A recent post (July 7, 2016) on this blog began with:
Prologue – U.S. citizens are “subjects” to U.S. law wherever they may be in the world …
Yes, it’s true. In 1932 (eight years after the Supreme Court decision in Cook v. Tait), Justice Hughes of the U.S. Supreme Court, in the case of Blackmer v. United States ruled that:
While it appears that the petitioner removed his residence to France in the year 1924, it is undisputed that he was, and continued to be, a citizen of the United States. He continued to owe allegiance to the United States. By virtue of the obligations of citizenship, the United States retained its authority over him, and he was bound by its laws made applicable to him in a foreign country. Thus, although resident abroad, the petitioner remained subject to the taxing power of the United States. Cook v. Tait, 265 U.S. 47, 54 , 56 S., 44 S. Ct. 444. For disobedience to its laws through conduct abroad, he was subject to punishment in the courts of the United States. United States v. Bow- [284 U.S. 421, 437] man, 260 U.S. 94, 102 , 43 S. Ct. 39. With respect to such an exercise of authority, there is no question of international law,2 but solely of the purport of the municipal law which establishes the duties of the citizen in relation to his own government. 3 While the legislation of the Congress, unless the contrary intent appears, is construed to apply only within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States, the question of its application, so far as citizens of the United States in foreign countries are concerned, is one of construction, not of legislative power. American Banana Co. v. United Fruit Co., 213 U.S. 347, 357 , 29 S. Ct. 511, 16 Ann. Cas. 1047; United States v. Bowman, supra; Robertson v. Labor Board, 268 U.S. 619, 622 , 45 S. Ct. 621. Nor can it be doubted that the United States possesses the power inherent in sovereignty to require the return to this country of a citizen, resident elsewhere, whenever the public interest requires it, and to penalize him in case of refusal. Compare Bartue and the Duchess of Suffolk’s Case, 2 Dyer’s Rep. 176b, 73 Eng. Rep. 388; Knowles v. Luce, Moore 109, 72 Eng. Rep. 473.4 What in England was the prerogative of the sov- [284 U.S. 421, 438] ereign in this respect pertains under our constitutional system to the national authority which may be exercised by the Congress by virtue of the legislative power to prescribe the duties of the citizens of the United States. It is also beyond controversy that one of the duties which the citizen owes to his government is to support the administration of justice by attending its courts and giving his testimony whenever he is properly summoned. Blair v. United States, 250 U.S. 273, 281 , 39 S. St. Ct. 468. And the Congress may provide for the performance of this duty and prescribe penalties for disobedience.
It’s that simple. If you are a U.S. citizen, some would argue that you are the property of the U.S.government.
On the other hand (and this will be the subject of another post), the Supreme Court decisions in Cook v. Tait and Blackmer v. The United States were decided in an era where there was no U.S. recognition of dual citizenship. It is reasonable to argue that these decisions have no applicability in the modern world.
There will be those who will say: Come on! Get real! The United States would never rely on these old court decisions. Well, they still do cite Cook v. Tait. Mr. FBAR lay dormant until it was resurrected by the Obama administration as the “FBAR Fundraiser“.
Dual Citizenship: What is the “effect” of a U.S. citizen also holding the citizenship of another nation?
The State Department description includes:
However, dual nationals owe allegiance to both the United States and the foreign country. They are required to obey the laws of both countries. Either country has the right to enforce its laws, particularly if the person later travels there. Most U.S. nationals, including dual nationals, must use a U.S. passport to enter and leave the United States. Dual nationals may also be required by the foreign country to use its passport to enter and leave that country. Use of the foreign passport does not endanger U.S. nationality. Most countries permit a person to renounce or otherwise lose nationality.
The life and times of Boris Johnson – A United States taxpayer by birth
Assumptions about Mr. Johnson’s citizenship …
I am assuming that he became both a U.S. and U.K. citizen by birth. I also assume that he remains both a U.S. and a U.K. citizen.
A U.S. Centric Perspective: As a U.S. citizen, Mr. Johnson is defined primarily in terms of taxation. On the occasion of Mr. Johnson’s recent appointment as the U.K. Foreign Minister, the Washington Times published the following article.
The article referenced in the above tweet provides an interesting summary of the Mr. Johnson’s adventures with the U.S. tax system. The article demonstrates how U.S. “place of birth” taxation is used to extract capital from other nations and transfer that capital to the U.S. Treasury. (As always the comments are of great interest.)
A non-U.S. Centric Perspective: Mr. Johnson is a “poster boy” for the problems of the U.S. “place of birth taxation” (AKA “taxation-based citizenship”). Mr. Johnson’s “IRS Problems” resulted in raising the profile and awareness of U.S. tax policies. A particularly interesting article was written by Jackie Bugnion and Roland Crim of “American Citizens Abroad”.
At a minimum, Mr. Johnson is subject to IRS jurisdiction, IRS reporting requirements, IRS threats and penalties and IRS assessments.
Boris Johnson has now been named the U.K. Foreign Minister …
How does his United States citizenship impact on this situation? Is it possible for him to be both a U.S. citizen and the British foreign minister? The “logical answer” is “Yes he can”. That said, having a U.S. citizen as the U.K. foreign minister raises many questions.
These questions include:
1. What effect (if any) does Mr. Johnson’s acceptance of this position have on his retention of United States citizenship as a matter of U.S. law?
2. If his acceptance of the position were a “relinquishing act” (under U.S. law) would Mr. Johnson be subject to the United States S. 877A Exit Tax?
3. Assuming that Mr. Johnson were to retain “dual” U.S./U.K. citizenship, how would his “divided loyalties” impact on this ability to serve as the British foreign minister?
4. Assuming that Mr. Johnson were to retain “dual” U.S./U.K. citizenship, how does the fact that the IRS has the jurisdiction to threaten him with fines and penalties impact the situation? What about the reporting requirements?
5. Should Boris Johnson formally relinquish his U.S. citizenship in order to avoid the conflict of interest that would arise because of divided loyalties?
Each question will be considered separately. Here we go …