Christine Flowers Defends U.S. Citizenship in New York Times

Philadelphia columnist and lawyer Christine Flowers tells a man renouncing his citizenship for tax reasons to just go, already.

A week ago, the New York Times published an op-ed by Jonathan Tepper titled “Why I’m Giving Up My Passport.” The economist, who insists he is “not a tycoon”, says tax laws are too onerous for him to continue being a citizen.

“If America makes it so difficult to be American, I’ll happily just be British,” he wrote. Tepper has spent just eight of his 38 years living in the U.S. and has voted in only one presidential election, so it doesn’t seem like that much of a loss for the country.

Yesterday, responding to the article was none other than local columnist and lawyer Christine Flowers, who actually opens her two-paragraph letter with a Peggy Noonan-style personal anecdote.

Life is filled with ironies. Stopping by a Starbucks after a hearing in immigration court, I opened up the paper and read the essay by Jonathan Tepper explaining that he was renouncing his United States citizenship because of tax filing requirements. At a cerebral level, I could appreciate if not agree with his fiscal reasons for relinquishing his passport.

But after having seen the packed courtroom of immigrants, some of whom had literally risked life and limb to come to this country, I found Mr. Tepper’s reasons to be anemic, narrowly focused on economics and the antithesis of what it means to be American. If the tax implications of being an expatriate are of such profound importance to the writer, I think he is making the right decision.

So: Feel free to go, pretty much! I thought trying to pay less in taxes was exactly what it means to be an American, but I see Flowers has a point here, too.