Americans in PanamaThe World's Crossroads

Panama routinely ends up at the top spot of our annual survey of the top overseas retirement havens.

The benefits for Americans in Panama are many: First World health care at Third World prices, the world's Gold Standard program of special benefits for retirees (plus a full range of 14 resident visa programs for the non-retiree), one of the world's few remaining tax havens (meaning you can operate an online business here tax-free), and a U.S. dollar-based economy (meaning zero currency risk for dollar-holders).

Panama, with its strategic geographic position and its Canal, is an increasingly important point on the world map. You name passes through Panama in some way at some time going somewhere. Largely as a result of its crossroads positioning...but also thanks to its reputation worldwide as a top retirement, offshore, and banking haven...Panama is one of the fastest-growing countries in the world...and the fastest-growing market in the region.

Meantime, be you in the market for a new home or a good investment, Panama should be at the very top of your list. The secret is to understand that Panama is not one market, but many. Panama City, for example, is over-priced, over-hyped, and over-played. Now is not the time to shop for a pre-construction buy in one of this city's many high-rise apartment towers, for example. Boquete, too, in the country's highlands, is too known and too pricey for our tastes.

Best buy in the country today? Pacific beachfront well beyond the capital city, in particular along both the east and (thinking earlier-in and offering the potential for a bigger pay-off longer term) the west coast of the country's Azuero Peninsula.

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Population 3.4 million (July 2011 est.)
Gross Domestic Product (GDP) $48.39 billion (2010 est.)
GDP Per Capita $13,600 (2011 est.)
Inflation Rate 5.9% (2011 est.)
Currency U.S. Dollar (and also the Balboa)
Exchange Rate Versus U.S. Dollar 1 Balboa = 1 U.S. Dollar
Language Spanish (official), English (14%)
Capital Panama City
Population of Capital City 1 million
Time Zone GMT minus 5
Seasons Tropical; rainy season lasts from May to January
International Dialing Code 507
Electricity 110V (Panama City 120V)/60 Hz; Plug Types: A, B (US style)
Constitutional Democracy
Name and Party Affiliation
of Current Leader
President Ricardo Martinelli, Democratic Change Party
Income Tax Rate for Residents 0% to 27%
Property Tax 0% for first 20 years, 0% to 2.1% thereafter
Capital Gains Tax 10%
Inheritance Tax 0%
Rental Income Tax 0% for first 15 years in designated areas, 15% thereafter for non-residents; taxed at income tax rate for residents
Transfer Tax 1.75% to 2.1%
Sales Tax 7%
Restrictions on Foreign
Ownership of Property
Local Chamber of Commerce
Edificio Cámara de Comercio, Industrias y Agricultura de Panamá
Panama City
Tel: (507) 227-1233
American Chamber of Commerce
.O. Box 0843-00152
Panama City
Tel: (507) 301- 3881
Primary Exports Bananas, shrimp, sugar, coffee, clothing
Residency and Visa Requirements Tourist Visa: 90 days
Residency: pensionado, person of means, investor, forestry investor, small business investor
Citizenship: after 5 years of legal residence and full immigrant status
Special Benefits for Foreign Residents or Retirees Pensionado Program: tax free import of home goods; tax free importation of a vehicle every two years; 50% reduction on home loan closing cost; 25% discount utilities; 50% off all entertainment; 25 to 50% off goods and services from airline tickets to health care
National Airline Copa Airlines