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Americans Abroad Should Also Pay for the Benefits of Citizenship

Posted on Aug. 2, 2021

To the Editor:

The article “Should Overseas Americans Be Required to Buy Their Freedom?” by Laura Snyder, Karen Alpert, and John Richardson is a classic example of an argument by taxpayers who want all the rights and privileges of Americans but don’t want to pay for them (Tax Notes Federal, July 12, 2021, p. 223).

The authors make all the classic arguments of why Americans living abroad shouldn’t have to pay U.S. taxes: It’s unfair. It discriminates (even though we provide a tax credit for taxes paid as residents of a foreign country). The article provides examples of “little people” being hurt, while ignoring the fact that most of the benefit of such an exemption would go to the wealthiest expatriates. It even throws in modern monetary theory, which is a new twist, but I’m not sure why it is relevant to a citizen’s obligation to pay for the protection the U.S. government provides them. Perhaps they think it’s unfair for individuals living abroad to have to pay taxes on their foreign income while multinational corporations are able to avoid paying them. But that’s a losing argument because we have finally realized that encouraging the export of jobs and profits through the tax code is bad public policy.

In short, Americans living abroad who want the rights and privileges of citizenship should be willing to help pay for the government that provides them.

Martin Lobel
Lobel, Novins & Lamont LLP
Chairman Emeritus, Tax Analysts Board of Directors
Member, Tax Analysts Board of Directors, 1970-2020 (Chairman, 1970-2018)
July 28, 2021

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