Liberty and justice for all United States persons abroad

41 thoughts on “Even in “retirement” Jackie Bugnion writes the best arguments against citizenship taxation ever

  1. Outstanding. This is the piece I’ve searched for to explain the issue and implications to disbelieving family and friends.

  2. I read this last summer and am so glad to see it posted here again. Jackie Bugnion is a bright beacon of hope in our dark world. I just hope that the US government finally takes off its blindfolds and sees the light that’s been shining in its face for years.

  3. Thanks, Jacqueline Bugnion, for not giving up your continued strong voice to those in the US government for a change to RBT.

  4. Bravo yes. But I do have a quarrel with the word “Citizen-based Taxation” or CBT. It sounds so normal and banal.

    It should be called Extra-Judicial Taxation or EJT.

  5. The pushing out of young American citizens abroad with their cultural and language skills is a loss to the US. The US thinks it can outsource everything (including management of overseas branch offices), but they are wrong.

    In my experience abroad, overseas customers quite like meeting staff from the ‘home country’ and this does lend to solidifying relationships for the benefit of these companies.

    The fiscal Berlin Wall built by FATCA and CBT puts off people from leaving and people from every going back. The US is isolating itself which the Brits, French, Germans and others jet off to gain that experience unhindered by their governments.

    The US Congress should take notice when foreign business people see the US as yesterday’s economy to exploit as a possible cash cow not the economy such as Asia with many new opportunities.

    If Trump gets elected, I predict world leaders for the first 4 years will stall, stall and stall Mr Trump until his first re-election bid so nothing will get down. When Vincente Fox says he won’t pay for his F**’in wall what are other current and former world leaders thinking as well?

  6. @Socrates

    “But I do have a quarrel with the word “Citizen-based Taxation” or CBT. It sounds so normal and banal.”

    CBT was originally conceived to fund the Civil War; but after winning the War, the Capitol Hillbillies forgot to repeal it. So t is now “normal and banal” …

  7. @Duality said: CBT was originally conceived to fund the Civil War; but after winning the War, the Capitol Hillbillies forgot to repeal it.

    According to an article called “Taxing Citizens in a Global Economy”, the Civil War Era legislation did expire (1872), without ever having raised much revenue, but the question of taxing overseas Americans came up again in the 1890s:

    In 1894, more than twenty years after the Civil War income tax had expired, Congress again enacted an income tax.33 Although the 1894 income tax was held to be unconstitutional the following year34 and thus was never enforced,35 it adopted an approach to citizenship- based taxation similar to the 1864 tax law, taxing the worldwide income of “every citizen of the United States, whether residing at home or abroad.”36
    During the brief legislative discussion over the language of the 1894 Act, Senator George Hoar stated that the purpose of the provision was to ensure that “if an American citizen went abroad and carried the protection of his country, of his citizenship with him, he did not escape its burdens.”37 Echoing the concerns that had been raised thirty years earlier,38 Senator Hoar observed:
    There are a great many people, I am sorry to say, who go abroad for that very purpose [of avoiding tax], and some of them went abroad during the late [Civil W]ar. They lived in luxury, at the same time at less cost, in a foreign capital; they had none of the voluntary obligations which rest upon citizens, of charity, or contributions, or supporting churches, or anything of that sort, and they escaped taxation.39
    Thus, the legislative history of the Civil War tax acts and the 1894 legislation reflect unfavorable views of citizens living abroad, portraying them as living in luxury while avoiding the burdens of citizenship. Unlike the original tax acts in 1861 and 1862, which purported to penalize citizens abroad by subjecting some of their income to higher rates, the subsequent nineteenth-century provisions focused on equity, attempting to ensure that citizens abroad did not receive more favorable tax treatment than those at home.

    I must say I don’t agree with the author about the focus on equity, then or now. The legislators use “fairness” (to domestic taxpayers) as a justification and a persuasion, to get the laws passed, but, then as now, there’s no attempt whatever to make it fair for the person being taxed.

