(7) An unjust law is no law.
Lex iniusta non est lex has a long tradition going back to St. Augustine. The world’s greatest human rights heroes remind us that unjust laws are illegitimate.
Unfortunately, in today’s Western world, lawmakers, law enforcers, and victims need reminding that an unjust law is no law. People are essentially law-abiding often to the point of scrupulousness. Civil obedience has become second nature, since the majority of us ordinary people start with the assumption that government is benevolent.
The cross-border compliance condors have taken advantage of this essentially law-abiding character. They try to infect their clients with a kind of tax scrupulosity, a pathological guilt and fear that if they do not do exactly as told, the IRS will destroy them with taxes, fines, interest, and jail time–and it would be the client’s own damn fault because it was their duty as a citizen to keep up with the requirements of the IRS.
My writing at the Isaac Brock Society has often focused on the injustice of the laws and their application to expats. This articulation of the injustice has been of clear benefit to our readers, if only to confirm that it is the USA Federal Government that has become criminal and that their own innate sense of what is unfair was right all along.
Why is the IRS persecution of expats unjust? Here are some ways that have been explored over and over at the Isaac Brock Society:
- It is an assault on the tax bases of every country in the world via the Trojan horse of the diaspora of so-called US citizens.
- The taxes collected are for the benefit of Homelanders and not for those who are taxed.
- The IRS has spawned a parasitic industry of compliance condors who produce nothing but paperwork and are an economic drain to the countries in which they ply their illegitimate craft.
- The IRS has created innocent victims, not least of all those expats who went into the money laundering program for criminals called OVDP.
- Unjust laws have criminalized the failure to fill out forms (FBAR, 8938) for reporting innocent bank accounts.
- Unjust laws (FBAR, FATCA) attempt to force people to yield voluntarily their own privacy rights or force foreign financial institutions to violate local privacy laws.
- The IRS has violated the citizenship rights of thousands: forcing some to renounce US citizenship, and treating non-US citizens, against their will, as though they were US citizens.
- Extra-territorial taxation of US citizens in essence is a tax on the right to return. It is unjust to tax human rights.
- The IRS threatens expats with excessive fines that are not proportional to the infractions committed (such as the FBAR 300% fine of the value of unreported financial accounts).
- The US government has also forced many expats underground and into de facto exile. Many are now afraid to mention their origins in public or visit their native land to see their families.
Civil Disobedience, FBAR and Forms 8854 and 8938
California genocide and the Indian Tax Revolt of 1851
Fair tax, unfair tax: or When is it paying my fair share?
Burning down barns is not wrong because it is illegal; it is illegal because it is wrong
When law becomes a substitute for morality
Previous Petros Principles:
(1) What the IRS can’t know unless you tell them can’t hurt you.
(2) Fear makes the IRS more dangerous than it really is.
(3) Haste is the devil
(4) Those most hurt by the IRS’s persecution of expats have engaged the services of cross-border compliance condors.
(5) Those least hurt have done nothing.
(6) Home is where you live.
About: Petros is the alias of the founding administrator of the Isaac Brock Society. Petros Principles are guidelines that have helped him and others deal with the United States’ world-wide tax invasion.
@Petros – great series of posts.
On the “It’s the law”, I am reminded of this earlier post:
“When law becomes a substitute for morality”
In the United States there is no longer any relationship between the two.
Renounce and rejoice!
Thanks USCitizenAbroad: I’ve added your post to the previous discussions.
The State Department is full of bullshit.
@AD203: as far as I know, it happened to one guy in 1986. He was stateless and renounced in Australia on a tourist visa.
Like Petros says, it’s just more scaremongering by the US government. Well over a hundred thousand people have become ex-U.S. citizens since the 1940s, and we’ve heard of a grand total of one case of deportation back to the US. Never gonna happen to anyone in a normal situation.
That State Department website doesn’t cite the other ways of relinquishing: the main one is by becoming a citizen of another country. It says that the presumption will be that you wanted to lose citizenship: when in fact the State Department and esp. the IRS and their cadre of compliance condors makes regularly presumes the opposite: that you are a citizen until THEY tell you that you are not. Such rubbish. They are such liars and the United States is a serial human rights abuser.
