Helm US Tax


Mastering Taxation Essential Insights for Green Card Applicants


Mastering Taxation Essential Insights for Green Card Applicants

Good to know before applying for Green Card

The United States, known as the land of opportunity, is an attractive destination for many foreigners seeking a better quality of life, higher income, or simply a new beginning. Investors, entrepreneurs, professionals, and families alike view the country as an ideal place to realize their dreams or further their careers. The economic strength, high quality of life, and cultural diversity of the United States attract those seeking change and progress.

However, when people decide to settle in the United States, they often encounter a less exciting but extremely important aspect of moving: taxation. Acquiring a “green card,” or permanent resident status, does not just ensure the right to reside; it also makes the individual a full-fledged taxpayer in the United States. This change can profoundly affect an individual’s or family’s financial planning since the United States’ tax system subjects worldwide income to taxation.

Navigating International Taxation

It is crucial for everyone planning to move to the US to become familiar with their tax obligations and make the necessary preparations in advance. Proper pre-immigration tax planning can help minimize potential tax liabilities, avoid double taxation, and take advantage of opportunities that optimize tax obligations. The “Green Card Test” is a fundamental element of the United States’ taxation system, requiring special attention from anyone who holds or plans to acquire this status. This test clearly determines that permanent resident status (also known as holding a “green card”) automatically imposes tax obligations on the individual in the United States, regardless of where they spend their time or where their income originates.

What is the “Green Card Test”?

The “Green Card Test” is essentially a legal criterion that designates individuals legally residing in the United States as permanent residents as taxpayers every single day of the tax year. This status is granted based on the immigration laws of the United States and materializes in the form of a physical card, commonly referred to as a “green card.”

Optimizing Tax Obligations, key considerations for Green Card applicants

For “green card” holders, this means they must pay taxes in the United States on their worldwide income from all sources. This includes, but is not limited to, wages and salaries; it also encompasses dividends, interest income, real estate revenue, and all other forms of income, regardless of whether they are earned within the United States or abroad.

Tax Planning for Global Citizens

This principle, known as global taxation, means that the United States’ tax authorities (especially the Internal Revenue Service, IRS) treat income earned anywhere in the world as if it were earned within the United States. This approach is not followed by every country, and it is especially important for “green card” holders to be aware of it, as it can have significant tax implications for them.

Tax Optimization Roadmap, double taxation and tax treaties

The risk of double taxation, which arises when a person is taxed by two different countries on the same income, is a common concern for “green card” holders. Fortunately, the United States has entered into tax treaties with many countries to avoid double taxation. These treaties allow taxpayers to claim deductions or credits in the United States for taxes already paid in another country.

Substantial Presence Test

The Substantial Presence Test is a bit more complicated since it is based on specific calculations. According to the test, a person is considered a taxpayer in the United States for a given calendar year if the individual:

  • Spends more than 31 days in the United States in the given year, and
  • The sum of the days spent in the United States in the given year, plus one-third of the days spent in the previous year, plus one-sixth of the days spent the year before last, exceeds 183 days.

This rule allows those who do not have a green card but spend significant time in the United States to understand when they become taxpayers of the country. It’s important to note that there are certain exceptions and mitigations, such as the “exempt individual” status for certain students, researchers, and individuals with specific diplomatic statuses, which can affect the outcome of the test.

The steps for pre-immigration tax planning are critically important for individuals moving to the United States, especially for those who seek a “green card.” This process helps prepare for new tax obligations, minimize potential tax burdens, and take advantage of tax optimization opportunities. Below we detail the steps for pre-immigration tax planning.

