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It wasn’t the fall that killed him. It was the ground.

May 14, 2012

I’d been trying to wrap my head around this story from last week:

Facebook Co-Founder Saverin Gives Up U.S. Citizenship Before IPO

Eduardo Saverin, the billionaire co-founder of Facebook Inc. (FB), renounced his U.S. citizenship before an initial public offering that values the social network at as much as $96 billion, a move that may reduce his tax bill.

.. “Eduardo recently found it more practical to become a resident of Singapore since he plans to live there for an indefinite period of time,” said Tom Goodman, a spokesman for Saverin, in an e-mailed statement.

Facebook plans to raise as much as $11.8 billion through the IPO, the biggest in history for an Internet company. Saverin’s stake is about 4 percent, according to the website Who Owns Facebook. At the high end of the IPO valuation, that would be worth about $3.84 billion. His holdings aren’t listed in Facebook’s regulatory filings.

Dear God, what’s the tax liability on that? And is it worth moving to Singapore just to avoid it?

Well, duh. Singapore’s not exactly a one-mule dirt track with a couple of hovels and a puddle. But…to renounce your citizenship? Does it really take something that drastic?

Yeah, apparently it does:

Eduardo Saverin, the Facebook co-founder who gave up his U.S. citizenship, has nothing against the U.S., just its complicated rules on U.S. citizens holding money overseas, a spokesman said.

Mr. Saverin, who now lives in Singapore, decided last year to renounce his U.S. citizenship, a decision that was made public a few days ago. The move sparked an outcry among some tax experts who suspect he’s aiming to save on taxes. Although Mr. Saverin will have to pay a hefty exit tax for renouncing his citizenship

Kinda like the phone company telling me to deposit twenty-five more cents after I’ve hung up the pay phone, sounds like.

…based on some calculation of his assets, Singapore is a relatively low-tax jurisdiction, particularly for foreign investors, and does not levy capital gains tax. Thus he could save in the longer term.

So the tax situation is, in fact, better. But:

Saverin spokesman Tom Goodman said Sunday his renunciation was prompted not by tax considerations but by U.S. rules that make it more difficult for U.S. citizens to live and invest overseas.

“U.S. citizens are severely restricted as to what they can invest in and where they can maintain accounts,” said spokesman Tom Goodman. “Many foreign funds and banks won’t accept Americans. This was a financial rather than a tax motive.”

Well that’s a relief. It wasn’t the taxes that made him leave: it was just all the dang rules.

One more thing: check out this little tidbit I found while doing my usual 5 minutes of internet research:

Donald Marron at the Tax Policy Center reminds us that taxes on capital gains are scheduled to increase in 2013, whether the Bush tax cuts are extended or not. He points out that the Democratic health reform law also contains a little noticed tax hike on the investment income for wealthy Americans that will take effect on Jan. 1, adding 3.8 percent to the capital gains tax rate, which is currently 15 percent. Then, if the Bush tax cuts aren’t extended, the regular capital gains rate will rise to 20 percent, and another obscure provision will reduce the value of itemized deductions, adding 1.2 percent. The total effective rate on capital gains would then be 25 percent.

It almost makes you glad you aren’t rich. Almost.

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