I’m going to post a comment which was originally submitted to an American publication with a rather large word limit. Consequently, it won’t fit the rather small word limits for opinion pieces in Canadian newspapers. So, rather than have it go to waste, here it is. (Oh, this would be my answer to those who call us whiners and complainers. If we are, then the so-called founders of the Republic are as well. If their cause was legitimate, then so is ours.
The Shot Heard Round Our Deck
The shot heard round our deck, just now, was not a lead ball propelled by black powder–like that famous “shot heard round the world”–but rather a champagne cork (The “Widow” Clicquot) fired by carbon dioxide. Nor was it part of an opening salvo in a revolution against tyranny, but rather it was fired in celebration of a release from a tyranny of precisely the same ilk.
While my wife and I will always celebrate May 17th as “Independence Day,”–the day we renounced our U.S. citizenship–the shot heard round our (Canadian) deck marked the culmination of the process of achieving full freedom. As the American colonials had to wait through a passage of time from Concord Bridge to the Treaty of Versailles, a passage of time which included, among other things, the victory over the British (attributable mainly to French sea power), and the initial period of abuse heaped on those who had remained loyal to the Crown, so too did we have to wait for our documents of freedom, namely our Certificates of Loss of US Nationality.
Our champagne marks the arrival of these.
The original shot heard round the world was fired in protest of, among other things, unjust taxation. The colonial intellectuals appealed to a principle of “consent” set out by John Locke. The foundation of that principle was a more basic one, namely, that governments are not entitled to part an individual from his property (i.e. tax him) unless they meet certain requirements, thus: “But still it must be with his own consent, i.e. the consent of the majority, giving it either by themselves, or their representatives chosen by them…”(Second Treatise of Civil Government, 140).
While consent to taxation is one hallmark of Locke’s social contract form of government, there is another, and more basic, principle, which precedes it, namely: governments must provide protection in return for that taxation. “ It is true, governments cannot be supported without great charge, and it is fit every one who enjoys his share of the protection, should pay out of his estate his proportion for the maintenance of it.” (Second Treatise of Civil Government, 140).
The U.S. Government appears to acknowledge this requirement of protection in what is still the definitive decision on the taxation of expatriates, namely Cook v. Tait (1924). The opinion was that of Joseph McKenna, (an individual so ill-prepared for appointment to the court, that he was forced to take law courses at Columbia before taking his seat, and who, nine years before had suffered a stroke, which resulted in his being required to resign in 1925).
The core of McKenna’s opinion was:
“…the government, by its very nature, benefits the citizen and his property wherever found and, therefore, has the power to make the benefit complete.”
For there to be reciprocity between protection and taxation, all that appears to be necessary is for government to simply exist.
This is not what Locke meant by protection. Locke had followed his first master, Thomas Hobbes, in building a theory of government on the basis of an hypothesis both writers called “The State of Nature”–an imagined situation in which human beings lived without government of any kind. Hobbes thought that life in this State of Nature would be “nasty, brutish and short”, and Locke did not disagree with him on this point. Locke called it the “State of War.”
However, unlike Hobbes, Locke proposed that, however precarious life might be, people in his State of Nature had “inalienable”rights, “natural rights”, which, when they contracted to form governments, came with them into political society, the creation of government being to better protect those rights from the “State of War” in the State of Nature.
For Locke, most rights were rights of “property” (which is best read as those things “proper” to oneself, including “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” and, of course, possessions).
Since, in most instances, governmental deprivation of possessions will be through taxation, the case must be so strong that the consent of the governed will be readily given. But, as important, such deprivation must be in furtherance of those ends of government which make settled society safer than the State of Nature, where property is always threatened by the State of War.
Protection as understood by Locke (and the drafters of the U.S. constitution), meant essentially protection from foreign foes and from internal depredation. And consequently, that protection must be direct and constantly on-going. A government which does not provide direct and constantly on-going protection, is not entitled to tax. At least in the political theory which underlies the American form of government.
