Immigration

Record 2,999 People Renounce U.S. Citizenship Last Year – Why?

| by Allison Geller

Almost 3,000 Americans renounced their citizenships last year, a new record. While saving on taxes is a factor for some, many are giving up their passports for reasons unrelated to income. 

Of the 2,999 people who renounced U.S. citizenship last year, their decisions “are driven by a whole range of emotional considerations. ... You've got anger, you've got fear, you've got a strong sense of indignation,” said John Richardson, a Toronto lawyer who advises people on expatriation. “For many of these people, this is not a tax issue at all.”

The U.S. government doesn’t tax Americans living abroad for their first $96,600 in annual income. So why else are former Americans saying good-bye to their country?

Basketball player Quincy Davis III traveled around Europe shooting hoops professionally after graduating from Tulane University. He was offered a spot on a pro squad in Taiwan after returning home. He says he hasn’t regretted his decision to join the team—helping lead it to two championships—and that the decision to give up his passport wasn’t a hard one.

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“When you think about who I am as a black guy in the U.S., I didn't have opportunities,” Davis said. “You get discriminated against over there in the South. Here everyone is so nice. They invite you into their homes, they're so hospitable. ... There's no crime, no guns. I can't help but love this place.”

Others say they never really felt like Americans, having only lived in the country as a child and having formed their identity in a different place.

“I asked myself `Where do I feel at home?' And the answer is clear: In Zurich and in Switzerland,” said Corine Mauch, who now serves as the mayor of Zurich. Mauch was born to Swiss parents who were attending school in Iowa, living there until she was 5 and then again for two years as a child.

“My attachment to America is limited to my very early youth," Mauch said. Double taxation was “not the crucial factor for my decision. But I will not miss the U.S. tax bureaucracy either.”

And some high-profile Americans have relinquished their citizenships. Tina Turner gave up her passport after years living in Switzerland, while Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin raised eyebrows by abandoning the U.S. for Singapore in 2011 to save millions in taxes.

So while millions may covet an American citizenship, some find relief in getting their passports back with four holes punched through the cover and a stamp reading “Bearer Expatriated Self” on the final page.

Sources: Associated Press