Why Americans Are Dumping Their US Citizenship: 5 Case Studies

Tyler Durden's picture

3,000 Americans around the world renounced their citizenship last year. CNN Money introduces us to five U.S. citizens who have given up their passports -- or are thinking about it...


#1: "I threw up after renouncing"

Name: Donna-Lane Nelson, 71
Lives in: Geneva, Switzerland

I renounced my U.S. citizenship in 2011. After I did it, I was so emotional that I threw up outside the embassy.

During my renunciation, I broke down. It was like getting a divorce. America gave me my education, a good career path, and I came from a beautiful part of the country. This was very hard.

Before I took the last oath, I asked if I could change my mind. The embassy worker said maybe, with official permission. But I still went through with it.

My decision to renounce was triggered when my bank threatened to close my account because I was American. What would I do without a bank? Americans in Switzerland were having trouble with their investments, getting credit cards, and some weren't even getting loans.

I've been in Switzerland since 1990, and became a citizen in 2005, because I wanted the right to vote where I was living. The Swiss can tell I have an American accent, and I'm often explaining that I grew up in the U.S. and have a daughter who still lives in the Boston area.

Filing taxes from abroad had always been a real pain. I was double taxed on my full pension, but it didn't bother me so much to pay taxes -- it was the annoying paperwork. I used to do my own taxes, but I started going to a professional when I learned about the new disclosure laws. I'm glad I did, because there were a lot of forms. Tax prep costs me about 1,000 Swiss francs ($1,123) a year.

#2: "We're ostracized for being American"

Name: Ezra Goldman, 28
Lives in: Dongguan, China

I was born a dual citizen of both the U.S. and Germany -- the U.S. through my father, and Germany through my mother.

After graduating from college in 2008, I moved for work to Dongguan, China, and I've been here ever since.

Germany doesn't require me to report, file or pay taxes on my income earned abroad, even though I am a German citizen. But as an American citizen, I am required to file taxes on my worldwide income. I always knew that even as an expat, I would have to file.

I have a tax service in the U.S. handle it for me. There's just too much for me to possibly know what's going on with tax laws and regulations -- I can't keep up with it. It costs me several hundred dollars every year, but if a tax expert can keep me in good standing and in compliance, then I see it as the single best investment I make every year.

I am increasingly conflicted about giving up my U.S. citizenship. I plan to live abroad for a while for my career, and I don't know when I'll move back. It doesn't make it any easier as there also seem to be more and more restrictions for expats -- we're ostracized for being American.

On numerous occasions, I've gone to banks to talk about investment opportunities, and they will blatantly tell me, "We do offer them to our customers, but because you're American, those opportunities are not available." I've even had health insurance companies tell me they'd prefer I sign up as a German citizen.

Ultimately, I don't know what I'm going to do as time goes on, but I do know that I will always feel and be American, regardless of my passport.

#3: "I still feel American"
Name: Laurie Lautmann, 58
Lives in: Gisborne, New Zealand

I went traveling through the Pacific, and landed in New Zealand in my mid-20s. I just loved it, and ended up staying, buying a home, finding a partner -- the whole works.

My partner, Frank, and I are pretty average middle class types. Frank is a local gym teacher, and I have a part-time job as a cleaner. Over the years, we have each separately owned our own businesses. Frank still has his, giving surfing lessons.

The tax obligations imposed by the U.S. drove us crazy! We live in a small town, and it was difficult to find an expert who knew the ins and outs of the U.S. tax system. When we did find a firm, it cost us more than 4,000 New Zealand dollars ($3,360) for them to do our U.S. taxes each year. We looked at the money we paid the accountants as the price we paid to retain our U.S. citizenship. But as we got older and U.S. tax laws became more convoluted, it just didn't seem worth it anymore.

The accountancy fee is the main reason why we both renounced our U.S. citizenship last year. It wasn't an easy decision -- super stressful, and very emotional. But at the end of the day, I think it was the right thing for us.

