A lovely tax writer, Kelly Philips Erb, has written an article for Forbes magazine suggesting that Edward Snowden would have to pay taxes in to the United States if he were to work in his country of refuge, asking a presumed expert Richard S. Goldstein:
For now, Snowden remains a citizen. And so long as he remains a citizen, he is subject to our laws – and that includes our tax laws. He still has to file and he still has to pay any applicable tax. Goldstein agrees. But, he chuckled, “Good luck trying to collect it.”
She maintains that he would have to renounce his US citizenship if he wants to avoid US taxes and filing requirements. This entails paying the $450 dollar renunciation fee to the US consulate.
Philips Erb discusses the possibility that the US could strip him of his US citizenship for treason. Thus, she asks the question of his on-going citizenship status. First she addresses the issue of his passport:
The revocation of Snowden’s passport by government officials “is separate from revoking citizenship” according to Elena Park, an immigration attorney at Cozen O’Connor. “Passport revocation,” she explains, “deals more with limiting travel and can be initiated by law enforcement.” But merely pulling the right to travel is not the same as stripping citizenship.
It is interesting then that the US can deny a passport can to a citizen in order to restrict their travel. Several of us who have gone into the Consulate to relinquish have been told that because we have used a US passport since becoming a foreign citizen, we did not actually relinquish our citizenship. This is not true. The use or non-use of a passport is not definitive of citizenship because it is about travel not necessarily citizenship. Thus, the US may deny a citizen a passport, but they may, in some cases, grant a passport to those who are not citizens. It is all a matter of arguing one’s case effectively. Be that as it may, it is interesting that the US feels it can restrict the travel anyone it feels, at any time for any reason at all, without due process of law. I think this is a violation of the Fifth Amendment, which restricts the power of the Federal government to deny life, liberty or property without due process.
Next, Philips Erb asks if the US could strip Snowden’s citizenship because of his alleged act of treason:
Snowden, I noted, has been charged with crimes against the government. Could that result in a loss of citizenship? Not without a formal prosecution, posits Goldstein. A simple claim or charge of treason – as opposed to a formal conviction – is not going to be sufficient.
Ok. So Goldstein maintains that the US government at least cannot strip a person of US citizenship unilaterally without an actual conviction of treason. Yet let’s look at the appropriate law and see if Snowden would have to renounce, as Philips Erb suggests:
(7) committing any act of treason against, … (b) Whenever the loss of United States nationality is put in issue in any action or proceeding commenced on or after September 26, 1961 under, or by virtue of, the provisions of this chapter or any other Act, the burden shall be upon the person or party claiming that such loss occurred, to establish such claim by a preponderance of the evidence. Any person who commits or performs, or who has committed or performed, any act of expatriation under the provisions of this chapter or any other Act shall be presumed to have done so voluntarily, but such presumption may be rebutted upon a showing, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the act or acts committed or performed were not done voluntarily.
Snowden would only have to demonstrate with a preponderance of evidence that he has committed an act of treason. Sufficient bi-partisan accusations from notable political figures have accused him of treason that he should be able to make such a claim. The downside would of course be that an attempt to relinquish in this manner would be tantamount to a confession to the alleged crime, but I think he could avoid the $450 renunciation fee.
I wrote a blog post in February, 2011, explaining that those who relinquish citizenship should be able to avoid the new $450 renunciation fee that the State Department had begun to assess to renunciants. Later, I learned that I was right and I and many other readers of the Isaac Brock Society have been able to avoid the $450 fee by making a claim to have already relinquished their US citizenship. This is a good route to go if you begrudge even paying one red cent to an evil regime that persecutes its expats around the world.
Finally, if Snowden wishes to follow through on this suggestion, he should indicate his loss of citizenship at a US consulate not an embassy. Philips Erb suggests that Snowden must enter an embassy to renounce or do so on US soil. This is actually a factual error in her otherwise only sometimes misleading article.