Roger Ver has been a victim of character assassination in the last few days over his renunciation of US citizenship. He has told the public why he renounced, however, and it is because he is a victim of the US Justice system. His story is reveals what happens when you criticize the IRS and the US system of taxation.
Used with permission of the author
Roger Ver’s Journey to Voluntaryism
November 12th, 2012 My road to becoming a voluntaryist began in junior high when I found a copy of the book SOCIALISM by Ludwig von Mises. At the time I hadn’t given politics much thought and was a typical statist who assumed that there wasn’t any reason to limit the State’s power if it was being used to help people, but I also had a vague idea that Americans were opposed to solicalism.
When I initially started reading SOCIALISM I thought it would be a pro-socialist book, but that it would be a good idea for me to hear the other side of the argument. By the time I finished it, I had learned that it is an impossibility for the government to centrally plan an economy as efficiently as the free market. After this book, I was inspired to read other books on economics by Ludwig von Mises, Adam Smith, Fredric Bastiat, Leonard Read, Henry Hazlitt, Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman, and just about anything else I could order from Laissez-Faire Books, since this was before the internet was wide-spread. I learned that prices transmit the information required to most effectively allocate resources and that government intervention in the economy is preventing the world from being as wealthy as it should be. The more I read, the more appalled I became at the economic ignorance displayed by politicians and governments around the world. I became frustrated because anyone who spends the time to study economics can learn that nearly everything the government does makes the world a poorer place and that people, especially the poor, would be much better off if everyone were simply allowed to do anything that is peaceful.
At this point I had a firm grasp of the economic benefits brought to all by the free market, but it wasn’t until I found Murray Rothbard’s works that I started to think about the moral case for freedom. I devoured all of Rothbard’s books and was persuaded by the logic of his arguments. I remember being almost afraid to read such powerful truths. In all my years of schooling, no one before Rothbard had ever pointed out that taxation is the moral equivalent of theft, and the military draft is the moral equivalent of kidnapping and slavery. It shattered my remaining hopes that the State could be morally justified. For the first time I saw them for the criminal band of thieves, slave masters, and murderers that they are. My life has never been the same since.
Up to this point everything I had learned seemed ideological and somewhat abstract, but I felt the need to point out these truths to others. To help spread the ideas of liberty at the age of twenty, in the year 2000, I became a Libertarian candidate for California State Assembly. I vowed that if I were elected I would not accept any salary, considering the money would necessarily have been taken from others by force in the form of taxation. I also promised to cut as many taxes and repeal as many laws as I could.
As part of the election process I was invited to participate in a debate at San Jose State University against the Republican and Democrat candidates. In the debate, I argued that taxation is theft, the war on drugs is immoral, and that the ATF are “a bunch of jack booted thugs and murderers” in memoriam to the people they slaughtered in Waco, Texas. Unbeknownst to me at the time there were several plain clothed ATF agents in the audience who became very upset with the things I was saying. They began looking into my background in the attempt to find dirt on me. I had already started a successful online business selling various computer components. In addition to computer parts, I, along with dozens of other resellers across the country, including Cabelas, were selling a product called a “Pest Control Report 2000.” It was basically a firecracker used by farmers to scare deer and birds away from their corn fields. While everyone else, including the manufacturer, were simply asked to stop selling them I became the only person in the nation to be prosecuted.
The reasoning for the prosecution became crystal clear after a meeting with the US prosecuting attorney and the under cover ATF agents from the debate. In the meeting, my attorney told the prosecutor that selling store-bought firecrackers on Ebay isn’t a big deal and that we can pay a fine and do some community service to be done with everything. When the prosecutor agreed that that sounded reasonable one of the ATF agents pounded his hand on the table and shouted “…but you didn’t hear the things that he said!” This summed up very clearly that they were angry about the things that I had said, not the things that I had done.