Income and Asset Situation Assessment
  • Data Collection: Start by gathering your current sources of income, investments, properties, and other assets. It’s important to note the origin of the income (for example, wages, dividends, interest income), as well as the location and value of the assets.
  • Tax Liability Analysis: Assess your current tax liabilities in the country where you currently live. You should consider local tax laws, including tax rates and any possible tax deductions or exemptions.
  • Tax Planning Goals: Define your tax planning goals, such as avoiding double taxation, taking advantage of tax deductions, and increasing tax efficiency.
Personalized Tax Consultation
  • Expert Selection: Look for tax advisors or accountants who offer expertise in international and United States tax planning. Ideally, choose an expert familiar with both countries’ tax systems.
  • Consultation: Discuss your current financial situation, plans, and goals with the tax advisor. This may include the potential tax implications of applying for a “green card” and strategies to avoid double taxation.
  • Plan Development: With the help of the tax advisor, develop a detailed tax planning plan that considers both pre- and post-immigration tax obligations and opportunities.
Ensuring Financial Success, tax efficiency and avoiding double taxation
  • Tax Treaties Utilization: Inform yourself about tax treaties between the United States and your current place of residence, which could reduce or avoid double taxation
  • Timing of Income and Financial Transactions: Consider the timing of income and other financial transactions to maximize tax efficiency. For example, it may be beneficial to realize certain incomes before moving to the United States.
  • Tax Deductions and Credits: Learn about the tax deductions and credits you may be eligible for in the United States, such as the deduction for taxes paid abroad.

Pre-immigration tax planning can be a complex process, but with the right preparations, it can significantly reduce the tax burden and prevent double taxation. Personalized advice and detailed planning are key to a successful tax strategy.


Navigating US Real Estate Investments for Nonresident Investors


Navigating US Real Estate Investments for Nonresident Investors

Understanding Tax Obligations in US Real Estate Investment

Nonresident investors are drawn to the US real estate market for its potential to offer stable returns and value growth. These investments, however, entail specific tax requirements, essential for compliance and financial efficacy. Understanding and managing US tax obligations, particularly for income from real estate, are crucial. For non-US persons, this includes filing IRS Form 1040NR and addressing rental income taxation. We can provide assistance, ensuring that investors navigate these obligations effectively, optimizing tax strategies while adhering to US tax laws. This guidance is vital for maximizing the benefits of their US property investments.

The pitfalls of improper US Real Estate Investment structuring

In the intricate world of international real estate investment, the case study of a Singaporean family vividly illustrates the complexities and risks of improper financial structuring. This family, guided towards a UAE foundation for their US real estate investment, faced potential pitfalls due to misalignment with the tax regimes of the US and UK, where the heirs are residents. This misstep underscores the critical importance of compliance with global reporting standards, such as the Common Reporting Standard (CRS) and the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA). These frameworks mandate transparency and accurate reporting of assets and incomes across borders, enforcing an era where tax compliance is non-negotiable. This narrative demonstrates the necessity of adeptly navigating the intersection of international tax obligations and investment strategies, ensuring that structures are not only tax-efficient but also compliant with the evolving tapestry of global tax law.

The importance of suitable tax structures

Understanding the critical importance of selecting the right tax structure for US real estate investments cannot be overstated. This section highlights the necessity of aligning investment structures with specific tax obligations to avoid costly errors. By examining common pitfalls, such as the unsuitable UAE structure example, we elucidate the long-term repercussions that can arise from ill-informed decisions. 

These include:

  1.  potential legal entanglements
  2.  financial penalties
  3.  and unnecessary tax liabilities. 

The discussion will focus on educating investors about the importance of due diligence and seeking expert advice to establish tax-efficient and compliant structures, thereby securing their investment’s future and ensuring alignment with international tax regulations.

The role of professional guidance in US Real Estate Tax Planning

Navigating US tax laws and real estate investment complexities necessitates professional guidance. Expert advice is invaluable, providing clarity and confidence in decision-making, ensuring that investment structures are optimized and compliant with legal requirements. Helm Advisors stands out by offering personalized tax strategy services, tailored to each investor’s unique situation. Our approach ensures that investors are not only compliant with US tax laws but also positioned to maximize their investment benefits, demonstrating the profound impact of professional insight on successful real estate investment.

Securing compliance and optimizing investments with professional insight

In this blog, we have navigated the complexities of US real estate investment for nonresident investors, highlighting the pivotal role of suitable tax structuring and the invaluable assistance professional guidance can provide. Expert advice is instrumental in ensuring compliance with US tax laws while optimizing your investment strategy. We strongly advocate for engaging with professionals like Helm Advisors to secure personalized and effective tax strategies, ensuring your investments are both profitable and compliant. 


