I count 1,058 names in the latest Quarterly Publication of Individuals Who Gave Us At Least $2,350, which has just been placed on public inspection for printing in the Federal Register next Monday, a mere nine days later than required by law. Meanwhile, the FBI, which also tracks American emigrants who renounce citizenship (but not those who relinquish in other ways) for the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), says that NICS had 27,240 renunciant records on 31 December 2014, and 32,666 renunciant records a year later, for an increase of 5,426 during the year 2015, and another 253 in January. Only 4,279 names showed up in the Federal Register in the same period, meaning that the IRS missed more than eleven hundred of us at minimum.
Last year was the first full year in which the $2,350 fee — the world’s highest fee — was in effect, and Q4 2015 is the first full quarter in which not just renunciants but all relinquishers were charged that fee for exercising the human right to change their nationality. Clearly the American diaspora is wildly enthusiastic about State’s efforts to protect that right, and that’s helped make it a record year for State Department fee revenue: at least US$12,908,550! (That figure, and the chart above, only includes revenue from renunciants listed in NICS; I haven’t tried to estimate how many non-renunciant relinquishers there might be, though our earlier analysis suggests they might be only slightly less numerous than renunciants.)
More than two-thirds of that revenue is attributable to people giving up citizenship within the past year — that’s an amount nearly 50% bigger than State’s entire 2015 budget request for American Citizen Services. (Keep in mind that all the fees went to State, rather than the IRS who actually do the hard work of compiling the list by copying the names from the CLNs which State sends them into a spreadsheet and deleting a bunch for kicks and giggles or something.)
Table of contents
The pre-print of this quarter’s list takes up 27 pages. Most full pages have 41 names; two pages (11 and 25) have only 40 names due to long names taking up two lines. There’s 22 names on the first page, and 13 on the last page. So unless I’m even worse at math and counting than the U.S. government, that’s 1,058 names.
The IRS’ Federal Register list is far from the only illegally-late government report these days. For example, under 19 USC § 2432(b) (part of the hilariously hypocritical Jackson-Vanik Amendment), the State Department is required to give Congress “information as to the nature and implementation of emigration laws and policies and restrictions or discrimination applied to or against persons wishing to emigrate”, so that Congress can confirm whether the President is correctly exercising his obligation to sanction countries which “impose more than a nominal tax on emigration or on the visas or other documents required for emigration, for any purpose or cause whatsoever”. However, State’s report on the emigration policies of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan was around two weeks late, according to the Congressional Record — it was supposed to have been submitted to Congress by the end of last year.
The IRS list is not only late, but incomplete as well. It’s supposed to include not just the renunciants who show up in NICS, but people relinquishing citizenship under any provision of 8 USC § 1481. Yet, for the fourth year in a row, NICS added a bigger number of names than the IRS printed in the Federal Register. (And that’s not even mentioning the nearly 20,000 people per year who turn in their green cards, some of whom are also supposed to show up in the Federal Register list.) This discrepancy has led observers such as international tax lawyer Andrew Mitchel to conclude that the IRS list is “missing a significant number of names”. (See here for our earlier discussion of various theories about the list, such as the claim that it’s only supposed to include covered expatriates.)
In total, since then-Secretary of State and current presidential candidate Hillary Clinton first authorised the imposition of a $450 fee on renunciants back in 2010, they’ve collected more than $18 million from people who don’t want to be Americans any longer.
Media articles about specific relinquishments
Here’s a table of seventeen people mentioned by name in media reports as having given up U.S. citizenship since the beginning of 2014; nine of their names have not yet appeared in the Federal Register (four out of eleven from 2014, and five out of six from 2015). I’ve also included one person who posted his own CLN on Twitter and later showed up in the list (I haven’t included people who tweeted their own CLNs but didn’t show up in the list). Oddly enough, not a single one of these showed up in the Q4 2015 list. Maybe I’m just missing some media reports of famous people who gave up citizenship and did show in the revenue list; if you know of any others, please leave a comment. In any case, a non-publication rate of more than one-third for 2014 is still pretty bad.