We made an embassy appointment, all the time thinking long and hard about it. I was nervous during the long drive to the consulate in Auckland. I couldn't eat; I couldn't think; I couldn't sleep.

From the time that you're young, you pledge your allegiance to the flag at school, and you always hear the U.S. is the best country. And here we were, cutting off our ties to America.

I still feel American -- it's where I grew up. If someone asks me what I am, well, hey, I'm an American! I can't say I'm a Kiwi, a New Zealander. I sound like an American, and I really am one. I just don't have the passport anymore.

#4: "Invasion of privacy"

Name: Christina Ammann, 56
Lives in: Belp, Switzerland

When you're an American -- and I've always been patriotic -- it's extremely troubling to think about giving up your citizenship. But it's an option I am considering due to the invasive reach of the IRS and the U.S. government into my personal life.

I grew up in Phoenix, Arizona, and went to college in California. After I graduated, I entered the Peace Corps, stationed in Costa Rica. That's where I met my husband, who is Swiss. I moved to Switzerland to be with him in 1984, and received Swiss citizenship when we married.

The fact that I have signatory rights on my Swiss husband's financial accounts means that I must report them to the U.S. government, which I find quite unfair. I have no problem paying taxes -- I have problems with reporting my non-American husband's assets. It's an invasion of privacy. I've always filed my taxes with the help of my brother, who is an accountant, but neither of us knew I had to report those accounts until my bank here sent me a letter about it.

We also didn't realize until recently that my daughter, who has U.S. citizenship through me, was required to file taxes after she turned 18 three years ago. I didn't think she had to, because her wages from a part-time job as a university student are very low.

I'm now working with a lawyer to sort this out. I think it will cost me in the range of $10,000 when it's all done, which hurts.

My conclusion is that new disclosure laws have caused an enormous amount of grief for an overwhelming majority of expats, just to get a few bad apples. They may be hiding millions, but the target persons are a small percentage of the millions of Americans abroad.

#5: "A burden for my son"

Name: Richard Sikes, 65
Lives in: Toronto, Canada

When I first moved to Europe in 1973, I didn't pay attention to my U.S. taxes for a few years. I am a native Oregonian who became something of a gypsy, living all over the continent -- Ireland, England, Switzerland and Germany. I hardly earned anything at the time as a ballet dancer, so I figured I probably didn't owe taxes.

After a while, I started to make a bit more. I went straight to a U.S. consulate in Germany and filed about eight years of tax returns all at once. Even then, I don't recall owing any taxes. That put me in compliance, and since then, I've always filed my returns.

When my older son, now 21, was born in Germany, I applied for U.S. citizenship for him immediately, because I thought I might eventually return. As things worked out, I ended up in Canada -- my wife's country and where I found a job in the IT industry. My oldest son and I now both have Canadian citizenship as well.

What I'm worried about these days is whether to apply for U.S. citizenship for my younger son, who is 16. He was born in Canada, and currently holds Canadian citizenship. He has the right to be an American citizen through me, and I wouldn't want to deny him that.

But do I want to impose a lifetime of paying to have U.S. tax returns prepared upon him? There are benefits -- having a U.S. passport would make it easier for him to study and work in the U.S., if that's what he wants. But at his age, he doesn't know yet what career direction he wants to follow.

As for myself, I have considered renouncing my U.S. citizenship -- my Canadian wife feels it is incredibly invasive that we are required to report our joint assets. But even after 40 years as an expat, I've kept my citizenship, because I still cherish the privilege of voting in national elections.


As we concluded previously:

The number of Americans that renounced their citizenship was 221 percent higher in 2013 than it was in 2012 [15].  That is a staggering figure, and it is symptomatic of a larger trend.  In recent years, a lot of really good people with very deep roots in this country have made the difficult decision to say goodbye to the United States permanently.  A few actually go to the trouble to renounce their citizenship, and that is mostly done for tax purposes.  But most willingly choose to leave America for other reasons.


