Does the Federal Budget Trump Constitutional Rights?

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See all articles by Laura Snyder

Laura Snyder

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

Date Written: March 28, 2024


Even though most American nationals living outside the United States do not owe U.S. federal income tax, the U.S. nationality-based income tax system nevertheless places considerable burdens on them. In doing so, the system violates Fourteenth Amendment equal protection as well as other constitutional and human rights.

The purpose of the system is not to raise revenue. Instead, its purpose is to punish and scapegoat American nationals living outside the United States, for no reason other than the fact that they live outside the United States. This is evidenced by the statements and actions of policymakers as well as by Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) data and the approach the IRS takes with respect to international taxpayers. The amounts collected by the system are insignificant, as compared both to income tax revenue from all individuals and to government spending.

Congress has abdicated to two unelected bodies—the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation—considerable power to determine the outcome of policy initiatives. If these bodies do not assign a positive budget score, the initiative is likely to die.

This has devastating consequences for reform of the U.S. nationality-based tax system. Reform is desperately needed. But, as long as a positive budget score is required, true reform—reform that will end the system’s violations of constitutional and other fundamental rights for all Americans—is impossible.

Should the federal budget trump constitutional and human rights? Should constitutional and human rights be protected only if and to the extent the initiative receives a positive budget score? When constitutional and human rights are at stake—such as equal protection before the law—should a budget score matter at all?

Surely the response to each of these questions must be no.

Keywords: Citizenship-based Taxation, Congressional Budget Office, Joint Committee on Taxation, Revenue Neutrality, Paygo, Budget Score, Individual Self-Determination, Equal Protection, Constitutional Rights, Human Rights

JEL Classification: D63, E52, E62, H24, K19, K34, K37

Suggested Citation

Snyder, Laura, Does the Federal Budget Trump Constitutional Rights? (March 28, 2024). Laura Snyder, "Does the Federal Budget Trump Constitutional Rights?," 52 Hofstra L. Rev. 389 (2024)., 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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