Wealth

This key issue has 1 in 3 expats ‘seriously considering’ or planning to renounce U.S. citizenship

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Millions of Americans are scrambling to file returns as the federal tax deadline approaches. But U.S. expatriates have extra filing rules — and the burden is making some expats question their American citizenship.

Nearly one-third of U.S. expats have plans to renounce their American citizenship or are “seriously considering it,” according to a new survey from Greenback Expat Tax Services.

Over the past year, there was a “big jump” in that number, noted Mike Wallace, CEO at Greenback Expat Tax Services. From 2023 to 2024, the percentage rose from 20% to 30%. The latest figure is based on a poll of roughly 1,000 American expats in February.

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The burden of managing and filing U.S. taxes is the top reason why American expats are considering renouncing their citizenship. About 1 in 5 haven’t felt comfortable filing taxes abroad, according to the survey.

American expats must pay U.S. income taxes on worldwide earnings, which include wages, business profits, investment income and more. While you can avoid double taxation with a foreign income exclusion and tax credit, expats may spend more money and time to file taxes in two countries every year.

Expats also may need to report foreign bank accounts by filing the Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts, or FBAR, if your combined account value exceeds $10,000 any time during the year — and failing to report can trigger a hefty penalty. 

Some 17% U.S. expats were unfamiliar with FBAR rules, according to the Greenback Expat Tax Services survey.

“There’s, of course, taxes. That’s consistent year over year,” Wallace said. “But we also saw a big jump this year in terms of dissatisfaction with the direction of the U.S. government.”

Nearly 75% of American expats haven’t felt “fairly represented” by the government, the survey found.

Seek guidance to ‘streamline’ taxes

While dumping U.S. citizenship to forgo the “tax and reporting headache” may be tempting for some expats, it generally doesn’t make sense, according to certified financial planner Jude Boudreaux, a partner and senior financial planner at The Planning Center in New Orleans.

The decision can be difficult to reverse and it could add unexpected estate tax issues, depending on your situation, he said.

With the right tax guidance, you can “streamline things and be forward-planning enough to avoid major landmines,” said Boudreaux, who is also a member of CNBC’s Financial Advisor Council.

“I think it’s much more practical for most people to navigate that than to fully surrender their United States citizenship,” he said.

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