Some were very serious when they said they would leave the U.S. if Barack Obama got a second term, some (such as Jesse Ventura [16]) are dismayed at how our freedoms and liberties are eroding and are alarmed at the rise of the Big Brother police state, some are absolutely disgusted by the social and moral decay that is eating away at the foundations of our society, and there are yet others that consider "the grass to be greener" on the other side of the planet.


Personally, I have a number of friends that have made the very hard decision to relocate their families thousands of miles away because they see what is coming to America and they believe that there isn't any hope of turning things around at this point.  I also have a lot of friends that are determined to stay in the United States no matter what.  When it comes to the future of America, almost everyone has a very strong opinion, and these are discussions that we need to start having.

Once upon a time, the United States was seen as "the land of opportunity" all over the globe and it seemed like everyone wanted to come here.

But now that is all changing.  As we have abandoned the principles that this country was founded upon, our economy has gone steadily downhill.

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prains's picture

Are you sure they're not part of a sleeper cell


actually just meant to sleep thru the apocolypse

BigJim's picture

 ...But even after 40 years as an expat, I've kept my citizenship, because I still cherish the privilege of voting in national elections.

Hahaha! Spend thousands so you can make absolutely no difference to the outcome of an election! Hahaha! 

asdasmos's picture

"The problem with bubbles is that they force one to decide whether to look like an idiot before the peak, or an idiot after the peak." - John Hussman


The Vineyard's picture

They have no sense of patriotism.  They only worship money.  Bastards.

MeMadMax's picture

I'm gonna eventually do it as well.


There's no point in staying here. 


It is a mathematical certainty that this places asshole is gonna turn itself inside out...


Have a good one.

asdasmos's picture

Full disclosure. I renounced last year, one of my best decisions yet. Never lived in the US and have a life outside, so not as bad for me.


Pladizow's picture

Slaves must escape the plantation while they can.

milk cows may not always be!

AldousHuxley's picture

Escape from the plantation to the factory in the urban ghetto.


only way to escape taxation from any country is to become rich enough to buy politicians. Then taxes paid by others will come to you!




Supernova Born's picture

Every residency visa should be valued in gold and be available for immediate purchase.

A gold standard for freedom of movement.

Keyser's picture

When you get out, I'll meet you in Zihuatanejo... 

IridiumRebel's picture

I'd go too, but my wife wants to be close to family. They need to invent "beaming up" so I can live elsewhere.

BlindMonkey's picture

SPOCK: Our readings could be false, Captain, perhaps caused by some natural phenomena.
MCCOY: Well I think Starfleet should forget about those old space legends. There's no intelligent life here.

Fuck this place. I am out of here as soon as I can. Last one out please hit the off switch on the nuke plants if you will be so kind.

seataka's picture

heh, I've always thought that SETI's search for extraterrestrial intelligence was silly.
because they should be searching for intelligent life on earth.


"I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones." Einstein 

Cap Matifou's picture

Switched off nuke plants are net energy consumers, for the cooling of the fuel ponds in the years ahead. Otherwise you have a local Fukushima to deal with.

Japan's Nuclear Disaster Could Happen Globally, NASA warns Solar Storm Grid Failure


The last reactor in the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant was shut down in 2000, but still hundreds of workers commute there by train each day.

Dre4dwolf's picture

The entire point of America was supposed to be financial freedom and "the government wont bother you".

Now we have some BS system where 70% of your money vaporizes so the president can do blow with his gay lover in the back of a limo on the way to the golf course.

Evidence-> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nwgD-8Bj_Qs

So yea.

Ill sign up as a patriot when it involves a barrel of tar and some feathers, until then...

DoChenRollingBearing's picture

My wife and are now in Peru.  We are still Americans, but who knows for how long.


The Vineyard writes a good blog, fishez!

I wrote a piece in tribute to his.  I decided to take a crack at talking about my day.  Nothing that interesting.  Nothing really new, well, in Peru but that´s it.

