Americans Renouncing Citizenship Up 221%, All Aboard The FATCA Express

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America is a great land and lures immigrants worldwide, yet record numbers of U.S. citizens and permanent residents are giving up their citizenship or residency. For all the immigrant arrivals the trickle the other direction is increasing. The number is still small, with the “published” expatriates for the quarter 630 for the last quarter of 2013.

That brings the total number to 2,999 for all of 2013. The previous record high for a year was 1,781 set in 2011. It’s a 221% increase over the 932 who left in 2012. You can call it a shaming or a public record, but the Treasury Department is required to publish a quarterly list of Americans who renounced their U.S. Citizenship or terminated their long-term U.S. residency. The public outing puts Americans on notice who relinquished their rights.

Those seem like tiny numbers, yet the total thus far for 2013 is 2,369. See Number of Taxpayers Who Renounced U.S. Citizenship Skyrockets to All-Time Record High, quoting Andrew Mitchel. Under U.S. tax law, it is not relevant why someone expatriates. Whether the expatriation was motivated by tax avoidance or something else used to matter, but the law was changed in 2004.

Since then, the tax and other consequences do not depend on why one leaves. Yet after Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin departed permanently for Singapore with his Facebook IPO riches, there was an angry backlash. Mr. Saverin’s post-Facebook fly-away prompted such outrage that 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.

So far, that bill remains unpassed. Meantime, are people following Tina Turner’s lead? No, and not Eduardo Saverin’s either. Most expatriations are probably motivated primarily by factors such as family and convenience. Many people like Ms. Turner have built a life somewhere else and may not plan to need a U.S. passport.

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