Tax Implications For The U.S. Expat

How To Make A Tax-Free Living Overseas

July 16, 2014, New York, New York: How to legally minimize your tax implications as a U.S. expat.

Dear Live and Invest Overseas Reader,

Most U.S. expats realize that the United States taxes its citizens on their worldwide income.

They understand, too, that every U.S. citizen must file a U.S. tax return every year, regardless where he chooses to reside.

What many don't recognize, though, is that an American abroad can use a foreign corporation in a zero-tax jurisdiction to legally and legitimately reduce U.S. tax on his business income.

Your first line of defense as a U.S. expat is the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion (FEIE), which excludes from U.S. income tax the first US$99,200 of wage or self-employment income earned by a U.S. citizen residing in another country. (If married, you can combine your spouse's income for a total exclusion of US$198,400.) Technically, you're residing abroad if you're outside the United States for at least 330 days during any 365-day period.

However, this is only the start of strategies available to you as an American abroad to reduce or even eliminate your annual tax bill.

For example: You can use the FEIE to reduce or even eliminate U.S. federal income tax on wages paid by either a U.S. corporation or a foreign corporation. Realize further that it doesn't matter if you are the owner of the corporation...the FEIE applies as long as you are an employee of the company, even if it is your own company.


Retirement in Cuenca, Ecuador

The World’s Most Affordable Place To Live Well?

July 15, 2014 Cuenca, Ecuador Cuenca, Ecuador Offers An Affordable And Comfortable Overseas Retirement

Dear Live and Invest Overseas Reader,

As far back as 2001, I considered Cuenca, Ecuador, to be the No. 1 place to retire overseas. In fact, I retired to Cuenca myself when I was just 49 and lived there full-time for almost six years. 

Since first settling in Ecuador, I've explored just about every country in Latin America. I've seen the best of what the region has to offer, and I'd say that the more I've experienced, the more I've come to appreciate Cuenca.

Ringed by dramatic Andean peaks, this UNESCO World Heritage Site has been a showplace of colonial architecture for hundreds of years. Wandering the streets, you feel like you've been transported to another time. And the colorful Andean culture leaves no doubt that you're in the middle of a brand-new and exciting life experience. As a resident, you'll continue to marvel at your city for years to come. I know I did.

Cuenca beats out its competitors for a few reasons, including great weather (no need for heat or air conditioning); the low cost of real estate; one of the continent's lowest costs of living; inexpensive, world-class health care; and one of the most fascinating and well-preserved Spanish Colonial settings you'll find anywhere. 

While living here you may feel like you've traveled back in time 200 years, but you'll still be enjoying all the comforts of the 21st century, including drinkable water, reliable electric and phone service, and modern, high-speed Internet. 

Returning to the city recently, I was struck by the fact that, as good a retirement choice as Cuenca is, it just keeps getting better. With each return visit, I continue to be amazed by the new upgrades and innovations. 


Istanbul Is A Bustling City, Where East Meets West

The Paris Of The East

July 14, 2014, Istanbul, Turkey: Comparing Istanbul to Paris, or Paris to Istanbul.

Dear Live and Invest Overseas Reader,

Years ago, a friend in Belize told me that a country never escapes its origins. The United States, he said, is a land of puritans. Belize is a land of pirates.

And Istanbul is a land of traders. Once the end of the 4,000-mile-long Silk Road, the mother of all trade routes, this part of the world, as a result of all the traffic and all the business that culminated here, has been notable since the second century B.C.

Making our way around current-day Istanbul these past two weeks, our small caravan of travelers couldn't help but compare this great city to Paris, the city all cities are graded against and (to admit our bias) our favorite place in the world to spend time. Indeed, Istanbul has long been referred to as the Paris of the East. The better we got to know Istanbul, the more readily we accepted the accolade. The cafes, gardens, parks, and river walks of Istanbul are all a la Paris. The windows of bakeries and confectioners can be picture-perfect arrangements of breads, pastries, and sweets. The people dress smartly and wish each other good day as they come and go. The old city is ancient, but spreading out from it are many and diverse other quarters, from bohemian and artsy to chic and modern...again, just like in Paris. Climbing the hill to reach Galata Tower felt like climbing Montmartre toward Sacre Coeur, and, reaching the top, we had our choice of street-side bistros for lunch and hip and groovy shops for exploring after we'd eaten.

Most fun for me, Istanbul, again like Paris, is a city made for walking. Not only the oldest parts but every region of this city, both Euro and Anatolian, invites you to take off on two feet to explore it up close. When you do, you discover book stores and art galleries, antique shops and boutiques of all descriptions, on and on as far as your curiosity and legs will carry you.

"You know," said my associate publisher Harry one day as we gazed appreciatively upon the neat and symmetrical displays of brightly colored candies in yet another notable Istanbul shop window, "maybe we shouldn't be saying that Istanbul is just like Paris. Maybe we should be saying that Paris is just like Istanbul."