You don´t want to read it?  I don´t care.

"A Tribute to Another Blogger"


Independent's picture

Someone had a good post about if you do have dual citizenship its just better to change your name in the other country, then drop off the radar screen of the USA, all your income and bank accounts are in your other name or in that of a shell offshore company which you work for a pittance of room and board lol.  Nothing to file even if anything catches up to you years later because your income was a pittance, you know you had a company house, car blah blah.  I think to drop off the face of the world nothing beats telling everyone you will do missionary work and live off the goodwill of people in the country you are in lol.  I remember it was with that casey guy's articles about dropping his citizenship and I think it was satoshi that had some great posts about this.  Like learning the language and marrying a local chick and living like and with the locals and staying out of expat communities where the USA agents are especially in South America...yeah it was Satoshi with all the Great advice.  Look his comments up.

Look you can buy one of those carribean passports like St Vincents for legit from govt 15K at least that is what it was few years back.  Get a different name with that passport. Then take that passport and use it for your new country where you marry the local chick and then change the name again with the new passport in the South American country.  Set up offshore company that owns your hotel, bed and breakfast whatever company you got going, hire yourself to that company which owns your house car blah blah blah.  The lifestyle can be grand but your income will always be a pittance.  If you go back to USA years later you tell them I was doing

a)missionary work

b)living in a hippie commune (take some bogus pics of you making beaded jewelry and wear a long hair wig, maybe even a braided blond round stuff like Tymoshenko in Crimea,

c)you had an accident and have amnesia and dont remember anything in the past ten years you were gone, but if your memory comes back you will be sure to let them know

d)you were a euroMaidan supporter for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance, just tattoo some Ukrainian flags on your Tits (I know you are a guy but do it cause it looks good, also tell them you survived those years by only eating Nuland's matzo cookies) and take some pics with those metal shields with the holes punched along the top and bottom, while you sit on the lap of a Cossack

e)tell them you were a boy toy for a rich gay Columbian narco kingpin and you finally were able to get away, you are writing a book about it now and are hoping the traumatic story will make you some money which you will gladly pay taxes on when you get your advance.

f)tell them you just got out of a Mexican Prison in Baja

g)Get William Banzai to photoshop you doing the donkey show in Tijuana and tell the IRS they only paid you with jello shots at the cantina...make sure you go there reeking of alcohol, unshaved, and with brown stains on the back of your white polyester pants.....naturally with a tear in the back....

h)Go in an elephant suit and tell them you were working as  a stand in for the elephant at the Lima Peru Zoo and they payed you Peanuts

i)Get an Israeli passport and become a member of the country that is known as the biggest money launderer in the world (heck a lot of Russian mafia guys did that even if they were not Jewish), dont worry they would never release your information to the USA cause its not Kosher to do that to a member.  Besides remind them that as a member the USA Government Pays YOU and not the other way AROUND 'Suckarz'



Theosebes Goodfellow's picture

Thanks, Mix. I enjoyed Old Smith in Kr. Very interesting writing style.

The Alarmist's picture

A few hundred dollars for tax prep for my us obligations?  I wish.  Try EUR 6k or so, for a net tax liability that is still (if properly done, which even the best of the Big4 can't or won't do) less than $10k.  

But here is the rub ... I manage $5b of assets, of which roughly $1B situated outside the US but invested into the US.  I just received a proposal from one of our advisors on the best way for us to deal with FATCA compliance, and the first thing that comes to mind is that it would be easier, cheaper, and perhaps even infinitely supportable from a fiduciary standpoint to dump our "overseas" holdings of US assets rather than to attempt to ferret out the underlying beneficiaries who might be subject to FATCA to comply with it by reporting them to avoid the withholding tax on income and gains derived from US assets.

I know that $1B is not a lot of money in the great scheme of things, but I doubt I am alone in realising that it is cheaper and easier to dump US investments than to comply with their attempts to regulate the rest of the world.

