The Myths and Truths of Extraterritorial Taxation

120 Pages Posted: 29 Nov 2023

See all articles by Laura Snyder

Laura Snyder

Association of Americans Resident Overseas (AARO); Stop Extraterritorial American Taxation (SEAT)

Date Written: November 9, 2023


The 1924 U.S. Supreme Court decision Cook v. Tait is considered to underpin the U.S. extraterritorial tax system. It is cited with statements such as “it is settled law” that the U.S. Constitution permits the federal government to tax the worldwide income of nonresident U.S. citizens. But in the century since Cook was decided, both U.S. citizenship and the U.S. tax system have developed and expanded, as have our understandings of equal protection and human rights.

As compared to 1924, today many more overseas Americans are subjected to a nationality-based extraterritorial system that severely penalizes activities required to sustain modern life. The activities include owning a home, holding a bank account, investing and planning for retirement, operating a business, holding certain jobs, and pursuing community service opportunities. Neither U.S. residents (regardless of nationality) nor non-U.S. nationals residing overseas are subjected to such a penalizing system.

While Cook may hold that the federal government has the power to tax overseas Americans based upon their worldwide income, it is a myth that Cook allows the government to tax overseas Americans under any conditions, without any regard for the effects the policies have and in manners that violate their Constitutional and human rights.

Cook is ripe for revisiting. The U.S. extraterritorial tax system is unique in the world. Other countries offer examples of alternative systems that protect against tax abuse while also respecting fundamental rights.

Keywords: Citizenship-Based Taxation, Fourteenth Amendment, Equal Protection, Discrimination, Second-Class Citizenship, Human Rights, FATCA, FBAR, IRS, Exit Tax, Self-Determination, Departure Tax, Renunciation

JEL Classification: F54, F68, H20, H24, H25, H26, H30, H31, H87, J47, J61, J68, J71, J78, K30, K33, K34, K39

Suggested Citation

Snyder, Laura, The Myths and Truths of Extraterritorial Taxation (November 9, 2023). Laura Snyder, "The Myths and Truths of Extraterritorial Taxation," 32 Cornell J. L. Pub. Pol'y 185 (2022)., Available at SSRN:

Laura Snyder (Contact Author)

Association of Americans Resident Overseas (AARO) ( email )

4 rue de Chevreuse
Paris, 75006

Stop Extraterritorial American Taxation (SEAT) ( email )

Box 19602, Manulife P.O.
55 Bloor St. W.
Toronto, Ontario M4W 3T9

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