  8. In 1776, the United States declared independence because the mother country on the other side of the ocean was imposing taxes on the colonies for the benefit of England. Resentment started when Britain tried to enforce the Navigation Act after 1763. Resentment increased with the Stamp Act in 1765, a way for Britain to tax the colonies. The British Tea Act of 1773 led to the Tea Party and we all know the outcome – the American Revolution and independence crying out “no taxation without representation”.

    Today, the estimated 7 million Americans resident abroad, of whom the majority are long-term overseas residents in high tax OECD countries, face a comparable situation.

    Comparable, or even more unfair, for dual citizens. The colonists were actually receiving services from GB, such as being protected by the British Army in case of armed attack. So it could be argued that GB had a reasonable justification for taxing the colonists. Whereas, If I was threatened by armed attack today, the US Army wouldn’t even be able to offer me consular support, let alone rescue or defence: under the Hague Convention, only my dominant-citizenship country (the UK) could do that.

  9. @iota
    One thing that is overlooked about the early years of CBT is that there was full double taxation of U.S. citizens abroad until after World War I, since many Americans were paying in both places, so it was a fairly homelander idea of fairness. I suspect that CBT or citizenship-based taxation is a relatively new term, but I’d have to check.

  10. @Don, you make a very valuable point; “The pushing out of young American citizens abroad with their cultural and language skills is a loss to the US…”

    The discussion re the value that those skills and that experience would bring to the US are usually expressed in terms of immediate commercial interests, because the US doesn’t understand any argument that isn’t expressed in immediate dollars. But those who were born or lived significant terms outside the US can help the US in many ways to translate not only other languages, cultures, mores, etc., but worldviews.

    It is so ironic that the US is so quick to exploit those ‘abroad’ for the little to nonexistent US taxes they pretend to think they owe, and so very quick to make a massive profit exploit those expatriating who can’t afford to keep their US birthright , but the US government sees no benefit in the human, social, political and cultural capital that those outside the US represent. Next time they find they have a shortage of people who actually have lived in areas of the world that they want to better understand, they should look to their punitive and short sighted birthplace/parentage based tax and life control policies.

    See this evidence of their stupidity.
    There is even a General Accountability Office (GAO) report on the shortage of translators and others well versed in other cultures to fill important US government positions and advance US interests:

    “…….The four federal agencies covered in our review reported shortages of
    translators and interpreters as well as shortages of staff, such as diplomats
    and intelligence specialists, with foreign language skills that are critical to
    successful job performance. Agency officials stated that these shortfalls
    have adversely affected agency operations and hindered U.S. military, law
    enforcement, intelligence, counterterrorism, and diplomatic efforts. Many
    shortages were in hard-to-learn languages from the Middle East and Asia,
    although shortages varied greatly depending on the agency, occupation,
    and language. Agency officials said that foreign language shortages are, in
    part, caused by technology advances that allow the collection of growing
    amounts of information and thus require greater numbers of staff proficient
    in foreign languages; by rising language proficiency requirements in the
    face of changing and more complex agency missions; and by a competitive
    job market that has made attracting and retaining staff more difficult. At
    the FBI, for example, shortages of language-proficient staff have resulted in
    the accumulation of thousands of hours of audiotapes and pages of written
    material that have not been reviewed or translated. The FBI says this
    situation has hindered its prosecution of criminal cases and limited its
    ability to identify, arrest, and convict violent gang members. Diplomatic
    and intelligence officials have stated that lack of staff with foreign language
    skills has weakened the fight against international terrorism and drug
    trafficking and resulted in less effective representation of U.S. interests

    …..”Although more than 70 federal agencies have foreign language needs, some
    of the largest programs are concentrated in the Army, the State
    Department, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the Federal Bureau of
    Investigation. Office of Personnel and Management records indicate that
    the government employs just under a thousand translators and interpreters
    in the job series reserved for this group. The government also employs tens
    of thousands of individuals who use foreign language skills in positions
    such as cryptologic linguists,3 human intelligence collectors,4 FBI special
    agents and legal attachés, State Department Foreign Service officers, and
    Department of Commerce Foreign Commercial Service officers.5 For the
    four agencies we reviewed, a total of nearly twenty thousand staff are
    employed in positions that require some foreign language proficiency..”….

