Insular area

Last updated
Locations of the insular areas of the United States US insular areas-B.png
Locations of the insular areas of the United States

An insular area of the United States is a U.S. territory that is neither a part of one of the 50 states nor of a Federal district. Article IV, Section 3, Clause 2 of the United States Constitution grants to United States Congress the responsibility of overseeing these territories, [lower-alpha 1] of which as of 2018 there are 14, 3 in the Caribbean Sea and 11 in the Pacific Ocean. [1] These territories are classified by whether they are incorporated (by Congress extending the full body of the Constitution to the territory as it applies to the several states) and whether they have an organized territorial government established by the U.S. Congress through an Organic Act. [2] All territories but one are unincorporated, and all but four are considered to be unorganized. Five U.S. territories have a permanent, nonmilitary population. Each of them has a civilian government, a constitution, and enjoys some degree of local political autonomy.

United States Federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country comprising 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the most populous city is New York City. Most of the country is located contiguously in North America between Canada and Mexico.

Territories of the United States Political division that is directly overseen by the United States federal government

Territories of the United States are sub-national administrative divisions overseen by the federal government. They differ from U.S. states and Native American tribes, which have limited sovereignty. The territories are classified by incorporation and whether they have an "organized" government through an organic act passed by Congress. All U.S. territories are part of the United States, but unincorporated territories are not considered to be integral parts of the United States, and the U.S. constitution only applies partially in those territories.

U.S. state constituent political entity of the United States

In the United States, a state is a constituent political entity, of which there are currently 50. Bound together in a political union, each state holds governmental jurisdiction over a separate and defined geographic territory and shares its sovereignty with the federal government. Due to this shared sovereignty, Americans are citizens both of the federal republic and of the state in which they reside. State citizenship and residency are flexible, and no government approval is required to move between states, except for persons restricted by certain types of court orders.

Contents

Citizenship

Congress has extended citizenship rights by birth to all inhabited territories except American Samoa, and these citizens may vote and run for office in any U.S. jurisdiction in which they are residents. The people of American Samoa are U.S. nationals by place of birth, or they are U.S. citizens by parentage, or naturalization after residing in a State for three months. [3] Nationals are free to move around and seek employment within the United States without immigration restrictions, but cannot vote or hold office outside American Samoa. [4]

American Samoa US territory in the Pacific

American Samoa is an unincorporated territory of the United States located in the South Pacific Ocean, southeast of Samoa. Its location is centered on 14.2710° S, 170.1322° W. It is east of the International Date Line, while independent Samoa is west of the Line.

Taxation

Residents of the five major populated insular areas do not pay U.S. federal income taxes but are required to pay other U.S. federal taxes such as import and export taxes, [5] [6] federal commodity taxes, [7] social security taxes, etc. Individuals working for the federal government pay federal income taxes while all residents are required to pay federal payroll taxes (Social Security [8] and Medicare). According to IRS Publication 570, income from other U.S. Pacific Ocean insular areas (Howland, Baker, Jarvis, Johnston, Midway, Palmyra, and Wake Islands, and Kingman Reef) is fully taxable as income of United States residents. [9]

An income tax is a tax imposed on individuals or entities (taxpayers) that varies with respective income or profits. Income tax generally is computed as the product of a tax rate times taxable income. Taxation rates may vary by type or characteristics of the taxpayer.

Income taxes in the United States are imposed by the federal, most state, and many local governments. The income taxes are determined by applying a tax rate, which may increase as income increases, to taxable income, which is the total income less allowable deductions. Income is broadly defined. Individuals and corporations are directly taxable, and estates and trusts may be taxable on undistributed income. Partnerships are not taxed, but their partners are taxed on their shares of partnership income. Residents and citizens are taxed on worldwide income, while nonresidents are taxed only on income within the jurisdiction. Several types of credits reduce tax, and some types of credits may exceed tax before credits. An alternative tax applies at the federal and some state levels.

