Coincidentally, on the same day that the latest Federal Register “published expatriates” list finally came out, the Washington Post “In the Loop” blog reports that Tina Turner has finally visited the U.S. embassy in Bern to sign her DS-4079 to confirm that she naturalised as a Swiss citizen with the intention of giving up U.S. citizenship. (No doubt the latter news will overshadow the former, and I fully expect that in the coming days some newspapers will mix up the two news items and erroneously report that Tina Turner appeared in the list.)
Anyway, the news of Tina’s relinquishment comes straight from the horse’s mouth — an embassy “activity report” (but not a public one?) — and is likely to be quite accurate, but the Washington Post wrote something else that comes from an anonymous and entirely misinformed reader:
The key word in the embassy report apparently is the term “relinquishment.” That means, a knowledgeable source told us, that she did not “formally renounce her U.S. citizenship under 349(a)(5) Immigration and Nationality Act, but took Swiss citizenship with the intent to lose her U.S. citizenship.” As opposed to formal renunciation — a much more complex process, we were told — there are no “tax or other penalties for loss of citizenship in this fashion.”
Writer Al Kamen was probably anxious to get the news out, but he was right to hedge this un-fact-checked quotation with “apparently” and “we were told”. (Update, 14 November: he has since issued a correction.) A reading of the actual text of 26 USC § 877A — the portion of the Internal Revenue Code which imposes the “exit tax” on newly-minted ex-citizens — confirms that the “knowledgeable source” is incorrect: the tax consequences are the same whether you renounce citizenship, relinquish citizenship, lose citizenship by court-ordered denaturalisation like an ex-Nazi, or even give up your green card when you were never a citizen at all.