    January 2002,
    General Accountability Office (GAO)
    report on foreign language in the federal government entitled, “Foreign Languages:
    Human Capital Approach Needed to Correct Staffing and Proficiency Shortfalls.”

    I didn’t even have to search very hard to find evidence that the importance of human capital is needed by, but being ignored by the US;
    ‘Government Needs and Shortages in Foreign Language and Regional Expertise and
    Signals, Facts, and Clues’
    Gail H. McGinn
    March 31, 2014

    ‘The International and Foreign Language Human Capital Challenge
    of the U.S. Federal Government’
    Nancy L. Ruther
    Duke University Conference, January 23-25, 2003

  11. @badger

    One has to wonder what policy objectives it serves for the US by creating barriers to global integration for its citizens.

  12. @Publius – yes I think you’re right, on both points.

    Personally, I’d like to think the US would switch to RBT someday, for whatever reason. Maybe the difficulties and expense of trying to enforce extra-territorial taxation will gradually lead them to rein in their efforts. Previous efforts to enforce CBT always seem to have lapsed, so perhaps this one will too. I hope so.

  13. @Bubblebustin, it appears to me that the US hasn’t done any cost/benefit analysis of its policies and the effects on those it deems USPs outside the US. Just as it hasn’t done any for FATCA.

    Except I guess the State Department decided that it could make expatriation into a money making machine – and so has now no interest whatsoever in making it any easier, or pointing at the underlying tax and other policy causes of their windfall.

    The US is hellbent on cutting off its nose to spite its face.

  14. The US is not only losing its diaspora renunciation by renunciation, former Americans who have gone through the meat grinder of trying to file tax returns, given up and renounced so they can at least have an ordinary bank account, were forced to obtain a CLN at an outrageous price, and filed 8854 so they can let the IRS have a shot at their hard earned foreign assets wind up actively hating the US government.

    I don’t imagine US businesses are going to get much help from such people going forward. In fact, ex-US citizens are finally free to pursue a universe of lucrative opportunities with the foreign competitors of US companies all over the world. Its really tough being a citizen of a stupid country.

  15. Definition of “soft power”;

    “Soft power
    In international politics, influence is power.1 Soft power, coined twenty years ago by Joseph Nye, is the
    ability of a state to influence the actions of another through persuasion or attraction, rather than
    coercion.2 As Nye has previously argued, power can be wielded in three ways: threat of force (stick),
    inducement of payments (carrot) or shaping the preferences of others.3
    Two recent trends have made soft power more critical to the UK’s approach to foreign policy. Along
    with most developed economies, the UK is facing significant cuts to public spending, which means
    there are advantages in leveraging all available resources for influence. Under the Comprehensive
    Spending Review, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office will see its budget fall by 24 per cent in real
    terms over the five-year period covering the CSR.
    Soft power eschews the traditional foreign policy implements of carrot and stick, relying instead on the attractiveness of a nation’s institutions, culture, politics and foreign policy, to shape the preferences of others……”………


    An international ranking of soft power’

    The US government is stuck on using the stick on those it claims as its own, as well as the rest of the globe. Sticks are expensive to wield. The State Department and the US Treasury are apparently stuck on the ‘stick’ setting.

  16. I meant to add that the US State Department and US Treasury having chosen the stick, then predictably foisted the associated costs onto those individuals who could not longer bear to keep their birthright (State making millions by the increase of the renunciation fee from 100. to 2350. US, and creating the relinquishment fee – from zero to 2350., and in the case of the US Treasury, with FATCA; foisting the costs of FATCA and extraterritorial enforcement of the extraterritorial US tax regime on to the NON-US tax revenues and NON-US assets of all taxpayers, accountholders, governments, financial institutions (and Non FIs) of the entire globe).

