Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

National news

April 28, 2014

More renounce US citizenship but deny stereotype

(Continued)

When Americans do hear about compatriots rejecting citizenship, it's more often people keeping their U.S. citizenship and dropping that of another country.

Last year, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz acknowledged the Canadian citizenship he was born to, but said he would renounce it. In 2012, Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minnesota, saying she was "100 percent committed to our United States Constitution," announced she was giving up Swiss citizenship gained through marriage.

One of the few times rejected U.S. citizenship has gotten significant ink was Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin's 2011 decision to turn in his American passport after moving to Singapore. Saverin likely avoided millions of dollars in taxes by doing so shortly before Facebook's initial stock offering.

Other wealthy Americans also have relinquished U.S. citizenship. Denise Rich, the ex-wife of pardoned trader Marc Rich, expatriated in 2012 and lives in London. Last fall, singer Tina Turner, a resident of Switzerland since 1995, relinquished her U.S. passport.

But Saverin's decision, in particular, hit a political nerve, along with scandals surrounding UBS and Credit Suisse, which were caught matching wealthy Americans with offshore accounts.

In recent years, federal officials have stepped up pursuit of potential tax evaders, using the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act which requires that Americans overseas report assets to the IRS or pay stiff penalties. Those trying to comply complain of costly fees for accountants and lawyers, having to report the income of non-American spouses, and decisions by some European banks to close accounts of U.S. citizens or deny them loans.

But some of those surrendering citizenship say their reasons are as much about life as about taxes, particularly since the U.S. government does not tax Americans abroad on their first $96,600 in yearly income.

Decisions to renounce "are driven by a whole range of emotional considerations. ... You've got anger, you've got fear, you've got a strong sense of indignation," said John Richardson, a Toronto lawyer who advises people on expatriation. "For many of these people, this is not a tax issue at all."

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