May 20, 2012

Rolling Out the Unwelcome Mat

Expatriation in the Wake of the Facebook IPO

Bill Bonner

Reckoning today from Baltimore, Maryland...

The Maryland House of Delegates just voted to raise taxes. Should we move to Florida...or Delaware?

If we move to Palm Beach, will we ever be able to visit our beloved Maryland homeland again?

The Financial Times reports that thousands of wealthy French people are now moving to London. Their motive? They want to escape the taxes proposed by France's new president, Francois Hollande.

Should the French impose an exit tax on these "ex-patriots"? Should it then bar them from visiting France?

Of course not.

In England in 1215, the right to travel was enshrined in Article 42 of the Magna Carta:

It shall be lawful to any person, for the future, to go out of our kingdom, and to return, safely and securely, by land or by water, saving his allegiance to us, unless it be in time of war, for some short space, for the common good of the kingdom: excepting prisoners and outlaws, according to the laws of the land, and of the people of the nation at war against us, and Merchants who shall be treated as it is said above.

Here's the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 13:

(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each State.
(2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

Article 12 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights incorporates this right into treaty law:

(1) Everyone lawfully within the territory of a State shall, within that territory, have the right to liberty of movement and freedom to choose his residence.
(2) Everyone shall be free to leave any country, including his own.
(3) The above-mentioned rights shall not be subject to any restrictions except those provided by law, are necessary to protect national security, public order (ordre public), public health or morals or the rights and freedoms of others, and are consistent with the other rights recognized in the present Covenant.

People should be able to move where they want, no? They should be able to look for lower tax places to live, shouldn't they? After all, we're Americans, aren't we? Aren't we all descendants of people who tried to improve their lives by moving to a new place?

Apparently, a lot of Americans don't think so. Facebook is going public. And one of Facebook's founders has moved to Singapore. He will save, by one estimate, $67 million in taxes by giving up his US citizenship. He says that's not the reason he gave it up. But you can believe what you want.

And now the politicos are up in arms. Mr. Saverin has helped to give them an asset worth about $100 billion. Are they grateful? Do they bend down and kiss his derriere?

No! They want to tax him even more heavily...and prevent him from ever setting foot in the US again.

Yes, dear reader, there is no thought so low...that it won't become the law of the land. Bloomberg reports:


huck Schumer, D-N.Y., has a status update for Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin: Stop attempting to dodge your taxes by renouncing your US citizenship or never come to back to the US again.

In September 2011, Saverin relinquished his US citizenship before the company announced its planned initial public offering of stock, which will debut this week. The move was likely a financial one, as he owns an estimated 4 percent of Facebook and stands to make $4 billion when the company goes public. Saverin would reap the benefit of tax savings by becoming a permanent resident of Singapore, which levies no capital gains taxes.

At a news conference this morning, Sens. Schumer and Bob Casey, D-Pa., will unveil the "Ex-PATRIOT" — "Expatriation Prevention by Abolishing Tax-Related Incentives for Offshore Tenancy" — Act to respond directly to Saverin's move, which they dub a "scheme" that would "help him duck up to $67 million in taxes."

The senators will call Saverin's move an "outrage" and will outline their plan to re-impose taxes on expatriates like Saverin even after they flee the United States and take up residence in a foreign country. Their proposal would also impose a mandatory 30 percent tax on the capital gains of anybody who renounces their US citizenship.

The plan would bar individuals like Saverin from ever reentering the United States again.

If Chuck Schumer has his way, entrepreneurs like Eduardo Saverin will think twice before setting up shop in America!

More on Facebook's IPO, below...

[Joel's Note: After Thursday's column, Run, Saverin! Run!, we were delighted to discover that a brave Fellow Reckoner had actually linked to The Daily Reckoning...on Chuck Schumer's Facebook page. Ha! Feel free to "like" our bitty missive here and to "share" it on Facebook. Call it non-violent protest. And of course, you can always "be our friend" here.]

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