UK’s Boris Johnson among record number of US citizenship renouncers

The UK’s well-known foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, was among some 5,411 people who renounced their US citizenship in 2016, it has been revealed.

Johnson’s name appears on a list released today by the US Treasury Department, which publishes the names of renouncers on a quarterly basis, though, some observers have noted, not always in a timely fashion.

The former mayor of London’s name is on page 27 of the 59-page document, as Alexander Boris Johnson.

Johnson, who is American by virtue of having been born there, has long spoken of giving up his citizenship, beginning in an indignant column in the Spectator magazine in August, 2006, when he wasn’t allowed into the US because he was attempting to travel on a British passport. (Americans may only re-enter the country on an American passport.) “That’s it, Uncle Sam: I’m yours no more,” his column was headlined, and before continuing, in typical Johnson style: “Right. That’s it. Entre nous c’est terminé. After 42 happy years, I’m getting a divorce from America.”

Johnson renewed his vow to renounce in 2014, when it emerged that he might owe as much as US$50,000 or more to the US tax authorities after selling a residential property in the UK.

Media sources said the 5,411 was another record number for American citizenship renunciations, for the fourth year in a row, as many expatriates, including so-called “accidental Americans”, like Johnson, seek to free themselves of the increasingly costly and cumbersome trappings that have become associated with US citizenship among those who live abroad.

According to the Isaac Brock Society blog, the most recent quarterly number of renunciations, 2,365, was the largest quarterly renunciation figure to be posted thus far. The Isaac Brock Society was founded and is run by a group of Canadian Accidental Americans.

Although the problems associated with US citizenship began before the implementation of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, signed into law by president Obama in 2010, FATCA is widely credited with sending many expats rushing for the exits. For this reason, the news of Johnson’s renunciation is likely to fuel calls for its repeal, which have already been mounting in the wake of Donald Trump’s election as president, since the repeal of FATCA has been a Republican Party position, if not one that Trump is known to have mentioned.

Some American expats and others, such as the American Citizens Abroad, believe that many of the problems Americans overseas are facing could be solved if there were an exception to the law made for institutions in which the expat in question was living, which the ACA calls “the Same Country Exemption”. Others say that if the US were to join the entire rest of the world in taxing on the basis of residency rather than citizenship, many of the worst problems expat Americans suffer could also be avoided.

In renouncing his citizenship, Johnson joins a long list of famous Americans who have also handed back their passports over the past century, including pop singer Tina Turner, actor Yul Brynner, authors Henry James and T S Eliot, film director John Huston, performer Josephine Baker, film director John  Huston, emerging market fund manager Mark Mobius, socialite Christina Onasis, investor Sir John Marks Templeton, and Eduardo Savarin, the Facebook co-founder.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Helen Burggraf
Helen Burggraf is the editor of International Investment. A US-trained journalist, she has worked in Rome, New York City and London, covering everything from the fashion and retailing industries to the global drinking water and water-treatment sector, private equity, and most recently, the international cross-border financial services/advice industry.

Read more from Helen Burggraf

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