Retired life in the Dominican Republic can be easy. The people are welcoming, housing is affordable compared to most developed countries and, with a few exceptions such as imported food and utilities, the cost-of-living is also lower. The beaches aren’t too shabby, either, and moving to another country is always an adventure.
That’s not to say life is perfect. Far from it. Regular blackouts, crime, culture shock, and the usual hassles of living in the developing world make such a move problematic for some. It’s best to do plenty of homework and some serious soul-searching before you make such a move. This advice goes double for pensioners and retirees, who often face their own unique circumstances and considerations.
Visas for Retirees in the Dominican Republic
Any foreign national, retiree or otherwise, wishing to stay in the Dominican Republic longer than the 30 days afforded by a tourist visas will need to apply for residency. The process is a normally a two-step one, involving temporary residency (best applied for at a consulate in your home country) and then permanent residency, which may only be sought while in the country.
Retiring in the Dominican Republic, you are among those eligible to skip the temporary residency and jump right to the permanent residency status provided they can prove access to a monthly pension or similar source of funding of at least US$1,500 per month (plus $250 per dependant). The income must come from a public or private plan and the amount must be certified by the plan provider in writing. This document is in addition to the litany of other paperwork (health certificates, criminal background checks, birth and marriage certificates, etc.) required of any visa applicant.
The government says permanent residency may be acquired within 45 days of application, but in reality the process usually takes longer.
Medicare and Social Security Benefits in the Dominican Republic
Anyone eligible for benefits can continue receiving social security benefits while living in the Dominican Republic. The only exceptions are benefits as a dependent or survivor of a worker, which involve special rules. A tool on the Social Security Administration’s website, the Payments Abroad Screen Tool, can help determine if there are any restrictions that apply to specific situations.
Social Security benefits can be mailed to a residence in the Dominican Republic, though this method is not advised. Best bet is to have the benefits deposited directly into a bank or other financial institution account in the U.S. or in the Dominican Republic (it participates in the Social Security Administration’s International Direct Deposit program). If the benefits are deposited in the United States, recipients may access the money from ATMs throughout the Dominican Republic or have the funds transferred to a local bank
Medicare does not cover health services received outside the United States.
Taxes for Retirees in the Dominican Republic
Anyone who has been resident in the Dominican Republic for at least three years is subject to Dominican taxes. You are considered a resident if you spend more than 182 days in the country during any given fiscal year (the days do not have to be consecutive). Resident foreigners receiving income from financial investments (stocks and bonds, certificates of deposits, etc.) must pay taxes on income from those investments. Pensions and Social Security benefits, however, are exempt. All taxpayers must register with the tax authorities and obtain a tax or RNC (Registro Nacional de Contribuyentes) number.
Tax rates on income from financial investments abroad is levied on a sliding scale, with the first RD$290,000 exempt. Income between RD$290,000 and RD$435,000 is taxed at 15%; income between RD$435,000 and RD$604,000 at 20%. Everything above $604,000 is taxed at 25%. The scale is adjusted for inflation annually in January. There are very few deductions.
A 1% annual tax is assessed on any real property owned by individuals, based on the value of the property as appraised by the government authorities. The 1% is calculated only for values exceeding RD$5 million.
The estate of any person, Dominican or foreign, whose last domicile was in the Dominican Republic is subject to Dominican inheritance taxes of 3% less some deductions (4.5% for people who do not live in the Dominican Republic). The inheritance of property located in the Dominican Republic is subject to Dominican inheritance taxes, irrespective of the nationality or domicile of the deceased
Currently, there is no tax treaty in place between the United States and the Dominican Republic, so taxes may be owed in both countries in certain circumstances. Tax laws are complicated and change frequently, so it is recommended that a qualified tax accountant be consulted.