How Much Would it Take For You to Renounce Your Citizenship?

by Darwin on May 16, 2012

There’s nothing like being an American, right?  I mean, we’re only 5% of the population and enjoy 25% of the world’s GDP (while consuming 25% of the world’s energy of course).  That aside, in general, you don’t see people from around the world flocking to any country but America.  We have a vibrant job market (usually), the best opportunities for startups, education, freedom, and well, all kinds of other good stuff.

So, what would entice someone to renounce their US citizenship?  Cold hard cash.  That’s what one of the initial founders of Facebook has done, foresaking the US for Singapore (even though he’s Brazilian…long story, but it’s clearly a tax thing).  As widely reported in the media in advance of the Facebook IPO, Eduardo Saverin is now a proud citizen of Singapore (Mashable Story).


How Much Would You Need to Renounce Your Citizenship?

Obviously, it would be unlikely to find yourself if the same exact situation as Mr. Saverin.  For one, he wasn’t born an American, so perhaps he doesn’t have the same emotional or ethical attachments to remaining American as a lifelong American.  Additionally, his move was one of “incremental income” as opposed to a binary question like the one I asked.  While he’ll still have some exit taxes and others taxes to be sure, if his stake is worth $5 Billion and he would have paid say, $1.5 Billion in taxes as an American and $800 Million (both purely hypothetical guesses since no legitimate media outlet has actually shown the tax estimates) as a resident of Singapore, this is more an issue of walking away with a huge amount either way.  Greed?  Maybe.  Pragmatism?  Sure. Principal?  Perhaps.

But just for the sake of argument, if you had an opportunity to attain a large lump-sum payment by renouncing your citizenship, how much would it take?  $100,000?  $1 Million?  $10 Million?  What’s your number?  Think about becoming say, a Canadian or a Mexican.  You could easily cross the border somewhat routinely, still own real estate in the US; heck, you and your kids could even go to US colleges and get aide on the back of US taxpayers!  So, what’s stopping you?  Good old fashioned patriotism?  Objectively weigh the pros, cons and the value to you and let us know what your number is!


New Legislation Coming?

In their infinite wisdom, based on this headline, we’ll probably see Congress enact some sort of silly legislation to grab a headline, just like preventing lotto winners from collecting unemployment or eliminating tax writeoffs for corporate jets.  I could envision the “Citizen Renouncer Tax Dodger Act” or something along those lines to make it more difficult to avoid taxes for founders of IPOs where the US will recoup lower tax revenues than if the founder had remained a US citizen.  Of course, rather than addressing the real challenges confronting the nation, this will be a campaign check in the box for some senator somewhere that ends up generating no revenue.


Anyway, I’d Love to Hear Your Number and I’ll Share Mine.

{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Joe @ Retire By 40 May 16, 2012 at 7:02 pm

I’m pretty cheap and will take $5 million.
There are plenty of opportunities elsewhere with that kind of cash. 😉


Darwin May 16, 2012 at 10:34 pm

Thanks for sharing. $5 Million isn’t too shabby but I’m a bit more expensive :>


krantcents May 16, 2012 at 7:59 pm

Although I was born here, there are some pretty great places beside the U.S. to live. That aside, I still would rather live here than anywhere else. How much to renounce my citizenship? I probably could be had for $5 million! Being a citizen of another country does not prevent me from living here or visiting. Depending on the country, I just need a visa. Not so bad! Am I selling out? I just don’t see the downside.


Darwin May 16, 2012 at 10:35 pm

I’d rather live here than anywhere else too – but I guess you can even if you’re not a citizen!


Steve May 16, 2012 at 8:27 pm

“he wasn’t born an American”.

I think that’s 99% of it. I worked in Russia for years. I never became a citizen, but if I had, I would have been completely relaxed with renouncing it with almost any justification because it wasn’t my country. I had no family there, no “roots” etc. That having been said, I love London, I love Lisbon, I love Barcelona, Rome, Moscow, Budapest – with a couple of mil I could probably have a wonderful life in any of those cities. And we’ll never see the Republicans support a bill that would force Americans to stay American and pay those nasty taxes…. low taxes are the goal, now and forever – even if it means fleeing the country.


Darwin May 16, 2012 at 10:35 pm

Great point; definitely takes the emotion out of it!


Investor Junkie May 16, 2012 at 9:04 pm

$10 Million. While I love my country, my family comes first. I’ll do what’s best for my family and future economic prospects. In addition, if I could afford it, I would want to live in multiple countries.


Darwin May 16, 2012 at 10:36 pm

I wonder if after you renounce if you could just become an American again down the road!


Bob May 17, 2012 at 9:46 am

I’ve considered renouncing, and money has nothing to do with it…. Opportunity, a better life for my children and civil liberties are the reason.

America was built on an idea (individual freedom) and that idea is quickly dying. I love the IDEA of America, but when that idea is no longer operative, I’ll renounce.

When miltary drones are patrolling our skies, when police shut down children’s lemonade stands, when armed FDA thugs shut down raw milk distributors and raw food businesses, when TSA molestors assault travelers, when crony capitalism privatizes Wall Street gains while socializing the losses among taxpayers, when the entitlement state props up the parasites at the top and bottom of the food chain on the backs of the middle class and on and on, the idea of America is dead.

Oh, and I put my money where my mouth is… I left the US 7 years ago, and have no intention of coming back until the idea of America becomes resurgent. Money has nothing to do with it… It’s about freedom.


