The Tax Lawyer

Taxing the American Emigrant

Laura Snyder


American emigrants face many consequences from the extraterritorial application of U.S. taxation and banking policies. Their names, addresses and Social Security numbers are collected, placed on lists of “suspected U.S. persons,” and submitted to a “Crimes Enforcement Network.” They struggle with incompatible tax systems resulting in penalizing taxation, the inability to make investments and save for retirement, the inability to hold title to family assets, the denial of bank accounts and other financial services, and the denial of employment, entrepreneurial, and community service opportunities.

These policies and their consequences are justified by the stigmatization of American emigrants as wealthy persons seeking to avoid taxation. This stigmatization is evidenced in the comments U.S. policymakers and other public figures have made about American emigrants throughout the country’s history, as well as in the academic literature and the media.

The policies also have consequences for the countries where American emigrants live: they negate data protection, banking, human rights, retirement, savings and investment, succession planning, fiscal and monetary policies of those countries, and undermine the authority of their policymakers. That is, the policies jeopardize the sovereignty of many countries around the world.

The stigmatization of American emigrants must, like other forms of stigmatization, be called out and rendered unacceptable. Otherwise, there is little hope for change.