As Innocente notes, the Quarterly Publication of Individuals Who Have Chosen to Expatriate for Q4 2013 is now available for public inspection on the Federal Register website. The list has a bit more than 630 names; the usual caveat about the completeness of the list applies, especially seeing as, once again, the FBI’s count of renunciants is greater than the IRS’ count of renunciants, relinquishers, and green card abandoners combined.
Update: the FBI has also posted its latest monthly report on Active Records in the NICS Index, which showed 24,127 records in the “Renounced U.S. citizenship” category, up by 320 since the beginning of the year. That suggests the total number of renunciants and relinquishers during January was around 600. According to the Federal Denials report, NICS also caught one firearms purchase attempt last month by a renunciant or, more likely, a person fraudulently using a renunciant’s identity.
With the latest Federal Register list, fresh list author Maureen Manieri may have broken the United States of America’s tax laws in a creative new way: not just by submitting the list for publication after the 30-day deadline, but by disclosing information in violation of 26 USC § 6103, “Confidentiality and disclosure of returns and return information”: one entry in the list contains not just a name, but other information whose disclosure is illegal.
Tax confidentiality and the “name-and-shame list”
26 USC § 6039G(d) grants an exception to § 6103’s confidentiality provisions for the publication of the “name of each individual losing United States citizenship”, but not any other information. Confidentiality has clearly been violated: one entry in the list is not a name but rather a suburban street address, probably the home address of a former U.S. citizen which the IRS got from a Form 8854. However, it’s unlikely that Ms. Manieri will lose her life’s savings or be threatened with prison for whatever paperwork or spreadsheet error caused an address to get included in what is supposed to be a list of names and nothing but names; § 7213 only criminalises willful violations of § 6103:
It shall be unlawful for any officer or employee of the United States or any person described in section 6103 (n) (or an officer or employee of any such person), or any former officer or employee, willfully to disclose to any person, except as authorized in this title, any return or return information (as defined in section 6103 (b)). Any violation of this paragraph shall be a felony punishable upon conviction by a fine in any amount not exceeding $5,000, or imprisonment of not more than 5 years, or both, together with the costs of prosecution, and if such offense is committed by any officer or employee of the United States, he shall, in addition to any other punishment, be dismissed from office or discharged from employment upon conviction for such offense.
In other words, IRS employees — tax experts, allegedly — who willfully break the very well-known tax return confidentiality provisions of the tax code in the course of performing their duties, face a lower statutory maximum fine than civilians with no tax expertise whatsoever who non-willfully break the obscure Bank Secrecy Act and fail to file an FBAR (31 USC § 5321(a)(5)). And that’s not even counting the IRS’ “let’s invent a new fine” Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program, in which people who didn’t even know the U.S. still deemed them to be its citizens were threatened with fines or even criminal prosecution if they “opted out” of the OVDP.
Meanwhile, bankers all around the world are pressing their local governments for exemptions from data-protection laws so that they can send private data about local citizens deemed to be U.S. Persons to this same IRS which so casually flouts its own confidentiality laws. (In the context of international information exchange, § 6105 allegedly provides a similar prohibition against disclosure of “tax convention information”; you may decide for yourself whether this is likely to be worth the paper on which it is printed.)
Count of names in the list
So this quarter’s list contains about 630 names, bringing the total number of Federal Register published expatriates for 2013 to just over three thousand. Aside from the street address, there don’t appear to be any other egregious name errors like Vice Consul, Imagine International Reinsurance, or the Israeli town of Kfar Saba (one unusual entry in this list, “Not Vital”, is, as Innocente points out, the name of a real Swiss artist). Oddly enough, the FBI has not yet released its latest report on active records in the NICS system for January 2014.
Famous people in the list include Taiwanese basketball player Quincy Davis (p. 4; also previously discussed by us), Zurich mayor Corine Mauch (p. 11), and Hong Kong banker Marshall Nicholson (p. 12), However, Pakistani politician Fauzia Kasuri and Cuban intelligence officer René González, both of whom renounced in the first half of 2013, do not appear; nor does Tina Turner, though her relinquishment is probably too recent for the IRS to wake up and notice it, and I seriously doubt her name will fail to appear, eventually.
More renunciations, or just fewer unpublished names?
So judging from Wikipedia data, it looks like 2013 is on track to have a far lower rate of non-inclusion of known ex-Americans than previous years: only one or two out of eleven public figures, in contrast with 2011 and 2012, which both saw four out of eleven or twelve newly-minted ex-Americans with Wikipedia articles failing to appear in the Federal Register. This leads to an interesting question: has the “FATCA effect” really kicked in yet?
Most media reports seem to assume that the recent large jump in the number of names in the Federal Register is driven by changes in tax laws, but there’s an alternative hypothesis: that just about as many people gave up U.S. citizenship this year as in any other recent year, but the IRS and State have cleaned up their procedures enough that far fewer of those people’s names inexplicably go missing from the Federal Register.
Homelanders assume that everyone whom the U.S. government considers to be a U.S. citizen knows that they remain U.S. citizens and has heard of FATCA because they avidly follows the news coming out of the Homeland, as illustrated by Bill Yates’ earlier comments to Virginia La Torre Jeker:
Then, TP sends in a request for an 877 PLR, our very first one, and it lands on my desk. AC was represented by a London practitioner who is now a friend of mine. I read the request and became incensed. How could anyone not know they were a U.S. citizen?!!! … When TP explained that AC was an accidental citizen, I thought he was just giving me a line. After awhile, after working a bunch of 877 PLRs, I realized we didn’t know anything about anything when it came to U.S. citizens working overseas, accidental or otherwise.
Certainly, people who are aware that they are U.S. Persons most likely know about FATCA by now — but of course, the very reason that many of them are aware of FATCA is that they actually pay attention to U.S. business news, and bother to remember it because they understand that they are in the category of people to whom FATCA applies. These are, simultaneously, the people who are least likely to be integrated enough into their countries of residence that they are legally and emotionally prepared to escape FATCA by naturalising where they live and giving up U.S. citizenship. (Meanwhile, wealthier U.S. citizens both in the Homeland and abroad are busy setting up fancy structures to get around FATCA’s reporting requirements, as the WSJ pointed out last year.)
Conversely, accidentals who aren’t aware that they have U.S. citizenship, or think they lost it because they never “affirmed citizenship” after becoming adults — as would have occurred under 8 USC § 1482 until it was repealed during the Carter administration — at this point still are not likely to be paying much attention to legal and taxation news from the country containing the hospital where they or one of their parents happened to pop out into the world decades ago. And when they read domestic headlines about crackdowns on “international tax cheats”, they don’t even realise that the headline writer’s libel is directed against them specifically. They’re busy now reading about their own interests and living their own lives, and quite possibly nothing is going to make them aware of this issue right up until the day when their banks sends them nasty letters with threats of fines and account closures if they don’t fill out a W-9.