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August 22, 2015 - Phil Hodgen

The Expatriation Chronicles of an Accidental American, Episode 1

Wherein we start a long journey

We are kicking off a new series of blog posts. It is likely to run intermittently for more than a year, and I think it will be useful for you to watch. I will be writing some, and others in the series will be guest posts from our protagonist.

“What is your Quest?”

(Warning: YouTube).

I just had to throw that in, because I like Monty Python and I used the word “protagonist” in a sentence. Which made me think of the word “quest”. Which reminded me of Monty Python. I have a busy brain.

Our protagonist

A is a 17 year old living in the UK. She is a dual U.S./Irish citizen, and wants to renounce her U.S. citizenship.

She needs help walking through the legal and tax process, but does not have a deep wallet. In return for a bit of light coaching from us, she has agreed to write up her experience in a series of blog posts — as she is going through the process.

Accidental American

This is about as clean an example as you will find of an “accidental American” who, due to birth, has an unwanted U.S. citizenship that creates an overload of legal and tax complication.

She has no income or assets, so the tax paperwork will be minimized and simple.

She has no Social Security Number, so she needs to solve that problem in order to get herself out of the U.S. tax system.

This will demonstrate to you a minimal expatriation and what is involved. I hope that watching the series unfold will help those of you out there who face similar issues.

First problem — choose a strategy

A has an expired U.S. passport, but no U.S. tax identification number. Her first task is to figure out what to do about the “no identification number” problem. There are generally three answers to this. All of the work required is the same, but the sequence in which you do the work will be different — and the tax results may differ.

  • “Oh, look at that, for some reason unknown to me a Social Security Number was in fact issued when I was born. Problem solved.” Fix your prior year tax paperwork problems, renounce U.S. citizenship, then file the tax paperwork for the year of renunciation.
  • Apply for a Social Security Number, do a bunch of remedial tax paperwork for prior years, renounce citizenship, then file the tax paperwork for the year of renunciation.
  • Renounce U.S. citizenship, get the Certificate of Loss of Nationality, apply for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, get it, then file whatever U.S. tax paperwork is needed.

Thinking through this question is the first thing A will do. She will then go through the process of dealing with the paperwork and appointment(s) at the Embassy or Consulate of her choice (and she will somehow have to scrape up US$2,350* for the filing fee), and the tax filings for the years before she renounces, as well as for the year of renunciation. [*Thanks to commenter @anon for catching my mistake here.]

What to expect

Over the course of the next several months, expect periodic updates of what is happening — and why — in real time. Expect blog posts from me in the series as well, explaining what the choices are, and how to make them.

Anonymity

Except for A’s country of residence and citizenship, everything else will be under wraps.

She has agreed to having her expatriation publicly chronicled (suitably anonymized for her protection), and her parents have agreed as well.

Legal advice

Yes, you are watching “legal advice to an individual in public” but it is homogenized, processed, and reconstituted to be of generic educational interest to anyone reading it rather than specific legal advice to anyone. What A and I talk about is hidden behind the screen. This stuff is just fun for everyone.

This series is definitely not legal or tax advice to you, whoever you are.

Expatriation Expatriation Chronicles of an Accidental American