  17. @maz57,
    Expats are unlikely to feel any residual compelling urge to further any political aims of the US after the US treats them pro-actively like criminals before the fact. The existence of the FBAR alone made me so disgusted that I couldn’t see myself accepting forced reporting to a FINANCIAL CRIMES ENFORCEMENT body FINCEN just because I have a local bank account.

  18. @badger said: “… it appears to me that the US hasn’t done any cost/benefit analysis of its policies and the effects on those it deems USPs outside the US. Just as it hasn’t done any for FATCA.”

    I agree. They’re so mesmerised by The Budget, and so hampered by the left-hand-right-hand barricades between the different government departments, they seem to have completely lost track of the pounds and the pence.

    A minor (but to me extremely satisfying) example: Like gazillions of others, I never heard of CBT until FATCA popped up and started interfering with my life. But I also never heard of the Totalization Treaty, whereby an expat can claim a (small) SS pension even if they only have a handful of SS credits. It was only because the US started bothering me about tax that I found out about this.

    Result: they got $0 tax from me, they did get $2350 renunciation money, but I’ve already recouped $1665 in SS money. In a few more months I’ll be in profit. And the US will just keep on losing for the rest of my life. Money that they would never have had to pay out if they’d left me in peace.

    I mention this at every opportunity in the hope that others in need of a CLN may be able to get hold of US dollars to recoup the renunciation charge. See for details.

    What goes around, comes around – sometimes. 🙂

    Which is good because it may prove unsustainable.

  19. What disgusts me the most is that nobody seems to realize that the United States is waging ECONOMIC WARFARE against all the nations in the world. And too many Western Nations are so enthralled with the idea that the United States is “Big Brother” to the world that they’ve got their head up the US’s back-end sniffing shit and thinking that it smells like beautiful perfume.

    The signing of FATCA in 2010 was the first shot in the United States’ economic war against the rest of the world and the fact that other nations politicians didn’t see it for what it is makes them traitors to their respective countries. There should be hangings by the thousands of all the politicians who voted this in. In the past treason to one’s country was punishable by DEATH!

  20. @Iota. Funny you should mention the SS. My story is about the same as yours, except they didn’t even get to gouge me for $2350 because I’m a self-relinquisher and decided I didn’t need a CLN. If it hadn’t been for this CBT/FATCA clusterf**k I never would have found out about the Totalization Agreement between the US and Canada either.

    I’m long since in a positive cash flow position and really enjoy converting that US cash to CDN$ and donating it to ADCS. And lucky me, longevity runs in the family so chances are they will be paying for their stupidity for many years to come. I savor the irony every day.

  21. @maz57 – Hooray! Yes, it’s mostsatisfying, isn’t it! Here’s hoping the word spreads, and many others will be able to do the same!

  22. @iota;
    that is a very good observation about how the US has “lost track of the pounds and the pence”.

    The US scared people into either quiet backfiling or filing going forward, or into the ‘voluntary’ disclosure programs. Some may have qualified for ‘refunds’ from the IRS regardless of whether they actually paid US taxes or not. In my case I received ‘refunds’ from the IRS plus interest because of the Make Work Pay credit despite never having actually being assessed with any US tax owing.

    That made hardly a dent in my substantial compliance costs (accountant, US tax lawyer) at all, but still, that tax credit cost the IRS money THEY WOULD NOT HAVE HAD TO GIVE ME if I had remained oblivious to US extraterritorial CBT and their demands for filings and the existence of potential penalties even from people who owed them zero US tax – because of unfiled FBARs, or 3520/As and other ‘information’ forms. I had years of never making enough to even exceed the personal deduction, and sometimes earned not even enough to have to file. So, like many others, the US was not losing any revenue from me as a US deemed “taxable citizen”. And did not gain any revenue from me – but cost me very dearly in money, time and LCUs – Just Me’s ‘Life Credit Units’.

