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London Mayor Boris Johnson Owes IRS Money, Won't Pay

London Mayor Boris Johnson is presumably not singing for his supper — or for the money the IRS says he owes. Alastair Grant/AP hide caption

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Alastair Grant/AP

London Mayor Boris Johnson is presumably not singing for his supper — or for the money the IRS says he owes.

Alastair Grant/AP

London Mayor Boris Johnson owes the IRS money — and he's not going to pay it.

Johnson, who was born in the U.S. and lived here until he was 5 years old, holds dual U.S.-U.K. citizenship.

At issue, he told NPR member station WAMU's Diane Rehm Show in an interview, was capital gains on the sale of his first residence, a sum that is not taxable in Britain.

"They're trying to hit me with some bill, can you believe it?" he said on the show, referring to the Internal Revenue Service.

When asked by guest host Susan Page if he was going to pay the bill, Johnson replied: "I think it's outrageous."

Page pressed him.

"Well, saying it's outrageous doesn't respond to whether you're going to pay the bill or not," she said. "Outrageous or not, will you pay this tax bill?"

Johnson's response: "I'm — no, is the answer. I think, it's absolutely outrageous. Why should I? I think, you know, I'm not a — I, you know, I haven't lived in the United States for, you know, well, since I was 5 years old."

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Page then proceeded to ask Johnson why he continued to carry a U.S. passport. The London mayor replied that "it's very difficult to give up."

Johnson is widely considered a contender to succeed British Prime Minister David Cameron as head of the ruling Conservatives should the party lose power at the next elections. That means that, at least in theory, he could become prime minister, a point at which he might have to renounce his U.S. citizenship.

Johnson described the chances of his becoming prime minister as "vanishingly small," and said the issue of renunciation was "a luxury problem to deal with."

The Guardian notes that Johnson, in his capacity as mayor of London, has criticized the U.S. Embassy for not paying the city's congestion charge. The U.K. government says U.S. Embassy owes the city about $12 million, but the Embassy says the charge is a tax from which its diplomats are immune. The newspaper adds:

"Johnson would also be liable to pay US income tax as he earns well above the foreign-earned income exclusion — the level up to which no tax is paid on income earned by US citizens overseas — which was set at $97,600 (£62,000) last year. As mayor, he earns a salary of £144,000 and on top of that he is paid £250,000 a year for his column in the Telegraph. Johnson did not disclose whether he paid US taxes on his income during the interview. The mayor's spokesman said he would not be commenting further on his US tax affairs."