Monthly Archives: September 2015

The $2350 "relinquishment fee" does NOT mean that people should simply renounce citizenship

On September 6, 2015 it was reported on the Isaac Brock Society that the State Department intended to begin charging $2350 for both “relinquishments” and “renunciations”. The proposed rule is to be published on  September 8, 2015. With respect to “relinquishments” the Federal Register states:

The Department is expanding the application of and renaming item 8 in the Schedule of Fees to “Administrative Processing of Request for Certificate of Loss of Nationality.” The fee will be applied to cover not only services to U.S. nationals (i.e., U.S. citizens and non-citizen nationals) who relinquish nationality by taking the oath of renunciation under 8 U.S.C. 1481(a)(5), but also to cover services to U.S. nationals who relinquish nationality under 8 U.S.C. 1481(a)(1) to 1481(a)(4) or any earlier-in-time relinquishment statutes administered by the Department of State and request a Certificate of Loss of Nationality. Currently, the fee is paid by those taking the oath of renunciation under 8 U.S.C. 1481(a)(5) at the time the oath is sworn. The fee would be collected from an individual claiming to have relinquished nationality at the time that person requests the Certificate of Loss of Nationality (that is, after completing Form DS-4079 and signing before a consular officer Part II of Form DS-4079 entitled “Statement of Voluntary Relinquishment of U.S. Citizenship”). The Fiscal Year 2012 Cost of Service Model update demonstrated that documenting a U.S. national’s relinquishment of nationality is extremely costly whether the service is for a relinquishment under 8 U.S.C. 1481(a)(1) to 1481(a)(4) or a relinquishment by renunciation under 8 U.S.C. 1481(a)(5). Both require American consular officers overseas to spend substantial amounts of time to accept, process, and adjudicate cases. The cost of the service is not limited to the time consular officers spend with individuals prior to and at appointments. The application is reviewed both overseas and domestically to ensure full compliance with the law. The consular officer must determine that the individual is indeed a U.S. national, advise the individual on the consequences of loss of nationality, and ensure that the individual fully understands the consequences of loss, including the inability to reside in the United States unless properly documented as an alien. Through documentary review, consideration of the individual’s circumstances, and careful interviewing, the consular officer also must determine whether the individual is seeking loss of nationality voluntarily and with the requisite intent, as required by U.S. Supreme Court case law and by statute (8 U.S.C. 1481). This determination can be especially demanding in the case of minors or individuals with a developmental disability or mental illness.

The consular officer must also ensure that the commission of an expatriating act was as prescribed by statute, which is often an issue in non-renunciation relinquishment cases. The loss of nationality service must be documented on several forms and in consular systems as well as in a memorandum from the consular officer to the Department’s Directorate of Overseas Citizens Services in Washington, DC (“OCS”), in the Bureau of Consular Affairs. All forms and memoranda are closely reviewed in OCS by a country officer and a senior approving officer, and may include consultation with legal advisers. This review entails close examination of whether the requirements of voluntariness and intent are satisfied in the individual case. Some applications require multiple rounds of correspondence between post and the Department. The final approval of the loss of nationality must be done by law within the Department (8 U.S.C. 1501), by OCS, after which the case is returned to the consular officer overseas for final delivery of the Certificate of Loss of Nationality to the individual. In addition, every individual issued a Certificate of Loss of Nationality is advised of the possibility of seeking a future Administrative Review of the loss of nationality, a time-consuming process that is conducted by OCS’s Office of Legal Affairs.

Currently, nationals who renounce nationality pay a fee of $2,350, while nationals who apply for documentation of relinquishment of nationality by the voluntary commission of an expatriating act with the intention to lose nationality, do not pay a fee. However the services performed in both situations are similar, requiring close and detailed case-by-case review of the factors involved in a request for a Certificate of Loss of Nationality, and both result in similar costs to the Department.