Investor Junkie May 17, 2012 at 10:05 am

It must suck for you paying taxes for the US, but yet don’t live here.


John @ Married (with Debt) May 17, 2012 at 9:53 am

I would do it for $2 million. Like you said, I’d be able to come back and visit, plus I have many close family members (aunts, uncles, cousins) who are citizens of a European country, so I could get citizenship there. With $2 million I could live the rest of my life with my family on the family vinograd and farm.


Darwin May 17, 2012 at 10:05 pm

I just read the state department can ban (ex)-Americans from setting foot back on US soil if they renounced citizenship to avoid taxes; might make me think twice!


Bob May 17, 2012 at 10:39 am

“In their infinite wisdom, based on this headline, we’ll probably see Congress enact some sort of silly legislation to grab a headline, just like preventing lotto winners from collecting unemployment or eliminating tax writeoffs for corporate jets…”

Well, that sure didn’t take long… Check out this morning’s headline on Drudge: “DEM SENS WANT EX-PAT TAX”


Darwin May 17, 2012 at 10:06 pm

I couldn’t believe it; I stated that somewhat sarcastically hoping there was no leader so moronic to put their name on such a piece of screed. It only took 1 day.


TB at BlueCollarWorkman May 17, 2012 at 11:07 am

HOw timely! I was just complaining this morning about being American and wanting to renounce my citizenship for some other country. 🙂


Darwin May 17, 2012 at 10:06 pm

Haha, I here ya some days! What’s your destination of choice?


JT May 17, 2012 at 11:45 am

I agree with IJ’s $10 million figure. That’s $400k a year – $100-150k net of inflation. I can live on that quite happily with some other ex-pats in some non-US tropical island. The hardest part isn’t deciding how much money it’d take, but where I’d go.


Darwin May 17, 2012 at 10:07 pm

That’s about where I was landing. Thinking about a 4% withdrawal rate, I think I could live without Disney World and the Jersey Shore for a passive $400K per year.


Againstthegrain May 17, 2012 at 11:54 am

“in general, you don’t see people from around the world flocking to any country but America.”

Ahem. You must not be looking. I know I wasn’t, until it was pointed out to me (by a first generation Brazilian of Japanese descent during a visit to Sao Paolo Brazil in 2001) that lots of other countries besides the US attract new immigrants. While the US might lead as a single destination, immigration to other countries besides the US is still significant, especially when all other destination country figures are totaled together.

Have you been to the UK, Ireland, & Europe recently? Huge numbers of people in the larger cities are from somewhere else. Certain parts of Canada still have growing immigrant populations (Toronto & Vancouver in particular have huge Asian immigrant communities). Some South American countries (Brazil & Venezuela especially) have large recent immigrant populations, esp from Asian countries. Australia and to a lesser extent New Zealand have large relatively recent populations, especially from Italy & Greece, and continue to attract new immigrants, particularly from Asia. Those are just the countries where I’ve noticed significant multicultural populations while traveling. I’m sure there are quite a few others.


Darwin May 17, 2012 at 10:09 pm

Yeah good point. For instance, I was just in Ireland and I did notice a lot of Asians and Eastern Europeans which seemed a bit odd, but Ireland did have a boom a few years back – and then a bust, which probably created a market for some immigrants as well. Southern Europe is full of African and Asian immigrants as well. I suppose while America may be at the top of many lists, it isn’t the sole destination at all.


Andrea May 17, 2012 at 3:47 pm

Hmmmmm I’m not sure, 2 or 3 mill would set me up pretty nicely I would say! Nationality is more than a passport.


Darwin May 17, 2012 at 10:10 pm

I was thinking in terms of 4% withdrawal rate and for me, 80K wouldn’t do it for me. It sure sounds like a lot at once though!


drtypirat May 17, 2012 at 9:43 pm

It isnt a fact of a buyout, it’s about whether or not there is a better place. The standard of living is likely on a downward trend but there are no counties like what America used to be.
The ideal would not to be a citizen of any one place, i would live in one, do business in multiple locations and most importantly do my banking in totally different countries.
Countries dont view citizenship as they should, they view it as ownership of people, whuch is why they think they deserve peoples money.
What they should be doing is vying for our tax dollars by how they provide services and not thru coercian.
I think the real question isnt “how much” but “when” to renounce, and thats just before we arent viewed as milk cows any more but are viewed as beef cows.


Darwin May 17, 2012 at 10:11 pm

Dichotomy. US is a great place to live but standard of living is declining to be sure. Many places with rapidly increasing standard of living aren’t very developed yet. Where’s the happy medium (being current high standard of living AND increasing)? Perhaps Nordic countries? Not sure you could say the same for any other country?


Moneycone May 18, 2012 at 6:50 am

Looks like he will be paying taxes after all! Uncle Sam wanted his pound of flesh! This shouldn’t have been an issue to begin with. Why pick on an individual? So many companies stash their cash overseas to avoid paying taxes.

As Romney would say ‘Corporations are people’…er..people!


101 Centavos May 20, 2012 at 2:14 am

With $5 million in the bank we could live very comfortably in Europe. Renouncing U.S. citizenship would be quite hard, however. The ideals of liberty embodied in the Constitution, although observed less and less each year by the federal government, are simply not found anywhere else.


joe November 16, 2012 at 2:54 pm

If you are not WHITE and or FEMALE America is a horrible place to live.


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