Questions: renouncing US citizenship, postal mail for PTs

June 18, 2010
Madrid, Spain

Long haul flights from South America generally tend to leave in the evening, usually between 7pm and 1am. The airlines do this so that you arrive first thing in the morning and can catch any connecting flight you may need… which is nice for travelers.

The flight schedule does make things a bit inconvenient prior to departure, though.  Even with a late hotel check-out, you’ll have about 5 hours to kill before heading to the airport.

This happened to me yesterday in Rio, so I took the opportunity to work on my tan a little bit on Ipanema beach. Even though it was just a normal winter weekday afternoon yesterday, you would think they were having a supermodel convention at the beach given the abundance of bronzed beauties.

It’s no wonder why Brazilians are so carefree about life… how can you feel despondent when you’re immersed in warm weather, sunshine, mountains, the ocean, and gorgeous, friendly people?

After the 11-hour Iberia flight (average business class, in my opinion), I now find myself in Madrid, where I’ll spend the day before heading to London to meet up with some friends and Atlas 400 colleagues.

I’ll have more to follow on my plans next week; you may be interested in what I have in store regarding passports later this month. For now, let’s move on to this week’s questions.

Starting off, I got a chuckle from a comment by Garth this week when he said “the rose colored classes are on,” in response to an article about Rio. I thought I should take a moment and explain something about myself.

Here’s my confession: I am an unabashed optimist. I tend to see the good in everything– people, situations, and countries.  Even in the midst of chaos, my natural instinct is to see opportunities. There’s too much negativity in the world, and I’m weary of cynics who dwell on it.

You can always count on me to be candid about my thoughts, but don’t expect me to obsess over the negative aspects about a country. I will acknowledge them, and then move on… if a country’s issues are so serious that I don’t think you should consider planting a flag there, then I won’t even bother writing about it.

I recognize that people potentially base major life decisions on the information provided in this letter; this is a responsibility that I take very seriously, and I have a few simple rules that I follow which guide me as I write.

First, I won’t ever suggest a country that I wouldn’t recommend to my own mother. Second, I only discuss multiple flag tactics (banks, passport programs, corporations, etc.) that I have first-hand experience with and can vouch for.

Third, I won’t negatively bias someone’s opinion about a country simply because I don’t personally like it… I realize that not everyone shares my taste. As such, I tend to focus on the good points. If there’s not enough good points to consider, then it won’t be on my list. Simple.

Moving on, JT writes, “Simon, what are your thoughts on renouncing US citizenship?”

Renunciation is a decision that more and more people are making each year. The movement is still embryonic, but I expect the coming years that there will be great waves of Americans taking this step.

For most people, the chief reasons are generally financial– they no longer feel comfortable making Uncle Sam a 40% partner in everything they do around the world.

One thing’s for sure– no one should make this decision for emotional reasons because they hated Bush or hate Obama. These guys are as ephemeral as last night’s meat loaf. The decision should be made pratically with a well-reasoned financial analysis.

It is absolutely possible to mitigate or defer tax liability by properly planting multiple flags (i.e. business structured in one location, consumers in another, banking in another), but the ultimate tax break will come only when you renounce.

If you take this step, you have to pay a one-time tax to Uncle Sam as if you had liquidated all of your assets and taken the capital gains. Sammy gives you a $600,000 tax-free allowance and taxes you on the rest.  I’ll have more on this in a future letter; it’s definitely a topic worth discussing.

Next, Deiter asks, “If one were to disclose the existence of a foreign bank account, wouldn’t that make it accessible to frivolous lawsuits?”

Great question. One of main benefits of planting multiple flags is diversifying your sovereign risk so that your assets are no longer exposed to government agencies, tax authorities, and the court system.

Just because you disclose your assets, either due to government regulation or in a court-ordered discovery process, doesn’t mean that your assets are exposed. Let’s say you own property, for example, and you lose a court case… the judge decides that your property should be awarded to the Plaintiff.

Well, if that property is located within the court’s jurisdiction, then the judge can simply have the title conveyed to the other party. If the property is located overseas, far away from the court’s jurisdiction, then they have no power or authority to forcibly convey the title.

The same thing goes for bank accounts, gold stored overseas, etc. When you move assets overseas, you are effectively removing those assets from the jurisdictional authority of your home country.  Disclosing those assets as required by law does not eliminate that benefit.

Lastly, Dave asks, “Simon I’m curious. As a PT, what do you do for postal mail?”

Does anyone still use postal mail? My banking/credit card statements are all email, and if I need a parcel sent to me, I usually just give the hotel address where I expect to be staying by the time it arrives.

If you get a lot of postal mail, you could try the Swiss Post Box service. They’ll receive your mail, scan the envelope, then forward/shred/scan the contents upon your instructions.

That’s all for this week, have a great weekend.