The 5 most famous people to renounce US citizenship

Dateline: Manila, Philippines

Thousands of people renounced their US citizenship last year. In fact, citizenship renunciations reached record levels. And the Federal Register, where so-called “covered expatriates” are listed, doesn’t even list the majority of those who renounce US citizenship.

While renunciation levels have reached record levels now, there have been a number of famous people who have handed in their passport and renounced their citizenship over the years. Here are a few of the most famous celebrities to renounce their US passports.

5. Yul Brynner

The famous Russian actor was a dual citizen of Switzerland and the The Land of the Free, living outside of the US for most of his adult life. Yul Brynner claimed tax-exempt status in the US by working on short projects that didn’t subject him to US tax law. However, the government eventually caught up with him and threatened to bankrupt him with penalties on fees for “overstaying”. In order to escape, he renounced US citizenship.

4. Denise Rich

Denise Rich is the ex-wife of billionaire Marc Rich, who received one of the last minute pardons from the Clinton administration. The issue became a source of controversy when it was discovered Rich had made contributions to Clinton-related projects. She renounced US citizenship in 2011 in order to take up Austrian citizenship; her father was a wealthy shoe manufacturer from Austria.

Rich gave up her citizenship in London, where she moved in preparation for her renunciation. According to Reuters, the move saved her tens of millions of dollars.

3. Jet Li

Li Lianjie, better known by his English stage name Jet Li, was born in Beijing, but applied for and received US citizenship after extended stints working in the United States. Li, who was originally thought to be killed by a 2004 tsunami while vacationing in the Maldives, escaped unscathed. In 2009, Li was said to renounce US citizenship, presumably to take up Singaporean citizenship.

After an initial delay, it was confirmed that Jet Li has become a citizen of Singapore, choosing the jurisdiction for its excellent education system for his two young daughters. Singapore does not allow dual citizenship, which means Li’s Chinese citizenship would have had to been relinquished, as well.

2. Eduardo Saverin

The protagonist of the hit movie The Social Network, Eduardo Saverin is one of the five creators of Facebook and was born in Brazil to Brazilian parents. By the time he was eleven, Saverin’s father had become wealthy and Eduardo was believed to be a target for kidnapping. In response to fears regarding this, the Saverin family moved to Miami and Eduardo eventually became a US citizen. In 2009, after settling a bitter legal battle with Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, Saverin moved to Singapore.

Two years later, he became a Singaporean citizen and — as required by the city-state — renounced his US citizenship. His renunciation prompted US Senator Chuck Schumer to fly into a tirade and propose the “Ex-PATRIOT Act”, which would bar former US citizen “tax avoiders” from re-entering the country and impose new tax rules. Schumer claimed that “America [made] Saverin” successful; it couldn’t have come from living most of his childhood in another country with a wealthy businessman father. Despite his renunciation, Saverin still paid hundreds of millions in US taxes.

1. Tina Turner

After living in Switzerland for twenty years, Tina Turner decided to renounce US citizenship. Switzerland is a rather difficult country to become a naturalized citizen of, requiring twelve years of residency and sometimes even a local democratic process. Earlier this month, an “activity report” from the US consulate in Bern, Switzerland, indicated that Tina Turner signed a voluntary “relinquishment” of her US citizenship, rather than formally renouncing US citizenship.

It has been suggested that she intended to use this process to avoid paying the exit tax on “covered expatriates” after taking Swiss nationality — a move that riled up “tax justice”-minded Americans. However, Tina will likely be disappointed when she still gets a big tax bill.

The choice to renounce US citizenship

There are scores of other successful Americans who have renounced their US citizenship, including financial guru John Templeton, who avoided $100 million in estate taxes by renouncing US citizenship to become a citizen of the Bahamas. He ultimately gave that saved money to charity, which earned him Knight Bachelor status from the Queen.

At least the money went to a better cause than the black hole that is the US government.

Are these renunciants tax traitors or justified expats? Have you ever considered the possibility that you could renounce US citizenship? An increasingly heavy tax burden is placed on the shoulders of the wealthy in the United States and just going offshore won’t relieve you entirely of that burden. Which is why so many have realized that their only way out is to renounce US citizenship.

To learn what happens if you renounce your US citizenship, you can learn more here. To learn what tax benefits you can receive by going offshore and whether you qualify, read here. If you want a one-on-one consultation to design a personal blueprint for you and your business, apply for a consultation and see just how much you can save by taking yourself and your business overseas, whether you renounce US citizenship or not.

Andrew Henderson
Last updated: May 15, 2020 at 11:55AM

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4 Comments

  1. SwissTechie

    For around 5 hundred years, wealthy individuals migrated to America and no American ever said anything. Yet, now, if a wealthy individual wants to leave the US, for any reason, then suddenly a bunch of Americans start talking about taxes. Yet, none of these tax-talking Americans ever talked about the taxes when wealthy people moved to the US. So, the problem is not the movement patterns of the wealthy, but rather the bigotry of certain individuals who want for the wealthy to come but not to go.

    As such, I don’t find that it is just to accuse migrants of being “tax cheats” because of their money. Instead, it would make more sense to focus on making one’s location an attractive destination for migrants.

    • Andrew Henderson

      Thanks for your comments. You’re absolutely right.

    • kurt9

      No shit. Singapore apparently has no problem attracting the investment capital of those who give up U.S. citizenship. Perhaps the politicos in the U.S. ought to think about making the U.S. as attractive for investment capital as Singapore. Then there would be no problem.

      • Andrew Henderson

        Yes, Singapore does know how to attract quality people. You’re right; rather than having a knee-jerk reaction to peoples’ “unpatriotic” complaints, the US and other bankrupt countries should learn a lesson.

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