This is an oppressive, outdated, and un-American law that unfairly and adversely affects American citizens living abroad. The U.S. and Eritrea are the only two countries worldwide that engage in this practice. The law that U.S. citizens living abroad need to pay U.S. taxes arose out of a need for the government to raise money to fund the Civil War. That was already unconstitutional, not to mention completely unfair, and that is even more true in current times. In 1924, the Supreme Court justified this terrible law in the case of Cook v. Tait by erroneously stating that there is an inherent benefits-received rationale. Taxes are collected to fund the government's public service programs, infrastructure, and other services used by residents of the country. These services are not utilized by expats but expats still have to pay for them, and so the rationale fails from a legal standpoint. The government has also asserted that the purpose of the law is to prevent tax evasion; however, it has failed to provide any evidence to support the assertion or explain how the dissolution of this law would provide a conduit for tax evasion.
Expats do not have any dedicated representation in Congress to battle this unfair and burdensome practice. The government has only responded to the opposition of this law by stating that Americans can relinquish their citizenship and so they will not have to pay taxes in the U.S. anymore. This is an unreasonable response for many reasons. Firstly, many expats are only abroad temporarily and intend to return to the U.S. so it would not make sense for them to relinquish their citizenship. Even those who leave permanently may still have family and other connections in the United States and thus would not want to relinquish citizenship. It also costs over $2,000 to relinquish citizenship so there is a financial burden to remain an American citizen, and a financial burden to relinquish citizenship. This law affects over 9 million Americans living abroad and has no reasonable basis in law.
About citizenship based taxes
The United States taxes its citizens on worldwide income, even if they are a permanent resident in another country.
The practice of citizenship-based taxation in the US dates back to 1861 when the United States was struggling to raise revenue for its Civil War. Congress argued that American citizens living outside the country were avoiding their duties to the US in a time of need. In 1864, instead of paying a higher rate, all nonresident citizens paid the same rates as resident citizens; however, they were also required to pay taxes on their worldwide income and not just their US-sourced earnings.
Changing US tax code is a tall order, and there would need to be a lot of outreach to lawmakers about why this is important and long overdue. A professional lobbyist would be the right person to make the argument to lawmakers and their staff about the constitutional concerns of our current system. Hiring somebody with the connections, expertise, and experience is the best way to make changes to our current tax system.
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