America has an obsessive-compulsive disorder. The rest of the world thinks so, based on America’s seemingly non-sensical, misguided, and random behavior. Examples are long and storied: the failure to adopt the metric system, the insane void of gun control, a refusal to fund the United Nations yet an expectation to run the organisation by its lonesome, a fetish for free trade yet a near communist obsession with cheap oil and food, and the list runs on. These are decisions most of the rest of the world has made; because they make sense. Such a patient cannot accurately judge their own actions and motivations, so don’t bother arguing this point if you are an American living in the 50: I won’t listen to you just as you won’t listen to me.
I am focusing on income tax. Americans believe all its citizens must pay income tax. It is a value grounded in constitution and war. Not so much constitution, really; there are no constitutional clauses stating all American citizens must pay income tax. The Sixteenth Amendment (Amendment XVI) states, The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration. And that’s about it as far as income taxes go, in the constitution.
All American citizens are required to file and pay income taxes to the United States, and when I or any other American expatriate argues that this is nonsense, most Americans simply state the obvious: “you are a citizen and it is your duty. If you don’t like it, then leave.”
Let’s take a closer look at this idea. What’s right for America should be right for the rest of the world. It’s why America fights most of its wars, to defend the American way, its values and ideals: freedom, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. So in an ideal world, all countries would tax their citizens and only their citizens. We would all file taxes with our native lands. It’s the patriotic thing to do. The only trouble is the United States of America doesn’t practice what it preaches: the US taxes not only its citizens but also non-citizen residents. In 2012, there were an estimated 13.3 million permanent residents in the US who were not citizens and who were required to file income taxes. The US does not just tax its citizens but also its foreign residents.
“But of course,” you say. “Why wouldn’t we tax these people? They live and work in America, they receive government services, so they should pay for those services.”
I agree. It would be wrong not to tax someone living in your country. It would open the doors wide open: “come live in the greatest nation in the world and do it tax-free!” It’s a preposterous idea. People should pay taxes where they live because that’s the economy they impact and the economy that impacts them. Boris from Russia works in Silicon Valley, lives in a San Jose home, drives a car bought in California, sends his kids to a private American school, has married an American person, drives American roads, calls American police when his home is broken into, doesn’t have to worry about bombs and rockets because American warships and fighters protect his lands, and on and on. It only makes sense that Boris pay taxes to the US and not to Russia. Which is the way it works if you live in America.
Other countries tax American citizens living in their lands because these citizens live, work, and receive services in those foreign countries. Just as the US does, all countries tax their residents because it makes sense. But the US is different. Besides residents, the United States taxes citizen expatriates as well – citizens living abroad and participating in foreign economies – because somehow this makes sense to an American. The US wears patriotic blinders and can only see the world from its myopic, obsessive-compulsive, cavernous halls of righteousness that says all its citizens must pay for their liberty and freedom and services received, even though there are no documented services expatriates receive for their tax dollars. Just like the metric system, the United Nations, and gun control, the US cannot buy into a concept because it is right if it hints at being unpatriotic or freedom-limiting. Never mind that 8 million of its citizens are burdened with the onerous task of juggling two tax systems, have their financial freedoms abused (basic investment options such as private pensions and mutual funds severely are restricted), and are subjected to invasion of privacy no American living at home would stand for under threat of extreme penalty.
America is losing 15 citizens every day and the rate is growing. It is not because we are not patriotic but because we need to protect ourselves. We are being abused by our native country. Can we please sit back and think about what we are doing and why, America?