Renounce Your U.S. Citizenship?

Recently I posted a poll asking if people had heard of the video game Don’t Tax Me Bro. I asked, because the video game reminded me of a phone call I received regarding renunciation of one’s US citizenship.

A US citizen, who I assumed from his Midwest accent had grown up in Minnesota, wanted an immigration lawyer to renounce his U.S. citizenship.  He explained that people in his church had been doing this because they were tired of paying taxes. “I’m a businessman, see, and pay a lot of taxes.”  So he wanted to hire an immigration lawyer to get that done.

I have to admit this was a new one for me. In my previous life as a lawmaker, I encountered people all the time that didn’t want to pay taxes—AT ALL—regardless of the benefits they receive for living in America.  If someone would like a list of those benefits in a different post just holler.. Let’s just say, I’m of the belief that freedom isn’t free.  But it is one’s right to advocate for zero taxes if they wish, and we have a democratic process to enact such laws if enough people vote to do so. 

But is there a loophole in our immigration laws to live in the U.S. and not pay taxes?

Well, there actually is a process to renounce one’s citizenship, although its purpose is not in any way for the purposes mention by my recent caller. But there is a process. Anyone who is interested can read the process succinctly on the US Department of states website: Renunciation of U.S. Nationality Abroad.

So why would one renounce US citizenship? Well, it would be similar to someone attaining US citizenship here, and renouncing there citizenship of their former country. Some people move out of the United States to a different country job, family, personal preference, and now want to be a citizen of that other country and enjoy the rights and benefits there. Perhaps that country requires the holding of one passport only. In other words, dual citizenship may not be an option.  As a result, one can invoke the process to renounce one's U.S. citizenship and, as discussed in the link above, the process requires that renunciation be done at a US Embassy located in the actual foreign country you intend to permanently reside. 

Note, that avoiding U.S. taxes is not a reason to become a citizen of another country. If you earn income in the U.S., or possibly from the U.S., you must pay US taxes. Now the complexity of the forms your file may increase, but you are obligated nonetheless. Noncitizens are required to pay taxes from work in/from the U.S.  Many illegal aliens even pay taxes by acquiring an ITIN (Individual Tax Identification Number) in lieu of Social Security Number. 

This holds true, in general, for potential military service as well. The U.S. no longer has an active draft for military service, but it does have a strict, selective service registration requirement for any male citizen or male  green card holder in card it is ever reinstated.  

As such, flippant attempts to renounce set U.S. citizenship to avoid obligations,can have harsh penalties.

The Department of State specifically warns that renouncing citizenship should be considered very carefully. Put simply, it’s important that one gains another citizenship to replace the current one, otherwise, one could actually be rendered stateless. “Statelessness” is a condition one does not want to be in. It restricts travel and potentially fundamental civil rights depending on what country you are in. 

Furthermore, if one does renounce citizenship a person will then be obligated to U.S. immigration law if one wants to be here--for ANY reason. This means that, even if you were born in the U.S. and subsequently renounced citizenship, you would need a visitor visa to even enter America, and a work visa (likely petitioned by the employer) to work in the U.S. again.  And, of course, you’d still have to pay U.S. taxes like anyone else working here. 

So how did the phone call end?  With as clinical a tone as possible, I responded that whoever told him about renunciating U.S. citizenship to avoid taxes was misleading him. I then texted him the State Department links explaining renunciation. I hope the message got across. 


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