Senators Target Facebook Co-Founder Eduardo Saverin for Giving Up Citizenship, Seek to Impose Taxes
Two top senators went after Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin Thursday over his decision to renounce U.S. citizenship, unveiling a proposal they claim would bar him -- or anyone -- from de-friending the United States in order to avoid taxes.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who unveiled the proposal alongside Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., said their so-called "Ex-Patriot Act" would subject high-earning ex-Americans to a steep capital gains tax.
The bill was their answer to the move by Saverin last year to renounce his citizenship and move to Singapore. The decision, made public in a recently released IRS list, came ahead of Facebook's initial public offering, and fueled speculation that Saverin cut ties with America in order to cut down his tax bill. Singapore does not impose capital gains taxes.
"Saverin has turned his back on the country that welcomed and kept him safe, educated him and helped him become a billionaire," Schumer said. "This is a great American success story gone horribly wrong."
Saverin, though, staunchly defended himself in a written statement Thursday. In a reference to the so-called "exit tax" those who renounce their citizenship pay, he said "I am obligated to and will pay hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes to the United States government."
He added: "I have paid and will continue to pay any taxes due on everything I earned while a U.S. citizen. It is unfortunate that my personal choice has led to a public debate, based not on the facts, but entirely on speculation and misinformation."
The Capitol Hill proposal could also have repercussions far beyond Saverin's portfolio. According to a 2011 report by the Taxpayer Advocate Service, about 4,000 people renounced their citizenship between fiscal 2005 and 2010, with the pace of renunciations increasingly rapidly in recent years.
The Schumer/Casey proposal would put the burden on anyone who renounces their citizenship to prove they didn't do it for tax avoidance purposes. If they can't prove that, Schumer said, the proposal would impose a 30 percent capital gains tax on future investment earnings -- for those who have a $2 million net worth or have had an average income tax liability of at least $148,000 in recent years.