How a US LLC can Uniquely Benefit a UK Resident

A prospective client approached me recently regarding the benefits of establishing a US Limited Liability Company (US LLC), becoming a non-resident of the UK, and in which order should he proceed. Due to the unique status of how the UK interprets US LLC status, residents of the UK can receive some very unique benefits if they neither incur US or UK “effectively connected income”. This was my answer:

Well I first must fully agree with you about non-res status. It can be a real deal changer. However, in your case it is not absolutely necessary, and I would feel free to proceed with a company formation prior to actually leaving the UK.

If you own a US LLC it will be treated very oddly because of the way that the US and the UK deal with how US LLCs are treated for tax purposes.

In the USA the default setting of the US LLC is “disregarded entity” which means it does not exist for US tax purposes. So if you do not live in the USA and you do not earn “effectively connect US source income” then you will owe no US taxes. In fact you will not even have to file tax returns. This will be the case even if you have a US bank account and do all your banking in the USA. Just receiving money in the USA, even if that money comes from US sources, does not create a tax liability. For that you need to do more; make things, store things, deliver things, maintain permanent offices and staff, etc. from inside the USA.

Now that all sounds pretty good! However, it only gets better for citizens of the UK. Even though the US considers the US LLC to be a “disregarded entity” the UK treats the US LLC as a separate entity. If the US LLC does no business in the UK and incurs no income in the UK then there will be no UK taxes due from the income earned by the US LLC. Now you will need to pay taxes on income you receive as a salary or profit distribution, but you will be able to provide yourself with many tax free benefits since the US LLC will have no taxes to pay anywhere. Money you do not distribute to yourself, or use for your personal benefit will be deferred taxation allowing you to further invest that money. Now it is wise to be careful about how you give yourself these “tax free benefits” since the UK may decide that what you are really doing is giving yourself income and then fraudulently evading taxes; not good. So don’t be greedy. If you are receiving real economic benefits while living in the UK then pay taxes on that income. Keep in mind that you get to choose how you get paid and can select the method with the least tax; profit distributions, salary, reimbursement for contract work, etc. You get to choose whatever is best for you, but again don’t be greedy.

This takes us to the interesting issue of how to really avoid UK taxes. Move out of the UK. I am not a UK attorney, and I do not even pretend to play one on TV, but it is my understanding that in order to gain full non-resident status you must do more than just leave the UK and stay out a certain number of days. You must also obtain a legal residency in some other country. In this regard there are a lot of interesting options out there.

I chose the Republic of Georgia for a number of reasons. For me it was mostly lifestyle issues and economic opportunities, but there are also a lot of tax benefits to be had here. Getting a residency is simple and easy, and it can lead to citizenship for some in under a year! I don’t know of any place else on earth where that is possible without some sort of ancestral claim or a huge investment in the country; at least not a country that I would actually want to be part of.

Some other interesting options that provide great tax benefits: Montenegro, Mexico, Malta, Latvia, etc. Each has its advantages and its disadvantages. Note, you do not necessarily have to live in the country that you have a residency. It might just be a legal formality so that you can claim non-res status. On the other hand it might be nice to combine the issue of tax status and where you like to live.

Can the IRS take your US Passport? Yes.

The IRS can now take away your passport.

A little-noticed provision in the highway funding bill Congress passed this week threatens a right most Americans take for granted: the right to travel abroad. The provision in question gives the Internal Revenue Service the authority to revoke the passport of anyone the IRS claims owes more than $50,000 in back taxes.

Congress is giving the IRS this new power because a decline in gas tax receipts has bankrupted the federal highway trust fund. Of course, Congress would rather squeeze more money from the American people than reduce spending, repeal costly regulations, or return responsibility for highway construction to the states, local governments, and the private sector. On the other hand, most in Congress fear the political consequences of raising gas, or other, taxes. Giving the IRS new powers allows politicians to increase government revenue without having to increase tax rates. Some even brag about how they are “cracking down on tax cheats.”

