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“You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave!” Those are the chorus lyrics to Hotel California,” the haunting rock classic by the Eagles.

Americans who try “running for the door” – in the evocative words of Glenn Frey and the Dons Felder and Henley – soon discover that they “are all just prisoners here. …”

Prisoners of Uncle Sam’s device.

If he can tolerate TSA assaults as he departs the country, an American who chooses to live and work overseas cannot escape the Internal Revenue Service. The United States is perhaps the only country “to tax its citizens on income earned while they’re living abroad.”

To loss of privacy and property, add the prospect of prison – and you get why, as Reuters has reported, droves of Americans are “renouncing their U.S. citizenship or handing in their Green Cards.”

On pain of criminal charges and “penalties of up to $100,000 or 50 percent of undeclared accounts, whichever is larger,” the expatriate must report his own bank accounts and all conjoint accounts – a spouse, a client, or business partners.

The victims of this shakedown are residents who have foreign bank accounts (the Canadian equivalent of a small USA 401(k), in this scribe’s case), in addition to “an estimated 6.3 million U.S. citizens living abroad.” The aims of their pursuers, the IRS, are control and compliance. The rogue agency’s source of revenue, in this context, is derived primarily from penalties for forgetfulness or faulty filing.

All fear bankrupting fines, even imprisonment.

Due to the onerous burdens imposed by the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, foreign banks, as well as hedge and private equity funds, are closing American accounts. Barack Obama’s legislative baby (signed on March 18, 2010) is driving Americans abroad into banking under the mattress.

Swiss bankers, for instance, can no longer provide Americans with certain financial services, considered perfectly legal in Switzerland; American financial imperialism has insinuated itself into the financial hub that is Switzerland. While the USA hasn’t yet bombed Basel, American Über-bureaucrats have prosecuted the hell out of financial establishments such as UBS AG and its American clients, for flouting U.S. tax tyranny.

Writing in the April issue of Chronicles Magazine, Christopher Sandford, a naturalized American with investments abroad, describes his interactions with the Internal Revenue Service as akin to “dealing with a simultaneously incompetent and psychotically aggressive opponent … a chameleonic opponent of real cunning, which consistently kept [Sandford] off balance by conducting itself as a relentless and finely calibrated machine at one moment, and a barely coherent rabble at the next.”

“Think the IRS can’t send you to prison?” asks CBS’ “Survivor” winner Richard Hatch, in a timely television commercial. “The IRS sends people to prison, and they’re not celebrities. If you owe the IRS $10,000 or more, call for your free tax consultation NOW. Listen, I went to prison for over four years, and you don’t want to,” Hatch tells potential victims.

Befitting an arm of a highly evolved, technocratic, militarized Managerial State – a police state, by any other name – the IRS regularly criminalizes the actions of “non-compliant” victims, even though the alleged crime is, more often than not, unintentional. The “Rights of Englishmen,” bequeathed to the American Founders by their philosophical forbears, stipulated that there was to be no crime without intent.

Also unconstitutional is ex post facto (or retroactive) law. Yet the rogues at the IRS routinely change laws as they go and criminalize “actions that were legal when committed.”

Thomas Jefferson’s bar has been met. We live under tyranny, for as our father forewarned, “When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.”

I happen to know what living without freedom is like. I left South Africa with the proceeds from the sale of my apartment stashed in the soles of my shoes. Had I been apprehended smuggling private property – my own – out of that country, I’d have faced criminal prosecution together with my husband; we both stood taller on that trip.

Little did I know that my adopted home, the USA, had adopted similar practices. An American emigrant risks being fondled by TSA brutes, fleeced via an “exit tax,” and his name placed on a “name and shame” list.

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