For this lady's business, Belize made great sense. The country is English-speaking and close to the United States. She could import beads from China to Belize, where the final product could be made in her "factory." Then her U.S. company could buy the finished products from her Belize company. She'd benefit from a lower cost of labor in Belize and also realize tax savings in the United States by shifting some profits (those associated with creating the final product) offshore. Meantime, her non-U.S. company could retain its profits, deferring any U.S. tax on those profits until they were paid out. If the young lady took the additional step of moving herself to Belize along with her business, she could also avail of the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion (FEIE). If she paid herself an annual salary up to the amount of the FEIE each year, she could eliminate any U.S. tax burden altogether. Belize isn't the only country with Export Processing Zones. Many countries offer these, or something similar, especially in Central America. This kind of set-up is the attraction for many multinational companies that base themselves in this part of the world, but smaller companies can benefit from structuring themselves this way, too. In addition to the cost and tax benefits, establishing her jewelry business in Belize could also provide this lady with both asset diversification and asset protection (by the very fact of having part of her business operation in another country). This lady's is a bricks-and-mortar kind of enterprise. Even easier to relocate overseas would be a portable business, such as a website or a consulting practice. In this case, though, to gain the tax advantages, you definitely would have to move offshore along with your laptop-based business. A consultant could move to a jurisdictional tax-based country (one that taxes you only on income earned in the country) and arrange his corporate structures so that he'd pay no tax in his country of residence and no tax (or deferred tax, in the case of a U.S. person) in his country of citizenship. I knew a German guy years ago who lived in Malaysia and made his living as an engineering consultant working with clients in the Middle East. As a German not living in Germany, he had no tax liability there. Malaysia taxes residents only on income earned inside the country, so he had no tax liability in Malaysia either. For a U.S. person, that structure would not be tax free, but it could still be tax efficient. The difference would be that the U.S. person would still have a potential tax liability in the United States. Again, though, the U.S. person could avail of the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion to be exempt of U.S. tax at least on that amount each year. And, for many laptop-based entrepreneurs, the amount of the FEIE (US$99,200 for 2014) would be greater than their actual income earned in any given year. Improving your tax situation (that is, reducing your tax burden) is one significant advantage of taking your business offshore, but it's not the only one. The would-be entrepreneur can find more and better opportunities in other countries, especially in emerging markets. Anyone who has grown up in a First World country has a big leg up on the local competition in much of the world. We've watched so many products and services launched, tested, and perfected. All of these are businesses that could be transported to a less developed country where you could be first in the market with the idea. A classic example of this is the messenger service set up in Bucharest, Romania, by a colleague just after that country opened up to the West. This entrepreneur landed in Bucharest from the UK with nothing more than the expectation of opportunity. One of the first opportunities he identified was the lack of an efficient messenger service. Businesses were expanding and many new ones were being launched. Every businessperson he spoke with bemoaned the lack of an efficient way to get documents or samples or materials from one point in the city to another reliably and quickly. This guy thought of the messenger service that had operated so effectively in the UK town where he was from...and his new business idea was conceived. You could also simply take your current skill set and offer it in an underserved market. A retiree in Panama who had been a mechanic his entire professional career back in the States found himself asked again and again for help by fellow foreign (non-Spanish-speaking) retirees needing work done on their cars. He obliged and obliged until, organically, he found himself in the auto-repair business. He hadn't intended this and didn't need the income but has found that he enjoys being kept busy and the chance his new business venture allows him to get to know his neighbors. Lief Simon P.S. We'll cover how and where to consider organizing your business ventures offshore, be they brick-and-mortar or laptop-based, at my Global Asset Protection and Wealth Summit taking place in Belize next month. You can read more about the unique program I'm planning here.
"Kathleen, we are Americans currently teaching in an international school overseas. My husband is retired U.S. military and currently receives a U.S. pension. We have been following the articles about retiring in Ireland and are interested in buying a house and retiring to Ireland in the next few years. After reviewing the immigration website, it looks like we would qualify for the Stamp 3, Non-EEA retired person of independent means. We sent an email asking information about this, and we were informed that it would be a Stamp 0. It seems the Stamp 0 does not allow permanent residence/naturalization. "With all the recent articles and research that Live and Invest Overseas has done, would you have any insight/advise to offer?” --Julie S., United States You are correct. You want Stamp 3. I'm guessing that whoever responded to your inquiry to Irish immigration said Stamp 0 because you mentioned that you are teachers. Stamp 0 is for visiting academics. When communicating with bureaucrats, it's best not to offer any extraneous information. They generally have little capacity for filtering information. (Smiley Face) To apply for residency in Ireland, you simply need to present yourself at the garda station that is in charge of immigration for the region of the country where you are residing. It's a straightforward process, and you shouldn't be bothered by Irish attorneys or others who suggest otherwise. We navigated it on our own years ago when we took up residence in Ireland. In other words, you don't need expert or legal counsel; you just need persistence.