Payroll tax

Payroll taxes are taxes imposed on employers or employees, and are usually calculated as a percentage of the salaries that employers pay their staff. Payroll taxes generally fall into two categories: deductions from an employee’s wages, and taxes paid by the employer based on the employee's wages. The first kind are taxes that employers are required to withhold from employees' wages, also known as withholding tax, pay-as-you-earn tax (PAYE), or pay-as-you-go tax (PAYG) and often covering advance payment of income tax, social security contributions, and various insurances. The second kind is a tax that is paid from the employer's own funds and that is directly related to employing a worker. These can consist of fixed charges or be proportionally linked to an employee's pay. The charges paid by the employer usually cover the employer's funding of the social security system, medicare, and other insurance programs. It is sometimes claimed that the economic burden of the payroll tax falls almost entirely on the worker, regardless of whether the tax is remitted by the employer or the employee, as the employers’ share of payroll taxes is passed on to employees in the form of lower wages than would otherwise be paid. Because payroll taxes fall exclusively on wages and not on returns to financial or physical investments, payroll taxes may contribute to underinvestment in human capital such as higher education.

Associated states

The U.S. State Department also uses the term insular area to refer not only to territories under the sovereignty of the United States, but also those independent nations that have signed a Compact of Free Association with the United States. While these nations participate in many otherwise domestic programs, and full responsibility for their military defense rests with the United States, they are legally distinct from the United States and their inhabitants are neither U.S. citizens nor nationals. [1]

United States Department of State United States federal executive department responsible for foreign affairs

The United States Department of State (DOS), commonly referred to as the State Department, is a federal executive department responsible for carrying out U.S. foreign policy and international relations. Established in 1789 as the nation's first executive department, its duties include advising the U.S. President, administering the nation's diplomatic missions, negotiating treaties and agreements with foreign entities, and representing the U.S. at the United Nations.

Sovereignty concept that a state or governing body has the right and power to govern itself without outside interference

Sovereignty is the full right and power of a governing body over itself, without any interference from outside sources or bodies. In political theory, sovereignty is a substantive term designating supreme authority over some polity. In international law, the important concept of sovereignty refers to the exercise of power by a state. De jure sovereignty refers to the legal right to do so; de facto sovereignty the ability in fact to do so

Compact of Free Association international agreement between the United States and the Pacific Island nations of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, and Palau

The Compact of Free Association (COFA) is an international agreement establishing and governing the relationships of free association between the United States and the three Pacific Island nations of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, and Palau. These nations, together with the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, formerly composed the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, a United Nations trusteeship administered by the United States Navy from 1947 to 1951 and by the U.S. Department of the Interior from 1951 to 1986.

Current U.S. insular areas by status

The following islands, or island groups, are considered insular areas:

Organized incorporated territories

None

Unorganized incorporated territories

One (uninhabited)

Palmyra Atoll uninhabited Pacific atoll and unorganized incorporated U.S. territory

Palmyra Atoll is one of the Northern Line Islands, located almost due south of the Hawaiian Islands, roughly one-third of the way between Hawaii and American Samoa. The nearest continent is almost 3,355 miles to the northeast. The atoll is 4.6 sq mi (12 km2), and it is located in the equatorial Northern Pacific Ocean. Its 9 mi (14 km) of coastline has one anchorage known as West Lagoon.

Organized unincorporated territories

Four (inhabited)

Guam Island territory of the United States of America

Guam is an unincorporated and organized territory of the United States in Micronesia in the western Pacific Ocean. It is the westernmost point and territory of the United States, along with the Northern Mariana Islands. The capital city of Guam is Hagåtña and the most populous city is Dededo. The inhabitants of Guam are called Guamanians, and they are American citizens by birth. Indigenous Guamanians are the Chamorros, who are related to other Austronesian natives of Eastern Indonesia, the Philippines, and Taiwan. Guam has been a member of the Pacific Community since 1983.

The Guam Organic Act of 1950, is a United States federal law that redesignated the island of Guam as an unincorporated territory of the United States, established executive, legislative, and judicial branches, and transferred federal jurisdiction from the United States Navy to the Department of the Interior. For the first time in over three hundred years of foreign colonization, the people of Guam had some measure of self-governance, however limited.

