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Thursday, February 12, 2015

2014 Was A Great Year for American Exports (People)

The Name and Shame List of US citizens renouncing US citizenship just came out yesterday and looks like 2014 was an outstanding year for one class of exports - people.

Last year 3,415 U.S. citizens and Green Card holders cut their ties to the U.S. This is up from 2013 when there were just under 3,000.

I'd say this might have merited a mention or two in the President's State of the Union Address.  Well, he had a few words to say about immigration, but not about emigration and expatriation.  

The numbers keep going up and the news generates headlines both in the domestic and international media.  However, those who are in a position to actually do something about it are silent and it does not appear to be a hot issue burning its way to the top of anyone's agenda in Congress.

Is it because members of Congress do not know (or understand) the issues facing Americans abroad?

This has been suggested to me and I regret to say that the folks in Washington (both politicians and officials)  have indeed been informed by both their consituents abroad and by the organizations that represent the interests of Americans abroad to the US government.(AARO, ACA and FAWCO).

Within the next month or so folks from these three organizations will once again be trekking to Washington D.C. for Overseas Americans Week where they will diligently walk the halls and talk to anyone willing to give them 20 minutes.  I went last year and it was a great experience.  However, my conclusion at the end of the week was that the politicians had all the information they needed, just not the willingness to act on it.

So what would it take to light a fire under their collective asses to take the concerns of Americans abroad seriously?

I don't know but I am reflecting on the futility of continuing to ask ever so politely for change.  To be honest, there is no reason for any American politician to expend political capital, time and money on our behalf.  Over 7 million Americans abroad, most of whom have no money to speak of (English teachers, stay at home moms and college professors, for example), can't make big political contributions, and whose votes in any one state are a clear minority.  Finally, Americans abroad have multiple small non-profit organizations representing their interests whose collective membership is a mere fraction of that population of 7 million.  Furthermore, awareness of these organizations outside of their bases in Europe and the US is nearly nonexistent.

I stand by what I said before - I think our best bet, given the situation, is the lawsuits (for more information see this post on Lee and Bopp).  They are taking the lead in what is basically a leadership void.  There is no organization out there that really speaks for Americans abroad and could organize the kind of  international campaign necessary to fight the more nefarious and life -destroying aspects of the US tax system as it is applied to Americans and Green Card holders who live outside the US.  

And in fairness, part of the problem is us - Americans abroad.  We are not joiners and frankly our deep desire when we leave the US is to be left alone by the homeland government.  We set up our lives in another country, pay our taxes and generally go about our business.  It is still a huge mental leap to even consider the idea that the homeland government has no intention of letting that happen, and that new rules and new technology now make it possible for the US government to extend its jurisdiction to the smallest village in the smallest country.  This is not paranoia, folks, this is reality.

We can meet that reality in different ways.  Last year 3,415 US citizens exercised their right to expatriate.  That is one way.  But there are others if we had the will to unite, inform, inspire and, above all, act (and fight) in our own defense.

My .02.


Inaka Nezumi said...

I admire your optimism, Victoria.
Wish I could share it.

Victoria FERAUGE said...

@ Nezumi-san, Did you see that they did crack (sort of) for the Accidentals? The Obama administration is offering to facilitate their expatriation provided they were born duals. Pretty interesting. Wonder if it has a chance in hell of passing...

Janet said...

Only for some duals. Those who visited relatives in the US and therefore had to have a US passport are not included.

Inaka Nezumi said...

Hi Victoria,

Yeah, I saw that, and it is so narrowly written that to me it just drives home the point they're never going to let any of the rest of us go.

Their attitude really seems to be "Love it or leave it," where love is measured in tribute and willing submission to arbitrary rules. Like something out of Leviticus.

Blaze said...

@inaka. Like an abusive spouse, they will stalk us forever.

The U.S. consulate was clear, firm and direct with me 43 years ago, I was "permanently and irrevocably" relunquishing U.S. Citizenship when I became a Canadian citizen.

As Victoria has said, I was one of those who built my life, career and retirement savings in another country. Now that I am in the early stage of retirement, the U.S. Suddenly declares that "permanent and irrevocable" really did not mean anything.

Health issues prevent me from travelling to a U.S. Consulate to request a CLN that they failed to ident ion or issue to me in 1973. Even if I could travel, I would never trust a Consulate again to go there or even contact them.

I feel even more betrayed by Canada than I do by the U.S. For surrendering my rights as a Canadian citizen for more than four decades to a foreign bully with the FATCA IGA and a law that allows foreign demands to override all Canadian laws, including banking, privacy and human rights laws.

@Victoria. As usual, your .02 iis priceless. I just wish someone in Washington would do something about it. I agree. They know. They don't care.

CBT, FATCA, FBAR and everything e,se they throw at us are not about taxes. It's all about information, power, control and punishment.

My only relief in all of this is my mother's death a year ago means I never again will travel to the U.S. I never thought I would see the day that I would be grateful to have my mother die.

Anonymous said...

My business is now and has always been the arts. The history of ex-pats who come, develop, build a career and a life in Europe because of how little support the US offers to artists is legendary. I will guess that the numbers in the ranks of those turning in passports that may be called artists…is very high. The loss of them/us will not be particularly felt financially, it is a loss of soul. The voice of the working class, undereducated/self educated artist in America has been mostly silenced at home. Think of what American culture would be historically without all of the ex-pat artists in the twentieth century. Imagine the future. JN

井上エイド said...

It should be mentioned that while the reporting for the list has been getting better, the list is far from perfect in that misspellings, duplicates, and omissions are rampant.

In particular, there are a lot of omissions based on the people I know who have relinquished their U.S. citizenship.

How am I so sure there are omissions? I'm one of them; I have a legal U.S. Certificate of Loss of Nationality, and I've reported it to Japan. Yet my name (old or new) has never appeared on the lists, despite the many years that have passed.

So there's a chance that the number of renouncers / relinquishers may actually be higher than what is reported.

Victoria FERAUGE said...

Excellent point. Yes, the lists are incomplete and almost always issued late. Not striving for accuracy, are they?

It still boggles my mind that some idiot (aka a US senator) came up with this idea for a "Name and Shame list"and that it was actually implemented.

The only shame here is on the US side (the renunciants certaintly don't feel it) and so it's just a media orgy every time the list comes out and it is just a stick for Americans to beat each other over the head with.

You'd think that someone would have the good sense to put a stop to it. But then it's rare these days when you can use "US government" and "good sense" in the same sentence.

So you are a Japanese citizen? If you don't mind me asking when did you get citizenship and did you renounce or relinquish your US citizenship?

Anonymous said...

Check out mention of Victoria Ferauge & Lynne Swanson article in
footnote 26
"26. 26 U.S.C. § 911 (2012); see Victoria Ferauge & Lynne Swanson, FATCA: ‘Simple
Premise’ Gone Terribly Wrong, HILL (July 28, 2013, 1:00 PM),
blogs/congress-blog/foreign-policy/313775-fatca-simple-premise-gone-terribly-wrong (“Even the
King of Thailand, the Mayor of London, England and the Premier of the Canadian
province of New Brunswick are considered ‘U.S. persons’ under American law simply
because they were born in the United States.”)."

Taylor Denson, Comment, Goodbye, Uncle Sam? How the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act is Causing A Drastic Increase in the Number of Americans Renouncing Their Citizenship, 52 Hous. L. REv. 967 (2015). (Abstract) (Westlaw)