August 30, 2014

ISN’T THIS SOME SORT OF A HUMAN-RIGHTS VIOLATION? U.S. Hikes Fee To Renounce Citizenship By 422%.

Over the last two years, the U.S. has had a spike in expatriations. It isn’t exactly Ellis Island in reverse, but it’s more than a dribble. With global tax reporting and FATCA, the list of the individuals who renounced is up. For 2013, there was a 221% increase, with record numbers of Americans renouncing. The Treasury Department is required to publish a quarterly list, but these numbers are under-stated, some say considerably.

The presence or absence of tax motivation is no longer relevant, but that could change. After Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin departed for Singapore, Senators Chuck Schumer and Bob Casey introduced a bill to double the exit tax to 30% for anyone leaving the U.S. for tax reasons. That hasn’t happened, but taxes are still a big issue for many.

To leave America, you generally must prove 5 years of U.S. tax compliance. If you have a net worth greater than $2 million or average annual net income tax for the 5 previous years of $157,000 or more for 2014 (that’s tax, not income), you pay an exit tax. It is a capital gain tax as if you sold your property when you left. At least there’s an exemption of $680,000 for 2014. Long-term residents giving up a Green Card can be required to pay the tax too.

Now, the State Department interim rule just raised the fee for renunciation of U.S. citizenship to $2,350 from $450. Critics note that it’s more than twenty times the average level in other high-income countries.

Gradually building a Berlin Wall made of paper? Well, some people say that this is a human-rights violation:

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality”, while the Expatriation Act of 1868 says that renunciation of citizenship is “a natural and inherent right of all people” and that “any declaration, instruction, opinion, order, or decision of any officers of this government which restricts, impairs, or questions the right of expatriation, is hereby declared inconsistent with the fundamental principles of this government”.

As of press time, the State Department has not yet commented on whether it sees “public benefit” in other human rights such as freedom of election or freedom of marriage, or whether anyone seriously believes that charging people a month’s salary to get a ballot paper or a marriage certificate would not restrict or impair those rights.

Hey, I’ve got a crazy idea: Let’s run our country along lines that would make high-achieving people want to stay here.

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