Monday, December 18, 2006

"Tax Leads Americans Abroad to Renounce U.S."

From the Old Gray Hag:
She is a former marine, a native Californian and, now, an ex-American who prefers to remain discreet about abandoning her citizenship. After 10 years of warily considering options, she turned in her United States passport last month without ceremony, becoming an alien in the view of her homeland.

“It’s a really hard thing to do,” said the woman, a 16-year resident of Geneva who had tired of the cost and time of filing yearly United States tax returns on top of her Swiss taxes. “I just kept putting this off. But it’s my kids and the estate tax. I don’t care if I die with only one Swiss franc to my name, but the U.S. shouldn’t get money I earned here when I die.”

Historically, small numbers of Americans have turned in their passports every year for political and economic reasons, with the numbers reaching a high of about 2,000 during the Vietnam War in the early 1970s.

But after Congress sharply raised taxes this year for many Americans living abroad, some international tax lawyers say they detect rising demand from citizens to renounce ties with the United States, the only developed country that taxes it citizens while they live overseas. Americans abroad are also taxed in the countries where they live.

“The administrative costs of being an American and living outside the U.S. have gone up dramatically,” said Marnin Michaels, a tax lawyer with Baker & McKenzie in Zurich.
Concern about taxes among Americans living abroad has surged since President Bush signed into law a bill that sharply raises tax rates for those with incomes of more than $82,400 a year. The legislation also increases taxes on employer-provided benefits like housing allowances.
In 1996, Congress tried to address a wave of tax-driven expatriation by the wealthy by requiring former citizens to file tax returns for a decade and forbidding Americans who renounced their passports for tax reasons from visiting the United States.
It's a damned shame when American citizens have to choose between citizenship and punitive taxation. The Fair Tax would alleviate this problem, along with a whole host of other problems.