Sometimes people who expatriate — give up their U.S. citizenship or green cards — want to visit the United States. This might be for business reasons, family reasons, or just to have some fun.
Here’s how to keep that hard-won status of “not a U.S. taxpayer”, even if you return to the United States after expatriating.
Reader C inspired the topic in an email to me:
It was my understanding that once I have given up my citizenship I would be treated like any other foreigner ie I could stay in the US for up to 60 days assuming I had the appropriate visitors visa. I have read somewhere (???) that you can only stay for 30 days each year for the next 10 years following expatriation. Is this true? Can you explain for all of us?
The short answer:
The old exit tax law — for expatriations before mid-June, 2008 — had a special rule. For 10 years after you expatriated, the United States would tax you on certain types of income. For all other purposes, you were a foreign person for U.S. tax.
During the 10 years after your expatriation, you could become a U.S. taxpayer again simply by spending more than 30 days in the United States in a calendar year:
This section shall not apply to any individual to whom this section would otherwise apply for any taxable year during the 10-year period referred to in subsection (a) in which such individual is physically present in the United States at any time on more than 30 days in the calendar year ending in such taxable year, and such individual shall be treated for purposes of this title as a citizen or resident of the United States, as the case may be, for such taxable year.1
The “we can tax you for 10 years after you expatriate” rule and the “if you are in the United States for more than 30 days you are a taxpayer again” rules are dead. They do not apply if you renounced your citizenship or gave up your green card after mid-June, 2008.
Let’s ignore those rules. C, you can stay in the United States more than 30 days each year without becoming a U.S. taxpayer (assuming that you expatriated after mid-June, 2008). How many more days than 30 day you stay in the USA? Let’s explore that question next.
Now that “30 day rule” is dead, life gets simpler. A person who gives up U.S. citizenship or a green card will figure out U.S. tax status — “Am I a resident or nonresident of the USA for income tax purposes” the way that every other noncitizen figures it out.
There are three things that make you a U.S. taxpayer:
For someone who has expatriated, then, everything depends on how many days you are present in the United States. Control this, and you control your (tax) destiny.
Go to the IRS website for an explanation of how the “count the days” rule works.
But as always, we want simple answers. Yes, it’s a three-year weighted average calculation. You have no time for math. You just want the “keep it simple” answer.
Here is the easy answer to your question: 121.
Always limit your stay in the United States to 121 or fewer days in a calendar year. If you do this, you will be a “nonresident alien” and will not be dragged into the U.S. tax system.2
Similarly, there is an easy answer for when you are a resident of the United States for tax purposes: 183 days of presence in the current year makes you a resident.