Taxation for the Other Guy’s Representation

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Our United States of America was forged in the flame of tax protest. As early as 1750, our Founding Fathers objected that taxation without representation is tyranny. In 1776, the Declaration of Independence condemned King George III for assenting to Parliament’s laws that “impose Taxes on us without our Consent.” So is it any surprise the anti-tax movement that gained steam after the 2008 recession took its name from the patriots who dumped a shipload of tea into Boston Harbor rather than pay the Townshend Act duties?

In the two centuries since we traded “God Save the Queen” for “Hail to the Chief,” the U.K. has become one of our closest allies. But we Yanks still chafe at paying British taxes. Most recently, the Mayor of London says our diplomats owe £7 million in “congestion charges” on their vehicles in Central London. But our Embassy considers that a tax, argues that our diplomats are immune, and refuses to pay.

It’s ironic, then, that same Mayor is protesting an American tax on the sale of his London home.

Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson was educated at Eton and Oxford. (Where else does a Brit with a name like “Alexander Boris de Pfeffel” go to school?) He began his career as a reporter, columnist, and editor for The Times, the Daily Telegraph, and the Spectator. He then turned his sights towards politics, serving as Member of Parliament for the constituency of Henley and rising to Shadow Minister for Higher Education. He’s served as Mayor since 2008, and there’s even talk of him succeeding Prime Minister David Cameron as head of the Conservative Party.

So why on earth would Johnson attract attention from tax authorities on our side of the pond? Well, he was born in New York City, when his English father was studying on a Harkness Fellowship, and lived there until age 5. This means he holds dual American and United Kingdom citizenship. And that, in turn, makes him subject to U.S. tax on all his worldwide income, wherever earned.

Back in 1999, Johnson and his wife paid £470,000 for a house on Furlong Road in the London suburb of Islington. (That’s about $750,000 at today’s exchange rate.) Since then, London real estate prices have shot through the roof, and in 2009, they sold the house for a £730,000 profit. Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs doesn’t tax home sale gains, but the IRS taxes anything above a $500,000 allowance. The bottom line on Johnson’s gain is a six-figure tax bill in eithercurrency.

Naturally, Johnson is unamused. An NPR correspondent recently asked him point-blank if he would pay, and he literally sputtered: “No, is the answer. I think, it’s absolutely outrageous. Why should I? I think, you know, I’m not a — I, you know, I haven’t lived in the United States for, you know, well, since I was 5 years old.”

That may not be the only tax issue lurking in Johnson’s past. He earns £144,000 per year as Mayor, plus another £250,000 as columnist for the Telegraph.

Theoretically, he should be paying U.S. tax on everything above a “foreign earned income exclusion” of about £62,000. No word on whether he’s been paying all these years, or whether our friends at the IRS want to confront that sticky wicket.

So, 239 years after “the shot heard ’round the world” launched the American Experiment, tax collectors on both sides of the Atlantic think it’s jolly good sport to reach into each other’s pockets. The good news is, no matter where you’re paying, if you want to pay less, you just need a plan. If you don’t already have that plan, call us at (773) 728-1500, while there’s still time to save in 2014!