Glen Lee Roberts, a real life “Man Without a Country,” is an author, activist and Internet pioneer who has built a successful network of websites focused mainly on the Americas and featuring self-empowerment, social networking and cultural reporting. He also runs a publishing website that can be found at www.NimbleWisdom.com. Roberts well-received book, “How to Renounce your U.S. Citizenship in Two Easy Steps,” is part of a special bonus package offered as part of the “SurviveShemitah.com” subscription offer issued by TDV and is also available to all current TDV subscribers for free. His personal blog / rant is at: glr.com
TDV: Why don’t you begin by explaining why you wrote the book about renouncing and what the reaction has been ….
GR: The main reason I wrote the book, “How to Renounce your U.S. Citizenship in Two Easy Steps,” was because my experience contrasted much of the information which is published on the topic.
Most of the articles I see, describe the process as one that is complicated, difficult, and something that US Government tries stop you from doing. The fact is it is a simple, straightforward process. There are practically no requirements. Simply that you do it intentionally and voluntarily, outside the US, and pay a fee of $2,350.
However, that price is probably very small compared to the cost of being an American for a year, two years, or a couple of decades!
Of course, one of the complicated issues is that of taxes. However, the actual renunciation process is not about taxes. There are no tax questions. No tax requirements. After you’ve renounced, and are no longer a US citizen. Of course, you may have a much more complicated final return to file. [Editor’s Note: If you are going to renounce your citizenship and may have major tax issues contact TDV Offshore to see if there are legal ways to limit your tax upon exit] You may also have an “exit tax” to pay. However, all of that comes after you are no longer a US citizen. The State Department doesn’t care if you are a pauper, a millionaire, owe a billion dollars in back taxes or not.
Now, I think if you compare the complexity of your final return with the US to the annual reporting and filing requirements for the rest of your life as an American, it is probably not so complicated or expensive afterwards.
My book provides a description of the process as I went through it as well as the State Department’s internal manual for embassy personnel who handle the paperwork. By reading both “sides,” you should realize it is a routine paperwork process and the people in the embassy are not concerned about your issues. Once you complete the process you’ll be disconnected from the U.S. and can get on with your life apart from all those burdens.
TDV: There was a poll recently that stated that up to 30 percent or more of US citizens were interested in emigrating if they could (leaving the US). It’s not clear whether that involves giving up citizenship, but the point is that there seems to be good deal of pent up demand regarding emigration. Why is that, do you think and in terms of percentages, how many people do you think are interested in giving up their US citizenship if they had the money and the opportunity to do so?
GR: Unfortunately, a lot of people seem to be looking at it from the perspective of being angry. They are angry with the US for whatever reason and see renunciation as the solution. I think that is a bad reason. The reason to renounce is because you feel it will improve your life. That cutting the cord to “Big Brother” will leave you to experience life without those burdens.
TDV: Good point about taking action for positive not negative reasons. But give us a little bit of your own background and what drove you to leave. Was it positive for you or were you driven by some level of irritation or indifference as well?
GR: First of all, basically during my entire adult life (in the US) I was in conflict with the US government (as well as local and state authorities). I published an independent magazine focusing on issues of privacy, surveillance, governmental abuses, etc. I started doing that very young.
My leaving the United States was basically a series of vacations that got progressively longer. The last one started in Feb 2003, and I haven’t returned to the US since. When I left the US in Feb 2003, my plans had been to spend a month or two in Costa Rica and then a month or two in the US. Back and forth like that.
However, my stress levels simply went way down, I wasn’t bombarded with television newscasts, and life in the US simply became uninteresting. I started visiting other parts of Latin America, Panama, Peru, Colombia and later farther south.
After 10-plus years of living outside the US, I had become emotionally disconnected from it. So, it seemed silly to keep the legal and spiritual ties… to keep the burden of being an American on my back any longer.
I could have easily, in the first year of being outside the US, gone into the US embassy and said something like, “f– you idiots. You and your lousy country can stuff it. I renounce!” However, I think that would have resulted in a difficult life for me, as I hadn’t shifted out of the US mindset yet and would have had more emotional issues regarding the severance.
TDV: We should point out another reason for you leaving as we understand it. And that was because as one of the first Internet privacy experts, you published a list of social security numbers of all the top Pentagon brass. You ended up on President Reagan’s personal “watch” list… and a target of the Pentagon as well..
GR: Well, there is so much of that it would take a book or two to cover it all. With Reagan it was because I was interested in the FISC (now big news because of Snowden). With the military, I published a list of about 4,500 social security numbers, including many (if not all) of the top brass. Actually, I should say, I reprinted the list. It was first published by the US Senate (at the direction of the President) in the US Congressional Record.
So, I reprinted, selected portions of one of the world’s most public documents and about 1½ year after Time Magazine published an article about it, the US Military got wind of it and weren’t any too pleased.
An important issue for me, now that I have been outside the US for over a decade and out of that drama for as long, is that I see the same issues that I had been looking at one, two or three decades ago are hot news. Everyone is up in arms about the stuff, but nothing is changing. I am glad to be outside of that endless circle of drama.