Consequently, “the government, by its very nature, benefits the citizen and his property wherever found and, therefore, has the power to make the benefit complete” is simply not protection unless that government is in a position to defend property (in all senses) from foreign invasion and from internal strife and depredation. Again, that protection must be direct, and on-going, it cannot, as McKenna appears to have believed, be a kind of promissory note to be paid up when and as the government is in a position to do it.
Such protection can only happen when the citizen is habitually resident within the territory a government can defend and within which it can maintain civil order and peace. Where an individual does not reside within that protected territory, there can be no lawful claim by government for tax, nor any extension of tax jurisdiction based on citizenship.
Locke’s first requirement for lawful taxation, namely protection from war and strife–the ills of the State of Nature–is not met by the Government of the United States in its extra-territorial extension of tax jurisdiction. It is thus unlawful in this sense, but since the Lockean social contract thinking underlies the U.S. Constitution, taxation on the basis of citizenship, without direct and on-going protection, is completely un-American.
It may be suggested that if the “protection” requirement had the same weight as the “consent” imperative, the colonials would have complained on that basis as well. But the colonials could not complain on the protection ground. Unlike current American expatriates, they were within the territorial jurisdiction of the state, and while this in itself is no guarantee that the obligation of direct and on-going protection will be fulfilled, the British Crown could claim that it had actively defended them. The Stamp Act was enacted to reimburse the Crown for expenditures incurred in driving the French threat from the colonies’ northern border, and the “intolerable” Quartering Act secured housing for the troops intended to protect the colonials from war and internal strife.
No, the colonists could make no complaint on the first of Locke’s principles of legitimate taxation, namely direct and ongoing protection–so they were left with the second, namely lack of consent through representation.
Technically, I cannot complain on the basis of representation, since, again technically, the U.S. thinks that I was–until May 17th–represented by the congressional delegation from a state I left forever on September 9, 1965. Technically. But I can, and do, complain about the lack of any legal protection beyond the tiny possibility that I might have resorted to a U.S. consulate abroad (“might” being the operative word, since equally I might resort to a Canadian consulate). Otherwise: no protection from foreign enemies, no protection from internal depredation and strife, and consequently, no lawful basis for extending an “internal”revenue jurisdiction beyond the territorial boundaries of the United States.
This extension begins in a fraudulent attempt to get around the territoriality requirement of the rule of law, proceeds through egregious inequality in that the taxed are not eligible for most benefits of the taxation, and ends in the hypocrisy of the U.S. refusal to recognize Locke’s first principle of legitimate taxation as regards American expatriates, having relied on the second to justify its revolution.
There is space on the shelf of tyrants. George III has shifted over to make room for the American Eagle.
I cannot raise a “rabble in arms” to fight this tyranny. But I can quit. And that I have done.
And so, there has been a shot fired round our deck, the Widow’s cork has flown and the champagne is flowing.
We are free at last.
Thank you for this wonderful series of essays. You’ve given us lots of food for thought.
Yesterday I came across a woman called Ghislaine Lanctôt. She describes herself as being a sovereign individual. You may or may not agree with her opinions on various matters or her philosophy of “personocratia” but you have to admire the courage of her convictions. She surrendered her medical license, her driver’s license and her Canadian passport. She has no insurance policies, bank accounts, property or government pensions. Of particular interest to all of us is that she stopped filing income tax returns. For all of her recalcitrance she was sent to prison for two months.
Ghislaine Lanctôt writes this in her book “Escape in Prison”:
“My soul showed me that the world in which I live is made up of lies and illusions. Reality can only be perceived with the soul’s eyes. With her help, I learned that behind the income tax system – and all other systems – we find slaves without chains, human beings who are ignorant and unconscious of being the property of the State. They trust their government enough to entrust it with their children, their health, their property, their entire lives. Citizens cannot guess that the State is a mere legislator and tax collector working for the Bank of Canada, a cartel of private bankers.”
