IRS targets Yanks in Canada 0
(Darren Brown/QMI Agency Photo Illustration)
With his pockets empty and a $16-trillion debt looming, Uncle Sam is using the threat of huge fines and jail to make Americans living in Canada prove they aren't hiding anything from the IRS.
Regulations kick in Saturday encouraging the one million or so Americans - including those with dual citizenship - to comply with U.S. tax laws.
Many Americans are unaware that even if they owe nothing to the IRS and have lived in Canada for years they are required to file U.S. returns and a foreign bank and financial accounts form (FBAR) to disclose assets outside the U.S. above $10,000.
Americans could be hit with a fine of $10,000 or more and have assets seized for not filing the proper paperwork.
Queen's University tax law professor Art Cockfield says the regulations are designed to make it easier and cheaper for Americans to comply with complicated tax laws without spending a fortune on accountants and tax lawyers.
Under the changes, Americans who owe less than $1,500 to the U.S. government are required to file three years of tax returns and six years of FBAR forms.
"But the problem is if you use the new process it could be a trap for some U.S. citizens living in Canada," he says.
Cockfield says the IRS may see something and choose to audit that person.
The changes allow the IRS to find revenues at a time politicians in Washington are reluctant to hike taxes.
"They're going broke," says Cockfield. "They know politically it's impossible to tax their domestic taxpayers ... So now they're turning to what they consider a politically feasible source of revenue collection."
The changes fall under the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) and also apply to millions of other Americans living abroad.
Another provision requiring Canadian banks to identify American clients has been delayed until at least January 2014 because of privacy and other concerns.