Here's the story...

My family emigrated from the US to Canada when I was an infant and my older sister was about 4 years old. Nobody renounced US citizenship but we did become naturalized Canadian citizens when I was young. I moved back to the US about 20 years ago, but my older sister and parents remained in Canada.

Several years ago, my mother said she had seen something in the news about US expatriates who had not filed non-resident tax returns were being stopped at the border when trying to visit the US. I don't know exactly what she was referring to, but I believe it was the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act.

She does have a social security number and a US birth certificate, and her Canadian passport lists a US city as place of birth.

My question is simple. Will my older sister, who has lived and worked in Canada all her life but who has not filed anything with the IRS or other US government agency, encounter any difficulty when flying from Canada to the United States for a visit?

  • 1
    The only data point I can offer is a cousin, born in Texas, who decamped permanently to the UK in the mid-1990s, when she was in her early 20s. After she left, she never filed a US tax return. She renewed her US passport in a timely manner, however, and returned for a family reunion about 2010. She traveled on her US passport, and was allowed in without even a raised eyebrow. But that was almost ten years ago, and may have little applicability to today's world. Feb 2 '20 at 4:17
  • After reading a few of these links, you might want to ask that question of a tax lawyer. duckduckgo.com/…
    – WGroleau
    Feb 3 '20 at 2:43
  • 1
    Slightly offtopic but FYI - I may be able to add a more detailed response later - but by law dual nationals must use their US passport to enter and exit the United States (other countries have similar requirements, AFAIK Canada is among them, Israel too). Entering the US on a Canadian passport may not be wise since it "lists a US city as place of birth".
    – Anonymous
    Jul 2 '20 at 14:04
  • @Anonymous the US City on the passport was my concern as well. Although I've traveled to Canada on my US passport many times without issue, often discussing my dual citizenship with customs officers at the airport ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
    – Kryten
    Jul 2 '20 at 17:23

Depends on whether the IRS knows she exists. Has she ever given her SSN to a bank or employer? Paid into Social Security?

If she does have a tax liability (as IRS defines it), then it also depends on whether they have asked the CBP to watch for her and whether the border agent is paying attention.

  • Has anyone ever heard of a CBP officer stopping a returning citizen (or holding them for arrest) because the IRS had expressed interest? Feb 3 '20 at 3:20
  • I haven’t. I would doubt that CBP would enforce a warrant, but it wouldn’t surprise me were they to notify law enforcement. Or for IRS to be informed that a particular person came in. But if she never filed AND never had anything reported to IRS, the IRS would not be looking for her. However, once anything happened to make them aware, they well might say, “you’ve been receiving income for all these years and never filed…”
    – WGroleau
    Feb 3 '20 at 3:31
  • Ah, but the parents probably filed, and listed her as a dependent. So IRS knows she exists. That doesn’t mean they are looking for her, but the first year she isn’t on their return as a dependent, they might.
    – WGroleau
    Feb 3 '20 at 7:59
  • Well...no. Her parents were both drug addicts, and both died back in the 80s, before she was ten years old. Feb 3 '20 at 15:06
  • 3
    Well, other than a lawyer specializing in taxes, the IRS could answer, but I suspect asking them would not be wise.
    – WGroleau
    Feb 3 '20 at 16:48

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