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June 13, 2023 The Tax Lawyer

Can Extraterritorial Taxation Be Rationalized?

Vol. 76, No. 3 - Spring 2023

by Laura Snyder


There exist multiple rationales for the U.S. extraterritorial tax system. The rationales seek to explain why overseas Americans should be subject to worldwide taxation by the United States.

This paper challenges those rationales: The allegiance rationale is outmoded and has been rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court; the benefits rationale has been discredited; the membership in U.S. society rationale is belied by the exclusion of overseas Americans from critical beneficial aspects of the U.S. economy, the U.S. tax system, and federal assistance; the “worth the tax cost” rationale disregards human rights and the realities of renunciation of U.S. citizenship; and the administrability rationale ignores that the administration of an extraterritorial tax system requires resources beyond those required to determine domicile—resources the Internal Revenue Service does not have.

Ultimately, all the rationales are theoretical. They do not confront the reality of the actual extraterritorial tax system in place today. They do not contend with the full scope and complexity of the actual system, or the system’s multitude of intractable problems and injustices.

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