Private Clients - 30 Apr 2018
With over 15 years’ experience assisting US individuals to navigate the complexities of the US and UK tax legislation, James Murray is currently a Director at Frank Hirth. James has a focus on those international US citizens and Green-card holders who have an interest in a non-US structure including those in the asset management sector.
Frank Hirth has over 140 tax professionals across London, New York and Wellington providing US and UK tax compliance and advisory services to individuals, partnerships, trusts and companies. Most technical staff are fully qualified to ‘dual handle’ both regimes, to provide global tax efficiency. Established over 40 years ago Frank Hirth is recognised as the leading tax accounting practice for assisting with international US tax matters outside of the US.
What are the headlines from recent US tax reform?
The main headline of President Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act 2017 (‘tax reform’) signed into law in December 2017 was very much in the corporate arena with a reduction of the Federal tax rate from an eye watering 35% to a more globally competitive 21%; as well as a move to a territorial system of taxation for US companies.
Individual US citizens, greencard holders and residents continue to be subject to US Federal tax on their worldwide income, irrespective of where they physically reside. The top Federal tax rate has been reduced to 37%, however, they have also withdrawn a number of favourable deductions that were previously available – resulting in only a marginal change in the effective tax rate in many cases.
Unfortunately, some of the changes targeted at US corporations have had what may have been unintended, and certainly unexpected, results for our international US clients who have business interests overseas.
In what way has it impacted Americans doing business outside the US?
These changes can result in certain income within non-US companies being attributed to the US shareholders on an arising basis for US personal tax purposes, as opposed to upon receipt of funds by way of dividend. As a consequence the US and UK tax points and character may not align and therefore can result in double taxation.
We are already seeing that this will require those US individuals with a certain level of interest in a UK company needing to reconsider how to best structure their business and the best strategy for extracting funds tax efficiently.
Has there been a change in the number of Americans living in the UK as the result of the reform? Why is this?
It is too early to tell or measure, particularly given the general uncertainty in the UK with Brexit. Over the last few years there has been a general increase in the number of US citizens choosing to relinquish their US citizenship although again this may be down to several factors. For instance, the implementation of FATCA has been instrumental in identifying those US individuals living overseas who may not have appreciated the tax implications of holding such a status.
Do you have any advice for American taxpayers residing in the UK?
Yes. The key is to ensure that high quality, joined up advice is sought as soon as possible. Navigating two very complicated tax regimes is a challenge and mitigating double taxation is vital. There are a number of anti-avoidance and anti-deferral measures within both the US and the UK legislation which, without the appropriate guidance, can lead to mismatches and other issues. This is even more apparent for long term UK residents following the changes to the UK deemed domicile rules that became effective 6 April 2017 as they can no longer access the UK’s remittance basis.
Managing the US and UK tax systems requires a deep understanding not only of each jurisdiction’s legislation, but most importantly how they interact with one another, including the use of tax treaties. There are many myths out there that can often be dispelled following discussion with an expert. We find that more than ever having tax advisors working closely and collaborating with wealth managers and lawyers often results in the client obtaining rounded, and not siloed, guidance as to how best manage their affairs.
Are there any substantial changes you anticipate in the future, good or bad?
Many of the US tax reform changes are due to sunset in 2026 and so are not permanent. It will be interesting to see what, if any changes occur, especially if the US administration changes. At present there has been no indication that any amendments will be passed to correct errors. There will however be increasing pressure to do so.
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