The Quarterly Publication of Individuals Who Have Chosen to Expatriate for Q1 2018 has just been placed on public inspection for printing in Tuesday’s Federal Register, eight days later than required by 26 USC § 6039G(d). This is the seventh quarter in a row in which the IRS has been late with the list.
This quarter’s IRS expat honour roll has the names of 1,100 people who gave up US citizenship, by my count. (Andrew Mitchel counted 1,099. My initial count was 1,102, because I accidentally counted two very long names as four entries.) Meanwhile, the number of records in the “renounced US citizenship” category of the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) increased by precisely 1,100 during the first three months of the year, from 42,693 to 43,793. (The FBI added another 341 records in April, bringing the total to 44,134.)
The IRS list is known to be incomplete. It’s supposed to be much larger than the NICS list, not exactly the same size, let alone smaller. Per regulations, NICS only contains people who terminated their US citizenship by swearing an oath of renunciation at a US embassy or consulate. In contrast, the IRS’ list is supposed to have the names of all people who obtained Certificates of Loss of Nationality from the State Department, either by swearing an oath of renunciation or by reporting any other relinquishing act specified in 8 USC § 1481(a). The preamble of the IRS list even misleadingly implies that it includes some of the tens of thousands of people who give up their green cards every year.
Demonstrating the point, this quarter’s IRS list still failed to include some public figures who gave up US citizenship more than a year ago, including Japanese legislator Kimi Onoda and Ghanaian Deputy Minister of Finance Charles Adu Boahen. However, Homelanders and their chieftains don’t care about that. They’re dissatisfied with NICS instead, so there’s some provisions in the new spending bill imposing penalties on heads of upstream agencies, including the State Department, if they fail to certify semi-annually that they’re providing NICS with all the records they should be. More about that below.
Increases in NICS transparency coming soon?
For the past five years, we’ve been relying on NICS to provide a baseline for comparison to the IRS’ expat honour roll, to try to see if the latter is honestly reporting the names of all ex-citizens. However, the State Department’s reporting of renunciants to NICS hasn’t always been particularly timely either: for example, in October 2012, State added more than three thousand renunciant records to NICS, but when Patrick Cain at Global News asked them about it, they explained that the State Department was clearing a backlog of about 2,900 records (though it wasn’t explained how long the backlog had been running). The FBI spokesman’s explanation of another large jump in the number of records two years later was even terser and less informative: State was “working on updating this file”, he said.
In short, up until now we’ve had no guarantee that NICS statistics are any more reliable than IRS statistics. But that might change, because chief
spy diplomat-to-be Mike Pompeo’s bonus is on the line if it doesn’t. Section 602 of the Fix NICS Act of 2018 (Title VI of the FY2018 spending bill that got signed into law in late March) requires State to certify to the Department of Justice every six months, starting from 31 July of this year, the total number of renunciant records they have, the number they’ve submitted to DOJ for inclusion in NICS, and their plan to make sure the second number doesn’t fall too far behind the first number. The DOJ will also be required to make public a “summary of the data, broken down by department or agency, contained in the certifications”.
And, much unlike the toothless 26 USC § 6039G(d), which the “Internal” Revenue Service violates with impunity, there’s some actual penalties for not obeying this new law:
(I) NONCOMPLIANCE PENALTIES.—For each of fiscal years 2019 through 2022, each political appointee of a Federal department or agency that has failed to certify compliance with the record submission requirements under subparagraph (C), and is not in substantial compliance with an implementation plan established under subparagraph (G), shall not be eligible for the receipt of bonus pay, excluding overtime pay, until the department or agency—
(i) certifies compliance with the record submission requirements under subparagraph (C); or
(ii) achieves substantial compliance with an implementation plan established under subparagraph (G).
Formally relinquishing citizenship has become difficult to such an absurd degree that other countries’ legislators have started complaining. But actually complying with the US tax code while living abroad is impossible — and there is no reward for trying, only punishment.
Most self-identifying Americans abroad just pretend to comply by skipping the hardest forms and filing only the easy ones, which have the wrong numbers on them as a result. Some of these people will get very angry if you even inform them of the existence of those harder forms, and accuse you of lying about how hard it is to comply. The only way for them to preserve their faith in their civic religion is to ignore its more absurd doctrines.
And the other US tax subjects who don’t identify as “Americans abroad” — people who never realised they might be US citizens in the first place, and people who thought they’d stopped being US citizens long ago — are just doing their best to hide.
This quarter we have 1,102 names of people who couldn’t hide and couldn’t pretend to comply. Nearly $2.6 million of fee revenue for the State Department. But that $2.6 million is dwarfed by what accountants and lawyers — the privatised Inquisition of the Homeland’s civic religion — are earning from this whole mess.