If you think this is nothing to worry about then you are not paying attention. The IRS can and does routinely fabricate/estimate tax liabilities prior to auditing someone for a variety of reasons. Usually it involves some kind of missed filing or missing documentation. But the IRS is now a highly politicized organization that has been used to attack political opponents. This measure will make it even easier. The IRS can simply “estimate” that you owe more than $50,000 and you will not allowed to leave the country. Beware. You need a second passport more than ever if you plan on staying in the USA.

read more:  Ron Paul: Will The IRS Take Your Passport? – OpEd

Why You Need a Second Passport

passports

There is a great deal of confusion about the issue of getting a second passport or citizenship. What is the difference between residency and citizenship? Is it legal to have another citizenship? Do I need to abandon my current citizenship? What are the reasons?

Residency is the right of a foreigner to live in a country and perhaps work in that country. The rights of a foreign resident are often significantly less than that of a citizen. Not only can foreign residents not vote, but they are also denied many civil and economic benefits usually granted to citizens. In some countries ownership of land is restricted in various ways as is the right to form companies, operate businesses, get jobs, etc. Also, the very status of a foreign resident can be terminated or denied at will, property rights can be suspended, and constitutional rights are often absent or limited. Not so for a citizen. Being a citizen of a country imparts much greater benefits.

Is it legal to have a second citizenship, and will I have to abandon my current citizenship? In most countries the answer is yes, it is legal, and no, you will not have to abandon your current citizenship. Even in those countries that do not allow dual citizenship for its citizens, enforcement is often lax or non-existent. All the same it would be wise to seek legal advise regarding your country’s rules and regulations.

What are the reasons to get a second passport? There are many reasons, and they vary from person to person, but the primary ones are:

  • Banking Options – for some people it is very difficult to establish foreign bank accounts. Due to recent changes in US law it is extremely difficult to open bank accounts as a citizen of the USA.  It can often be much easier with a second passport.
  • Economic Benefits – It is often much easier to establish and operate businesses, and invest in real estate when you are a citizen of the country. Almost every country has some form of restrictions on business ownership, operation, and land ownership by foreigners. Becoming a citizen solves this problem.
  • Expat Lifestyle Benefits – If you plan on becoming an expat (or expatriate) it is often very helpful to have a citizenship from another country for tax purposes as well as security issues. In order to claim expat tax privileges you usually have to prove that you are domiciled outside your home country.
  • Travel Security – When you travel abroad not all passports are treated equally. Yes, US citizens are treated very well at most airports by the immigration control officers, but not so well by criminals, terrorists, etc. Often having a US (or other major country’s) passport makes you a target. In some situations having a more neutral passport could save your life.
  • Domestic Insecurity – People in democratic nations often take their freedoms for granted, specifically the right to travel outside the country. Historically most regimes that are under pressure and experiencing domestic unrest limit the ability of its citizens to leave. They impose capital restrictions to keep you from moving your assets, reporting requirements on foreign assets and travel, exit visa requirements in order to discourage leaving, restrictions on the issuance of passports except under government approved purposes, and finally complete restrictions on exiting the country at all. When this happens foreign nationals (those with foreign passports) are generally allowed to leave. Having a foreign passport may mean you can leave your country without being smuggled out, and without becoming an “undocumented” refugee or worse. You will also have a place to go to if things get bad. Something to think about.
  • Renunciation of Current Citizenship – there are a lot of reasons why people want to renounce their citizenship: political, economic, religious, philosophical, etc. Renouncing your citizenship is a very serious matter and should not be done without considering all the options, and obtaining competent legal advice, but for some there are a lot of benefits. For some it is lower taxes, and for others it is obtaining significant economic or political freedoms. For some it may simply be escaping an intolerable situation. If you are even considering renouncing your current citizenship, you need to have another citizenship and a passport from that country to prove it.

gepassportThe Republic of Georgia offers some very appealing programs for those looking to obtain legal residency and citizenship. Georgia is one of the last bastions of free market capitalism in the world, and it offers great opportunities for those who wish to participate. Of particular interest is the Georgian Presidential Citizenship Program. Under this program the President of Georgia is given a great deal of discretion in regards to issuing citizenship. Click here for more information: [GEORGIAN CITIZENSHIP]. Georgia is also a good place to obtain a legal residency. It is fast and easy, and once obtained provides many benefits.

Important Updates to the Privacy Passport®

Nothing ever stays the same, but sometimes things get better. This is the case for the Privacy Passport®. For more information see:

http://www.alexander-hay.com/offshore-financial-planning/the-privacy-passport/

 

 

Why a United Kingdom Limited Partnership?

business_2172838bFor clients who wish to protect their assets, reduce their taxes, and obtain financial privacy using a corporate entity is ideal. One of my favorits is the United Kingdom Limited Partnership (UK LP).

The UK LP is easy to establish, and once established requires zero reporting since it is a truly 100% “pass through” entity. The income from the UK LP is attributed to the partners without the need to file a partnership return in the UK. If the partners are not in the UK and the income is not derived from UK business, there will be no UK taxes and thereby no reports or tax returns that need to be filed. Now since the UK has some of the best tax treaties around, this income may also be tax exempt in your home country.

In addition, as long as you are not “doing business” in the USA (this usually means making, providing, storing and/or transporting goods or services inside the USA), there will be no tax liability in the USA either, although you may end up owing taxes on the profits of the UK LP if you are a citizen or resident of the USA and depending upon how ownership was set-up.

There are many ways of setting up a UK LP depending upon the needs of the client. Let’s chat if you have any questions!

How and Why an International Privacy Trust can Help You!

privacyI often advise clients to use an “International Privacy Trust” to own the business entities they form in order to provide them with greater asset protection, tax planning, and financial privacy. But I also tell them, “The only thing you want to do with the International Privacy Trust is to have it passively own the shares in those companies; no bank accounts, no contracts, no financial transactions, etc.”

This seems to cause a lot of confusion, “If the International Privacy Trust is so great, why don’t we use that instead of the US LLC, UK LP, or Belize IBC?”

A good question.

Without going into complicated legal issues it is important to understand that the “Trust” was developed through a totally different legal process than was the “Company”. Trust Law is different than Corporate Law. There are different rules that apply, and things are interpreted differently.

For example: If you set up a Trust, and you name yourself to an important position in the Trust, or in some way just maintain effective control over the officers of the trust, there is a real risk that the entire trust will be set aside as a “grantor’s trust” or worse a “sham entity”. However, if you set up a company, you can be the sole shareholder, sole officer, sole employee, chief bottle-washer, etc. and have no such problems.

Again, this is because a Trust is treated differently than a Company. This does not mean the Trust is not useful; it is very useful. It simply means you must be cautious in how you use the Trust.

A Trust is very helpful in providing arms-length ownership of assets that you want removed from your estate. A Trust is very helpful at providing added privacy and confidentiality. With careful design and execution, the Trust can be a very helpful tool.

In order to avoid the charge that the Trust is a grantor’s trust, which will result in negative tax implications, (at least under “common law” jurisdictions) certain precautions need to be taken. The client cannot be the Trustee, Sole Protector, Beneficiary, etc. of a Trust. The client also needs to be at “arms-length” distance from the Trust in all transactions; that is the client cannot have effective day-to-day control of the Trust despite what the paperwork says. By limiting what the Trust actually does, this risk is lowered, and hopefully eliminated.

Another risk is the accusation that the Trust is just the “alter-ego” of the client, or a “sham entity” which will result in the entire Trust being set aside. Again, this is when the client for one reason or another is deemed to have effective day-to-day control over the actions of the Trust. Again, limiting the actions of the Trust to only passive actions such as holding shares in business entities removes this as a reasonable risk to be concerned about.

So, I advise my clients to have an International Privacy Trust that DOES NOTHING OTHER THAN own the shares of the business entity they establish. The client gets the benefit of having an effective Trust that removes the assets from his or her estate thereby providing legal and legitimate asset protection and tax benefits, but can still take an active role in the business with the business entity which is owned by the Trust. This is often referred to as a “hybrid” entity approach.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.

When Going “Offshore” Should be Avoided

Many people come to me saying that they want to go offshore to protect their assets and reduce their taxes, but are often not ideal candidates. I try to explain that I do not offshore-financial-advicehelp people go “offshore”. What I do is help people protect their assets, reduce their taxes, and obtain greater financial privacy, all in a legal and ethical manner. Offshore structures are just some of the tools that sometimes come in handy to reach these goals.

For many people, “Going Offshore” is not just the wrong tool to use to accomplish these goals, but for many it is a very dangerous and unwise tool. As I described in my prior article, “What is Jurisdiction?”, the point of going “offshore” is to take advantage of another jurisdiction that may provide more friendly laws and regulations in regards to taxes, asset protection and privacy.

However, just setting up a foreign company and then doing business inside the old jurisdiction will not work. You need to be in a situation where some or all of your business can be successfully transplanted to that new more friendly jurisdiction. Examples of “offshore” friendly businesses are: importing/exporting, software design (particularly if you are already using offshore technicians or have significant offshore clients), Internet services, financial services, entertainment industry, and other types of intellectual property. If you do not have a business that lends itself to “going offshore” then it would be wise to focus on more cost-effective domestic alternatives.

If what you are doing is entirely defined as “US Source Income” (that is you are making, providing, storing, and/or delivering a product or service inside the USA from resources located inside the USA) then there is very little reason to “go offshore”. Setting up a foreign company that is going to do business inside the USA will require the foreign company to submit itself to the laws and tax regulations of the jurisdiction. Far from reducing taxes and protecting assets, this often results in some very negative tax consequences and subjects otherwise safe assets to US liabilities. It is for this reason that most non-US companies and investors usually establish US companies to act as affiliates and/or subsidiaries of the non-US structure.

So the bad news is that “going offshore” may be unsuitable for many if not most US taxpayers.

The good news is that there are a lot of reasonably priced alternatives that can still help to protect your assets, reduce your taxes, and obtain greater financial privacy.

The easiest and simplest of these is the good old tried and true “S Corporation” which combines limited liability protection with a convenient “pass through” tax treatment. A favorite of small businesses and investors for decades, the S Corporation provides adequate asset protection by segregating the liabilities of the business from the assets of the owners. Establishing an S Corporation is simple and even a Limited Liability Company (hereinafter an LLC) can be used for those like me who think the LLC is simply the greatest thing since sliced bread. In addition the S Corporation can provide significant savings in “self-employment” taxes (the 15.3% you have to pay for Social Security and Medicare). Instead of having to pay the self-employment tax of 15.3% up to the $113,700 cap (for 2013), you can give yourself a modest salary, and take the rest of the profits as profit distributions. Although you will have to pay taxes on the profit distributions, the savings of 15% can add up very quickly and is a safe and secure way of saving taxes as long as you pay yourself a “reasonable” salary with withholding. For additional privacy you can use a Revocable Trust to own the shares and appoint a nominee officer to be named in any official papers, thus obtaining near anonymous treatment.

For most small businesses an S Corporation is all they need to protect their assets and significantly reduce their taxes. However, if the operations of the business require significant investment of capital and involve significant exposure to liabilities, additional efforts may need to be taken to insure necessary protection is in place. For such situations we have developed the “Advanced Corporate Fortress”. This combines three (3) US entities that are used together to limit the exposure of the business assets to liabilities, and to maximize the tax savings of the owners. First a C Corporation is established that will stand alone as a taxable entity. All assets of the business will be placed into this C Corporation for protection. An LLC treated as a “disregarded entity” will be established to do anything that involves any exposure to liability. Although the LLC will be owned 100% by the C Corporation, it will have little or no assets that could be seized by a potential litigant. Finally an S Corporation is established to provide management and possibly employee payroll services for the LLC. In summary the C Corporation holds the assets of the business behind its protective wall, the LLC acts as a shield to protect the C Corporation since the LLC will be exposed to any and all liabilities but has no assets, and the S Corporation helps further protect the owner’s interests and reduce the owners taxes as described above. There are also several other advanced strategies that can be used to take advantage of the fact that the C Corporation has a very low initial tax bracket, thus allowing you to place some income into the C Corporation at a reduced tax rate and then lending it out to the S Corporation which can then deduct the interest payments on the loan as deductible expenses thereby further reducing the taxes of the owners.