After being told by the US attorney that I would be sent to jail for seven or eight years if I took my case to trial I signed a plea agreement. At the sentencing the judge asked me if anyone threatened or coerced me in any way to sign the plea agreement. When I said “Yes, absolutely,” the judge’s eyes became very wide and he asked “what do you mean?” I explained that the US attorney told me that he would send me to jail for seven or eight years if I didn’t sign the plea agreement. The judge responded that that was not what he was asking about, so I replied that I must not understand what it means to be threatened or coerced. The judge then proceeded to lecture me extensively on politics. He carried on about why government is so important and how “taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society” and that government is wonderful in general. He summed up his lecture by telling me that, “I don’t want you to think that your political views have anything to do with why you are here today,” and then sentenced me to serve ten months in federal prison.
After my release from Lompoc Federal Penitentiary I had to deal with three years of lies, insults, threats, and general harassment by the US Federal probation department. I moved to Japan on the very day my probation finished.
Currently, I am working full time to make the world a better, less violent place by promoting the use of Bitcoin. Bitcoin totally strips away the State’s control over money. It takes away the vast majority of its power to tax, regulate, or control the economy in any way. If you care about liberty, the nonaggression principle, or economic freedom in general you should do everything you can to use Bitcoin as often as possible in your daily life.
[Roger Ver was born and raised in Silicon Valley and now resides in Tokyo. He is the CEO of MemoryDealers.com and directly employs thirty people in several countries around the world. Roger is also an investor in numerous Bitcoin startups. He spends his free time studying economics, moral philosophy, Bitcoin, and Brazilian Jujitsu. This article first appeared on the website www.daily dailyanarchist.com on November 12, 2012.]
Wow ! What testimony ! not least as to vindictiveness.
Why Tokyo? He could have moved to Thatcher-era Great Britain if he wanted his Hayek/Friedman utopia. It seems he has yet to grasp that Economics is still struggling to be a science.
Roger Ver is a citizen of St Kitts & Nevis. He was recently denied a visa request by the US Embassy in Barbados to attend a Bitcoin conference in the US. Note the copy of the cheque he wrote to the IRS dated 16 Dec 2014:
This blogger comments that obtaining citizenship through traditional naturalization might be preferred to obtaining citizenship under an economic program:
Some other related commentary.
My biggest fear in renouncing is that the US won’t grant me a visa to visit the US and family. Otherwise, except for the exit taxes, it would be a no brainer
So much for free speech….
I think there is a battle for hearts and minds here, to a certain extent. And this kind of story does not help us.
I think it is important for those of us who are abroad while being US persons to continue to emphasize how normal we (US citizens/persons abroad) are. Mostly middle class and long-term residents abroad, including may dual nationals, trapped by Kafkaesque IRS requirements and double taxation.
Oversimplification has led to lumping all US citizens abroad into a category of billionaire tax avoiders or evaders. Democrats (I say this as a long time Democrat) will yell bloody murder anytime the GOP asks for simplification or reduction of taxation. This is happening concerning FATCA.
I, for one, would like to dissociate somewhat from, or at least underline our differences with, extreme ideologues and tax-avoiding billionaires. Examples like Eduardo Savarin, or Roger Ver, are interesting, and I would be the first to support their rights. I also resent that the treatment they get from the US may be unjust and frightening.
However I also view these high profile expatriates as public relations disasters for our cause. These people, no matter how sincere and honest they are, will be used to justify overseas taxing and rendering expatriation ever more difficult and costly. Expatriating to St Kitts or Singapore from a comfortable life in the relatively low tax environment that is the US has nothing to do with living as middle class for 30 years in Canada or France while paying high local taxes. I don’t want a legal difference between the 2 categories, but, again, I think that politically the former play against the latter.
As morally debatable as it might be, I think it is also the right of rich people to move away to another tax jurisdiction as well. I especially wonder about the case of Saverin, who was born Brazilian to begin with. Did he even have an american passport or was it a green card? And while on the topic of morals – besides the immorality of CBT – who else taxes work permit holders who move away? There are just a huge amount of double standards here, and why shouldn’t rich people be afforded the same rights of passage as those with less wealth? So when you are rich, you are stuck – but when you are not- you are free to go? How moral is that? At any rate – an exit tax was introduced to take care of the matter.
