Apparently - a lot. Much to my suprise, this week's news stories revealed that American icon Tina Turner is turning Swiss. Switzerland - though a truly beautiful country and recently declared the best places to have a child in 2013 - is not where I expect to find one of America's most beloved singers.
Turner's petition for Swiss citizenship was recently approved by her local council after she passed a civics andlanguage test, and interview. The decision still requires approval from state and federal authorities, but Tina Turner is well on her way to becoming a Swiss citizen. She has been living in the Zurich suburb of Kuesnacht since 1995 with her longtime manager and partner, German record executive Erwin Bach. Turner told the German newspaper, Blick,
"I'm very happy in Switzerland and I feel at home here. I cannot imagine a better place to live."
This living legend became known in the 1960s with her husband, Ike, as a member of the Ike & Tina Turner Revue. The two found success with their songs "River Deep – Mountain High" and "Proud Mary". But beneath the glamorous surface the pair were engaged in an ugly cycle of domestic abuse that was heartbreakingly chronicled in her autobiography, I, Tina after their 1976 split. The tiny dynamo rebuilt her solo career with hits like "What's Love Got to Do with It" (also the name of the 1993 film based on her life). Turner became one of the world's most popular entertainers, winning 8 Grammys and selling more concert tickets than any other solo performer in history.
At 73 years old, the woman continues to rock. Here she is performing "Proud Mary" at her 50th Anniversary Tour:
As a cultural icon, it's easy to see why Americans are sad to lose Tina. However, there is someone else that is even more interested in Turner's departure - the IRS (U.S. government agency responsible for tax collection & enforcement). Tina is not simply seeking to become a citizen of Switzerland; she is also renouncing her American citizenship. Though both countries would allow dual citizenship, many believe the star is making this move to avoid the double taxation placed on American expatriates.
She is not alone. It's believed that thousands of Americans have taken the step of giving up their citizenship because of what they consider to be unjust tax practices. The U.S. is the world’s only industrialized nation that taxes citizens who live overseas, even if their income is generated in a foreign country and they never return to America. This is essentially double taxation as expats still need to pay income taxes in their countries of residence. The law affects superstars like Tina Turner, and many expat Americans. Expatriates can claim a $97,000 exclusion on their U.S. taxes, but this doesn't help many high earning expats, especially those in countries with a high cost of living and increased salary. Even if it is not a matter of finance, the complex and frustrating process of filing taxes is enough to make some expats feel positively un-American.
In addition, the introduction of FATCA (as fully detailed in our article "New U.S. Law Concerning Reporting on Overseas Accounts" ) , passed in March 2010, has further infuriated expats. The law states:
The IRS now requires U.S. citizens -- who are considered foreign residents for the entire 2011 tax year or who are expats -- to file the new IRS Form 8938 if they have aggregate foreign assets of $200,000 on the last day for the year, or $300,000 at any time during the year. Those numbers increase to $400,000 and $600,000, respectively, for married filing jointly.
It's estimated that nearly 1,800 Americans relinquished their passports in 2011. This is a tiny percentage of the estimated 6 million U.S. citizens living abroad, but this number has increased sevenfold since 2008.
Whether simply for love, or for money, America is losing one of our favorite expats.
To hear more about this story and what steps Tina Turner is taking, listen to Bob Zanotti's piece on ExpatsRadio.com, "Tina Turner becomes Swiss". You can hear me chat with Peter about this story and many others on our new weekly audio segment with ExpatsRadio. You can also check out our weekly Expat Twitter Round-up published every Monday.
To find out more about how you may move abroad and become a citizen of another country, refer to our complete city guides with comprehensive information on visas and citizenship.