So Andrew Scheer, leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, is an American citizen. I don’t know the details, but it seems his father was an American citizen and Andy is too by way of birth. He’s a form of what we call an accidental American. Many others are persons born in the U.S. while their foreign parents were working or studying there and who then moved back home. Boris Johnson is one of those, and he got nailed by the IRS.
As an American expat who relinquished his American citizenship – I arrived in Canada in 1970 and will never live in the U.S., so why keep the burden? – I am somewhat familiar with the tax laws Boris and Andrew are facing. Somewhat. I am not a wealthy person like Andrew Scheer. I say wealthy because one internet site has his personal wealth estimated at $961,000 and I’ve seen references that It may be much higher. His government pension alone has him set for life.
That is until the IRS comes calling.
Yes, the American Internal Revenue Service taxes Americans no matter where they live. You might think it’s silly and wrong, I do, but it’s the fact. Andrew Scheer is required to file income taxes annually to the IRS as well as file FINCEN reports (Formerly FBAR) to the Treasury Department of all his foreign financial accounts and balances. And let’s hope he has; because if he hasn’t, he’ll be making the news for all the wrong reasons. How insane is that? If he becomes Prime Minister, he will have to disclose his entire financial situation to the American government or face severe penalties. He may even be arrested if he crosses their border.
Pause: these American tax practices are wrong simply because American colonists revolted for flimsier reasons, a silly little stamp tax. They claimed at the time it was wrong for a power in a different land to tax its people in another, yet this is exactly what America has done since Lincoln decided traitors fleeing the country could not flee his new income tax. Moving on.
I don’t know Scheer’s salary, investments, or the details of his pension. I’ve seen numbers of $259k, and undisclosed amount in three RELPs, and $3,000k respectively, but whatever they are, he’s still potentially in a mess. I’ll address each of these as parts one, two, and three.
Part one: American persons get to deduct about USD$103.9k of foreign salary from their income. This only makes sense if the majority of your income is salary and if it’s within this modest range. Andy’s salary is roughly USD$195k , so using this deduction won’t help him. He will have to file the long form and deduct Canadian taxes paid from his taxes owed to the IRS. In Canada Andy will only pay taxes on his salary, maybe on some of these part two RELPs, and on none of his pension. Could be a clean wash and he’ll owe nothing to the IRS. Except nothing is ever a clean wash with the IRS.
Part Two point one: I don’t know anything about these RELP investments, but let’s assume the worst. First, Scheer has to include them on his annual FINCEN Form 114. Failure to do so incurs severe penalties. I don’t want to even think about what might happen to him if he’s noncompliant, but he can kiss those RELPs goodbye.
Part two point two: income earned in these RELPs is taxable in the U.S. as the tax deductions are not covered under the AmU.S.-Canada tax treaty. So Andy’s tax savings benefits in Canada are useless. Pay up Andy!
Part two point three: these RELPs are likely considered Passive Foreign Investment Companies or PFICs. I’ve never investigated the ins and outs and I don’t care to. What I’ve heard helped drive me to relinquish as I may wish to create my own corporation. Basically, and this is anecdotal from memory, Andy will have to pay 2% excise tax on the value of these investments biannually as well as pay the maximum 35% tax rate on all income, basically making the investment worse than worthless, if deemed PFICs. If not, he will merely have to add the full income of these devices to his American income.
Sigh. Not double-taxation, but clearly serving two masters inhibits one’s ability to minimize taxes and save for retirement.
Part three: pensions not registered with the IRS are likely considered PFICS as well. I don’t know these rules either, and it is possible, though not likely, the Canadian Federal Government pension plan is registered with the IRS, but in a worst-case scenario, Andy will have to include all government contributions as income, pay the 2% excise tax twice a year on the value, and 35% tax on all earnings. If the value of a government pension after 14 years in parliament is $3,000k, then basically Andy will go bankrupt to the IRS while serving our country. Oh, and he also has to include these in his FINCEN report or else.
There are other considerations too. His free living at Stornoway might be considered a tax-free benefit for a leader of the opposition, but is it under American laws? Tax, tax, tax!
Finally, Andy is planning on renouncing his American citizenship. Good call, but he will have to become compliant with the IRS before they will let him go. Then, any net worth over $5 million USD will be subject to a 35% exit tax. He might be there and suffer even more draining from his retirement funds. Renouncing will incur at least a USD$2300 charge from the State Department. Funny, acquiring citizenship only costs $700. Apparently the security risk of leaving America is three times that of joining.
Oh, by the way, I write for the satire magazine The Manatee, but this is not satire. This is the truth as I know all too well. A million American persons, many also Canadian citizens, live in Canada and are subject to these outrageous laws. And our (Canadian) government has done nothing to stand up to the bully. So far, the IRS has not come after private pensions. But Andy is a public figure. They have to press him. They can’t set a precedent for the rest of those to escape from this stupid net.
No wonder Andy has tried to hide his American citizenship.