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‘To renounce, or not to renounce, that is the question’

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Giving up your US passport is a major step.This week Rachel Heller, an American Overseas, sharing her thoughts on whether or not to keep her US citizenship.

For several years, I’ve been thinking about giving up my American citizenship. This is not an act of disloyalty or of protest. I  feel an emotional attachment to the United States that anyone who grew up there would understand. The reason I’ve considered giving it up is purely practical and has to do with taxes.

As an expatriate American, I’m  required to file and pay taxes because the US taxes world-wide income, although the first $97,600 (it goes up each year) that I earn is exempted. As a teacher, I’ll never earn that much… I pay an accountant to do it and so resent that expense because of its pointlessness. So, once I gained Dutch citizenship, thoughts of giving up my US citizenship centered on these pointless forms.

The last straw was the new “FBAR” form. Expatriate Americans are required to file a list with every account that has their name on it, along with the highest balance each account carried in that tax year. I object for three reasons:

• It’s none of their damn business how much money my husband and I have in which accounts.

• Dutch accounts don’t show a running balance, so I end up having to sit down with a calculator and do a year’s worth of arithmetic

• What’s the point?  How does knowing my highest balance on my accounts help when you don’t know what that money was for? (We bought a house last year so our active accounts had very high amounts for about a day.)

I got serious about giving up citizenship. The idea of never having to fill out all these forms again (or pay someone through the nose to do it for me) made it worth it. But now, the US has raised the price.  Americans had to pay $450 to renounce, which is ridiculous already. Just this year, the price was quietly raised to $2,350!

According to Yahoo News, the price rise might be an attempt to crack down on US citizens who are “hiding their wealth overseas.” It is also a response to increased renunciations of citizenship due to – surprise! – the onerous FBAR form.

I don’t have any great wealth to hide. I just don’t want to fill out those forms anymore. There are no real practical advantages to keeping my US citizenship; only inconveniences.

The US isn’t earning any tax payments from expats with moderate incomes, like me. The purpose of making its citizens report world-wide income is to raise tax revenue from wealthy expats. These wealthy expats are the ones who can afford to pay the $2350 fee, which is probably significantly less than their tax bill, would be.

The end result: lower tax revenues from expats, and a whole lot of angry expats who want to give up citizenship. Has Congress really thought this through?

 

Rachel Heller

Rachel Heller lives in Groningen and comes from Connecticut originally. She’s lived here long enough to feel like it’s home—‘most of the time, at least’ , she says.  Her husband, Albert, is Dutch, which brought her here. She has two kids: a daughter who is studying graphic design in the US, and a son who’s in the equivalent of 11th grade. She spends most of her time teaching (English and American Studies at a teacher-training college), but right now is on sabbatical. Up till today Rachel has kept her U.S Passport.

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