The real beginning of my personal experience with US citizenship taxation was the moment I started to become aware that I was an unwitting US tax “delinquent”. With this part of my story I wish to argue against the commonly-espoused view by US politicians and a number of sanctimonious online commenters that citizens living overseas should know about their US tax obligations – and that any resulting problems we might face in our US tax affairs are ‘self-inflicted’.
I explained in my last post how I was born a UK-US dual citizen, and how my family ended up settling in the UK in my early teens after my childhood in the United States. I discussed why I have always considered being British and American as part of my identity, despite spending over a decade in the UK. I wished to highlight with my own example that being an expat often…
The purpose of this post is to continue hammering away at this very narrow issue/question.
Does the United States have the right to deem a person born outside the United States to be a U.S. citizen? Can the United States forcibly impose citizenship on a person NOT born in the United States?
To be more specific, I understand that the United States has the right to offer U.S. citizenship to anybody who it wants. The question is whether the United States can force a person (who has not accepted U.S. citizenship) to be a U.S. citizen. Given that the United States is “Hunting For Citizens Abroad”, this is an important question. I have written on this topic before here and here.
This is an attempt to explore the question form from the possible perspectives of: Congress, the State Department, U.S. Courts and legal scholars. I then conclude by asking the questions of whether:
– those unknowingly registered as U.S. citizens by parents should have the right to “reject” U.S. citizenship; and
– whether any forcible imposition of U.S. citizenship on the citizens of other countries could be a violation of international law.
The summary statement of the Samuel Adams instructions, written to the representatives of the Massachusetts House, approved May 24, 1764:
“If Taxes are laid upon us in any shape without our having a legal Representation where they are laid, are we not reduced from the Character of free Subjects to the miserable State of tributary Slaves?”
Never resided in the U.S.? As of this writing, 37 states* allow U.S. citizens, 18 years or older, who were born abroad, but have never resided in the United States to be eligible to vote absentee. Voting address in the United States will be the last U.S. residence of a U.S. citizen parent. States vary in their voter registration identification requirements, however, most commonly you can use either: 1) the last 4 digits of your Social Security Number (SSN); or 2) a valid state driver’s license.
*Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Colombia, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, Washington (State), West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
Voting may or may not be based on citizenship …
The Government of Canada has tried to prevent certain Canadian citizens from voting if they live outside of Canada.
An issue in certain Municipal Elections (example Toronto) has been whether non-citizens should have the right to vote.
What does citizenship have to do with it anyway?
It appears to be neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for voting.
The question …
Given that there is NO PRESUMPTIVE connection between citizenship and voting rights, perhaps the United States should consider/reconsider what the right to vote should be based on. We know that U.S. citizenship is about and ONLY about taxation. That’s why U.S. citizenship is properly understood to be:
“Taxation Based Citizenship”
Should the right to vote in the United States be based on whether you file and pay U.S. taxes?
Two polls – Two different questions
Poll 1 – Filing U.S. taxes as a NECESSARY condition for voting
Poll 2 – Filing U.S. taxes as a SUFFICIENT condition for voting
The election of Barack Obama ushered in the era of “Change you can believe in”. For Americans abroad it is has resulted in the need to relinquish U.S. citizenship. Although the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that there is a constitutional right to relinquish U.S. citizenship and the 1868 “Right to Expatriate” statute is still on the books, the United States continues to impose barriers to relinquishing U.S. citizenship.
This will be a series of post designed to explain the administration (think Obama administration) and Congressional barriers (think laws) to relinquishing U.S. citizenship.
There are at least three categories of barriers. To be specific there are:
Financial – Barriers imposed by the cost of relinquishing U.S. citizenship
Mental – Barriers imposed by a requirement that that the potential renunciant “understand what he/she is renouncing”
Physical – Barriers imposed by the requirement that the renunciation take place outside the United States and at a U.S. Consulate
Each of these barriers is deserving of a separate post.
Today, we will begin considering the financial barriers to renouncing U.S. citizenship.
To put it simply, it is far from “free” to relinquish the citizenship of the “Land of the Free”.
Although the administrative fee to relinquish U.S. citizenship is on only one (and for many the smallest) component of relinquishing U.S. citizenship, it imposes a barrier for many. The current fee for relinquishing U.S. citizenship is $2350 USD. As Robert Wood has discussed, the United States has the highest relinquishment of citizenship fee in the world. (Check out the comments to his article.) It is reasonable to conclude that the purpose of the fee is to discourage people from exercising their right to expatriate. It is clear, that many people Americans abroad have difficulty affording that fee. See this recent Facebook discussion at Keith Redmond’s American Expatriates group. It’s clear that many families are beginning to include “U.S. citizenship renunciation” in the family budget.
Renunciation Fund – “Put a little love in your heart” – A possible humanitarian gesture …
Next – tax compliance fees and the relinquishment of U.S. citizenship.