What is the "value of citizenship"? That's the question that Nomad Capitalist answers in their 2017 Passport Index, ranking 199 countries using a weighted approach that considers visa-free travel options, the amount of taxes a country levies on citizens who live abroad, along with the nation’s overall global reputation, civil and personal freedoms, and the ability to hold multiple passports simultaneously. And no, America, you’re not even in the top 20.
As Bloomberg notes, atop the list is Sweden, followed by a bevy of other European Union nations.
A Swedish passport allows visa-free travel to 176 countries or territories, just one fewer than world leader Germany. Moreover, Swedish expats can easily “get out of the high taxes in Sweden and go live somewhere else where there are lower taxes without a lot of headaches,” says Andrew Henderson, the veteran traveler, entrepreneur, and blogger who founded Nomad. “Not too many people are getting into fights with the Swedes,” Henderson said in a video posted on Wednesday...
The British, German, and U.S. passports once billed as the world’s “best” rank below several European nations. (Of the top 43 passports on Nomad’s list, 33 are European.) The common denominator among all these countries is a lack of tax on citizens’ income regardless of where they live. The U.S., by comparison, taxes citizens’ income no matter where it’s earned.
When it comes to passport desirability, America finds itself tied for 35th with Slovenia, both having visa-free travel to 174 nations. The U.S. earned low marks because of its taxation stance toward nonresidents and the world’s perception of America. This last measure was assigned a value based on how a country and its citizens are received around the world, as in when its passport holders are refused entry or “encounter substantial hostility.”
“A U.S. citizen that has to pay tax on their worldwide income, and abide by a bunch of regulations, and whose emails can be spied on - that passport might be a little less valuable than an equivalent European passport that doesn’t have some of those other restrictions,” Henderson, a Cleveland native with several homes abroad, said in his video.
Readers will need no reminder that last year, more than 5,400 people renounced their American citizenship, setting a new annual record amd a 26 percent increase from 2015.
“Being a U.S. citizen isn’t all it’s cracked up to be,” Henderson said. “Quite frankly, I’d much rather be a citizen of a country with a B+ passport, without all those restrictions, than a citizen of the U.S., which has an A passport but comes with a lot of baggage.”