Part I: Common Myths about the U.S. Tax and Legal Consequences Surrounding “Expatriation”

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·  Myths – about Renouncing U.S. Citizenship

There are many misunderstandings of how the law works when someone renounces U.S. citizenship. The author regularly hears a range of myths that will befall an “Accidental American” when and if, they renounce. These “myths” include the following:

  • Myth 1: There is a 10 year period of U.S. income taxation after renouncing citizenship.US Passport
  • Fact: The old tax law from 1996 and the modifications in 2004 had a 10 year period of taxation concept after “expatriation.” There is no longer such a 10 year period of taxation for those persons who renounce on or after June 17, 2008.

 

  • Myth 2: Former U.S. citizens will not be allowed to enter into the U.S.; i.e., will be barred from re-entry at a point of entry by a U.S. immigration officer.
  • Fact: Former U.S. citizens are generally entitled to any visa status, the same as any other non-U.S. citizen.  There is not a single case where a former U.S. citizen was barred re-entry to the U.S., due to tax motivated purposes.

 

  • Myth 3 : Former U.S. citizens will not be allowed to ever re-obtain citizenship.
  • Fact: Former U.S. citizens are generally entitled to U.S. citizen status, the same as any other non-U.S. citizen. Importantly, U.S. citizenship may simply not be available to any particular non-U.S. citizen, depending upon the particular circumstances.

 

  • Myth 4:  U.S. citizens do not need to renounce their U.S. citizenship if they live in a country with an income tax treaty with the U.S.; since the tie breaker rules of residency will keep them from being U.S. income tax residents.
  • Fact: U.S. citizens cannot escape worldwide taxation, both income and gift/estate taxes, by living outside the U.S., since all U.S. bilateral income tax treaties and estate and gift tax treaties have a “savings clause” allowing the U.S. government to impose taxation on U.S. citizens notwithstanding the treaty.[1] This is how the U.S. tax net works on worldwide assets and income.

There are many more myths which will be discussed in a later post.

 

[1] See footnote no. 14 of Crow v. Commissioner, 85 T.C. 376 (1985):

14/ . . . The Treasury Department’s explanation of the Maltese treaty . . . :

“Paragraph (3) contains the traditional ‘saving clause’ under which each Contracting State reserves the right to tax its residents, as determined under Article 4 (Fiscal Residence), and its citizens as if the Treaty had not come into effect. [Department of Treasury, Technical Explanation of the Agreement Between the United States of America and the Republic of Malta with Respect to Taxes on Income 2 (Published in Treasury Department Press Release R 367 on Sept. 24, 1981), 1984-2 C.B. 366.]” This interpretation is consistent with the typical interpretations accompanying recent treaties containing general savings clauses.

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