Escape From America

* Some wealthy Americans voice the ultimate protest.

Billionaire John "Ippy" Dorrance III, an heir to the Campbell Soup fortune, is now an Irish citizen.

Forbes magazine recently dubbed Ippy and his ilk the "New Refugees." While the Irish might have fled the potato famines of years past, wealthy American citizens are now fleeing a homeland starved by excessive taxation.

In 1993, the first year of Clinton's "soak the rich" presidency, 306 individuals officially and legally renounced their American citizenship and moved to financially less restrictive locations such as Ireland, Switzerland and the Caribbean. And thousands more Americans have been speaking with lawyers quite seriously about this very topic.

By comparison, in 1982, the year after Ronald Reagan drastically lowered taxes, not even one American renounced citizenship.

This "new refugee" phenomenon, though, is not just unique to the liberal Clinton administration. Back in 1962, during Kennedy's reign, the legendary global investor Sir John Templeton renounced his U.S. citizenship, moving to Nassau.

And Templeton's decision was not that of a miserly curmudgeon. He has generously donated most of his billion dollar fortune to charities. Of course, without U.S. citizenship, he--instead of some faceless bureaucrat--decides where his money goes.

The article in Forbes aptly identified one of the uniquely twisted fiscal qualities of this nation: "The U.S. is virtually the only country in the world that imposes significant income and death taxes on the worldwide income and assets of every citizen, even if the citizen is domiciled elsewhere."

This means that U.S. citizenship allows the I.R.S. to confiscate your income from you and your family while you are alive and after you die--no matter where you actually live or how you make your money.

Although everyone's aware of the hefty income tax, the inheritance tax currently reaches 55 percent on estates worth $3 million or more. Even entrepreneurs who have lived the American dream, creating thousands of jobs along the way, must relinquish most of their assets to the clutches of ravenous Uncle Sam.

Citizens of the Bahamas pay a significantly lower estate tax: zero percent. Even Ireland only demands from its citizens a two percent tax on inherited assets.

Of course, the Caribbean probably represents the best deal. In addition to the lack of an estate tax, St. Kitts-Nevis and the Cayman Islands don't even impose an income tax.

Still, renouncing U.S. citizenship is not an easy decision, since it is extremely difficult to re-acquire. Also, one must become a real expatriate, since it is illegal to live in the U.S. more than a third of the year.

While millions of people around the world dream of United States passports (and all the advantages that this document affords), an elite group of Americans have studied the political and economic landscape and decided in the most forceful way that U.S. citizenship is just too expensive.

So when will the tax madness end? Perhaps last week was the beginning of the end, as disgruntled voters overwhelmingly gave Republicans control of Congress for the first time in four decades.

It would be ironic, though, if these new refugees fled the country at just the time when America would once again embrace the economic freedom that has become so popular around the world.

Nonetheless, the new expatriates have made the clearest and most severe demonstration of their disgust with modern liberalism. If things don't change soon, more American tourists might just go on permanent vacations.

Brad Edward White's column appears on alternative Wednesdays.

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