Taxes Drive Americans Living Overseas to Renounce Citizenship

Thursday, 13 Mar 2014 11:12 AM

By Dan Weil

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Almost 3,000 Americans residing around the globe renounced their U.S. citizenship last year, and some did so because they felt overwhelmed by U.S. tax burdens.

CNNMoney spoke with five people who either renounced their citizenship or are considering it, thanks largely to the tax issue. Here is what three of them they had to say.

Donna-Lane Nelson, 71, lives in Geneva, Switzerland and renounced her U.S. citizenship in 2011. "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," she explained.

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"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?" Nelson asked. "Americans in Switzerland were having trouble with their investments, getting credit cards and some weren't even getting loans."

Ezra Goldman, 28, lives in Dongguan, China, and is considering renouncing his citizenship.

"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," he said.

Laurie Lautmann, 58, lives in Gisborne, New Zealand, and renounced her U.S. citizenship last year. "The tax obligations imposed by the U.S. drove us crazy!" she said.

"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 (U.S. $3,397) for them to do our U.S. taxes each year," Lautmann stated.

"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."

Experts say the burden is high on foreign banks with Americans as their customers too, thanks largely to the 2010 Foreign Accounts Tax Compliance Act.

"[Congress] said to all of these institutions, you need to follow this set of criteria to determine all of the Americans who are your clients," Wisconsin financial adviser David Kuenzi told NPR. "And you need to report directly to us on their holdings."

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