This Train Isn’t Coming…It’s Upon Us

Nov. 18, 2012, Los Islotes, Panama: The restrictions associated with FATCA regulations aren’t coming, they’re here. Here’s how you can prepare yourself to prevail in the face of them.

Also This Week: Five Flags Geography…Analyze. Monitor. Adjust. Adapt. Overcome…The Five Flags Explained...Constantly Moving Targets...Panama’s Most Turn-key Beach Retirement Choice…

Dear Live and Invest Overseas Reader,

"Kathleen, I thought you'd like to see the letter I got from Citibank yesterday, on Dodd-Frank 1073 compliance. We've been speculating for a long time about how all this is going to play out...now I've got something in hand.

"Bottom line, Citi seems to be ducking the whole issue of the FATCA 30% withholding. If the beneficiary bank won't supply the requested tax information, then Citi won't send the wire. And people have just over two weeks to act..."

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.

Kathleen Peddicord

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?

  • I'm reviewing and clarifying my ideas related to the Five Flags theory of diversification in preparation for my opening remarks tomorrow at this week's Offshore Summit in Panama City. If you're new to the idea, the "Five Flags" are to do with residency, citizenship, banking, assets, and business. Not everyone needs all five flags planted in different jurisdictions, but the goal should be to plant whichever ones you do need in different jurisdictions. Moving to another country and taking all your cash, investments, and business activities with you to that new country doesn't achieve the real goal of going offshore.

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...

  • As promised, at 8 a.m. Wednesday morning, Lief Simon took center stage in the meeting rooms of Panama City's Veneto Hotel to begin leading discussions that will continue over the coming three days. The topic?

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..."

  • This week's Offshore Summit has been organized around a series of panel discussions, one for each of the Five Flags being considered.

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...

  • Perhaps the most important thing to understand about the offshore world, as the speakers at this week's Offshore Summit in Panama City are reminding those assembled again and again, is that it's forever changing.

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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