Aha. Harry had a point. Not only was Istanbul settled some few hundred years earlier than Paris, but it developed much quicker and grew to become grand and prosperous when Paris was still swampland.

Still, today, two-and-a-half millennium later, it's Paris that other cities want to be compared favorably to, not Istanbul. Paris is the most beautiful and romantic spot this world knows.


Health care and visits home when living overseas.

Two Big Expenses Of Retiring Overseas That Nobody Talks About

July 13, 2014, Panama City, Panama: Factoring health care and visits home into your living-overseas monthly budget.

Also This Week: Luxury Meets Lethargy—Welcome To The Emirates... Life In A Coup... Life In A (Slightly) Communist State... President Correa, Again?...

Plus, From Resident Global Property Investing Expert Lief Simon: Wall Street Can Keep Its Paper...

Editor's note: With Kathleen on vacation until tomorrow, we revisit this essay from her, originally published in April 2013...

Dear Live and Invest Overseas Reader,

You may be surprised to learn of the two biggest expenses expats often face. Most of us think of rent. Food and entertainment. Taxes maybe.

But, in my experience, many expats spend more on two other expenses. These two expenses rarely show up in cost summaries for destinations abroad, and they rarely seem like a big deal when planning to retire overseas.

What expenses am I thinking of? Trips back to the United States and U.S. health insurance.

We recently heard from a Seattle couple planning to retire to a tropical climate. They're on a budget and are thinking of Ecuador, which they know to be a good low-cost choice. They're interested in Ecuador rather than one of the tropical countries in Southeast Asia (which could, in fact, be more affordable than Ecuador) because they want to be closer to "home." They plan to make frequent trips back to Seattle.

I told them to forget about saving money. If they make frequent trips to Seattle, their cost of living, all in, after moving to Ecuador will almost certainly exceed what they spend now.

Let's run some numbers for this couple. A quick check on Expedia shows fares from Guayaquil, Ecuador, to Seattle at about US$1,300, or US$2,600 for two. Those are the deep-discount, advance-purchase, come-hell-or-high-water fares, nonrefundable, nonchangeable. In many cases, the couple will have to pay more.

But airfares are only the beginning. The couple will have to get from their overseas home to Guayaquil, in a bus, car, or taxi, maybe spending a night in a hotel. Once in Seattle they may need a hotel, too, and a rental car. They'll need presents for the grandchildren, and they'll want to have dinners out with family, including a few splurges.

We have to make some guesses, about total trip costs and what the word "frequent" means. For the sake of argument, let's put the trip costs at US$5,000 and figure on three trips a year. That totals US$15,000, easily more than the couple might spend annually on rent, food and entertainment, or any other cost category while living in Ecuador.


Creative Real Estate Investment Opportunities In The United...

Wall Street Can Keep Its Paper

July 11, 2014, Panama City, Panama: For the small investor looking to diversify globally, the United Kingdom has some attractive packages. From cemetery plot investment to fruit fields and dairies, you have more options than in the United States.

Editor's Note: As Lief and Kathleen continue their vacation, today's essay is republished from Lief Simon's Offshore Living Letter. Lief's Offshore Living Letter comes out twice-weekly (Mondays and Thursdays) and addresses the benefits of and current opportunities for diversifying your portfolio, your business, your assets, and your life.

Dear Live and Invest Overseas Reader,

About two years ago, I invested in cemetery plots in the UK. Specifically, I bought a 10-plot package and recommended that my Marketwatch members do the same.

Last week I heard from the agent who brokered the investment. He was contacting me to tell me that the developer behind the offer has received planning permission for a crematorium on the site. As a result, a large investment group is interested in buying out the entire cemetery. The expectation is that all investors will be paid out ahead of schedule and within the next two months.

I liked this offer because of the projected returns (IRR of 15% to 20%), the low capital requirement, the currency diversification (more on this in a minute), and the availability of developer financing if you bought a 10-plot package. Otherwise the minimum investment was three plots at £995 each.

I went for the financing and set things up so the monthly payments have been charged automatically to my credit card. I've made 27 payments to date and have nine to go, but it looks like the exit event will happen well before the final payment has been made and a year or more earlier than was originally projected. It's looking now as though my return will be an annualized 44%.

One reason I jumped for this offer when I discovered it, as I said, was because it was an investment in the British pound. The pound has strengthened against the U.S. dollar (my investment currency) since I bought in, bumping up my U.S. dollar IRR by 3% per year to 47%.


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Kathleen Peddicord

Kathleen Peddicord is the founder of the Live and Invest Overseas publishing group. With more than 25 years experience covering this beat, Kathleen reports daily on current opportunities for living, retiring, and investing overseas in her free e-letter.

Her book, How To Retire Overseas—Everything You Need To Know To Live Well Abroad For Less, was recently released by Penguin Books.

Read more here.


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