April 25, 2013:
"Kathleen, I'm in the process of moving from Yellowknife in northern Canada (y'know, up around the Arctic Circle) down to British Colombia and from there I'm headed to Panama. I'd like to drive from Vancouver to Panama City, and I'm wondering if you folks have any information on this?
"Every time I put anything into Google asking about this I get nothing that is pertinent. I can find nothing anywhere about how safe it is to drive through Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, or Guatemala.
"I've recently spent a month in Costa Rica and Panama and don't think I would have a problem driving in either of those countries as far as safety is concerned. Now the drivers are crazy, I know that, but I didn't see anything that led me to believe it wouldn't be safe to drive a vehicle (older modem, not flashy) with my personal belongs in it through those countries. The people all seemed to be very helpful, even to a gringo who doesn't speak Spanish.
"As I said, I have an older vehicle that runs very well and is in good shape but I don't really want to pay to have it shipped. Also, I'm very capable of driving it (ex-professional driver here, past taxicab, limousine, and ambulance driver). I realize that a single woman driving alone might not be the best idea, but maybe I could find someone to accompany me. What do you think?
"Love to hear any comments you have because I'm moving to Panama one way or the other, but I will need my car and they are so expensive in Central America!"
--Heather L., Canada, On Facebook
Generally speaking, we don't recommend driving through Mexico to get to Central America. I'd say that, especially as a single woman traveling alone, this might not be a good idea right now.
Also, we strongly recommend against bringing your car with you (shipped or driven) to your new country, in Central America or wherever. Too many unknowns. Will your car be appropriate for your new situation? Will you be able to find parts locally (the older the car, the bigger a challenge this will be)? Will you be able to find a local mechanic who knows how to repair that kind of vehicle? Will you be liable for import duties (the answer to this question in this case is no, not if you're establishing legal residency in Panama through this country's pensionado program).
We know people who have driven down from the United States to Panama and who have now been in Panama for close to two years. They say it wasn't worth it. In fact, every person I've known over the years who has driven or shipped his vehicle to his new country with him has decided, eventually, that it wasn't worth it.
Between trips, it wasn't unusual for the couple to work 20-hour days. Frik and his wife love business, but the life they were leading in Brussels was overwhelming them. Then one day, they pulled out their world map and noticed Belize. English-speaking, entrepreneur-friendly, and a tax-haven, Belize is also low-key and super low-stress. Maybe this was the place for them, a place where they could be in business but still enjoy life a little.
That insight inspired the De Meyeres to visit Belize several times. They started making investments in this country, diversifying their assets offshore and establishing themselves slowly. They looked at the local hospitals and schools. They interviewed resident expats, to learn from their experiences, including Boris Mannsfeld, another young entrepreneur who had opened a real estate company in Placencia.
Then the financial crisis hit in Europe. The De Meyeres went through tough times. Banks closed. Loans were cancelled. Their businesses suffered. Finally, the couple realized they needed to take action. They folded their business operations in a painful process that took more than two years to complete. Frik had to let all of his employees go.
About this time, the couple discovered they were expecting a baby. They didn't panic, as they might have, but turned to their escape plan. They decided to proceed full speed ahead with the alternate life in Belize they'd begun to build.
Frik remembered Boris Mannsfeld and got in touch. Long story short, today Frik is an associate for Mannsfeld & Associates. He participated in last week's Live and Invest in Belize Conference to represent the firm and to give a presentation about Placencia.
"It's much easier being in business here in Belize than it was in Europe," Frik says. "I was under constant stress in Belgium, where I spent 80% of my time on paperwork and only 20% on real business. Now that I'm in business in Belize, I spend 10% of my time on paperwork and 90% on business."
Frik and his wife are involved in setting up a school for young children in Placencia. Their son is 2-years-old, and they're thinking about his education.
"When we arrived in Placencia," Frik says, "we saw only a handful of foreign kids around the area. Now there are many more young couples like us living in Placencia, opening businesses. I'd say that now there are at least 50 or 60 expat kids around."
These are the kinds of people who do well in Belize. People who want to make their own way and create their own future. People who want to build something, who, when they see a need, they're eager to step up to fill it. The resilient sort.
And that describes Frik and his wife precisely.
Ann KuffnerLive and Invest in Belize Conference InsiderContinue Reading:
Image source: Craig Nagy
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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.
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