In the past, individuals seldom requested Certificates of Loss of Nationality from the Department to document relinquishment. Although the Department was aware that an individual relinquishment service was among the most time consuming of consular services, it was rarely performed so the overall cost to the Department was low and the Department did not establish a fee. Requests for a Certificate of Loss of Nationality on the basis of a non-renunciatory relinquishment have increased significantly in recent years, and the Department expects the number to grow in the future, causing the total cost of this service to increase. At the same time, the Department funds consular services completely from user fees. The Cost of Service Model continues to demonstrate that such costs are incurred by the Department when accepting, processing, and adjudicating relinquishment of nationality cases; therefore, the Department will collect a fee from all individuals seeking a Certificate of Loss of Nationality. Taking into account the costs of both renunciation and non-renunciation relinquishment processes, the fee will be $2,350.

The fee will take effect on November 9, 2015. I have been aware of this impending fee increase for some time. Hence, it comes as no surprise. Furthermore, if you accept the validity of the $2350 fee for renunciations then a similar fee for “relinquishments” is justifiable.

There has been and continues to be extensive discussion of this increase. What does it mean? Why now? Is this to discourage “relinquishments”? What does this say about the character of the U.S. Government?  At a bare minimum, the fee increase is a continuation of a pattern of abuse of Americans abroad. That said …
The purpose of this post is to comment on a question asked by, USXCanada, who is a long time (I believe) blogger at the Isaac Brock Canada. He or she includes an interesting question in this comment:

The best thing about the utterly predictable extension of the $2350 fee to relinquishers?
Not having to endure any more speculations about the convoluted retroactive possibilities for exhuming prehistoric personal intentions to lose U.S. citizenship – especially by extraterritorials who did any such thing as (1) hold a U.S. passport (2) vote in a U.S. election (3) file any U.S. taxes (4) work a week as a temp janitor for a non-U.S. municipality.
How about a Brock contest to see who can do closest guess on (1) when the current fee next increases? (2) how much it goes up by? Here’s mine: September 2016 to a round $3000. Further out? At least $6000 by September 2020.
Off-the-top-of-the-head question:  Is there now any circumstance at all where an exiter will prefer to seek relinquishment because the morass of rules confers some benefit that would be lost through renunciation? (PS – Staying off the name-and-shame list is NOT one.)

The answer is yes! The “relinquishment fee” is an irritation but it is NOT a reason to simply default into a “renunciation”. Now, I am writing this post quickly and I invite others to add their thoughts. But, here are categories  of reasons why those who believe that they have validly relinquished U.S. citizenship, under U.S. law, should insist on a CLN based on a relinquishment.
Category 1 – For at least “citizenship purposes” the relinquishment date is always prior to the renunciation date.
Category 2 – The difference in treatment under other U.S. laws between “renunciations” and other forms of relinquishment.
Let’s examine each category.
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Taxability Freedom Day: On what day does a "U.S. person" cease to be a "U.S. taxpayer"?

Update: October 9, 2015
This post focuses largely on the role of form 8854 in relinquishing U.S. citizenship for tax purposes. See also my more recent post which discusses the role of the Certificate of Loss of Nationality in relinquishing U.S. citizenship.

Introduction …
There is a difference between:

  1. What is your tax liability IF you are a “U.S. person” for tax purposes”;and
  2. Whether you are a U.S. person for tax purposes at all.

I find that many of the blog posts and articles confuse these two issues.
Remember that “U.S. person” for tax purposes INCLUDES (but is not limited to) U.S. citizens and Green Card Holders.
What this post is NOT …
This post is NOT to discuss your specific U.S. tax liability – the AMOUNT of U.S. taxes owing in general. It is NOT to discuss how U.S. taxes are calculated in general. It is NOT to discuss the “taxes that may be triggered” by expatriation. Only those who are “U.S. persons” are subject to U.S. taxation. Therefore, in order to end the “jurisdiction of the United States to impose taxes on you (your “taxability”):
You must terminate your status as a “U.S. person” for tax purposes. This means that you must either “relinquish your U.S. citizenship” under ALL applicable legislation or terminate your Green Card.
What this post IS …
This post is to explain the date that you cease to be a “U.S. person” for tax purposes. At what point, can you say with confidence:
“I’m free. The U.S. no longer has the right to treat me as a “U.S. person” for tax purposes. Nothing that I do from this point on will generate “U.S. tax liability”.
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