If you think you pay enough taxes . . .

It’s an experience few ever expected would happen to them, not only surrendering their U.S. passport, but doing so gladly. Being an American in Paris, or anywhere outside our own borders is a very expensive proposition time- and money-wise. Oh, and then there’s the matter of aggravation. If this sounds like an utterly horrendous and impossible situation to you, American expatriates in foreign lands can assure you . . . it’s even more so to them as they live out some godawful scenarios day after day . . . .

It used to be that the number of Americans turning in their passports in any given year could be measured in the dozens. It used to be that except for a few political malcontents, it just never happened. Right now thousands of applications for renouncing American citizenship are filling up the in-boxes in U.S. embassies and consulates around the globe. Today 95% of these acts are because of taxes or aggravation or both. The United States, you see, is the nastiest nation in the manner it treats its expatriates among all the countries in the world. We are the only nation in the industrialized world that taxes its citizens overseas . . . making them subject to taxes where they live on top of back home and fewer and fewer of them given today’s climate see any long-term benefit to retaining their American citizenship. One of the main bugaboos has been recent attempts by the United States to pry into the finances of the expatriate citizens.

A lot of the aggravation expatriates feel, for example, is tied up with complex and time-consuming laws requiring expatriates to report all foreign bank accounts with balances in excess of $10,000 and exceedingly large penalties for those who don’t comply either on purpose or by accident. While these laws were aimed at the criminal element, the toll on the lawful expatriate can be devastating. One brother of a friend of Rajjpuut’s put it this way. “Just didn’t know the law and my $18,000 bank account could have landed me in prison or cost a huge fine, talk about a life-destroying slip up. I wonder how many big-crooks with accounts in Switzerland or the Cayman’s they catch with their crappy laws zero, I’d guess. I’m not sure how many times they’ve changed that law, but they were finally successful, they got me. They’ll nail lots of honest citizens for sure, well let ‘em stuff my *&%^$#(8@/? passport.

The biggest hassles, however, come from the compliance of foreign companies with American financial and savings laws. Americans living outside the country are quite often refused certain services because of all the hoop-jumping required for the foreign banks and financial institutions who just don’t want to be bothered for a miniscule number of American customers. The logistics of being an expatriate American is tiresome, at times costly and, many expatriates believe increasingly aggravating to the point of questioning the value of their citizenship. In a Time Magazine article the founder of the American Citizens Abroad (ACA) advocacy group Andy Sundberg speaking about America's attitude toward expatriates put it this way, “We have become toxic citizens.”

Sundberg says that unfortunately more and more expatriate Americans can help America and themselves by just renouncing their citizenship. Not only escaping the financial burden of double taxation but actually bettering the U.S. economy because without being Americans they’ll face fewer logistical nightmares and “it’ll become much easier for them to get a job abroad, and to set up, own and operate private companies promoting American exports.” Sad as it may seem, that ‘s the only win-win situation for many expatriates. The biggest downside is that they can only stay ninety days in the United States in a given year which tends to make the decision to surrender American citizenship difficult for many. But the sense of greater freedom and the huge financial relief drives more and more to do it. Sometimes families and friends tend to look upon the expat as a “Benedict Arnold” which complicates matters, but most understand. However, even when you hang up your U.S. passport for good, expatriates still get punched in the nose . . . you guessed it, there’s an “exit tax.”

Ya’all live long, strong and ornery,

Rajjpuut

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