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On Friday I had a 9am appointment at the US Embassy with the Consul to move ahead with my renunciation of US citizenship.
The Consul, an affable man about my age, did his duty. He made certain all the forms were filled out properly, and discussed with me what I am doing. Part of his job is to advise potential renunciants of the consequences, to make certain that they are not insane, under duress or lacking sufficient knowledge of the law to appreciate their action, and to explore all of the un-thought-of possibilities which might lead one to back away from the decision. We chatted a bit about prior renunciants he is aware of. Apparently there have been a good number of them who renounced back in the Vietnam War era as a political protest, only to regret doing so later on and attempt to reclaim their citizenship via the courts, to little avail. Additionally, and interestingly, there have apparently been cases in which cult leaders induced followers to give up their citizenship as part of binding themselves more closely to the cult. When these become deprogrammed and attempt to put their lives back together, they may find sympathy in US courts voiding their renunciation and restoring them to citizenship status.
Anyway, I jumped all the hurdles and through all the hoops he offered, and he accepted that I know what I’m doing — or, at least, that I am well aware of all the risks. Inquiring as to my motives I told him that I’m after a political divorce, and that, no, it doesn’t matter that Obama won the election, as his administration will no doubt continue doing the real work of the people who actually own and direct the American system. I signed all of the documents, read aloud from the Oath of Renunciation a bit to satisfy a “swearing” requirement, and handed all of it over to him.
The final item, not previously known to me, is to fill in and submit an IRS Form 8854, a delightful document entitled “Initial and Annual Expatriation Information Statement”. The IRS wants a full accounting of my situation for the past five years, a statement of assets and liabilities and an income statement. According to the instructions to the form, because I will answer “no” to the question “Do you certify under penalty of perjury that you have complied with all of your tax obligations for the 5 preceding tax years?”, I will become subject to “section 877”, which among other things will require me to file an updated copy of Form 8854 every year for the ten years following my expatriation. The “Penalties” section of the instructions contains this gem:
If you are subject to section 877 and required to file Form 8854 for any tax year, and you fail to file or do not include all the information required by the form or the form includes incorrect information, you will owe a penalty of $10,000 for that year, unless it is shown that such failure is due to reasonable cause and not willful neglect.
I will have to answer “no” to that question, and thus I will be subject to this penalty, because since 2005 I have not filed a US income tax return. Even though I have had no income subject to US taxation in the last several years, the filing requirement still exists. By the sound of things, and since I do not plan on ever filing an IRS form again after this one, it looks like that by 2019 I will have accumulated $100,000 in penalties, simply for failing to do government-mandated paperwork. A blog doesn’t really allow one to communicate a sense of profound indifference to the fullest extent. Is it possible, grammatically, to be highly willfully neglectful?
So, a bit of weekend work ahead for me as I slog through the 8854 in order to clear the hopefully last bureaucratic hurdle. I have another appointment with the Consul at 2:15pm on Monday, at which I will hand in the Form 8854 and surrender my passport.