And then she concludes:
“From now on, I belong to no one except my own sovereign soul. I am finally becoming conscious of the fact that I am no longer a citizen of Canada, or any other country, or even the world. I let go of my Canadian citizenship in favour of my individual sovereignty.”
My practical sense wonders how she manages to get by without all that she has surrendered but she does. She is still alive today and appears to lead a very busy and fulfilling life.
@Pilgrim7, please note that while expats have a vote, we vote not for our own local representatives, but for the representatives of other people. So it is clearly taxation without representation, no matter the lies that Homelanders tell themselves. This is one of the first posts at Isaac Brock, and its basic premise has never been satisfactorily challenged: http://isaacbrocksociety.ca/2011/12/13/is-it-taxation-without-representation-if-you-can-vote-damn-right/
As I said in my post, it is a “technical” representation at best, and further, from the point of view of the government of the United States. As you say, other points of view would see it as no representation at all. Still and all, the one thing that can’t be challenged is the fact that Lockean protection cannot be provided to persons outside of the “realm”. If you rely on Locke for the rationale of “consent”, then you have to accept the rationale of “protection”. And, of course, they do not.
@Pilgrim7; On protection I agree.
The real question is not whether the US government protects its citizens abroad, but who will protect so-called US citizens abroad from the US government?
Petros, how can you say ‘we’? You are not an expat who has US voting rights. You are a Canadian citizen last time I looked who has renounced. Am I representing you or not? Please clarify.
As a reminder once again: I am pleased for anyone who has renounced/and or has their CLN.
My life, which has changed drastically since I became a plaintiff, is centered on vulnerable Canadians and permanent residents of Canada in this law suit with that nasty taint. I cannot represent citizens of other countries, obviously.
I am encourage by the efforts of other nations, in particular Australia and Israel who are mounting their own challenges. I am watching the law suit launched by some US citizens, though I doubt its chances.
I am not nor ever will be part of the WE, you refer to. And I don’t have a CLN. I am still Canadian Ginny Hillis. That’s the only hat I wear. I am not an expat. I have great sympathy and empathy for Expats but I didn’t see you as one. I see you as a Canadian citizen.
So, as that great band sings: Who Are You?
It is actually too painful for me to read your list. Each item on the list feels like s stab in the heart. It isn’t just government- these are human beings who make up the government. These are human beings who play the system to their advantage and just don`t care who gets hurt. Sometimes I wonder how many “Hitlers” are still to come. People are cruel and unjust if you give them the power to be so. Is this human nature? Power corrupts. And they are informed. TAS has even spoken out about the injustices. Nothing is done about it because the power sits with them. But it seems to me there is a long history of such human behaviour. It is the story of the American fight for independence and before that, the struggle of the tenants on the lands of the king who were fighting to make a frugal living off of their hard labor. It is forever this way and again and again the abuse of power comes to the forefront and has to be addressed through all the centuries. And suddenly Hillary addresses the voters that something needs to be done to mitigate FATCA and Trump wants Tax reform. Will they do it once they have the power?
@Polly And suddenly Hillary addresses the voters that something needs to be done to mitigate FATCA and Trump wants Tax reform. Will they do it once they have the power?
Not likely I fear, or only to the extent that tax changes will benefit their allies. There will be no relief or repeal for us. This is just election talk. Obama said after the fact that he would look into FATCA repercussions too didn’t he?
Once elected neither one of them will have us on their radar except to make things worse. The land of the free and the greatest nation on earth ( by their count) only applies to Homelanders. Stay home. Otherwise you are AWOL and deserving of punishment.
@Ginny, The USA would be happy to let you vote. That would not change its attempt to tax you without representation.
The best terminology expat, US citizen abroad, US person, Accidental American, etc. is a question of dispute and awkwardness–as the US uses its own definitions of people to divide and rule. All of kinds of people are caught in the tsunami.
Petros: according to the great USA who still claims me, I am entitled to vote apparently. Not that I can remember the street I lived on up to the age of 5 or know how to register or have any inclination to do so.