Lore's picture

Fascinating. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. In all seriousness, isn't this typically how runs start?  Good governance attracts investment capital, and vice versa.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Early_adopter (trendsetter)

Wonder if all the parents concerned about citizenship for their children are thinking carefully about the prospect of CONSCRIPTION...

Urban Redneck's picture

For some reason I think US position on conscription has changed since the War of 1812... when the UK decided that British subjects did not have right to flee the plantation.  Financing an Empire requires both blood and money, this is simply history rhyming.

Mr Pink's picture

I read this article on Yahoo earlier. I just don't understand why these people are so concerned about filing their taxes every year. On top of that they are paying thousands to an accountant to prepare them.

If I lived 10,000 miles away living a modest life, I wouldn't give a flying fuck about US tax returns..Is the IRS gonna come get me??

IridiumRebel's picture

"ACH SCHNELL! Zie taxes are due! Pay IRS now with back taxes! SCHNELL!"
(Forces himself inside apartment with gun waving)

BigJim's picture

Probably not. But they might nab you if you come back to the US for some reason.

And given how many countries kowtow to the US... it might not be long before they'll extradite you back to 'your' country for tax evasion if the IRS demands it. 

asdasmos's picture

It is already happening, they will soon be sharing the information between OECD countries (via article the other day) and eventually you will be flagged. It used to be an option but the with all the surveillance ops, you can never be too sure.


The IRS has reach and they can fine you from the other side of the world. They can just ask your host country to comply and put pressure on them.


Best to file taxes, be complicit and renounce if that is an option for you.


UselessEater's picture

FATCA version going global.... leaving fewer options for alternative citizenship and increasing regulatory confusion and compliance for many nationalities.


...As various tax-funded international institutions explicitly outline plans to plunder humanity’s wealth to prop up governments drowning in odious debts, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) last week officially unveiled a new socialist-backed plot to create a global tax information-sharing regime to ensure that nobody except the establishment escapes the upcoming fleecing. Under the proposed scheme, admittedly inspired by “FATCA,” the Obama administration’s latest addition to the sprawling U.S. tax regime, governments and dictatorships worldwide will automatically share all private financial data on citizens with each other to extract as much wealth as possible from the public......“We call on other countries and jurisdictions to commit to join this initiative at the earliest opportunity with the aim of rapidly creating a truly global system of automatic information exchange,” the governments continued in their joint statement....

TheGardener's picture

Life sentence in Greece for an alleged 1 million Euro
tax evasion. Nice car ? Habitable house with a million dollar view ? Evader ! Lock him up forever because taxman
knows no innocence...

Stop fascism now.

Any assumed guilty legal base calls for full force self defense.

August's picture

The USG is not gonna come and get any overseas non-filer, but if such a non-filer shows up in the USA (after FATCA has been in force for a while and all/most overseas banks are compliant) the non-filer will get a nasty surprise: theoretically, a felony conviction.  Practically, a major league financial hassle, and probably a penalty which can be anywhere from trivial to colossal, depending on the specific status of the non-filing citizen.

To summarize my Aussie CPA's advice, in regard to any US citizen who has been running an unreported overseas corporation or trust: do not plan on EVER returning to the USA... "THEY WILL CRUCIFY YOU."

Ifigenia's picture

it sound like terrorist act. Arent you exagerating?

Zerozen's picture

I have a close family member who has a green card but has never even lived in the U.S. and got screwed by this - for years he had no idea that he was supposed to file tax returns over here. He had to file backtaxes with the IRS after they seized some modest assets over here in the U.S. I helped with the paperwork. The American CPA I consulted with told me that my relative had to file and pay, or seriously consider never setting foot in the U.S. for fear of being arrested (persona non grata essentially). It's not an exaggeration.

Independent's picture

How can you not ever lived in the USA and get a green card, from people I know with green cards they cant even stay outside the usa for more than a certain amount of time a year.  Stop writing BS you have to be in USA at least six months a year.