|Giving up US citizenship||Appeared in
|Lu Shu-hao||Military||Taiwan||Service in Republic of China Army||January 2014 or earlier||No||Taipei Times|
|Sandy Opravil||Housewife||Switzerland||Save her mortgage||February 2014||Q3 2014||Newsweek|
|Roger Ver||Bitcoin investor||St. Kitts & Nevis||Libertarian political opinions||February 2014||No||Bloomberg|
|Sophia Martelly||Politician||Haiti||Run for Senate of Haiti||March 2014||Q3 2015||Haiti Press Network|
|Ya’aqov Ben-Yehudah||Writer||Israel||Complicated; see source||March 2014||Q2 2014||Times of Israel|
|Sean Cavanaugh||Technology||Canada||FATCA||April 2014||Q1 2015||Tweeted own CLN in August 2014|
|Mona Quartey||Politician||Ghana||Become Deputy Finance Minister of Ghana||July 2014||No||Graphic News (Ghana)|
|Alex Kim||Singer||South Korea||Obtain South Korean citizenship & serve in military||August 2014||No||Herald Business (South Korea)|
|Nicole Beaudoin||Unknown||Canada||FATCA||September 2014||Q3 2014||La Presse (Canada)|
|Kim Sungkyum||Military||South Korea||Be commissioned an officer in the Republic of Korea Army||December 2014||Q1 2015||Kookbang Ilbo (South Korea)|
|Lin Jou-min||Architect||Taiwan||Take position in Taipei city government||December 2014||Q3 2015||Central News Agency (Taiwan)|
|Rachel Azaria||Politician||Israel||Members of Knesset cannot hold foreign citizenships||January 2015||No||Times of Israel|
|Jonathan Tepper||Macroeconomic analyst||United Kingdom||FATCA & other U.S. tax reporting requirements||January 2015||No||The New York Times|
|David Alward||Politician||Canada||Become Canadian consul-general in Boston||April 2015 or earlier||Q3 2015||Canadian Broadcasting Corporation|
|Alfred Oko Vanderpuije||Politician||Ghana||Stand for election to Parliament||August 2015||No||Starr FM (Ghana)|
|Philip Ryu||Singer||South Korea||Serve in South Korean army||September 2015 or earlier||No||Money Today (South Korea)|
|Rachel Heller||Writer||Netherlands||FATCA & other U.S. tax reporting requirements even when no U.S. tax is owed||November 2015||No||Blog (will be included in TV news programme at a later date)|
For earlier reports (including the date, if any, in which those people showed up in the Federal Register), see Wikipedia’s list of former United States citizens who relinquished their nationality, though note that it only includes people who have Wikipedia articles. (I’ve seen two media reports of people without Wikipedia articles giving up U.S. citizenship in 2013: Kim Young-keun, who according to the Dong-A Ilbo renounced to take a position in the Overseas Korean Foundation under South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and showed up in the Q3 2013 list; and Michael Putman, interviewed for this BBC article, who finally showed up in last quarter’s list.)
Comparison with NICS
The below table lists the monthly additions to NICS for 2011–2015, compared with the quarterly lists in the Federal Register. The FBI has the bad habit of uploading the new NICS report each month at the same URL as the old one; the only way to keep a verifiable collection of old reports is to save old ones in the Internet Archive each month, and unfortunately we didn’t remember to do this for all months. If the month is set in upright type, the link goes to an actual Internet Archive copy of the FBI NICS report for that month. If the month is in bold type (for December), the link goes to the NICS annual operations report for the appropriate year. Finally, for months in italics, the link goes to a Brock post or comment.
