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Boris Johnson: Britain's New PM Was Born in New York City and Was a U.S. Citizen for Decades—Until the IRS Caught up With Him

Newsweek logo Newsweek 7/23/2019 Shane Croucher
Boris Johnson wearing a suit and tie: Boris Johnson arrives to address Conservative Party members during a hustings on July 13, 2019 in Colchester, England. Johnson, the new prime minister of the U.K., was born in the U.S. © Leon Neal/Getty Images Boris Johnson arrives to address Conservative Party members during a hustings on July 13, 2019 in Colchester, England. Johnson, the new prime minister of the U.K., was born in the U.S.

Boris Johnson, Britain's newly-crowned prime minister of the U.K., was born in New York City and only recently relinquished his American passport when the Internal Revenue Service chased him for unpaid taxes.

Johnson, 55, triumphed in the Conservative Party leadership contest against Jeremy Hunt, 52, the current British foreign secretary. It was a race to replace the incumbent Theresa May, who announced in May her resignation as prime minister.

May's repeated failure to pass her controversial Brexit deal through parliament ended her unpopular premiership as she lost her party's support. Johnson, a prominent supporter of Brexit, promises Britain will leave the European Union, deal or no deal, by Halloween.

Stanley Johnson, 78, father of the new prime minister, was an economics student at Columbia University in 1964 when his son was born of his first wife Charlotte Fawcett at a hospital in New York City's Upper East Side.

According to the journalist Sonia Purnell's biography of Johnson, Just Boris: A Tale of Blond Ambition, the elder Johnson "considered it vital to secure dual US/British citizenship for their son," so the new parents registered him there.

They lived together for a few months in a "bohemian 60ft-long single-room loft apartment [...] opposite the Chelsea Hotel, the crash pad beloved of rock stars such as Bob Dylan, Iggy Pop, and Jimi Hendrix, on West 23rd Street," paid for by the Harkness Fellowship, the book says.

"The bathroom was screened off by abstract paintings, the bath perched on stilts and there was a large yellow piano adorned with a 'vive la fun' logo. Above a lively neon-lit café called the Star Bar (where the Beatles' 'She Loves You' blared out on the jukebox until 4 a.m.), it was entertaining though hardly suitable for a newborn."

More than half a century later, Boris Johnson renounced his American citizenship—for tax reasons. As a dual citizen, the IRS required Johnson to file tax returns on his earnings, even though he lived outside of the U.S., and to pay the relevant taxes.

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While Mayor of London, Johnson chastised the U.S. embassy for its millions of dollars in an unpaid city road tax known as the congestion charge, which is designed to tackle emissions.

At the same time, Johnson was outraged when the IRS demanded from him capital gains tax to be paid on the hundreds of thousands of dollars in profit made in the sale of his home in North London.

Asked amid the dispute in 2015 whether he would pay up, Johnson said: "No is the answer. I think it's absolutely outrageous. Why should I? I haven't lived in the United States since I was five years old," BBC News reported at the time.

However, his spokesman later confirmed that the matter was dealt with, and The Financial Times reported that Johnson had paid the amount owed before heading to the U.S. to tour cities in his role as London's mayor, sparing him any embarrassment at the airport stateside.

The following year, Johnson renounced his American citizenship, U.S. Treasury Department filings show, and, along with it, any chance of becoming the U.S. president once he was done leading the U.K.

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