Accidental Americans take the U.S. State Department to Court
PARIS – The « Association of Accidental Americans (AAA) » and 20 accidental Americans of 10 different nationalities* have filed a complaint against the United States Department of State (DOS), alleging that it has violated the U.S. Constitution and international law by charging a fee for individuals to renounce their American citizenship. The complaint has been filed with the District Court of Columbia in Washington D.C.
According to the plaintiffs**, the right to renounce U.S. nationality is a fundamental, constitutional, natural and inherent right under the U.S. Constitution. The State Department’s fee is “essentially forcing U.S. citizens to remain U.S. citizens against their will.”
The fee was introduced at $450 in 2010 and was increased fivefold to $2,350 in 2014. This was ostensibly to cover service costs, according to the DOS. But the timing coincided with the passage of FATCA, which was clearly expected to incite Americans to give up their U.S. nationality.
The fee violates not only the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, but also the First Amendment guaranteeing freedom of expression, and the Eighth Amendment precluding excessive fines to punish individuals wishing to sever all connection with the U.S., the complaint states. For 200 years prior to 2010, U.S. nationals could renounce their citizenship free of charge. The complaint also alleges violation of the U.S. Administrative Procedure Act, as well as international law.
« As Thomas Jefferson stated in the Bill Declaring Who Shall be Deemed Citizens of This Commonwealth of June 18, 1779, giving up nationality, or voluntary expatriation, is a natural right which all men have. » said Fabien Lehagre « The U.S. administration is not above the laws and Constitution of the United States. It cannot deprive us of the fundamental right of renunciation. »
The plaintiffs in the case are led by Fabien Lehagre, president of the Paris-based AAA. Lehagre created the association in 2017 to defend Accidentals from the damage they suffer as a result of the U.S. 2010 Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA). Lehagre and the AAA also campaign actively against the fee for renunciation and on several other issues.
The millions of Accidental Americans around the world are individuals who acquired U.S. citizenship by accident of birth, but maintain no or minimal ties with the U.S. Many have never lived there beyond childhood, have neither worked nor studied there, and often have no U.S. social security number. The majority of them do not speak English.
Accidental Americans pay taxes in their country of residence under national laws. Only the United States and Eritrea base their tax system on citizenship instead of residency. Although Accidentals are also required to file income tax returns in the U.S., they have not done so because they did not know they were supposed to. Until FATCA came into force, many did not even realize they were U.S. nationals.
Because they have no social security number, many Accidental Americans are being denied bank accounts, mortgages, life insurance and start-up loans in their home country. Even Americans who have a social security number have been victims of discrimination by foreign financial institutions. In 2014, a Democrats Abroad survey estimated that the bank accounts of 1 million Americans living abroad had been closed because of FATCA. Some Accidentals have been refused promotion to senior positions, and others have been hit with huge fines and back taxes for non-compliance with U.S. tax laws.
« Politicians only talk about FATCA in relation to bank accounts, » says Kevin P., an Accidental American who lives in Austria. « But the problem is much wider. I am a freelancer, and my personal finances are in danger because I am refused investments of all kinds that would protect my future. Ihis is why I want to renounce U.S. citizenship.”
*The 10 nationalities are : Australian, Belgian, British, Costa Rican, Dutch, French, German, Irish, Italian, Tunisian,
**The Plaintiffs are being represented by L. Marc Zell and Noam Schreiber of the international law firm, Zell & Associates International Advocates, LLC
For further information, please contact:
Association of Accidental Americans
Zell & Associates International Advocates, LLC