TAX, SOCIETY & CULTURE

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Uncle Sam Wants...Who? At UBC Law This Week

What is your comeback for 'ignorance of the law...'

[is no excuse. The US Treasury should suffer consequences for its Unfathomable complexity and obtuseness of its tax laws for US persons overseas]

Published Jan 18, 2016 by Joe Citizen

I address this issue in the conclusion by reference to Jeremy Bentham, who said that "a government is a tyranny that punishes individuals for disobeying laws as to which it kept them ignorant."

Published Jan 18, 2016 by Allison Christians

Wow, Professor Christians, this is great! What about those of us who applied for US passports and voted in US elections who didn't intuitively know about our tax filing obligations before doing so, and now find ourselves ensnared at great personal cost? Shouldn't those applying for either a passport or voter registration be advised BEFORE entering the gates of Mordor? Otherwise, the issuance of a passport or a ballot become another "gotcha" moment.

Published Jan 19, 2016 by bubblebustin

Following

Published Jan 22, 2017 by bubblebustin

Thanks! This article is modest in that it tries to make the base case. The addition of facts like those you suggest need not, in my view, invalidate the central thesis. However, these facts are distinct because they require me to deal with the potential argument that a person who has done the things you say has availed herself of the benefits of citizenship and therefore may be held to a higher standard of knowledge than one who has in no way done so. That said, I build a partial (if not fully satisfactory) response to this claim in the argument in this paper that the US has an obligation to inform upon the processing of a passport application or voter registration.

Published Jan 19, 2016 by Allison Christians

I appreciate that you've defined an accidental American to include someone who isn't aware of her tax obligations, because had I been aware prior to getting a US passport and voting and a carve-out for "quintessential" accidentals existed, I would have never voted or gotten a passport!

What of the quintessential accidental American born abroad, unregistered but unsure of her status? An honest “I don’t know” response when asked by her bank to certify she isn't a US person is tantamount to “yes”, because the process by which one would need to go through to determine a negative exists (a trip to the consulate) would only grant our hapless accidental a US passport.

Self-certification for these people is really entrapment for those who might have stayed out of the system otherwise.

Published Jan 19, 2016 by bubblebustin

Professor Christians, isn't it really kind of futile to start making distinctions between US citizens born and not born in the US when it comes to any effort to exclude people from the reaches of the US government? I may be wrong, but I don't think the US will ever repeal birthright citizenship, whether a citizen is born abroad or not. History has shown us that the US wishes to expand the definition of US citizen whenever possible. Should lawmakers recognize the circular nature of taxation and citizenship as harmful, surely they will see its harm to all US citizens whether born in the US or not. The US needs to decide whether it wants to be a nation of citizens with rights, or taxpayers with responsibilities.

Published Jan 23, 2016 by bubblebustin

I don't disagree with you at all. I am forced to distinguish citizens based on how they got their citizenship for immigration law purposes because the design of FATCA distinguishes them on this basis in terms of enforcing taxation law. I don't think that's a valid distinction any more than you do. I don't have any intention of making any proposal about the shape or scope of immigration laws. That is not my area of study. I am exclusively interested in the topic for its use in constructing a membership upon which the state intends to impose taxation.

Published Jan 23, 2016 by Allison Christians

Residency would be a lot simpler and more efficient as a tax generator, as every other nation on the planet has already figured out. Thank you for everything you're doing to bring these problems to light. All the US needs is the political will to do something about it.

Published Jan 23, 2016 by bubblebustin

Thank you for accurately addressing the very real angst that many US citizens are feeling as they become aware of this issue. Tina has many brothers and sisters around the world who are facing uncertainty and significant financial cost to get into a system simply so they can get out of it and go on to live lawful and peaceful lives in their own countries of residence.

Published Feb 20, 2016 by Patrick Canion

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