"Why make it so complicated? In fact, my objective is to simplify. However, I'm balancing simple against two other overriding agendas—mitigating taxes and planning for probate. "The piece of property we own in Croatia, for example," Lief continued, "is held in our own name. This is for tax purposes. You have no capital gains tax liability in Croatia when you sell real estate you've owned for three years or longer, as long as the property has been held in your name. If it's been held in a corporation, you are liable for capital gains tax whenever you sell. "In other cases, holding a piece of property in a corporation is the best choice for local asset protection or local probate," Lief told the group. "Again, it just depends. There's no one-size fits-all structure strategy." "Yes, exactly," Joel interjected. "Moreover, not only is there generally more than one right way to structure your holdings, but there are also, in every case, many, many wrong ways. "In any conversation on this topic, there are competing agendas. The real estate agent you're working with for a property purchase, for example, his agenda is straightforward. He just wants to close the deal. So he'll recommend the quickest-possible way to take title. That won't necessarily be the best way for you. What makes sense for you, as Lief suggested, is the strategy that balances tax liabilities with estate-planning and asset-protection benefits." "Here's the place to start this thinking," Lief picked up. "Start by assuming that maybe you don't need a structure at all. "I have a great story for this," Lief said, "that I've been writing about for a couple of years. The woman whose story it is got in touch recently to say that she was going to start charging me a royalty every time I retold her story. "She was kidding, I think, so here goes... "Years ago, this woman made a trip to Panama because her friends told she should check it out. Her friends also told her that she needed a Panama corporation...that she 'had to have' a Panama corporation. So, when she traveled to Panama for vacation, she set up a Panama corporation. "I met her three or four years later at a conference. Her first question to me was, 'What should I do with this Panama corporation I set up four years ago?' "'Dump it,' I told her after talking through her current situation. She had no need for a Panama corporation and never had. Why pay the annual fees to keep it current? There was no point. "Which is why, again, I say: Start with the goal. Have an objective in mind and then set out to find the structure and the jurisdiction that meet it. Don't put the cart before the horse. "I started doing this 17 years ago," Lief continued. "I didn't know a lot 17 years ago. I've learned by doing, which means I've made mistakes. I've got some structures I don't need and some others that aren't optimized. I've been working for the past few years to clean things up...to simplify. "If I could go back 17 years and give myself one piece of advice, it would be this: "Try to think long term. It's hard when you're starting out, and harder, too, the younger you are. With decades of living and investing ahead of you, how can you predict objectives or challenges? You can't really, so you have to stick with the very big picture. "Start by having a conversation with yourself, your spouse if you have one, and your attorney. Talk through what you're most concerned about, what you're trying to avoid, and what you're trying to build. Are your heirs a priority? Or is your priority a concern over someone slipping on the stairs in one of your rental properties and suing you for everything they can get their hands on? "Try to think as much of this through as you can from the starting line, especially when forming entities to hold property you're purchasing overseas. It's possible to retitle a piece of property, into the name of another or a new entity, but retitling comes at a cost. Transfer fees can range from 1% to 10%. It's not as simple to retitle property overseas as it can be in the United States. And it definitely can get expensive..." Kathleen Peddicord P.S. Together, Lief Simon and Joel Nagel walked attendees at last week's Global Asset Protection and Wealth Summit through the details and particulars, pluses and minuses of offshore structures. Should you form a corporation...an IBC...an LLC...a foundation...a trust? How do you choose which structure suits you best and which jurisdiction connects with your situation and objectives? Lief and Joel made specific recommendations walking through sample cases. If you weren't able to join them in the room in Belize last week, don't worry. You can still access the intelligence, recommendations, advice, and strategies that were shared. The audio recordings from this special event, including Lief and Joel's complete discussion on "Choosing The Offshore Structure That's Right For You," are being edited and bundled to create our new Wealth Building and Diversification Kit, which I'm happy to be able to make available to you pre-release for 50% off the regular price through Sunday, Nov. 2.
Continue reading: Living In Waterford City Versus County Kilkenny Or Galway, Ireland
Over three days last week in Panama City, Lief Simon led discussions with the world's leading offshore tax, banking, asset protection, investment, and business experts to help attendees at our Offshore Summit understand how to navigate and prepare for what lies ahead. What's coming down the tracks.
In fact, though, the truth is, what's coming is already upon us.
Saturday morning, Lief and I traveled with a group of 18 from the conference out to Los Islotes, Lief's development-in-the-making on Panama's Pacific coast. We had a great time showing our new friends around (I'll tell you more about our adventures out on the Azuero Sunset Coast tomorrow). When we returned to Panama City late this afternoon, I downloaded e-mails and found the one I reference above from a friend.
"How do I find out if my bank in Colombia is going to comply with the coming regulations?" asked an attendee at last week's conference.
"What transactions will be subject to the 30% withholding? ATM withdrawals?" wondered another.
