Top Three Offshore Priorities For 2016—Banking, Second Citizenship, And Self-Sufficiency
Dealing with banks around the world is getting tougher all the time. I’m hearing new stories every week of people whose foreign banks have lost their U.S. correspondent banks… in Belize, in Mexico, in Panama, in the Caribbean, and beyond. In the name of “de-risking, ” banks around the world continue to catch people short, making offshore banking diversification more important than it’s ever been.
I’ve been beating this drum for a long time, telling you for many years that you should have at least two bank accounts overseas and at least two accounts for every offshore entity you form. For a decade or longer, I’ve been urging you to take action on this front sooner rather than later.
Heads up: If you haven’t acted yet… you’re behind the eight ball.
And now, I’m intensifying my recommendation. In my evolving experience, two bank accounts offshore and two for every entity may not be enough.
I have more than a dozen bank accounts outside the United States, most associated with various businesses and investments. I have two accounts for every entity, but few entities have more than two. Why would anyone want or need more than two accounts for a single entity? The de-risking era is answering that question for us.
Therefore, in 2016 I’ll be looking to open more bank accounts, upping the number to three for many of my companies as well as for me personally.
Singapore is on my list for that expansion effort; Kathleen and I will be traveling to Asia this summer. Our extended trip will have many agendas, including banking. I’m hoping I don’t have any further banking crises before I can get new accounts opened for key entities.
Other jurisdictions I’m looking at for banking diversification in 2016 include the Cook Islands and Europe. As Switzerland has already passed under the microscope of U.S. authorities, Swiss banks are looking less risky from an account-holder’s perspective.
Yes, all Swiss banks are reporting under FATCA, and, no, you can’t hide anything in a Swiss bank nowadays, but I’m not trying to hide anything anywhere… and neither should you be. This is a show-and-tell world, as an attorney friend refers to today’s offshore era.
That’s banking. The other critical offshore agenda of this fast-approaching New Year is second citizenship.
With the passage of the FAST Act, which allows the IRS to have any U.S. passport revoked from any citizen the IRS says owes the U.S. Treasury Department more than US$50,000, getting a second passport has moved in my mind from a good safety net to a practical requirement.
Unfortunately, unless you can afford to buy one through one of the Citizenship Investment Programs offered by a handful of countries, it takes time to get a second passport. If you haven’t already started down some path that leads to a second passport, you need to now, understanding that, depending on the option you decide to pursue, it could take several years (as many as seven) to become eligible.
I already have two passports, but I’ve started the process in the Dominican Republic for residency and eventual naturalization in that country. The DR offers the shortest non-economic citizenship residency requirement (three years) of any country and has a fast-track program that lets you apply after just six months of residency.
While a DR passport isn’t a great travel document, the quick process makes it a good option. I’ll keep you updated as I go through the process in 2016.
My third priority agenda item for 2016 is to learn more about farming. Owning turnkey agricultural investments is great portfolio diversification and an excellent generator of cash flow for retirement. However, owning a mango or coconut plantation isn’t going to feed my family in time of crisis.
“Lief, I want to buy a condo in Panama. The price is over US$300,000. What is the best way to protect the investment?
“Someone said I need a foundation in Panama or an IBC from Belize or another country. I’m a Canadian citizen and 60 years old.
“Thanks for your help.”
Given the chance, every attorney in Panama will recommend a Panama Foundation. In some cases, it can be a valid recommendation, but not always. It depends on your big-picture set-up. If the condo you’re planning to buy in Panama is the only asset you have and the only asset you intend to have offshore, a Panama Foundation works. A foundation is a civil law form of a trust. It brings the asset protection benefits of a trust while also allowing you to avoid probate in Panama.
However, if you’re planning to create an offshore real estate portfolio, then using a single entity from a jurisdiction other than Panama probably makes more sense. An IBC from Belize could work, as you’re Canadian. For an American an LLC would be the entity of choice, because an American wants to put offshore passive income in a pass-through entity to avoid onerous U.S. taxes on that income.
Of course, you could hold the property in your own name. The downside to that is that it means your heirs will have to deal with probate in Panama.