Roger Ver did not renounce US citizenship to avoid taxation. He still pays tax in the US. He did so to avoid political persecution. He is thus a political refugee and his wealth is irrelevant.
And I don’t mind identifying with him one bit. He is like me someone whom the US government persecution has forced to relinquish. And I will defend people like him, Tina Turner, Jet Li, and Eduardo Saverin, because they are my brothers and sisters. I do not despise them because of their wealth.
But the rich demagogues who are destroying the US economy love to hate these people.
And here is a lesson in politics: If you are a ultra-libertarian, such as a adherent of voluntaryism like Roger Ver, the US government puts you in prison because you think that taxation is theft. If you are a adherent of marxism (as the college-age Obama was self-avowedly–and likely remains) and you believe in redistribution of wealth (i.e., taxation as theft), then you become President of the United States. Roger Ver is no threat to the US but is exiled. Obama, however, plays golf every weekend and watches the NFL playoffs instead of visiting France in her hour of need.
Because they were called “jackbooted thugs” they took great pains to prove that they were not wearing jackboots but were in fact pennyloafer thugs.
You must have hit them pretty close to the heart for them to react with such extreme stupidity.
Condemning persons who expatriate who may have whatever amount of wealth to their names is no different than condemning persons like my son with very, very little (born to two US parents in Canada but has never lived or had any benefit from the US but, by US Department of State terms, is ENTRAPPED into their US-defined US citizenship) were he able to renounce. It has nothing to do with wealth or with the absence of wealth.
As far as I’m concerned what persons like Eduardo Saverin [in whose name the US started any Ex-Patriot Act (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ex-PATRIOT_Act) punitive legislation attempts (and will likely continue until one passes)] did is what one should be able to do (right of expatriation) to get on with their lives without the continued life control of the US. I believe Mr. Saverin did everything he had to do according to US law in regard to his expatriation.
Just have a look at the cheque that Mr. Ver has cut to the US for payment of his US tax: http://isaacbrocksociety.ca/2015/01/17/the-real-reason-that-roger-ver-renounced-us-citizenship/comment-page-1/#comment-5283951.
If its okay to move from New York to Florida because of weather or because Florida has no state income tax, why do some people see something wrong with moving from the US to another country?
And why is a native New Yorker residing in Florida free from New York taxes (and all other laws) but a native American who moves abroad is not?
And if an American living overseas must pay US taxes and comply with US laws such as FBAR reporting, why is there no local US post office to serve him, or Federal lunch funds to his school and Federal highway funds for his town?
@Polly. Re: Eduardo Saverin.
He is a Brazilian who moved to the US with his parents as a child and eventually became a US citizen so he was a dual. He and college classmate Zuckerberg co-founded Facebook and that made them both wealthy. Saverin exited (or was pushed out) of the company with a lot of money and later decided to move to Singapore.
He has become the poster boy for rich tax dodgers but that is totally undeserved. The truth is that he paid a great deal of tax to exit the US system according to the rules created by Congress so he didn’t dodge anything. Had his timing had been slightly different he might have paid more tax or he might have paid less but that was unknowable at the time. To characterize him as rich a tax dodger is something only certain US congressmen do to further their own agenda.
He has not, to my knowledge, publicly stated why he decided to move to Singapore or why he decided to ditch his US citizenship so we are only left with speculation. Perhaps he wanted to pursue new business interests, perhaps he wanted a lower capital gains tax regime, or maybe it was a girl friend. Who knows? Singapore doesn’t allow dual citizenship so he would have to renounce his Brazilian as well to become a Singaporean and I have not heard he has done that.