Navigating the complexities of US stock investing


Navigating the complexities of US stock investing

A guide to avoiding estate Tax pitfalls

US investments, particularly in US stock investment, offer significant financial growth opportunities, attracting global investors with their potential for high returns. However, these investments come with complex tax implications, especially for non-US residents, including potential exposure to the US federal estate tax, which can significantly impact the inheritance of these assets. 

US stock investments and federal estate Tax 

The allure of US stock investments stems from the United States’ significant economic influence and its stock market’s historical performance, providing diverse opportunities across technology, healthcare, finance, and more. For international investors, this represents a chance to partake in economic growth and innovation, often leading to substantial returns.

However, an essential aspect often overlooked by non-US investors is the exposure to the US federal estate tax, which can claim up to 40% of the US-situated assets upon the investor’s death. This tax applies to all US-situated assets, including stocks, even if the investor is a nonresident with no physical presence in the US. The estate tax threshold for non-US residents is notably low compared to US citizens and residents, triggering a tax obligation on estates exceeding just $60,000 in value, a stark contrast to the much higher thresholds applicable to US persons.

For non-US investors, the implications are significant. Without adequate planning, a substantial part of their US investment could be eroded by estate taxes, undermining the investment’s growth and reducing the wealth passed to heirs. Strategic estate planning, possibly including the formation of certain types of trusts, investment through foreign corporations, or exploring insurance options, becomes crucial to mitigate these taxes and preserve investment gains.

Understanding and addressing these tax implications require sophisticated knowledge of US tax law and international tax planning, emphasizing the value of expert guidance from firms like Helm Advisors. We can offer tailored strategies, ensuring that investors’ estates are structured optimally to minimize tax liabilities while aligning with their long-term financial goals.

Case Study: The Singaporean Family

This case involves a Singaporean family with financial interests in the US and UK, who were advised to invest in UAE foundations as a means to manage their assets. This advice overlooked critical aspects of US and UK tax law, leading to potential compliance issues and unnecessary tax liabilities for the family’s heirs in these countries. The US and UK have rigorous tax compliance requirements and substantial estate taxes, which were not mitigated by the UAE foundation structure, exposing the family to significant risks.

The misalignment between the chosen structure and the family’s needs highlights the complexity of international estate planning. In jurisdictions like the US and UK, where estate taxes can be substantial, the proper alignment of investment vehicles 

with tax obligations is crucial. The failure to consider these aspects can result in severe financial consequences, including hefty tax bills and complicated legal hurdles for heirs.

This case emphasizes the importance of comprehensive planning that incorporates the investor’s entire family situation, including the residency and citizenship of potential heirs. Expert advice is essential to navigate the intricate web of regulations governing cross-border estate planning and to devise strategies that minimize tax liabilities while ensuring legal compliance.

Importance of tailoring investment structures for tax efficiency

The selection of the appropriate investment or estate planning structure is crucial to optimizing tax efficiency and achieving long-term financial objectives. A thorough analysis of individual circumstances, including residency, nationality, and potential heir locations, is essential to identify the best-suited structure. For instance, using a simple trust versus a complex offshore structure can have vastly different tax implications depending on the investor’s situation.

By examining cases where investors faced significant tax liabilities or compliance issues due to poorly chosen structures, we highlight the importance of bespoke solutions. For example, a non-US investor might consider a trust structure over direct ownership to mitigate US estate tax exposure. Similarly, choosing between a corporation and a partnership can significantly impact tax treatment and liability.

Proactive Planning is the key to investment success and financial security

Tailored strategy development involves understanding the nuances of each investment vehicle and how they interact with various tax jurisdictions. This careful planning ensures not only compliance with current tax laws but also prepares for potential changes in legislation or family circumstances, safeguarding the investor’s assets and their intended distribution among heirs.

In navigating the complexities of international investment and estate planning, personalized advice is not just beneficial—it’s essential.

Off-the-shelf solutions cannot address the unique aspects of your financial picture. We specialize in navigating these challenges, providing tailored tax strategy and return preparation services for non-US persons with US-sourced income. Our expertise ensures compliance with US tax laws while optimizing your investment outcomes, focusing on IRS Form 1040NR and addressing federal estate tax concerns for a comprehensive financial strategy.


