Wikipedia’s list of public figures who gave up U.S. citizenship from the 1930s to the present day has reached nearly 100 entries. This list is far from complete — hopefully friends of Isaac Brock from around the world can suggest some additions, as right now it’s heavily weighted towards entries from the Caribbean and from East Asia. However, it is large and diverse enough for us to make some interesting observations.
From 1994 to 2006, I can confirm only a single report that a public figure in Wikipedia’s list gave up U.S. citizenship but did not appear in the Federal Register or the 1995 Joint Committee on Taxation report before it: South Korean actress Han Ye-seul. After 2006, however, the reports of public figures who gave up U.S. citizenship without ever appearing in the Federal Register start expanding rapidly. 2006 was an interesting year in other respects as well: it was the first year in which the number of “published expatriates” ever showed a significant decrease.
1994 to 2005
A number of people in Wikipedia’s list were indicated as not being present in the Federal Register. However, every single such entry from 2005 or earlier proved to be erroneous in some way: their names were present under misspellings (such as Lithuanian president Valdas Adamkus, who was reported as “Adankus”), or runtogetherintoonelongword (e.g. Taiwanese environmental activist RobinJamisonWinkler). In one case, a person in Wikipedia’s list in fact had not renounced: Stanley Fischer, who received special permission to retain his U.S. citizenship when he joined the Israeli government — and who I sincerely hope has remembered to file his FBARs on the entire Bank of Israel, lest he get fined 300% of the country’s money supply.
Put another way: before 2006, the Federal Register and its father the JCT report had a nearly-perfect record for reporting loss of U.S. citizenship, whether the ex-Americans in question were rich or poor. Out of 21 public figures known to have given up U.S. citizenship between 1994 and 2005, the U.S. government published the names of 20. The sole exception is Han Ye-seul.
Han, whose birth name is claimed by various fansites to be Leslie Kim, was reported by South Korean media to have renounced in 2004. That year puts her smack in the middle of a massive inter-departmental screwup which resulted in expatriate lists for five quarters (Q3 and Q4 2003; Q1, Q2, & Q3 2004) not getting published until October, and then with huge numbers of duplicate names. So it’s plausible that her name simply disappeared into the mists of federal incompetence, without any intention of concealing anything.
2006 to 2012
Starting in 2006, however, the U.S.’ near-perfect record starts going downhill rapidly. The first verifiable report of non-inclusion is not from a public figure but a private one: a woman named Aileen in Austria wrote a blog post in March that year about going to the U.S. embassy in Vienna to renounce U.S. citizenship so she could become an Austrian citizen, after nearly three decades of living in the country. Her simple & heartfelt blog post is something most of us can relate to: she’s just another ordinary emigrant who has no doubts about her decision to stop being a foreigner in the country in which her entire life is located. She hardly fits the idiotic Congressional stereotype of “rich traitors fleeing America with their ill-gotten gains”. However, no Aileen appears in the Federal Register in 2006 or at any point thereafter (with the exception of a Melanie Aileen in March 2012).
After that, there was Ukraine’s former first lady Kateryna Yushchenko in 2007. The U.S. embassy wrote a letter confirming her renunciation, which was published in Ukrainian media, but Treasury never printed her name. Jamaican politicians Daryl Vaz (2008), Michael Stern (2009), and Danville Walker (2011), Hong Kong actors Jaycee Chan (2009) and Erica Yuen (2012), Korean actors Yoo Gun (2011) and Yoo Seung-chan (no relation), and more, totalling sixteen of the thirty-seven public figures listed by Wikipedia for the period in question — none of them show up in Ms. Kaminski & Ms. Gaudelli’s lists.
Among private figures the ratio is even more skewed: for example, of the five South Koreans mentioned in this series of articles about life in the Navy & Air Force, only two show up in the Federal Register — and these are people whose names have been printed in the mainstream media, albeit not in English. What proportion of people whose names have never been published in the mainstream media do you think end up in the Treasury figures?
Remember what else happened in 2006?
2006 was an interesting year for Americans abroad in other respects as well. It was the first tax year for which the Tax Increase “Prevention” and Reconciliation Act was in effect, featuring Chuck Grassley (R-IA)’s Foreign Earned Income Exclusion “stacking” provision which — as even foreign governments noticed — massively increased taxes on Americans abroad so Chuck could pay for more pork for his constituents. And with a giant tax hike, you’d expect to see the renunciation rate go up — not because of Congress’ mythical “rich Americans fleeing the country with ill-gotten gains”, but because emigrants already abroad who were on the fence about whether to naturalise in their countries of residence started to realise what a raw deal the Homeland was giving them, no matter which Animal Party happened to be in power that particular year.
Well if you want to trust Hank Paulson and George Bush’s figures (hint from the finance industry: not a great idea), in 2006 the number of people giving up U.S. citizenships or green cards fell 64% from 762 people to 278, before mysteriously resuming the previous trend line by 2010. Andrew Mitchel has a nice graph of this, even if he draws the wrong conclusions from the figures. The 2006 drop is very politically convenient for Republicans, because it allows them to blame the subsequent “sharp rise” in renunciations on Obama’s policies while claiming that their own equally awful policies helped to slow the phenomenon. Of course it’s entirely coincidental that a bunch of people’s names start to go missing from the Federal Register in the same year it showed a miraculous drop in the numbers.
And if you believe that, I’d like to sell you some shares of a great Passive Foreign Investment Company which owns London Bridge.