United States set to reduce fee for renouncing American citizenship

Renouncing American citizenship could become less costly, after the US department of state announced that it intends to reduce the citizenship renunciation fee from the current eye-watering $2,350.

United States set to reduce fee for renouncing American citizenship
The Association des Americains Accidentels (AAA - Accidental Americans Association) demonstrate against certain aspects of US legislation of extraterritorial nature in Paris. (Photo by Zakaria ABDELKAFI / AFP)

Rina Bitter, the Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs in the USA, wrote a declaration stating that “the Department intends to pursue rule-making to reduce the fee for processing CLN requests [renunciation of US citizenship] from the current amount of $2,350 to the previous fee of $450.”

Bitter also said that “the Department will consider any necessary changes to this fee, as appropriate, in future rule-making.” The Washington DC District Court was set to hear in-person oral arguments on January 9th.

The change has been particularly welcomed by ‘Accidental Americans’ – people born in the US who therefore have American citizenship but have little connection to the US during their adult lives – but applies to anyone who wants to renounce their US citizenship.

The usual reason for wanting to do this is the strict tax rules that continue to apply to Americans, even if they live outside the US for many years. 

The Accidental Americans group founder and president, Fabien Lehagre said: “By lowering the fee to $450, the US government is showing that the right of voluntary expatriation is not to be trifled with and deserves the utmost protection.”

Nevertheless – the change has not yet been put into practice, and the court case was still ongoing as of January 9th, a fact that Lehagre acknowledged, stating that “time will tell how the government will formulate and develop the new fee.”

However, even with lower fees, renouncing American citizenship remains a lengthy and complex process, that for most people will involve paying a lawyer or accountant.

The United States is unusual in that it imposes tax responsibilities based on both residence and citizenship – so even citizens who have lived abroad for many years and have no economic activity in the US have to file an annual tax declaration to the IRS.

There are also certain limitations on US citizens who live abroad such as the FATCA law that make it hard for them to open European bank accounts and limitations on certain types of financial products such as pensions in Europe.

“Renouncing US citizenship is not as simple as scheduling an appointment at a US embassy or consulate, paying the applicable fee, and declaring that one does not want to be American,” explained international tax law specialist Alexander Marino. “There are many details to consider, and careful planning is essential.”

READ MORE: How to renounce American citizenship in France – and why you might want to

Set in 2010 to $450 to pay for the processing renunciation requests, the amount was later increased to $2,350 due to the need for “close and detailed case-by-case review,” according to Bloomberg Tax.  

The Accidental Americans group is made up of European citizens who also have American citizenship – often without even knowing it.

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Rain does little to dampen turnout in Spanish local and regional votes

Heavy rain in parts of Spain hasn't stopped Spaniards voting in today's local and regional elections, with turnout rates by mid-afternoon already beating 2019 levels across most of the country.

Rain does little to dampen turnout in Spanish local and regional votes

Heavy rains across parts of Spain have done little to dampen turnout in Spain’s municipal and regional elections on Sunday, with polling stations seeing a slight increase on turnout levels compared to the 2019 elections.

More than 35.5 million people are eligible to vote in the municipal elections, and 18.3 million for the regional elections this Sunday. As of 2:00 p.m 36.7 percent of registered voters had already exercised their democratic right to vote, a figure that puts it 1.6 percentage points ahead of the level in 2019, when it was 35.10 percent by mid-afternoon.

Some political pundits had questioned whether the poor weather might affect people’s enthusiasm to vote, but turnout as of 2:00 p.m had risen across the country, particularly in the Valencian Community (up by 5.17 percent), somewhere that had heavy rains throughout the morning, as well as in La Rioja (up 5.11 percent) and Murcia (up 4 percent).

Turnout rates in Aragon, Madrid, Navarra, Asturias, the Balearic Islands and Castilla-La Mancha all increased by around 3 percent, whereas Melilla has registered the lowest level so far, with just 25.71 percent turnout, a decrease of 0.53 percent on 2019.

READ ALSO: Spain’s local elections set to put PM on the back foot

The only other regions where turnout has not gone up, besides Melilla, are Catalonia and the Basque Country. 

The elections, which will elect both local councils as well as the regional executives, are seen as an important political barometer heading into the general election scheduled for the end of the year.

Polls predict that the Spanish right will oust Socialist (PSOE) Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, though it remains unclear if centre-right party Partido Popular (PP), led by Alberto Núñez Feijóo, will do enough to win an overall majority or be forced to rely on far-right party Vox in some form of coalition arrangement as the party do in the Castile and León region.

On Sunday, voters are casting their ballots in 8,131 municipalities across Spain and electing the regional governments in 12 of Spain’s 17 regions, 10 of which are currently under PSOE control. 

If PP makes strong gains in the regional results, particularly if they manage to wrestle control of the Valencia region from the Socialists – a region viewed as something of a political bellwether in Spain – the stage seems set for the Spanish right to return to La Moncloa and govern Spain again.

A strong showing from Vox, however, or if PSOE outperform expectations, would present its own problems for PP and Feijóo, who would then have to simultaneously navigate appealing to the political centre ground and keep Vox at arm’s length, publicly at least, while knowing that he may well come to rely on them later in the year.

The polls close at 8:00 p.m.

Spain does not do exit polls like many other countries do, though there is expected to be a quick turnaround on counts with initial results due from 10:00 p.m.