Tax Reporting For Americans Abroad

“Kathleen, we are looking to relocate to Panama or Nicaragua, but as we own our business it is hard to get away. We usually close down between Christmas and New Year’s and were planning to go to Panama City and look around at that time. Is that a difficult time to look at property? Also, since we have 10 days, could we do both countries?”

–Vicki K., United States

Not much business takes place in this part of the world between Christmas and New Year’s. Frankly, it’d be the second least-reliable time to try to do business in Panama (after Carnavale in February). You might be able to set appointments if you contact real estate agents in advance. However, you couldn’t really count then on the agents showing up at the appointed time.

We made an appointment with an agent earlier this week to view an apartment for sale that we’re considering buying as a rental investment. We made the appointment in advance, called that morning to confirm, showed up at the appointed hour, and wait a half-hour before calling the agent’s office…

To be told that the agent had gone to lunch.

And it’s neither Christmas nor Carnavale.

If Christmas is the only time you have to travel, you could still come take a look, get a feel for these countries, and, yes, you could do both Panama and Nicaragua in 10 days. Just don’t count on efficient property shopping (or efficient anything else) that time of year.

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“Kathleen, I made a property investment in Belize that is beginning to pay out. My accountant has advised me that I need to file the FBAR form in the States (I’m an American), because I received money from offshore.

“Is this correct?”

–Gerry S., United States

No. The FBAR form is to be filed when you are a signatory on an offshore bank account. It’s an entirely different issue. If you are the signatory on a bank account in Belize (or in any other country), then, yes, you need to file an FBAR with the U.S. Treasury Department.

But, again, this has nothing to do with receiving return on any foreign investment.

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