Thinking of abandoning green card without a formal surrender? Think again!

In a recent court case, the taxpayer who argued that by living in Germany for many years and selling his US properties a long time back, he had relinquished his Lawful Permanent Residence (LPR) or a green card and hence should not be subject to US taxes on his income. However, IRS did not accept this and court agreed with IRS making the taxpayer liable for the tax.

IRS contended that the taxpayer was liable for income tax deficiencies for 2004 and 2006 – 2009 (almost all of which was attributable to the gain on his installment sale of stock). IRS argued that (1) because the taxpayer did not formally abandon his LPR status (obtained in ’77) until 2010, he remained an LPR during the years in issue, and (2) because he was not taxable by Germany as a German resident during those years, he was not a German resident under Article 4 of the Treaty. Therefore, he was not exempted from U.S. taxation by the Treaty.

The Tax Court reasoned that the taxpayer did not formally renounce or abandon that status until Nov. 10, 2010, when he filed a Form I-407 and surrendered his green card to the USCIS consistent with the requirements of Reg. § 301.7701(b)-1(b)(3).The Court rejected the taxpayer’s argument that he “informally” abandoned his LPR status. The Court held that for Federal income tax purposes, the taxpayer’s LPR status turns on Federal income tax law and was only indirectly determined by immigration law. The taxpayer’s reliance on an immigration case that recognized “informal” abandonment was misplaced. Unlike immigration law, the Code and regs were not silent on the point at which a taxpayer’s LPR status was considered to change. The requirements set out in Code Sec. 7701(b)(6)(B), Reg. § 301.7701(b)-1(b)(1), and Reg. § 301.7701(b)-1(b)(3) for abandoning LPR status

Can the tax treaty apply to a US permanent resident working in US as a foreign government employee?

In a legal advice, the IRS Office of Chief Counsel has concluded that compensation paid to a U.S. permanent resident employed by a foreign government is not exempt from tax under the Belgium-U.S. income tax treaty.

The facts provide that a taxpayer lives and works in the U.S. as an employee of Belgium. The taxpayer, although not a U.S. citizen, is a lawful permanent resident (i.e. a green card holder).

In general, U.S. income tax treaties contain a “savings clause” that provides that a treaty will not affect the taxation by the U.S. of its residents and citizens (see e.g. Article 1(4) of U.S. Model  Income Tax treaty.) An exception to the savings clause is provided for in almost all income tax treaties, but it is not extended to persons who are permanent residents or citizens of the U.S. (permanent residents are treated as U.S. residents under Code Sec.  7701(b)(1)(A)(i)).

The memo notes that Rev Ruling 75-425 has given rise to some confusion with respect to employees of Belgium as it provided that income under the 1948 Belgium-U.S. income tax treaty exempted from tax  the compensation paid to employees who were citizens of the employing country. Prior to the publication of the ruling, however, the new 1970 income tax treaty between both countries was signed and did  not exempt such income from taxation. Rev Rul 75-425 was not updated, but was subsequently obsoleted by Rev Ruling 2007-60.