Two hundred and forty one years ago, we declared our independence from Mother England — over taxes, of course. But here on our side of the pond, we’ve never completely lost our affection for all things British. We applauded as the Queen celebrated her 70th wedding anniversary. Netflix fans who just finished binge-watching Stranger Things are eagerly awaiting Season Two of The Crown. And now, we’ve learned that Prince Harry and his longtime girlfriend, actress Meghan Markle, are getting married in May.
Now, Harry may be just fifth in line for the throne, and about to be bumped down to sixth when Princess Kate gives birth to her third child next spring. But a royal wedding is still a Very Big Deal. There’s going to be lots of work to keep the couple knackered out for months to come. That includes a guest list, a gown, and flowers. And of course, there will tax questions, too.
Here’s the issue: Markle isn’t a Brit. She’s a Yank. Buckingham Palace has already announced that Markle will become a British citizen, which involves passing a test with questions like “What did the Statute of Rhuddlan in 1284 lay the basis for?” and, “Who or what is Vindolanda”? But that transition will certainly complicate her finances, and possibly the rest of the royal family’s, whether she says cheerio to her American citizenship or not.
Giving up her U.S. passport would be a simple but possibly pricey proposition. There’s no magic to it: you make an appointment at the nearest embassy, sign some forms, and take an Oath of Renunciation. There’s a $2,350 fee to process the paperwork, but that’s low enough that she could probably add it to her wedding registry and count on a generous Member of Parliament, or maybe a lesser Marchioness, to pick it up for her.
The real problem with expatriating is the bloody exit tax. If your net worth is over $2 million, or your average annual income for the five years before you leave tops $162,000, you’ll owe tax on any appreciated assets you own, calculated as if you had sold them on the day you leave. That could make it frightfully expensive to move into a palace!
Things get more complicated if Markle keeps her U.S. citizenship. She’ll still owe U.S. tax on her worldwide income. And she can’t hide foreign holdings from the IRS. If she keeps more than $300,000 in assets abroad, she’ll have to file Form 8938 reporting them. (And, really, what’s the point of being “Her Royal Highness Princess Henry of Wales” if she’s not going to have more than $300,000 in assets?)
If Her Royal Yankee Highness holds anything jointly with Harry, those U.S. filings could reveal assets the Crown prefers keeping confidential. We know that Harry inherited half of his mother, Princess Diana’s £21.5 million estate (roughly $28.5 million), and he shares a £3.5 million allowance with his brother. But the royals work hard to keep the bulk of their finances private. The recent “Paradise Papers” leak revealed that Harry’s grandmum, the Queen, benefits from investments the Duchy of Lancaster holds in the Cayman Islands and Bermuda.
You probably thought that marrying a royal would solve your financial problems, not create new ones. But life is full of surprises, even for princesses. So let us propose a jolly good solution: a plan for paying the legal minimum, no matter who you marry! Call us when you’re ready to save, and take a few quid to treat the queen to a cuppa!
Photo Credit: By Myles Cullen (https://www.dvidshub.net/image/1690964) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons