Dateline: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Here at Nomad Capitalist, we often talk about my five magic words: “go where you’re treated best.” You can take your life, your money, your investments, your business, and even your citizenship to the places where they will receive the best treatment.
Everyone can go where they’re treated best, but the application of this creed changes from person to person.
If you are a high-net-worth individual or even an ultra-high-net-worth individual, your needs are likely very different from those of an entrepreneur who is making an income but doesn’t have as much capital to invest.
When it comes to finding a place to settle down or set up a base, going where you’re treated best certainly involves varying personal preferences, but one preference we should all have in common is finding a tax-friendly or even tax-free place that we can call home.
Today, we will be discussing specific countries where high-net-worth individuals can go to enjoy the good life in exchange for low or even zero taxes.
As a practitioner of this lifestyle, my advice goes beyond the trends you’ll find in the offshore research lifecycle. And while a list of tax-friendly countries can be helpful, the best advice of all is to get out there yourself to see and experience these places before deciding if they are right for you.
Right off the bat, Monaco is a tax-free country. This means that, for the most part, the taxman will leave you alone, as long as you’re not a French citizen.
The caveat is that you do have to put some time on the ground there, you can’t just have paper residence. You do need to live there.
But this is hardly a sacrifice!
Even though Monaco is the second smallest state after the Vatican, with a population of roughly 38,000 people, all your neighbors would be very successful people.
That said, this exclusivity comes with a hefty price tag.
I have a friend I recently helped get settled there and he hardly blinked when his apartment cost him two million euros. You have to be in that wealth range to pull off living in Monaco as a halfway decent parking spot will cost you another half-million to a million euros.
And it’s not only the cost of living. To live in this beautiful South Mediterranean country, you need to put half a million euros in a bank account under your name. This amount cannot be touched during the duration of your residence permit.
Then, after ten years, you will receive your permanent residence.
This option is primarily meant for ultra-high-net-worth individuals that wouldn’t much mind leaving several million euros on the table for the sake of convenience.
Jersey is one option that people do not talk about much.
It is connected to the United Kingdom as it is a British Crown dependency, but it governs its affairs, which allows it to have a very tax-friendly system.
You can run a company from Jersey and pay basically no tax. You can also get residence as a person of means, wherein you essentially pay a flat tax of £145,000.
So, if you’re making millions of dollars a year, this is certainly an interesting option – especially because of its close relation to the UK and its proximity to London. This would allow you to enjoy one of the most vibrant cities on the planet whilst still retaining privacy.
In other words, you can have a manor house with beautiful gardens, top of the line infrastructure, and close proximity to where the action is happening, all while being both exclusive and far enough away that you can enjoy privacy.
3. The UAE
There is no better place than the UAE for folks who want the best of everything, a relatively hassle-free residency permit and 0% tax-rates.
The Emirates offers a Property Investor Residence Visa wherein you must invest at least AED1 million ($272,000) in real estate and spend a portion of the year there to qualify for their tax-exempt status.
However, it’s worth noting that on a dollar vs. value-received ratio, you can find very good properties here compared to what you would find on the previous list entries.
You can even pick the type of ambiance you experience in your day-to-day, as the two main cities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi have two distinctive characters.
As you can read about in our expat guide, Dubai is more focused on the entertainment lifestyle. On the other hand, Abu Dhabi is a bit more “old money,” traditional, calmer, and not so busy.
Wherever you ultimately pick though, what you will notice is that the standard of service is excellent.
For someone like myself, who simply does not want to drive, it is nice that every time you order an Uber, a Lexus pulls up. Unlike anywhere else, in the UAE, you are never going to get a Renault that has a dent in the side of it.
Life is good there. You don’t need to worry about much – if anything, you can hire someone in the UAE to worry for you – as every service and product you could ever want is available there.
It bears saying that some people are hesitant about the Middle East, perhaps understandably so when all they see are news headlines. But what you will find when you actually go there is that you will always be treated exceptionally well and it is very safe.
Singapore – nicknamed “The Little Red Dot” on the Southeast Asian Sea, given that on most maps it’s too small to be shown – looks somewhat unassuming at first glance. But contrary to all expectations, Singapore has become one of the most important, as well as exciting business and cultural centers of the world.
A fifth of the citizens in this nation-state are US dollar-denominated millionaires and a good portion of them come from all over the world, with all manner of backgrounds.
If you want to rub shoulders with some of the world’s most important people combined with a stable political climate, world-class healthcare and transportation systems – Singapore is a place worth considering.
The one caveat is that people sometimes say Singapore is sterile. It’s not without reason that people have called it “Disneyland but with the death penalty”.
Other emerging countries around it are more vibrant and have more character, as my own personal preference of Malaysia would attest.
Nevertheless, if you are looking for a place that’s very well-put-together and everything works, then Singapore is an excellent place.
If you would like to live there and you have about $2 million, you can get a residence permit via their Global Investor Programme. This can take two forms, either you invest that money into a fund, or you can start and run a business with that money (though this route has more restrictions).
Overall, Singapore is a great location, especially if you are someone who wants to be in a changing economy and near emerging markets to invest in them. After all, you are a stone’s throw away from Malaysia, Cambodia, Myanmar, Indonesia, and Vietnam, to name a few.
The Bahamas is an exciting option for high-net-worth individuals seeking privacy without feeling trapped, as there is no minimum stay requirement and the forty-five-minute flight to Miami offers an easy connection to a first-world country.
Foreign investors may be eligible for a permanent residence permit based on a residential property purchase of at least $500,000. One crucial detail is that the residence must be entirely constructed.
You can also accelerate the bureaucratic process to be done within under 21 days if your property is worth at least $1.5 million.
The Bahamas is a true tax haven – there are no direct taxes such as corporate income tax, personal income tax, or net worth tax.
It is an excellent place for entrepreneurs too; as you can incorporate your business there and benefit from the tax neutral environment.
The Bahamas has all four significant benefits in one – tax exemption, privacy, confidentiality, and low accounting requirements. What more could you ask for?
6. CAYMAN ISLANDS
The whole Caribbean is well-known for its tax haven status, but the Cayman Islands is the crown jewel of the lot.
Legend says that it gained its tax-free status a long time ago when a British prince was shipwrecked and saved by a local. In recompense, the island inhabitants would never have to pay tax.
Chances are that this story is completely fabricated, but it does point to the fact that the inhabitants have been well used to foreigners from the West coming to enjoy their sandy shores for a long time.
As an English-speaking British Overseas Territory, the Cayman Islands is an excellent choice for a luxury lifestyle.
If moving to the Cayman Islands sounds appealing to you, then I have good news – getting Cayman Islands residency is pretty straightforward.
However, while becoming a resident of the Cayman Islands isn’t too difficult, it is expensive. If you want to move there, you’ll need to be prepared to spend over $1 million – even for just a temporary residence permit.
Having said that, there are numerous fringe benefits that are not available in other Caribbean countries. For example, eventually, you can become the holder of a British Overseas Territories (Cayman Islands) passport and then even apply to register as a British Citizen with all the privileges that entails.
As always, whether Cayman Islands residency is a good choice for you will depend on your needs and circumstances. The island life is tempting, but there might be better choices out there.
7. ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA
Many people call passports from places like Antigua and Barbuda fake or illegitimate because you can get them rather quickly by making a simple payment of $100,000 to the country (though, after considering all the fees and other expenses, it really ends up being around $25,000 extra).
However, as someone who actually holds a passport that I “bought” from nearby St. Lucia, I can tell you that they’re perfectly legitimate and that all Nomad Capitalists should consider them as a part of their diversification strategy.
This is probably not as exciting for a high-net-worth individual. However, if you just want a hassle-free place to live with certain tax benefits, though not entirely tax-free, citizenship by investment in Antigua is right in the middle of the Caribbean pack in terms of fees and offerings.
Finding Your Tax-Friendly Country
As you well see, there are options with different price points and different benefits. Ultimately, it’s a personal choice about what you value and what your budgetary constraints are.
Some people like the idea of Europe and the developed world. Others enjoy island living where they can enjoy privacy with beautiful beaches. Still others prefer the fantastic services that you can find in the UAE or an excellent local economy like Singapore.
Everyone has different needs, so we can’t prescribe one single location without knowing about your specific circumstances.
If you want help determining what is ideal for you, your business and your family, feel free to reach out to our team to discover where you will be treated best.