We do know this: If he moved to Singapore to engage in new business enterprises US citizenship would make that virtually impossible. No businessman in Singapore would take him on as a business partner. If he moved for the lower tax regime, US CBT would eliminate that advantage and severely restrict his business and investment options. If he moved for love, US citizenship would interfere with that as well. My guess is he renounced for the same multitude of reasons as the rest of us, i.e. he did the math and came to the only logical conclusion one can reach if one wants to live outside the US.
The right to change citizenship is not debatable, rich or poor, because it is a basic human right. There are some in Congress who don’t think should be. They enacted the exit tax to “fix” the problem but it still hasn’t worked so they are coming up with ever more vicious measures to prevent people from exercising that right. His advisers probably told him to get out while the getting was still “semi” good if he wanted to have a life outside the US. Ironically, the new $2350 renunciation fee is an attack on the poor; it’s a minor inconvenience for the rich. Go figure: they want to discourage the rich from leaving so they hit the poor.
Yeah- I know. Most of us have read up on Saverin because his story was huge in the media. But thx for the recap.
Did you read on Yahoo that Obama has his own plans for tax reform? He wants to severely raise inheritance tax and much more. Now besides inversions, people are going to be leaving/renouncing in droves so their kids can inherit their family wealth. Good grief! WHY dont they just look at their own tax havens- their Delaware and Wyoming hidden wealth?
Indeed, you are right, and I agree that it should be one’s right to move away, and in so doing to be able to be taxed wherever one lives, not where one was born or something. And that this should be a universal right applicable to all without judgement as to their motivations.
My point was how this looks to Joe Public, whom nuanced explanations may not be reaching. And Joe Public is important because every time an effort is made to make taxation more rational an opposition politician will scream “tax relief for the tax-dodging rich!”.
I did / do understand what you are saying. It’s all rotten, the nuanced picture painted for what the public is to perceive.
@Polly. Sorry, the Saverin recap was more for others. It just bugs me that the guy is continually pilloried for no reason whatsoever. All he did was follow their rules and pay millions to properly exit the US tax system forever. For God’s sake, what more do they want?
Inheritance tax is an attack on wealth that is already net of all taxes due. The government uses the occasion of a person’s death to swoop in and tax it once again. The message here is plain enough; don’t bother to invest because we’re going to get it all one way or another anyway.
They don’t look at their own tax havens because it would be bad for business, but they are very enthusiastic about going after other tax havens because they don’t like the competition.
I know. The hypocrisy is mind boggling. But I heard that Obama has little chance of getting these tax reforms through. He might gain votes though from the masses. I imagined what such an inheritance tax would be like in Europe. People want their money to remain in the family. They would definitely leave and renounce.
At least the law has a firm precedent:
Reich Flight Tax
Interview with Roger Ver, Doug Goldstein on “Goldstein on Gelt”
Roger Ver, one of the founders of Bitcoin, explains why he renounced his U.S. citizenship.
What are the ramifications of giving up your U.S. citizenship, and does it mean that you can no longer visit the United States?
OK so on the face of it we could sympathise with Roger based upon this story he has spun. However we only have his word for it that this is the way things happened. This is the same guy who is now saying that Botcoin Cash is the “real” bitcoin. He has turned on Bitcoin and is disparaging it in much the same way as he has turned on the Government of his birth and is now disparaging it. See a pattern here? The fact is Roger went to jail for selling explosives through the mail and he has now renounced his US Citizenship. These are the only undisputed facts in this story. For the rest we only have the very questionable word of the guy sometimes known as “bitcoin Judas.”
I understand your disappointment in Roger Vers, as you have evidently a stake in Bitcoin. American Homelanders feel the same about people who relinquish their US citizenship. Those who renounce citizenship are the Benedict Arnolds of today (which I’ve been called myself).
Petros–I don’t know how I can ever adequately thank you for your ‘Petros Principles.’ I’ve printed them all out and I have a cover sheet of the bullet points. Whenever the panic has threatened to settle in again, I’ve reached out (the sheets are on my desk) to read them through again. My mind clears and I can once again respond rather than react.
You’re not a Benedict Arnold to me. You are a hero!