Northern Mariana Islands American-dependent insular area in the western Pacific

The Northern Mariana Islands, officially the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, is an insular area and commonwealth of the United States consisting of 14 islands in the northwestern Pacific Ocean. The CNMI includes the 14 northernmost islands in the Mariana Archipelago except the southernmost island of the chain, Guam, which is a separate U.S. territory. The CNMI and Guam are the westernmost point and territory of the United States.

Unorganized unincorporated territories

One (inhabited)

Ten (uninhabited)

Freely associated states

Three (inhabited)

Former territories

See also

Notes

  1. Although an archaism, some older federal statutes and regulations still in force refer to insular areas as possessions.
  2. The Panama Canal itself was under joint U.S.–Panamanian control from 1979 until it was fully turned over to Panama on December 31, 1999.

Related Research Articles

United States Minor Outlying Islands Group of mostly uninhabited insular areas of the United States as defined by ISO

The United States Minor Outlying Islands are a statistical designation defined by the International Organization for Standardization's ISO 3166-1 code. The entry code is ISO 3166-2:UM. The minor outlying islands and groups of islands consist of eight United States insular areas in the Pacific Ocean and one in the Caribbean Sea.

Federal government of the United States National government of the United States

The federal government of the United States is the national government of the United States, a federal republic in North America, composed of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories and several island possessions. The federal government is composed of three distinct branches: legislative, executive and judicial, whose powers are vested by the U.S. Constitution in the Congress, the president and the federal courts, respectively. The powers and duties of these branches are further defined by acts of Congress, including the creation of executive departments and courts inferior to the Supreme Court.

A dependent territory, dependent area or dependency is a territory that does not possess full political independence or sovereignty as a sovereign state yet remains politically outside the controlling state's integral area.

United States territory legal designation

United States territory is any extent of region under the sovereign jurisdiction of the federal government of the United States, including all waters and all U.S. naval vessels. The United States asserts sovereign rights for exploring, exploiting, conserving, and managing its territory. This extent of territory is all the area belonging to, and under the dominion of, the United States federal government for administrative and other purposes. The United States total territory includes a subset of political divisions.

In the United States, an unorganized territory is a region of land under U.S. Sovereignty that is not within the bounds of a U.S. state and that is without a government established by the United States Congress through an organic act. The term was historically applied either to a newly acquired region not yet constituted as an organized incorporated territory, or to a region previously part of an organized incorporated territory left "unorganized" after part of it had been organized and achieved the requirements for statehood. The U.S. currently exercises sovereignty over ten unorganized territories: American Samoa, Baker Island, Howland Island, Jarvis Island, Johnston Atoll, Kingman Reef, Midway Atoll, Navassa Island, Palmyra Atoll and Wake Island.

United States territorial acquisitions

United States territory is any extent of region under the sovereign jurisdiction of the federal government of the United States, including all waters and all U.S. naval vessels. The United States asserts sovereign rights for exploring, exploiting, conserving, and managing its territory. This extent of territory is all the area belonging to, and under the dominion of, the United States federal government for administrative and other purposes. The United States total territory includes a subset of political divisions.

Political divisions of the United States states, the District of Columbia, territories; and their subdivisions

Political divisionsof the United States are the various recognized governing entities that together form the United States – states, the District of Columbia, territories and Indian reservations.

The Insular Cases are a series of opinions by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1901, about the status of U.S. territories acquired in the Spanish–American War. When the war ended in 1898, the United States had to answer the question of whether or not people in newly acquired territories were citizens, a question the country had never faced before. The preliminary answer came from a series of Supreme Court rulings, now known as the Insular Cases, which responded to the question of how American constitutional rights apply to those in United States territories. The Supreme Court held that full constitutional protection of rights does not automatically extend to all places under American control. This meant that inhabitants of unincorporated territories such as Puerto Rico—"even if they are U.S. citizens"—may lack some constitutional rights. Today, many legal scholars refer to the Insular Cases as a constitutional justification for colonialism and annexation of places not within United States boundaries. The Insular Cases "authorized the colonial regime created by Congress, which allowed the United States to continue its administration—and exploitation—of the territories acquired from Spain after the Spanish–American War." These Supreme Court rulings allowed for the United States government to extend unilateral power over these newly acquired territories.

