New tax rules keep Town­ship­per busy

Stanstead Journal - - FRONT PAGE - Vic­to­ria Vanier, Ayer's Cliff

The Stanstead re­gion cer­tainly has its fair share of dual Cana­dian/Amer­i­can cit­i­zens, most of them ‘Ac­ci­den­tal Amer­i­cans’ whose moth­ers rushed to the near­est hospi­tal, in New­port, Ver­mont, when it was time. Un­for­tu­nately, those same dual citi-

zens are now do­ing ‘dou­ble duty’ when it comes to tax time, hav­ing to fill out both Cana­dian and Amer­i­can tax re­turns, not to men­tion the FBARs: the re­ports of their bank hold­ings.

Ayer’s Cliff’s Nor­man Benoit, who has been pre­par­ing in­come tax re­turns for over forty years, has been pretty busy as a re­sult of those strict Amer­i­can tax laws. “Rather than re­tir­ing, I started do­ing US tax re­turns,” said Mr. Benoit, who is also known for op­er­at­ing the Rose des Champs for ten years, in an in­ter­view with the Stanstead Jour­nal. “Con­trary to other coun­tries, the United States taxes cit­i­zen­ship, not res­i­dency. That law has been there since 1913 but it was never ap­plied. But af­ter the ter­ror­ist at­tacks, the United States wanted to trace the money of Amer­i­can cit­i­zens liv­ing abroad to see where their money was go­ing. It was dis­cov­ered that many Amer­i­cans had hid­den money out­side of the coun­try,” ex­plained Mr. Benoit can­didly.

“When the law first came out, there was a panic. Since then, many have done their US re­turns and oth­ers don’t bother. When some­one asks me if they should fill out a US tax re­turn, I urge them to do it if they are wor­ried about it; it’s not worth los­ing sleep over.” In fact, most of Mr. Benoit’s clients have not had to pay any money to the Amer­i­can gov­ern­ment af­ter fill­ing out their re­turns. There is also a ‘stream­lined process’ that can be done, as long as the dual cit­i­zen has not been con­tacted al­ready by the IRS. “If a dual cit­i­zen does the stream­lined process, they get a clean bill of health. Then, ev­ery year, they just have to do their tax re­turns.”

An­other ques­tion that Mr. Benoit is of­ten asked by dual cit­i­zens is whether or not they should re­nounce their US cit­i­zen­ship to avoid the yearly task of fill­ing out US tax forms. “There is an Amer­i­can fee of around $2,500 to re­nounce cit­i­zen­ship and you have to pro­vide a po­lice re­port. There are also tax re­turns of the last five years and es­tate forms to fill out,” he said, adding: “There is a small de­sire in the United States to make it eas­ier for Ac­ci­den­tal Amer­i­cans to re­nounce their cit­i­zen­ship, but it’s not around the cor­ner.”

Ac­cord­ing to this tax ex­pert, snow­birds who are not dual cit­i­zens may also end up hav­ing to pro­vide financial in­for­ma­tion to the United States gov­ern­ment. “If some­one has spent more than 183 days in the United States over the last year, and that can in­clude just cross­ing over to get gas, they may have to fill out US tax res­i­dency forms. But they can also fill out an­other form declar­ing that they spend time in the United States for leisure only. But you must keep in mind that the United States deficit is grow­ing, on aver- age, by about $2 mil­lion a minute so, at one point, things will get des­per­ate.”

A fourth gen­er­a­tion Town­ship­per, Mr. Benoit may not be your typ­i­cal ac­coun­tant. He gave up a plush bank job decades ago to get in touch with his ru­ral roots, try­ing his hand at bee-keep­ing, dairy farm­ing, beef farm­ing and, most re­cently, grow­ing roses on a grand scale. Af­ter liv­ing in a so­larpan­elled, wind-gen­er­ated home for about seven years, he’s fi­nally get­ting con­nected to the big grid, to make life a lit­tle eas­ier in his ‘semi-retirement’.

But he did con­clude with this prac­ti­cal ad­vice: “There are al­ways Ur­ban Leg­ends go­ing around about US taxes, Cana­dian taxes also. Peo­ple should not hes­i­tate to call Rev­enue Canada, the IRS, or a pro­fes­sional to get the facts.”

Photo Vic­to­ria Vanier

Photo Vic­to­ria vanier

Ayer’s Cliff ac­coun­tant Nor­man Benoit, in­stead of re­tir­ing af­ter clos­ing his Rose des Champs tourist des­ti­na­tion, is keep­ing busy do­ing US tax re­turns for lo­cal dual cit­i­zens.

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