My point is, you are no longer entitled to vote, right?
I don’t consider myself an American, but you still seem caught up, based on the language you use, speaking as though you are. Maybe there are two or more camps? Those that felt very sad and reluctant, naturally, to have been forced into renouncing; those that gladly shed the remnants of their bonds; and those still trapped and trying to sort things out. And those of us who outright reject any claim.
I know who I am. I know who I represent. I am clear about what I believe in and support.
Your comments confuse me, especially when you say ‘we’. Didn’t one of your former presidents say you are either with us or against us, or words to that effect.
You stated the US uses some of those terms interchangeably to divide. Could well be true. I just don’t understand why you do. Contrary to what double speak comes out of my prime minister, I believe a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian.
The single biggest threat to Americans abroad is STILL the US government.
I am Canadian only citizenship. I am American by birth and upbringing. I am a US person with regards to the tax years up to 2011. I am a voter if I want to be (as the State of Alaska still sends me information about receiving ballots). I have voted in the past. I am an expatriate according to some meanings of the term. Once caught in the tsunami the CLN appears to be a sort of life raft but it can be capsized or carried out to sea. It is not a position, necessarily, of safety.
But in the comment in which I used “we”, I identify with Americans Abroad because the USA extended to me the vote but not representation. So I was speaking in aphorism and using 1st person to try to explain the principle that representation requires that one have a local person who is concerned about the local issues of the people he represents–and how that differs from franchise. I apologize if that confuses people.
For the purposes of taxation and prosecution for tax crimes, taxpayers abroad are considered residents of Washington DC. For the purpose of voting, they are considered residents of the last district wherein they formally resided when before leaving the USA. Both of these are legal fictions.
@Ginny, ” I cannot represent citizens of other countries, obviously.”
You are so wrong on this statement because you DO represent possibly millions of citizens of other countries that have clinging US nationality. On your very shoulders (shared by the other two plaintiffs w/witnesses) you are speaking out for me, my children and so many others. YOU are OUR voice in the ONLY Court of Law in the world that will listen!
I can now better relate to your attitude towards US Citizenship as I am in a similar situated position vis a vis Canada albeit your Government being benign. Under your law I learned I am also Canadian but I feel no more Canadian than you feel Canadian. This is unlike the Republic of Ireland which I made the jump to gain that added passport.
In regards to @Petros and “we” I also get that very well because it is WE who are together in this until the very end. It does not matter if you have a CLN or not, it remains WE until the absurd laws are changed.
Been living abroad since 1973.
Never went back to crumy USA ever since.
Found out about illegal US citizenship taxation when I got a FATCA letter in october 2014
Called ACA and they told me to ask for French nationality, not renew my US passeport and never go back to USA !
Done, fine with me
Still not complying and never will, even with a gun on my head
I am not US property just because I was born there, I am not a number, I’m a free man.
Fuck the beast.
Thank you for all your work creating these posts, Petros. Just wanted to add one thing in your list: “◦The IRS has violated the citizenship rights of thousands: forcing some to renounce US citizenship, and treating non-US citizens, against their will, as though they were US citizens.”
The US government has also forced many underground and into exile. Many are now afraid to mention their origins in public or visit their native land to see their families.
@Muzzled, Please note I’ve added your suggestion to the list.
It does indeed apply to me. The only time I’ve visited the USA since this thing started was in 2013 when I went to look for my father in the Alaska wilderness. Otherwise, I’ve avoided the USA.
“◦The IRS has violated the citizenship rights of thousands: forcing some to renounce US citizenship, and treating non-US citizens, against their will, as though they were US citizens.”
Applies to me as well. Although I renounced and travel to the U.S., I do so in fear and stress. Only going there to visit elderly relatives who can no longer make the trip to Canada. If things get any worse south of the border, I’d hesitate to go there at all. It is even worse for those who have been forced to fly under the radar and fear visiting their native land and relatives down under at all.
The IRS and US government are violating our rights. This should be considered against international law but other governments are afraid to stand up to the very large USA bully.