Now for some people, none of this is necessary. They have no business and are only concerned with protecting their assets. For these people the “Personal Preservation Fortress” is ideal. It is simple yet provides extremely powerful protection. The Personal Preservation Fortress uses two entities to provide the ultimate in asset protection. An LLC is established to hold all the assets of the individual(s). The individual(s) will receive 99% of the shares of the LLC. An Irrevocable Trust is established naming someone other than the owner(s) of the LLC as beneficiaries (this is usually children, grandchildren, pets, etc.). The Trust will receive a 1% interest in the LLC and nothing else. Here is why this system works: creditors can only take what you have. If all you have is a partial interest in an LLC, then the creditors can only take that. Now in most states creditors who seize an LLC interest of less than 100% receive only an “assignment” of that interest, not the interest itself. As such they cannot vote the shares, and they cannot demand distributions from the LLC. This is because the LLC is treated as a partnership and most states provide protection to the other partners from being forced to accept as full members involuntary additions to the partnership. Although the creditor cannot vote the shares and cannot demand a distribution of income or assets, the creditor may be liable for demands of additional capital. That is the creditor may be required to pay additional funds into the LLC in order to maintain its economic position. Finally, if the LLC produces taxable income this income does not need to be distributed to the members, but the members still must pay taxes on the income. So the creditor would have to pay taxes on income earned by the LLC which the creditor did not actually receive. Finally, the only remaining voting member of the LLC is the Trust, which is “influenced” by the owners who act as members of the Trust Committee. The Trust Committee can remove the Trustee if the Trustee fails to satisfy the Trust Committee. As you can see, this is a very unpleasant situation for a creditor to be in, and you can expect them to start negotiating on reasonable terms. The best part about this system is that it applies to all creditors including the dreaded Internal Revenue System.

Finally, there is a unique structure that combines the benefits of an Individual Retirement Account with a tax-free entity:”The IRA Rescue Plan”. This program was initially established to assist people with large amounts of IRA money earning low rates of return who wanted to invest in unconventional investments that would otherwise be prohibited or difficult with a traditional IRA. First, the funds in your current IRA must be transferred to a more cooperative Custodian (conventional Custodians like banks, brokers, etc. only make money when you trade or keep your funds in their institution). We then establish a LLC following the dictates of an important US Tax Court ruling and have the IRA Custodian buy 100% of the shares of the new LLC. The client is then appointed President of the LLC, and does whatever he or she wants to do with the money (subject to basic good faith business limitations). The IRS requires that certain rules be maintained regarding distribution of funds from the LLC to the client, but these rules essentially involve reasonable compensation to insure that the client is not “defrauding” the LLC and thus unreasonably avoiding taxes and penalties on the IRA withdrawal. The long and short of it is that the IRS does not want you to transfer the funds from your IRA to an LLC, and then raid the piggy bank and avoid paying the withdrawal fees and penalties. If care is taken, funds can be paid to the client. Now, not only do we have the IRA funds in an entity managed by the client totally free and clear of the IRA limitations as to investments, the LLC is also a tax exempt entity since all profits of the LLC “pass through” to the IRA which pays no taxes on interest, dividends and/or capital gains. Furthermore, the IRA is one of the few entities to withstand the recent changes to the Bankruptcy Code. Funds in an IRA are still safe from creditors, and the LLC, being owned by the IRA, is thus protected.

As you can see, there is an amazing number of options available for people who may find “offshore” planning too risky, or who simply do not fall into a category whereby they could benefit from “going offshore”. If anything, the choice may be too much to deal with. But that is a good thing. Having plenty of options on how to protect your assets, reduce your taxes, and obtain greater financial privacy is a consumers dream come true. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact us.