There is a booming trade in selling citizenship and permanent resident status as a path to citizenship. People think that only small countries do this. While small countries do sell passports (St. Kitts is a prominent example), large countries do this as well. Even the United States, under the guise of the EB-5 “buy a green card” program, provides a path to American citizenship for the well-to-do.
We are seeing the rise of a new type of person–the multinational individual. Tax professionals have long known how to deal with multinational business operations, but now we are confronted with the same high level of multi-country tax complexity, applied to people. It leads to new practice specialties, such as advising people renouncing U.S. citizenship about the U.S. exit tax.
But one thing we as tax professionals do not focus on is the business of buying and selling citizenship. Who benefits? Governments. obviously. Buying citizenships can require very high government fees. But others benefit, too. Well-positioned consultants and lawyers have become wealthy in the passport trade.
Another thing that tax professionals miss is the impact of citizenship sales on stateless people with no money. They simply never become an issue in our world as tax advisors, because tax problems apply only to people with money. Yet there are many, many stateless people around the world, with no citizenship, no passport, and no ability to travel.
Atossa Araxia Abrahamian is a New York-based journalist who has written a book about the world of passports for sale. The Cosmopolites is easy-to-read and engaging report on the underbelly of the business side of buying and selling citizenship.
Atossa’s book also gives us a previously-unreported view of the plight of the stateless person and the quest for citizenship status. In The Cosmopolites, she reveals the problems facing the bidoon, stateless people living in the rich Gulf countries, and the tangled web that led to the Comoro Islands issuing citizenship to thousands of these people.
Atossa will be a keynote speaker at the 2016 Federal, State, Local & International Tax Conference presented by the California Society of Certified Public Accountants. Come and hear her speak about the non-tax, citizenship side of the emerging practice area of multinational individuals and families.
You can sign up for the 2016 Federal, State, Local & International Tax Conference, live or webcast, here.
ps: I am co-chair of the conference this year. Email me personally if you have any feedback about the conference, or if there are topics you would like to see for next year.