Commonwealth is a term used by two Unincorporated territories of the United States in their full official names. The territories are: the Northern Mariana Islands and Puerto Rico.

Office of Insular Affairs subsidiary of the Department of the Interior

The Office of Insular Affairs (OIA) is a unit of the United States Department of the Interior that oversees federal administration of several United States insular areas. It is the successor to the Bureau of Insular Affairs of the War Department, which administered certain territories from 1902 to 1939, and the Office of Territorial Affairs in the Interior Department, which was responsible for certain territories from the 1930s to the 1990s. The word "insular" comes from the Latin word insula ("island").

Bureau of Insular Affairs

The Bureau of Insular Affairs was a division of the United States Department of War that oversaw civil aspects of the administration of several territories from 1898 until 1939.

Under United States law, an unincorporated territory is an area controlled by the United States government that is not "incorporated" for the purposes of United States constitutional law. In unincorporated territories, the U.S. Constitution applies only partially. In the absence of an organic law, a territory is classified as unorganized. In unincorporated territories, "fundamental rights apply as a matter of law, but other constitutional rights are not available". Selected constitutional provisions apply, depending on congressional acts and judicial rulings according to U.S. constitutional practice, local tradition, and law.

The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States and Puerto Ricans are US citizens. However, Puerto Rico is not a US state. Because of this, only Puerto Rican residents who are government employees, and those with income sources outside of the territory, pay federal income tax. All other employers and employees pay no federal income taxes. However, residents of Puerto Rico and businesses operating in Puerto Rico do pay some federal taxes, and the commonwealth's government has its own taxes as well.

Political status of Puerto Rico Unincorporated territory of the United States

The political status of Puerto Rico is that of an unincorporated territory of the United States. As such, the island is neither a sovereign nation nor a U.S. state. Because of that ambiguity, the territory, as a polity, lacks certain rights but enjoys certain benefits that other polities have or lack. For instance, in contrast to sovereign nations, Puerto Rico does not have voting rights in its federal legislature nor in electing its federal head of state. But, in contrast to U.S. states, residents of Puerto Rico are not subject to federal income taxes. The political status of the island thus stems from how different Puerto Rico is politically from sovereign nations and from U.S. states.

References

  1. 1 2 "Definitions of Insular Area Political Organizations". Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of the Interior. Retrieved March 3, 2018.
  2. "Definitions of Insular Area Political Organizations". Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of the Interior. Retrieved March 11, 2018.
  3. PBS Newshour, "American Samoans don't have right to U.S. citizenship", Associated Press, June 5, 2015, viewed August 13, 2015.
  4. US Department of Interior. "Insular Area Summary for American Samoa" Archived 2015-08-20 at the Wayback Machine . viewed August 13, 2015.
  5. "Puerto Ricans pay import/export taxes". Stanford.wellsphere.com. Archived from the original on April 1, 2010. Retrieved August 14, 2010.
  6. U.S. State Dept. "Foreign Relations of the United States" . Retrieved May 18, 2016. The people of Puerto Rico will continue to be exempt from Federal income taxes on the income they derive from sources within Puerto Rico, and into their treasury, for appropriation and expenditure as their legislature may decide, will be deposited the proceeds of United States internal revenue taxes collected on articles produced in Puerto Rico and the proceeds of United States tariffs and customs collected on foreign merchandise entering Puerto Rico.
  7. "Puerto Ricans pay federal commodity taxes". Stanford.wellsphere.com. Archived from the original on 2010-04-01. Retrieved 2011-10-30.
  8. "'Topic Number 903 - U.S. Employment Tax in Puerto Rico'". Irs.gov. December 18, 2009. Retrieved January 11, 2019.
  9. Publication 570 (PDF). Washington, D.C.: U.S. Internal Revenue Service. 2017. Retrieved April 12, 2018.