Optimizing your wealth before moving to America: Essential Pre-Immigration Tax Strategies for Global Families


Optimizing your wealth before moving to America: Essential Pre-Immigration Tax Strategies for Global Families

The importance of pre-immigration planning

When considering relocating to the United States, understanding the nuances of pre-immigration planning is essential. This process involves much more than the physical relocation of belongings; it requires meticulous financial and tax planning. Such planning is crucial for ensuring compliance with US laws and optimizing your financial portfolio within the unique context of US regulations. Effective wealth and tax planning before immigration can significantly ease your transition, allowing for financial stability and success in your new environment.

Strategic financial and tax considerations

  1. Understanding US Tax regulations: It’s vital to grasp how US tax laws will impact your global assets and income. The US tax system is complex, and without proper planning, immigrants can face unexpected tax liabilities or compliance issues.
  2. Developing Tax structures: Essential to your US immigration journey is establishing tax structures that mitigate the risks of double taxation, aligning your global assets and income with US tax obligations to foster efficient management and compliance.
  3. Engaging with professional advisors: Consulting with tax professionals who specialize in US immigration can provide invaluable insights. They can help tailor a tax strategy that aligns with your financial goals and legal requirements.

Case Studies: Real-World Applications

European family offshore trusts

A European family, planning their move to the US, sought to optimize their financial transition with minimal tax disruption. Before becoming US tax residents, they engaged in comprehensive tax planning, focusing on their significant holdings in offshore trusts.

Background: The family had established a series of offshore trusts in jurisdictions known for their favorable tax laws. These trusts held a variety of assets, including investments, real estate, and family businesses, which generated substantial income.

Challenge: The transition to US tax residency posed a significant risk of increased tax liability and compliance complexity due to the U.S. taxation of worldwide income. The family needed to restructure their trusts to prevent adverse tax consequences without compromising their financial goals.


  1. Pre-immigration trust restructuring: The family, with their advisors, reevaluated the trust structures. They created US compliant structures, such as irrevocable non-grantor trusts, to receive the income from their offshore assets, minimizing the tax burden by avoiding direct taxation on the family members.
  2. Utilization of ‘Check the Box’ elections: They made strategic ‘check the box’ elections for certain foreign entities owned by the trusts, allowing them to be treated as disregarded entities or partnerships for US tax purposes, simplifying tax reporting and potentially reducing taxation levels.
  3. Asset realignment: The family realigned their investment strategies to ensure that the trusts’ investments were in US-friendly assets, reducing the potential for punitive taxation and compliance issues.

Outcome: As a result, the family’s transition to US residency was financially seamless, with their wealth efficiently structured to comply with US tax obligations while preserving their financial legacy.

Latin American family American trusts

A wealthy Latin American family, with business and personal ties in the US, faced the challenge of managing their complex international assets while transitioning to US tax residency.

Background: Their asset portfolio included businesses, real estate, and investments across multiple jurisdictions. The family had utilized trusts in their home country to manage these assets, but the impending U.S. tax residency of several family members necessitated a strategic overhaul.

Challenge: The key was to manage the transition without incurring excessive US taxes or jeopardizing their assets’ growth. They needed to ensure that their global wealth was protected and that they complied with US tax laws.


  1. Establishment of US trusts: The family established US trusts to facilitate efficient wealth transfer and tax compliance. These trusts were designed to own foreign and US assets, providing a shield against US estate taxes and enabling tax-efficient distributions to beneficiaries.
  2. International Tax compliance: They ensured that all foreign trusts and financial accounts were compliant with US reporting requirements, including the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) and the Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR).
  3. Strategic Tax planning: The family worked with tax advisors to leverage tax treaties between the US and their home countries, minimizing double taxation and aligning their tax strategy with their long-term financial goals.

Outcome: This strategic approach allowed the family to maintain their international business operations and wealth management while ensuring compliance with US tax regulations, thus securing their financial interests and facilitating a smooth transition to US residency.

These case studies illustrate the importance of strategic planning and the benefits of leveraging expert advice in navigating US tax laws.

Ensuring a financially sound transition

By addressing the complexities of US immigration and tax planning proactively, you can secure a financially stable and compliant future in your new home. Seeking guidance from specialized advisors can offer the expertise and support necessary for a successful transition. Whether you are moving to the US for opportunities, family, or personal growth, thorough tax and financial planning is your key to a prosperous future in this new chapter of your life.

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