will be ready on January 14. It will allow me to get information from clients’ stock trading accounts and then place this information in their tax returns directly. Of course this will only be possible if the client decides to provide me with the necessary authorization.

It will still be necessary to look at the information very closely. Many small companies amalgamate with other companies, do consolidations, and change names frequently. These are often difficult to follow. This has been a very difficult year financially for small mining companies so I will have to be extra careful with these. Today I read that a company that was named after Isis, the Egyptian goddess, has had to change their name.

I will be able to efile Canadian tax returns as soon as the software for these returns is available, probably near January 14. My authorization for efile for US tax returns will not come until later in the year, probably near the end of March. Until then I will have to either send paper copies or pdf files of these returns to the client.

There are advantages of efiling returns. First of all, instead of sending paper returns and then having someone at Canada Revenue Agency or the IRS enter them into a program to produce a computer file, we simply send the computer file that we have produced. This decreases the problems caused by data entry errors. It also speeds up the process.

US citizens who live in Canada should not take out Tax Free Savings Accounts. The IRS considers these to be trusts and there is a big form involved. In one case they instructed me to take out an Employer Identification Number for a TFSA. This was for a $2000 bank account in Calgary. I could not imagine it having employees anywhere, especially not in the US, but this is what they asked for so it was what I provided. After making this application I told the client that it looked like we had been providing training for some new IRS employees.

It will still be necessary to file information on foreign financial accounts twice, to different branches of the IRS. I do not know why they want this information twice but we are stuck doing what they ask. The second set, which was due the end of June for many years, is now due at the same time as the main form 1040.

This is necessary if the maximum value of foreign accounts at any time in the year is USD 10,000 or more. This includes not only your own accounts, but any accounts for which you have signing authority, be they for a Boy Scout troop, a service club, a garden club or your child’s college fund. If money for something like a property purchase goes through your savings account and out again the same day this is counted as part of the $10,000.

Of course I would be happy to prepare your returns for you. If you want to send paper copies (I specifically mean copies, not originals) please write to me at dave@daves-income-tax-online.com to make sure that you have my correct address before sending them. If you are using your multi-functional printer to make the copies you can simply email me the images that your scanner makes so that I can print them out at my end instead of sending them through the mail or using a messenger service.

Recently I read that last tax season a USPS employee noticed that he or she was delivering hundreds of tax refund checks to one address. The IRS was notified. They had sent millions of dollars of phony refunds to the same address. I have no idea why their computers did not notice this, but as you should be aware an ordinary computer cannot do anything that its programmers did not include in its instructions.

The exception to this rule is Watson, the computer that beat human experts at playing Jeopardy. I have been granted access to Watson and will try to use it to predict the stock market. If I make a million dollars on the stock market using Watson’s predictions I will get out of the income tax preparation business and go into the business of decreasing my own income taxes.

That makes it pretty clear that I intend to stay in the income tax preparation business for a long time to come.

Cross-border Taxation

There are many potential problems in cross-border taxation. I will refer mainly to people who have to file in both Canada and the US. Typical examples are US citizens who live and work in Canada and anyone who has moved across the border in either direction during the year.

Canada taxes on worldwide income for residents and Canadian income for non-residents. Taxpayers who enter or leave Canada during the year file a return for the part of the year they were resident.
The US taxes people on the basis of citizenship. This is done by only one other country. Sometimes this other country is stated as being North Korea and sometimes it is stated as Eritrea depending on who you listen to. In either case the US is not in good company.

I prepared US and Canadian taxes together for many US citizens who lived in Canada. In only two cases was there any tax due on the US return. People who have jobs or are self-employed in Canada are allowed to deduct Canadian income tax, unemployment insurance, and Canada Pension Plan from US income tax. The sum of these three is nearly always greater than the US income tax would be so it is only a matter of reporting to the IRS, not paying them as well. Almost The only times when additional tax is due is when someone has sold something relatively large and made a capital gain. There are also differences in limits on charitable deductions, and these are often much more restrictive in the US than in Canada.

Going the other way, Social Security and Medicare taxes are added to US and state (and sometimes local) income taxes when figuring credits on Canadian taxes and the sum of these is usually greater than the Canadian income tax would be. Because of these additional charges usually there is no tax obligation in the second country, even if there is a filing obligation.

Often the most work involved in preparing US taxes for a US person who lives in Canada is the banking statements. These are mandatory and they are getting stickier about them every year. At present you must add up the maximum amount during the year in each account and if it comes over $10,000 you have to list all financial accounts that you have signing authority over, including your child’s boy scout troop, your garden club, your AA group etc. These all go onto two different forms. The reason for having to file what is essentially the same information on two different forms is that different groups within the IRS are interested in different aspects of these financial accounts. If this makes sense to you what are you smoking?

Because of all of these factors if you know that you have a cross-border filing requirement check into all of your financial accounts before you go to have your taxes prepared. If you don’t you will likely be sent home to get more data. This will usually result in an extra charge for the preparation because it is a lot more work to prepare a return if you have to do it in two separate sessions. It takes time to get into a return and remember everything that is in it. Even if there is no extra charge it will cause bad feelings all around.

A few years ago I prepared a form for a US citizen living in Canada who had left a large sum of money with an investment adviser in Washington state. He charged her hefty management fees as you might expect. I had to call him about something related to the account. It soon became clear to me that he had no understanding of the fact that because she was living in Canada and in fact had 10 rental properties in Canada that he should have been thinking about exchange rates. He had not even thought about them. The accounts that she had with him showed a moderate income in US dollars but a huge loss in Canadian dollars. IMHO he should have paid some attention to the way exchange rates move so that he would be able to maximize the gain in Canadian dollars but he seemed to be quite incapable of understanding the concept.

I am currently in Guadalajara, Mexico and expect to go to Vancouver, Canada, sometime in March. If you want me to prepare your taxes the easiest thing is to email them to me. If you do so and you have to file US taxes please make sure that you include all of the information about financial accounts.