    What the IRS, Treasury, State department and US government DID gain was my expatriation and a lifelong enmity that resulted from how I and we were threatened, slandered and mistreated.

    How many people got ‘refunds’ from the US Treasury because they qualified for the Make Work Pay credit {…”The credit was given at a rate of 6.2 percent of earned income up to a maximum of $400 for individuals or $800 for married taxpayers. Making Work Pay could be claimed by single filers making between $8,100 per year and $95,000 per year. Joint filers in the range of $8,100 and $190,000 could claim it annually…..” ) even if they did not actually owe or pay any US tax?

    Certainly they did not get any US tax from me, and I cost them hours of IRS money to process a huge pile of BS US tax forms and returns. In fact, they had to spend extra hours due to several of their own errors – for ex. kept sending notices trying to to extract money on a zero return – because the accountant entered a zero on a line that should have remained blank – because it was a zero. They had to decide whether my ordinary local bank accounts were those of a criminal mastermind. They made several entry errors that resulted in other erroneous notices. They passed me from person to person trying to rationalize what was impossible to explain because you cannot assess tax on a zero or negative number.

    Multiply that by all those expats who backfiled quietly, or going forward, or just complied in order to expatriate, and I wonder what that cost/benefit analysis would show? I know that unfortunately, due to our tax treaty gaps, some did pay substantial sums – I’m not minimizing that. But in the end, how much profit did the IRS actually reap from those ‘abroad’ vs. real US residents with non-US accts and delinquent US taxes?

    And the ‘success’ they trumpet ala the OVD programs really was mostly penalties, and not mostly delinquent US taxes. An analysis showed that the Congressional Joint Committee on Tax FATCA estimate is not at all reliable.

    ‘Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Initiative (OVDI) leads to average $2,220 a year FBAR penalty for $17 dollar tax understatement’
    Posted by William Byrnes on July 18, 2014
    ………….”How Much Did the Congressional Joint Committee on Tax Estimate FATCA Will Bring in Annually?”

    The Congressional Joint Committee on Tax estimated that FATCA will only generate $8.7 billion over ten years or average revenue $870 million per year. The $870 million annually appears not too far out of line with the tax collections generated by the OVDI the past six years, albeit the compliance costs to global industry to prepare for FATCA is currently estimated near this same amount based on government reports from the UK, Canada, Spain, among other trade partners of the US.

    The Florida Bankers Association reported to Fitch that $60 billion and $100 billion in foreign deposits are held in Florida banks, close to 20% of the state’s total deposits. In 2012, Fitch estimated that a substantial portion of these deposits would NOT expatriate from Florida. But according to the Texas Bankers Association, FATCA has resulted in an outflow of $500 million of deposits from the Texas banking system already.

    Based on a rate of the 15% long terms capital gain that applies to that money over the past six look-back years of Statute of Limitation, the currently cited $150B of lost annual tax revenue would require $1 trillion of annual taxable (hidden) income. To generate $1 trillion of capital gains income at a 5% rate of return requires $20 trillion of “noncompliant” offshore dollars. Is it likely that noncompliant money represents almost double the M2 money supply (Federal Reserve data of March 6, 2014 about $11T, see and about 20 times the actual amount of paper dollars that are in circulation?”

  23. @ iota & maz57
    Good for you for taking US SS payments. It’s some consolation for the misery that nation has inflicted. My husband is eligible right now for SS but he’s waiting for age 70 to apply. Then the SOL should be up on any little error he may have made on his tax exit procedure AND he should get a bit more per month for waiting … if they don’t change the rules. As for our savings … nobody can guarantee that the US gov’t, CND gov’t and/or our banks won’t find a way to steal them outright or just slowly bleed them away in the near or distant future. The world is in a very precarious situation (thanks to government gangsters and the worldwide cabal of banksters) so we understand that any financial planning, if we ever decided to do such a thing, is a crapshoot in which we don’t even get to touch the dice. One day at a time. Now is okay. The future, who knows?

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