United States Immigration law requires that any alien admitted for lawful permanent residency maintain an intent to reside permanently in the United States. In determining whether an alien his abandoned his lawful permanent residence in the U.S. the length of the alien's absence is not the only factor to consider.

The question of demonstrating an unrelinquished intent to reside in the United States generally depends on an examination of the permanent resident’s ties to the United States, and whether such ties are reasonably indicative of a continuing intent to return to the United States after a temporary absence abroad. A temporary visit abroad occurs only when:

Visit abroad is for a period relatively short, fixed by some early event; or Visit will terminate upon the occurrence of an event having a reasonable possibility of occurring within a relatively short period of time (e.g., taking care of an ill relative); or The alien maintains a continuous uninterrupted intention to return to the United States during the entirety of his visit, as demonstrated from objective factors (family ties, purpose of departure, property, bank accounts, business affiliations, payment of taxes, etc.).

Blue Horshoe Loves Annacott Steel's picture

Not yet, but later IRS drones will hunt you down.  Machine or human drones, not sure about that, but maybe both.

They are readying Cyberdyne Terminators too. Skynet knows all.

zionhead101's picture

Abroad now almost 20 years everytime I return the customs run's my passport in the computer first fucking question out of his mouthy "ARE YOU FILING YOUR TAX RETURNS", and my ANSWER is always "YES", ... then it immediately goes to "My I would like to retire in Asia, ... your living the dream".

Again the Customs seem to only fucking care about "TAXES" and returns, but I'm too old to have income,.. seriously filing my tax returns takes one minute online as a 1040-ez, ... just do it, zero income and all.

I have heard for years that soon when you renew your passport every 10 years, they're going to check with the IRS, and if you dont have a greenlight, then no renewal, which means you get deported back to the USA to be FUCKED.

Urban Redneck's picture

They don't have to "come after you", they just have to add your name to the OFAC lists then you are shut out of the global financial system (making others do their work)- it's to some extent the same as being within the US physically -- you can withdraw and not participate (which most lack the strength and skills to actually do) or you can play THEIR game...

UselessEater's picture

yeah they don't have to come after you because its a global OECD template that is targetting multiple nationalities starting with the G20 nations and rolling out beyond; FATCA is presently targetting US citizens as a trial run for getting everyother nation upto speed with the tech systems and politics of rolling it out for all persons.

Keyser's picture

They may not physically come looking for your, but remember that your passport is only good for 10 years. Unless you have other citizenship, they have you by the short hairs. 


IridiumRebel's picture

Wherever you go, there you are.

UselessEater's picture

Wherever you go, there THEY are.

fixed it for ya ;)

GumbyMe's picture

These people have been gone for decades. The only thing making them "Americans" were their passports.

LetThemEatRand's picture

Is it the weekend already here on ZH?  

EDIT:  Seems Akak has been banned.  Weekend at Bernie's doesn't like dissent.  http://www.zerohedge.com/users/akak

caustixoid's picture

seriously?  theories?  akak gone and fonestar remains? 

UselessEater's picture

LTER wasn't it pointed out a few times that Akak chose to leave/delete his account?

Zadig's picture

They said they wanted their account deleted due to the majority of the Ukraine/Russia comments being 'pro-Putin'.

A Lunatic's picture

But even after 40 years as an expat, I've kept my citizenship, because I still cherish the privilege of voting in national elections.


What a fucking stooge........

UselessEater's picture

'cause being American has been (is) their personal historical identity and sometimes a positive attribute.... mostly its just hard to let go of your motherland in a permanent finite way when you have not actually done anything wrong and never intended to sever ties because once upon a time your home nation granted you rights not criminalising obligations. If I were being interviewed by this mob I am sure I would be "diplomatic" and they'd edit the rest..........

yrbmegr's picture

If I lived halfway around the world for years, and expected to continue doing so for many more years, I would probably give up my US citizenship too.  Countries like Switzerland, Canada, and New Zealand probably aren't going over to dictators any time soon.  China, however, is another story.