A few caveats. The “addition” figure for April 2011 refers to all additions since December 2010. The “addition” figure for October 2012 includes what the FBI described as a “backlog” of 2,900 renunciant records, also included in the annual total for that year. I also gave an estimate of what the annual total would be without the backlog, even though some of the backlog may relate to other periods covered by the chart.
|First quarter||Second quarter||Third quarter||Fourth quarter|
|Apr 2011||41||15,387||Jul 2011||89||15,705||Oct 2011||118||15,930|
|May 2011||98||15,445||Aug 2011||54||15,759||Nov 2011||40||15,970|
|Jun 2011||129||15,616||Sep 2011||53||15,812||Dec 2011||34||16,004|
|Q2 total||268||Q3 total||196||Q4 total||192|
|76 FR 27175||499||76 FR 46898||519||76 FR 66361||403||77 FR 5308||360|
|Annual totals for 2011||NICS||656||Fed. Reg.||1,781|
|Jan 2012||265||16,269||Apr 2012||204||16,662||Jul 2012||22||17,188||Oct 2012||3106||20,577|
|Feb 2012||98||16,367||May 2012||Missing||Aug 2012||149||17,337||Nov 2012||97||20,654|
|Mar 2012||89||16,458||Jun 2012||504||17,166||Sep 2012||114||17,451||Dec 2012||0||20,654|
|Q1 total||452||Q2 total||708||Q3 total||285||Q4 total||3,203|
|77 FR 25538||460||77 FR 44310||189||77 FR 66084||238||78 FR 10692||45|
|Annual totals for 2012||NICS||*4,648||W/o backlog:
|Jan 2013||176||20,830||Apr 2013||319||21,823||Jul 2013||298||22,908||Oct 2013||302||23,557|
|Feb 2013||478||21,308||May 2013||374||22,197||Aug 2013||278||23,186||Nov 2013||118||23,675|
|Mar 2013||196||21,504||Jun 2013||413||22,610||Sep 2013||69||23,255||Dec 2013||132||23,807|
|Q1 total||850||Q2 total||1,106||Q3 total||645||Q4 total||552|
|78 FR 26867||679||78 FR 48773||1,130||78 FR 68151||560||79 FR 7504||631|
|Annual totals for 2013||NICS||3,153||Fed. Reg.||3,000|
|Jan 2014||320||24,127||Apr 2014||382||24,602||Jul 2014||577||26,000||Oct 2014||426||26,916|
|Feb 2014||95||24,222||May 2014||205||24,807||Aug 2014||180||26,180||Nov 2014||187||27,103|
|Mar 2014||-2||24,220||Jun 2014||616||25,423||Sep 2014||300||26,480||Dec 2014||137||27,240|
|Q1 total||413||Q2 total||1,203||Q3 total||1,057||Q4 total||750|
|79 FR 25176||1,001||79 FR 46306||576||79 FR 64031||776||80 FR 7685||1,062|
|Annual totals for 2014||NICS||3,423||Fed. Reg.||3,415|
|Jan 2015||271||27,511||Apr 2015||767||29,413||Jul 2015||856||30,973||Oct 2015||194||31,869|
|Feb 2015||105||27,616||May 2015||543||29,956||Aug 2015||552||31,525||Nov 2015||318||32,187|
|Mar 2015||1,030||28,646||Jun 2015||161||30,117||Sep 2015||150||31,675||Dec 2015||479||32,666|
|Q1 total||1,406||Q2 total||1,471||Q3 total||1,568||Q4 total||989|
|80 FR 26618||1,335||80 FR 45709||460||80 FR 65851||1,426||81 FR ?????||1,058|
|Annual totals for 2015||NICS||5,426||Fed. Reg.||4,279|
The Department of State is collectively charging us millions of dollars to exercise our human right to change our nationality, while the “Internal” Revenue Service refuses to compile an honest list of our names as required by their own laws. Meanwhile, the Department of “Justice” continues to seethe about U.S. persons “concealing foreign accounts and evading their U.S. tax obligations” and threatens that “[t]hose who underestimate the ability of the United States to pursue offshore tax evasion do so at their own peril”.
With this kind of attitude from the U.S. government, expect the ten-month consular wait list for renunciation appointments to get even longer.
@Iota, “I wonder if a UK bank would know what to do, if presented with a state-issued CLN?”
Other governments COULD pass their own laws and issue CLNs in their territory whereby allegience is disavowed to Country A and a CLN is issued that is valid for public and private purposes.