TDV: Don’t blame you. I don’t even go to the US anymore for many of the same reasons. Give us some sense of how renunciation has had an impact on you financially and also why you decided to renounce without becoming the citizen of another state. You’ve chosen to remain stateless and live in Paraguay. [Editor’s Note: Glen is a member of our subscriber’s only TDV Group in Paraguay should you wish to communicate with him and many other expats there] Potentially, you can travel in South America because of the Mercosur arrangement but not elsewhere….
GR: Renunciation on the financial level means I am not tied to the US tax system, and am free from the financial as well as the emotional burden of that. In some ways, it may be more expensive. For example, when Amazon sells my books, they withhold 30% tax for the US. However, I am not part of that. Amazon, withholds it, pays the IRS and sends me a notice at the end of the year. That is the end of my involvement in the matter.
I suppose as an American, I would pay less tax on those earnings. For income I earn outside the US, then my taxes are based on where that income is earned and where I live. A much more stress free situation than that imposed by the US.
One of the issues of being American is allegiance to the United States. That was an allegiance that was foisted upon me by my place of birth, not because of a voluntary desire to be an “American”. It seems odd that a country based on the concept of “liberty” involuntarily binds people to it.
The travel issues are not so important to me at the moment. To take up a second citizenship, would mean taking an allegiance to another country. The difference would be of course that such allegiance would be voluntary. I would be choosing to support all the actions of my new country. I would be bound to that country financially, physically, emotionally and spiritually. I’m not convinced there is a country that I would forego my free will on behalf of in that manner.
TDV: Back to financial issues. Simply from a numbers perspective, are you better off financially because of your renunciation?
GR: No doubt, but that is certainly not the only way to measure the “success” of my action. Cutting the cords that had me tied to the beast is what is important. Being free from the burden of being American. And, though many might equate “burden” to financial issues, it is much more than that. It is like carrying around a sack of bricks on your back.
Being in part responsible for the CIA torturing people around the world, being harassed by financial institutions trying to open or maintain an account, being a target for terrorists because of your passport, having a black cloud hanging over your head for years after each tax return you file (in cause big brother finds something wrong with it years down the road), and an endless list of non-financial related issues … Being treated a certain way by others around the world because of how they view the United States. It could be better (or worse) treatment, but based on their view of the US rather than you individually.
TDV: You’re bringing up a big issue here. Tell us how FATCA is having an impact on US expats.
GR: It has no impact on me. A couple of banks informed me that I needed to provide them information for FATCA. I presented them with a copy of my “Certificate of Loss of Nationality of the United States”, and that was the end of it.
However, the list of banks that have registered with the IRS for FATCA is very long (you can search or download the list from IRS.gov). I think in every country of the world, expats can find banks that participate in that program. Though, rarely do you read anything outside of the negative.
Now, I have nothing positive to say about the rules and regulations of FATCA. However, for an individual expat, it is really nothing more than providing a little info to your bank so they can report your accounts to the IRS (something you have been obligated to report on yourself since the 1970s, subject to significant penalties).
TDV: OK, Thanks for the insights from a “stateless” point of view. I guess our takeaway is that the actual act of renunciation is a lot less stressful than it’s made out to be. And the financial ramifications in the long term may be positive. There’s a lot of other information in the book we haven’t gone into and we’d recommend people give it a read. Additionally you’ve written a book about bitcoin and as an Internet publisher you maintain a publishing website where people can find your books and others too. It’s called NimbleWisdom.com. Some of your books are on Amazon.
GR: Yes, you can visit Amazon or NimbleWisdom.com. And at NimbleWisdom you can pay by bitcoin.
TDV: Excellent, than you for your service and thanks for sitting down with us.
GR: You’re welcome.
Glen Roberts’ point of view is interesting, especially because he is one of those rare individuals who “lives” his convictions. Believing he would be happier without a country, he took action to make it so by giving up his US citizenship. He says he’s happier without the burden of knowing he is affiliated with many of the questionable and often aggressive activities of his former country.
He’s wary of the US generally as it is evolving in the modern era, and that’s one reason he’s chosen to live outside of his former homeland. The way he’s positioned himself corresponds to much that we recommend as we approach the fall and the various disasters we see lurking there. Roberts has taken action to sever ties with the West, and has no legal or tax obligations. The various bank laws that are becoming more complex and troublesome for Americans don’t apply to him. Glen may not be ‘free,’ but if our Shemitah theory comes to pass in a powerful way (see our video on that here), he’s a good deal less vulnerable than many.
When you subscribe to our special “Survive Shemitah” newsletter package, you’ll receive Glen’s book on “How to Renounce your U.S. Citizenship in Two Easy Steps.” It’s packed full of information and wisdom you’ll find useful whether or not you wish to sever your US citizenship (get more information and subscribe here).
The above information and opinions in the interview are Glen Robert’s; those affiliated with this interview and its presentation may or may not have involvement with Mr. Roberts or his businesses.