The Supreme Court Should Consider The Retroactive Nature Of The Transition Tax In Moore

Moore and Retroactivity – The Readers Digest Version

This history of the Moore case is described by Professors Brooks and Gamage as follows:

The taxpayers brought suit challenging the MRT, arguing that it was an unapportioned direct tax and therefore in violation of the Constitution.25 (They also argued that its seeming retroactivity was in violation of the Due Process clause of the Fifth Amendment,26 though this was not the main focus of the case, nor did the dissenters address it, nor do the petitioners raise the issue in the cert petition, so we put that claim aside.27) The district court dismissed the claim, and a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit unanimously affirmed the dismissal.28 The taxpayers’ subsequent petition for rehearing and rehearing en banc was denied.29

The Chamber of Commerce’s amicus cert brief filed on March 27, 2023 included on page 18:

The Constitution imposes numerous safeguards that prevent the government from making rapid changes that would unsettle expectations. Such principles “find[] expression in several [constitutional] provisions,” Landgraf v. USI Film Prods., 511 U.S. 244, 265 (1994), and often implicate tax laws.

First, “a retroactive tax provision [can be] so harsh and oppressive as to transgress the constitutional lim-itation” of due process. Carlton, 512 U.S. at 30. When “Congress act[s] promptly and establishe[s] only a modest period of retroactivity,” like “only slightly greater than one year,” a tax law’s retroactive effect has been deemed permissible. Id. at 32–33. But a tax law that deals with a “novel development” regarding “a transfer that occurred 12 years earlier” has been held unconstitutional. Id. at 34 (discussing Nichols v. Coolidge, 274 U.S. 531 (1927)). Here, of course, the Ninth Circuit called the MRT a “novel concept,” and it reached back—not one, not twelve—but more than thirty years into the past, long after companies made decisions about where to locate their long-term as- sets.2 App 6. The MRT’s aggressive retroactivity showcases the danger of unmooring income from its defining principle of realization. Erasing the realization requirement upends taxpayer expectations—leaving them looking over their shoulders for what unrealized gain Congress might next call “income.”

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John Richardson - Transition Tax Leaves Taxpayers In Tough Situation

As 2018 comes to and end many individuals are still trying to decide how to respond to the Sec. 965 “transition tax” problem. The purpose of this post is to summarize what I believe is the universe of different ways that one can approach Sec. 965 transition tax compliance. These approaches have been considered at various times and in different posts over the last year.

As 2018 comes to an end the tax compliance industry is confused about what to do. The taxpayers are confused about what to do. For many individuals they must choose between: bad and uncertain compliance or no attempt at compliance. (I add that the same is true of the Sec. 951A GILTI provisions which took effect on January 1, 2018.)

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John Richardson - ACA

“The Tax Cuts And Job Act brought in a whole new level. Small locally owned businesses we caught up in an effort to repatriate money from the likes of Google and Amazon. These small business owners were forced to recalculate their earnings dating back to 1986 (just like a large multinational corporation). The tax preparation for this alone could easily be in the tens of thousands of dollars. The retroactive back taxes will likely bankrupt thousands of businesses.”

The Section 965 “Transition Tax” saga continues. Americans abroad may have political differences. They may have philosophical differences. They may live in different countries with different tax treaties. But, opposition to the Section 965 Transition Tax and GILTI appear to have unified all Americans abroad.

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John Richardson - Nov 7

U.S. Treasury sought comments about the Sec. 965 transition tax. The deadline for comment was October 9, 2018. You can read the comments here. A particularly noteworthy comment was posted by James Gosart:

To: United States Department of the Treasury

Subject: Proposed Regulations under Section 965 [REG 104226-18]

The transition tax is a killer for small American owned overseas businesses. I am a small business owner of a consulting company in Hong Kong. Around the world, I’m sure there are thousands of small American business owners like me.

I formed the company in 2011 after spending more than 25 years based in China and Asia as an expat employee of a major US corporation. During the 7 years the company has been in operation, I have helped US companies and investors with their China and Asia strategies, ultimately growing their businesses in Asia and contributing to US based employment. My company paid corporate taxes annually in Hong Kong. I have now relocated to the US and I’m in the process of shutting the business down.

The new transition tax is so burdensome and complex that there is no way I would start such a business today.

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John Richardson- Transition Tax Intent

An example of the perspective of the “tax compliance” community -Look at what the statute says and not what was intended.

“Probably Congress and the Administration did not contemplate the fallout to these USC taxpayers. They were focusing on a different group of taxpayer. Nevertheless, Section 965 imposes immediate U.S. individual taxation on the “phantom income” (i.e. when no dividends are distributed to the USC shareholder) of the USC shareholder.”

Does the “intent” matter? If the application of the U.S. transition tax to Americans Abroad was an accident and not intentional, then why should it apply to them? Read the “965 Hammer” for USCs residing overseas.

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John Richardson - Transition Tax Is Not An Income Tax

Origin Of Internal Revenue Service

The roots of IRS go back to the Civil War when President Lincoln and Congress, in 1862, created the position of commissioner of Internal Revenue and enacted an income tax to pay war expenses. The income tax was repealed 10 years later. Congress revived the income tax in 1894, but the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional the following year.