Ha! Renounce at a Service Canada office and let THEM send the information to the Department of State… and eat the renunciation fee!
That would be swell…
@George: Other governments COULD pass their own laws and issue CLNs in their territory whereby allegience is disavowed to Country A and a CLN is issued that is valid for public and private purposes.
The Philippines actually does this, sort of. E.g. just recently the husband of a presidential candidate renounced US citizenship & swore allegiance to the Philippines in front of a municipal government employee and got a certificate stating that he’d done so. There’s a picture of the certificate in this article:
I’m very curious to know whether it would work for banking purposes (as a FATCA “reasonable explanation” of not having a CLN). Unfortunately I guess we won’t find out in this particular case, cuz the guy says he’s also going to go to the US Embassy and pay the $2350 to get their CLN as well once he can get an appointment.
The Filipinos seem to have designed this system back when the US State Department still agreed that 8 USC 1481(a)(2) actually meant something. Incidentally, back in 2003 another Filipino politician also swore the above oath, but the US Embassy in Manila responded by sending him a very misleading letter stating that it didn’t meet the requirements of 8 USC 1481(a)(5) renunciation, while mentioning nothing at all about 8 USC 1481(a)(2).
(As Petros and many others have found out, consular officers were largely ignorant about relinquishment until recently.)
Another country probably could have a CLN-substitute for purposes within that country, but if it’s not official with the U.S. government the (possible-former) U.S. citizen risks problems if (s)he ever steps foot back on U.S. soil (even to just visit).
The US oath of citizenship contains language (“I absolutely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity”) whereby the new citizen must renounce any previous citizenship. None of that means anything to the old country but it apparently makes the US government happy and in their minds then gives them full authority to ignore any other country’s claims. (Invoking Master Nationality, right?) Canada’s oath of citizenship used to have similar language but it was deleted back in the 70’s.
I wouldn’t mind seeing that language reinstated in Canada’s oath, at least for certain countries which practice CBT. That way the Canadian government could conveniently ignore any US claims on its Canadian citizens because the individual would officially NOT be a US citizen under Canadian law. I see no reason why the Canadian government couldn’t allow a person to renounce their US citizenship in Canada; they merely have to make it possible. As we seen, our government seems to have no particular interest in protecting its citizens, but its hard to believe that it has no interest in protecting its tax base.
This would be meaningless in the US, of course, but who cares? This would really only be a recognition and official implementation of the Master Nationality Rule in Canada.
Oh but the Canadian government will protect Canadian citizens with terrorism convictions!
Congressional Research report
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
(USCIS) Functions and Funding
William A. Kandel
Analyst in Immigration Policy
May 15, 2015
I find it interesting that as far as I can see, the fees (contentious and exponentially increased) for renouncing and now for relinquishing are not mentioned at all in this report, though the fee increases and history of other functions are. Nor does the report even acknowledge the processing of renunciations and relinquishments as UCIS functions or as contentious or flagged in any way. No mention of growing backlog either.
Interesting and telling omissions?
Other CRS reports here
So if I’d have just kept my mouth shut, I’d have not been in the federal register? No matter. I’ve resigned myself to never visiting the US again. There’s plenty of the world I can visit without passing through the the United States of America, and still instill the values my parents (one American and one Canadian) managed to pass on to me.
Sometime late in 2017 the new US Embassy in London is expected to open. The cost of this building will exceed US$1 billion.
Anyone who uses US Embassy services, including Americans abroad, contributes to building and maintaining these extravagant facilities, according to this US State Department document:
“Consular Fees are established primarily on a cost recovery basis and are determined by periodic cost studies. … ICASS billings are computed on a cost recovery basis; billings are calculated to cover all operating, overhead, and replacement costs of capital assets, based on budget submissions, budget updates, and other factors. ”
Th extravagant State Department spending on its embassies has been noted by some in the US Congress, including Rep. Jason Chaffetz:
This recent article covers the opening of the new US Embassy in Norway, costing approx. $125 million:
The US State Department spares no expense when it wants extravagant digs.