The unfortunate reality is that no one knows the answers to these questions. What we do know is that the global banking and financial landscapes are changing. For all of us. I wouldn't say for the better. More restrictions. More hassle. More cost. Fewer options. What can you do?
First, understand what's coming and the potential implications. Joel Nagel, one of the best-schooled attorneys in the world on these issues, tax attorney Chris Bauer, tax advisor Tom Rowley, and Lief Simon spent a lot of time this past week talking through the facts, the consequences, and the strategies for positioning yourself to prevail in the face of them.
Second, diversify. That's the key. It's a necessity of the world we're living in.
But...diversify? What? Where? How?
Those were the big-picture topics of discussion this week in Panama City. As you know, we recorded every one of them—every presentation, every panel discussion, and every question-and-answer session. Our team is editing these recordings now. While that work is in process, you can purchase a pre-release copy of this new Offshore Self-Preservation Kit for more than 50% off the retail price. More details are here.
P.S. It's the tail end of the rainy season here in Panama, but we enjoyed a day of glorious sunshine out at Los Islotes yesterday. The hills and mountains all around were a blanket of green, thanks to the rains of the past several months, and the Pacific Ocean offshore from them was blue, glistening, and crashing. Our son Jackson and friend Alexandra played in the surf while we grown-ups walked the beach, planning, imagining... As soon as this rainy season concludes, we're ready to start moving dirt. More tomorrow..
P.S. What else this week?
Fortunately, different countries shine for different reasons. Some are better for banking, others for investing, some for residency, and yet others as places to incorporate your business. No country gets A ratings on all fronts. Panama is one country that gets close...
Options and opportunities for diversifying your life, your assets, and your future.
"You understand the realities we're facing right now," Lief began, "thanks to the so-called Patriot Act, the HIRE Act, FATCA, and the coming 30% withholding that's going to be imposed on any U.S. person trying to transfer money to what the IRS deems a 'non-compliant bank.'
"There was even, recently, legislation proposed that would have made it possible for the IRS to take away the passport of any U.S. person it accused of owing US$50,000 or more in back taxes. The IRS wouldn't have to prove the accusation...just make it. And the American in question would find himself without a passport..."
Yesterday morning, Mark Nestmann, one of the world's leading experts in offshore residency and second citizenship, led a panel discussion related to choosing where you might want to establish foreign residency or obtain a second passport and the particulars for how to go about it. Mark detailed nine criteria to consider when shopping for a place to establish a second, "back-up" residence and discussed the top choices today for second citizenship (by ancestry, residency, or investment).
Then, yesterday afternoon, five gentlemen took the stage--Joel Nagel, Tom Rowley, Chris Braun, Mark Nestmann, and Lief Simon--with, among them, nearly a century-and-a-half of experience helping Americans abroad address, manage, and mitigate their global tax obligations. These five guys are the heaviest hitters you'll find in this arena. Having them on stage, together, to answer attendee questions for an hour, was, alone, worth the price of admission...
Tax laws and treaties, residency visa requirements, opportunities for obtaining second citizenship, documentation required to open a bank account, currency controls and exchange restrictions...as well as the political and the economic landscapes jurisdiction to jurisdiction...all these things change all the time.
Unibank, a Panama City bank that we've been recommending as a good choice for foreigners looking to open accounts in Panama, decided two months ago that it would no longer accept foreign clients who haven't been resident in Panama for at least two years...
I just got back from the beach, and I wish I could turn my car around and go back to where I just came from. Coronado, only about an hour outside Panama City, is what I'd consider the most turn-key, most expat-ready ocean-front lifestyle available in Panama. Foreign retirees living in Coronado have already paved the way, leaving you little to do for yourself to create a familiar, comfortable, English-speaking atmosphere.
It's fear of the unknown that keeps many people from making the move overseas. In Coronado you can rest assured you'll find like-minded folks, all living out their dream retirements on the beach, ready to mingle and welcome new neighbors.
I arrived in Coronado on a quiet Friday afternoon. Residents of the area were out at lunch, busy shopping in the new El Machetazo (the closest thing to a Walmart here in Panama), or lounging by the beach. The sun was shining, not yet allowing the dark, rainy season clouds to push their way into town. Four vendors had set up shop at the entrance to the community, selling everything from bunches of assorted flowers to plantains, tomatoes, pineapples, and garlic. Trucks were loaded with fruits and vegetables.
I'd hoped for a weekend like this, calm and quiet. Holiday weekends can see loads of families from Panama City flocking to their vacation homes on the beach, crowding the grocery store parking lots and filling up the restaurants. For many years, that was Coronado's main purpose, to serve as the vacation getaway and weekend home for those who could afford a retreat outside the capital. Over the past few years, though, as Panama City has grown busier, dirtier, noisier, and generally harder for many retirees to take day-to-day, Coronado has transformed into a full-time retirement community...
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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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