16th Amendment

In 1913, Wyoming ratified the 16th Amendment, providing the three-quarter majority of states necessary to amend the Constitution. The 16th Amendment gave Congress the authority to enact an income tax. That same year, the first Form 1040 appeared after Congress levied a 1 percent tax on net personal incomes above $3,000 with a 6 percent surtax on incomes of more than $500,000.

In 1918, during World War I, the top rate of the income tax rose to 77 percent to help finance the war effort. It dropped sharply in the post-war years, down to 24 percent in 1929, and rose again during the Depression. During World War II, Congress introduced payroll withholding and quarterly tax payments.

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John Richardson- Transition Tax

Senate Committee on Finance
Attn. Editorial and Document Section
Rm. SD-219
Dirksen Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510-6200

Dear Chairman Hatch, Ranking Member Wyden, and all Members of the Committee:

Part A – Introduction

I am based in Toronto, Canada and work with U.S. citizens living outside the United States who are  required to comply with the tax laws of both the United States AND their country of residence. U.S. citizens living in Canada (the majority of who are dual Canada U.S. citizens) are required to comply with the tax laws of both Canada and the United States. Dual citizens in general and “U.S./Canada dual citizens in particular, live in a world where compliance with U.S. tax laws is somewhere “between difficult and impossible”. The difficulty is first because of the potential for double taxation and second because the U.S. Internal Revenue Code imposes far more punitive taxation on U.S. citizens living outside the United States than it does on U.S. citizens living inside the United States.

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John-Richardson- Investigating the Transition Tax

From The “Pax Americana” To The “Tax Americana”

This is the ninth in my series of posts about the Sec. 965 Transition Tax and whether/how it applies to the small business corporations owned by taxpaying residents of other countries (who may also have U.S. citizenship). These small business corporations are in no way “foreign”. They are certainly “local” to the resident of another country who just happens to have the misfortune of being a U.S. citizen.

Introduction – The purpose of this post is …

to demonstrate that the “transition tax” is an example (particularly egregious) of the principle that (1) not only does the United States impose “worldwide taxation” on the “tax residents” of other countries, but  (2) it imposes a separate tax regime on certain “tax residents” of other countries that is different and far more punitive than the regime imposed on Homeland Americans. Yes, you read correctly!

It is the “Tax Americana”– a “form” (no pun intended) of an “empire” which is colonizing other countries through taxation.

A recent and most important example of the “Tax Americana” is the “transition tax” : A U.S. resident who has undistributed earnings in a U.S. corporation will NOT be subjected to the “transition tax”. A Canadian resident who has undistributed earnings in a Canadian corporation will be subjected to the “transition tax”!

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John Richardson - Transition Tax - Part 7

Why The Transition Tax Creates A Fictional Tax Event That Allows The U.S. To Collect Tax Where It Never Could Have Before

This is the seventh in my series of posts about the Sec. 965 Transition Tax and whether/how it applies to the small business corporations owned by taxpaying residents of other countries(who may also have U.S. citizenship). These small business corporations are in no way “foreign”. They are certainly “local” to the resident of another country who just happens to have the misfortune of being a U.S. citizen. Read More

IRS Offers Penalty, Filing Relief To Many Subject To New Transition Tax On Foreign Earnings

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced that it will waive certain late-payment penalties relating to the section 965 transition tax, and provided additional information for individuals subject to the section 965 transition tax regarding the due date for relevant elections.

The IRS explained the relief in three new FAQs, posted on the agency’s tax reform page. These supplement 14 existing questions and answers that provide detailed guidance to taxpayers on reporting and paying the tax.

Section 965 of the Internal Revenue Code, enacted in December 2017, imposes a transition tax on untaxed foreign earnings of foreign corporations owned by U.S. shareholders by deeming those earnings to be repatriated. Foreign earnings held in the form of cash and cash equivalents are taxed at a 15.5 percent rate, and the remaining earnings are taxed at an 8 percent rate. The transition tax generally may be paid in installments over an eight-year period when a taxpayer files a timely election under section 965(h).

In general, the questions and answers indicate that:

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Of all the income tax provisions in Trump’s major tax reform legislation, the so-called “transition tax” is perhaps the most unusual in its scope and breadth. For many U.S. persons owning foreign companies that trigger the transition tax, a certain degree of panic set in at the beginning of this year, because the transition tax statute (IRC Section 965), if read strictly, seems to give a hard deadline of April 15 for paying the first portion of the tax under the statute’s payment installment plan. Read More

WASHINGTON – The Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced modifications to the procedures for changing the accounting period of foreign corporations owned by U.S. shareholders that are subject to the transition tax under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

On Dec. 29, 2017, the Treasury Department and the IRS provided initial guidance on computing the transition tax in Notice 2018-07.  On Jan. 19, 2018, the Treasury Department and the IRS provided additional guidance in Notice 2018-13. Read More