From Andrew Mitchel’s International Tax Blog:
In 2011, the total number of expatriates was 1,781, a 16% increase from 2010. Last year had the highest number of expatriates since at least 2004 (when I started keeping these records), and perhaps the most in any year in U.S. history.
According to the I.R.S., an estimated five to seven million U.S. citizens reside abroad. Many of these individuals have never lived in the U.S. and never expect to live in the U.S. However, these U.S. citizens must annually file U.S. tax returns.
For example, I spoke with a Canadian the other day who was born to two U.S. citizen parents in Canada. This individual therefore is a U.S. citizen. However, he has never lived in the U.S. and never expects to live in the U.S. Despite that he has never lived in the U.S., he will have to file U.S. tax returns for his entire working life.
The IRS hits people like these — many of whom had no idea they were supposed to be filing — with severe financial penalties. Meanwhile, it provides relatively cushy deals with actual criminals through its OVDI program, because you have to shoot the jaywalkers to really slap the wrists of the serious offenders. No wonder the jaywalkers don’t want to play anymore.
Update: The TaxProf has more.