In addition to the issues Mr. Henderson discusses, America is unusual in that it is the world's only industrialized nation that taxes citizens who live overseas, even if their income is generated in a foreign country and they never return to America. Essentially, this is double taxation as most expats still need to pay income taxes in their countries of residence. Though expatriates can claim a $97,000 exclusion on their U.S. taxes, thousands of Americans have given up their citizenship because what some perceive to be an unjust tax practice. Tina Turner's recent renouncement of US citizenship in favor of Swiss citizenship once again brought this discussion to forefront.
However, the amount of US citizens actually relinquishing citizenship is still a tiny percentage of the total population abroad. Of the estimated 230 million people living outside of their country, about 6 million are Americans. Of this group, only about 1,800 Americans relinquished their passports in 2011. This number has increased sevenfold since 2008, but there is no doubt they are still in the minority.
Expat Responses to Giving Up Citizenship
Regardless of the survey, it appears that most people have no interest in giving up their citizenship - no matter which country they belong to. We contacted several of our featured expats and asked for their responses to the question,
"Have you ever considered giving up citizenship? Why or why not?"
While most responded with the expected no, it was interesting to hear their reasons, both personal and practical, and find out how much more than a passport color nationality is to them.
Never. Regardless of any new tax rules, present and future, I feel my American
citizenship is essential. It's not just a designation, it's who I am. No matter
where I live, I will always think of myself as an American. It's where I was born
and raised, where my family lives, and the only land that they know as home.
Additionally, it is something I'd want to give my future children easier access to
Never. As naturalized US #expat, I'm happy to be taxed to ensure our house doesn't fall in disrepair 4 when I ultimately go home.
I would never consider giving up U.S. citizenship, simply for the fact that
I worked too hard to attain it. From my first visit to the U.S. as a
teenager, I knew that one day I wanted to become a citizen because to me the
United States was the greatest country in the world, and so when I took that
oath almost three decades later it was like a dream come true, even if my
worldview by then had acquired a few more shades of gray. I would, however,
have given up my German citizenship if it had been required, but thanks to
some fortunate timing I was able to retain both. To be honest, I'm not sure
that is the right approach. In some ways, I feel it's better to commit to
only one country at the time. Yes, there are practical reasons that make it
advantageous to own two passports, but in the end it's only possible to feel
true allegiance to one country at a time, taken with all its faults, tax
rates, and political leadership.
No, but at this point I'm not moving elsewhere. I can see why recent increased tax
filing requirements might make some think it's just not worth keeping up.
Peter from ExpatsRadio UK Citizen between the UK and the Netherlands
Would I give up my UK citizenship? Yes, I would. I would choose to be either Dutch
or French. Why? Dutch because they are the most flexible nation and are acceptable
everywhere. It is rare to meet Dutch people who cannot speak a few languages and
travel a lot. They also have an excellent care service if you are old or ill and
proper pensions! Not so good is the stress level!
France would also be good because of the lifestyle especially in rural France where
there is still time for family and friends. Not so good would be the red tape but if
you choose your place carefully you can have a very happy life.
Peter or Piet or Pierre!
Having just made the big move from the UK to live in the USA, this is a really
interesting question, and maybe my answer will change over time as I adjust and
settle more into American life, but my move was never about giving up my
citizenship, it was simply about being with my husband and having a life together.
It was not something I have even considered until I was asked to answer the above
Right at this moment, barely a week into my new life in America, I have no immediate
plans to give up my UK citizenship, as I am still a Brit - I just happen to be
living abroad. I will concede that this feeling may well change or circumstances may
dictate that being a U.S. citizen is a definite forward movement to make, but right
now I have no plans on giving up my citizenship, but will remain very open to that
Life has taught me (indeed the whole visa process has taught me) that things change,
things move forward and adjustments can be made. You can adapt to different
situations and become immersed in something new - and it feels good. I know some
decisions are made with the heart, and some need to be made with the head. Right
now, I do not know if the citizenship issue will be a heart or head matter, but I
know this question may arise again - and I hope to be more experienced at life in
America to make the right choice. Who knows what the future may bring?
What would you do if you had to choose?
Would giving up your citizenship ever be worth it? Have you renounced your citizenship? Share your responses in the comments, or in the expat forum.
I've just stumbled upon your blog and found the articles very interesting, especially this one.
Being an expat in Asia for over 10 years, I'm in love with the culture and way of life and at times I was thinking to give up my citizenship. But I also realize the advantages of having US citizenship so I haven't given it up just yet.
An expat living in Spain. No, I wouldn't give up my British citizenship because I believe that, despite our Nanny government, things will come round for the better once we elect a UKIP government and leave the EUSSR.
I suppose because of residence I could take Spanish nationality but that doesn't excite me too much and, being married to a Swede I could take Swedish nationality but again, the cold and high taxation doesn't appeal too much either.
I shall just bide my time until things get better - or I die (I'm 70 next year and having to continue working in order to live to a reasonable standard) - or am I the eternal optimist?
My family goes back to at least 1580 so I'm kind of through and through English (If they allowed that as a nationality I would fight fiercely for it). So, for now, I'm stuck with remaining British - and somewhat proud of it.