Citizenship and Worldwide Taxation: Citizenship as an Administrable Proxy for Domicile

120 Pages Posted: 15 Oct 2010 Last revised: 8 Nov 2010

See all articles by Edward A. Zelinsky

Edward A. Zelinsky

Yeshiva University - Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law

Date Written: October 13, 2010


The United States’ worldwide taxation of its citizens is less different from international, residence-based norms than is widely believed and is sensible as a matter of tax policy. An individual’s citizenship is an administrable, if sometimes overly-broad, proxy for his domicile, his permanent home. Both citizenship and domicile measure an individual’s permanent allegiance rather than his immediate physical presence. Because citizenship and domicile resemble each other and because other nations often define residence for tax purposes as domicile, the U.S. system of citizenship-based taxation typically reaches the same results as the residence-based systems of these other nations, but reaches these results more efficiently by avoiding factually complex inquiries about domicile.

In contrast, the traditional justification of U.S. citizenship-based taxation, namely, the putative benefits of such citizenship, is not persuasive. In this context, three models of U.S. citizenship are relevant, namely, the minimalist model, the psychological model, and the Tiebout/purchase model. None of these models justify the worldwide taxation of U.S. citizens on a benefits basis. Rather, such taxation is persuasive because of administrative considerations, i.e., the close resemblance of domicile and citizenship which makes the latter an administrable proxy for the former.

Keywords: citizenship, citizenship-based taxation, residence-based taxation, worldwide taxation, foreign tax credit, Section 911 exclusion, Tiebout, domicile, resident, ordinarily resident, tax jurisdiction

Suggested Citation

Zelinsky, Edward A., Citizenship and Worldwide Taxation: Citizenship as an Administrable Proxy for Domicile (October 13, 2010). Iowa Law Review, Forthcoming, Cardozo Legal Studies Research Paper No. 314, Available at SSRN:

Edward A. Zelinsky (Contact Author)

Yeshiva University - Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law ( email )

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