Survey Reveals US Expat Dissatisfaction With Government Representation; Result of 2016 Presidential Election Cited as Major Factor in Decisions to Renounce Citizenship

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Annual survey conducted by Greenback Expat Tax Services highlights impact US expats could have had on 2016 presidential election result as their dissatisfaction with US government continues to grow

Greenback Expat Tax Services

Greenback Expat Tax Services

Government leaders should be equally taking into account the interests of all Americans, regardless of where they’re currently living and working, not just because it’s the right thing to do— the expat voice is strong enough to sway an election.

With an estimated 9 million Americans living and working abroad, the US expat population is substantial and continually growing. A recent survey found that this group overwhelmingly feels the US government ignores their interests and larger numbers are considering or planning renunciation of their US citizenship.

Greenback Expat Tax Services—a leading professional service provider of US expat tax return preparation—seeks to uncover the sentiments of US citizens overseas via its annual US Expat Opinion Survey, which was held for 5 weeks in March and April 2017. Greenback surveyed more than 2,100 qualified US expats, aiming to gather opinions representative of the group and advocate for the interests of all Americans living abroad.

In last year’s survey, over 73% of expats said they intended to vote in the then-upcoming 2016 presidential election, but in 2017, only 64% reported actually having voted. Of those who didn’t vote, 36% said it was because they didn’t feel any candidate represented their interests. This number is markedly up from 26% in 2016 and 8% in 2015, which suggests that those who didn’t vote in the 2012 presidential election may have been more inclined to vote in 2016 had a candidate actively and adequately addressed their concerns. By extension, it stands to reason that the drop in expat turnout may have had a material impact on the result of the 2016 election.

“US expats make up a significant number of the US population—to put it into perspective, the number of US expats around the world is larger than the combined populations of Washington D.C., plus the nine smallest US states. Despite that fact, they aren’t afforded the same advantages, like congressional representation or chosen electors. Their needs are consistently overlooked by our government,” said David McKeegan, co-founder of Greenback Expat Tax Services. “This highly opinionated yet underrepresented group of Americans living abroad has been increasingly disappointed with the direction of US politics and could very well have tipped the scale in the 2016 election if they’d felt their concerns were at all taken into account.”

Reports have shown that in the last quarter of 2016—the time period coinciding with the election of Donald Trump to the US Presidency—nearly double the amount of people renounced their citizenship as compared to the same period in 2015. Greenback survey data provides further evidence that expats aren’t, at large, enamored of Donald Trump.

43% of survey respondents said though they aren’t planning to renounce their citizenship at the moment, they wouldn’t rule it out; 19% said they are seriously considering renunciation but haven’t made a decision yet; and 5% said they are planning to renounce. When asked how the result of the 2016 presidential election affected their thoughts on renouncing their US citizenship, 18% cited it as a major factor contributing to their decision to renounce, and 48% said it had made them somewhat more likely to renounce.

For the third year in a row, the survey found that the vast majority of expats don’t feel their interests are fairly represented by the US government—88% to be exact, a 5% increase over last year. Though extremely unsatisfied with their lack of representation, they’re still required to pay taxes as though their needs are being addressed. As one survey respondent put it, “Expats only exist for one day a year—April 15.”

Unquestionably, burdensome tax obligations and regulations are the major pain points for expats. When asked what single issue they would most like to see government address on their behalf, expats cited the following top three concerns: repeal citizenship-based taxation (59%), simplify the tax filing process (20%) and increase the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion and other deductions/credits to lower the tax burden (8%).

“This year’s survey once again reinforces the fact that only a small percentage of Americans abroad feel their needs are acknowledged and advocated for. That perception, plus the strain that comes with onerous expat tax obligations, makes renouncing citizenship a desirable option for many,” said McKeegan. “Government leaders should be equally taking into account the interests of all Americans, regardless of where they’re currently living and working, not just because it’s the right thing to do— the expat voice is strong enough to sway an election. Those planning to run in 2020 would be smart to take note.”

To receive a copy of the 2017 US Expat Opinion Survey Executive Summary and other survey assets, or to schedule an interview with David McKeegan, please contact

More About Greenback Expat Tax Services

Greenback Expat Tax Services makes life better for Americans living abroad by aiming to take away the anxiety and hassle surrounding US expat taxes. Greenback understands that filing US taxes while overseas can be daunting, but Greenback was founded on the belief that it doesn't have to be that way. Greenback's expat-expert CPAs and IRS Enrolled Agents help expats navigate a complex system in a way that makes sense for their individual situation. Contact us at info(at)greenbacktaxservices(dot)com. You can also visit us at

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Carrie McKeegan
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