Keeping America Safe from...Cigars
One of the responsibilities that must keep President Obama awake at night is to keep track of exactly who America’s enemies really are. Fortunately, he has a government agency to rely on for that purpose—the intrepid bureaucrats at the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.
As soon as a president officially declares that a specific country, regime, political party, or small innocuous object on the edge of a galaxy is an enemy, OFAC springs into action. According to the OFAC Web site,
“The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the US Department of the Treasury administers and enforces economic and trade sanctions based on U.S. foreign policy and national security goals against targeted foreign countries and regimes, terrorists, international narcotics traffickers, those engaged in activities related to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and other threats to the national security, foreign policy or economy of the United States. OFAC acts under Presidential national emergency powers, as well as authority granted by specific legislation, to impose controls on transactions and freeze assets under US jurisdiction. Many of the sanctions are based on United Nations and other international mandates, are multilateral in scope, and involve close cooperation with allied governments.”
Yes, and that explains why OFAC has declared war on what is surely the gravest threat that faces the United States today—Cuban cigars. OFAC has now thoughtfully reminded us that it’s illegal to import Cuban cigars into the United States. That’s been true for 50 years now, ever since President Kennedy declared a trade embargo against Cuba. Kennedy was no dummy, either—he sent out aides to purchase a stockpile of more than 1,000 Cuban cigars the day before the embargo went into effect, Feb. 6, 1961.
In any event, OFAC has released guidance to the effect that,
“The number of attempted importations of Cuban cigars into the United States is rising and because dealing in such cigars may lead to Treasury enforcement actions, the public should be aware of — and make every effort to observe — the prohibitions which are in effect…. It is also illegal for U.S. persons to buy, sell, trade, or otherwise engage in transactions involving illegally-imported Cuban cigars. The penalties for doing so include, in addition to confiscation of the cigars, civil fines of up to $55,000 per violation and in appropriate cases, criminal prosecution which may result in higher fines and/or imprisonment.”
So, let’s say that you’re a U.S. citizen vacationing in, say, Mexico. You come across a tobacco shop that sells Cuban cigars. After asking the owner for his recommendation, you pick out two cigars and pay for them. You have no intention of importing them into the United States, but instead plan to smoke them over the next few hours over a shot or two of Tequila.
Well, well. You’re in a heap of trouble, boy!
According to OFAC,
“The question is often asked whether U.S. citizens or permanent resident aliens … may legally purchase Cuban origin goods, including tobacco and alcohol products, in a third country for personal use outside the United States. The answer is no…The prohibition extends to cigars manufactured in Cuba and sold in a third country and to cigars manufactured in a third country from tobacco grown in Cuba.”
In other words, your Cuban cigar smoke break outside the United States could subject you to a $55,000 fine, plus possible criminal penalties.
If you think this is ridiculous, you’re not alone. But, it is the law. Just keep your mouth shut about smoking Cuban cigars, imbibing North Korean oysters, or drinking Iranian wine when you return to the United States.
And, if you’re tired of dealing with petty tyrants enforcing obsolete and unnecessary laws, consider the example of my friend and colleague P.T. Freeman. P.T., a former U.S. citizen, is now a citizen of the Commonwealth of Dominica. He can (and does) legally purchase and smoke cigars from any country he wishes, including Cuba.
More fundamentally, he’s no longer subject to U.S. jurisdiction. That means he has no longer has any obligation to pay U.S. tax on his worldwide income. It also means that he’s not subject to the plethora of police-state legislation imposed to fight America’s many enemies. Nor will he be drafted for military service in some future undeclared war.
Expatriation–following P.T.’s example– is the only way that a U.S. citizen can legally stop paying taxes. Or smoke a Cuban cigar, for that matter, at least legally. Expatriation is a big decision, because it requires that you obtain a second citizenship and passport, and subsequently give up your U.S. citizenship and passport. You must also be prepared to live permanently outside the United States, although it’s almost always possible to come back for visits.
The Nestmann Group, Ltd. can help with the entire process—from acquisition of a second passport to booking an appointment at a suitable consulate to formally end U.S. citizenship. Contact us today to set up a consultation.
Copyright © 2012 by Mark Nestmann
P.S. If you’d like to hear P.T. Freeman speak about his life as an expatriate, tune in on Friday afternoons at 16.00 EDT to his show on the Overseas Radio Network. I’m his interview guest this week, and we’ll be discussing second passports, expatriation, and many other topics. Don’t miss it!
About Mark Nestmann
Mark Nestmann Archive
|05/01/2013||Fractional Reserve Banking: It’s Not Your Money… You Only Think It Is!||story|
|01/28/2013||Switzerland Gets It||story|
|01/10/2013||Feds Delay 30% Withholding on Outbound Capital Transfers—Again||story|
|01/04/2013||French Government Chastises Its Latest Tax Exile||story|
|10/23/2012||(Somewhat) Good News for U.S. Citizens Seeking Offshore Banking Solutions||story|
|09/14/2012||Understanding the Rules Before You Transport Precious Metals Oversees Part 2||story|
|09/12/2012||Understanding the Rules Before You Transport Precious Metals Oversees Part 1||story|
|07/30/2012||Blowback from U.S. Role as Global Tax Cop||story|
|06/18/2012||Iceland’s Example Points to European Exchange Controls||story|
|06/14/2012||IRS Withholds Foreign Investor’s Tax-Free Income at 30%||story|