Cayman Islands Internet Business

Move Your Internet Business to Cayman Islands Tax Free

Are you looking for a high quality of life, no taxes, and a cool offshore jurisdiction from which to operate your internet business? Ready to move you and your team to paradise for a few years to rake in the cash tax free? Then consider moving your internet business to Cayman Islands.

Cayman Islands had a tax deal you can’t refuse. Move to this business-friendly group of islands with its first-world infrastructure and amazing climate, and pay no taxes. You will also get a 5 year renewable work / residency visa for you, your staff, and their families. There are no restrictions on the number of workers you can bring with you and no requirement to hire locals.

Historically, visas and work permits were extremely difficult to obtain in Cayman. Securing residency previously required you to buy real estate of $500,000 to $1 million dollars and navigate  river of red tape.

Because a residency permit and work visa are essential for the American to qualify for the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion, very few small businesses set up in Cayman.

Suffice it to say, those days are gone and now Cayman Islands is open for business. Today, you can relocate your internet business to Cayman Islands efficiently and without (most) of the impediments.  

Moving a business to Cayman also gets you access to their world-class banks and credit card processing facilities that have been shut to Americans for several years now. Only US persons with a licensed business or a home on Cayman may open a account on the Island.

For example, to further reduce your contacts with the US, you might process credit cards through First Atlantic Commerce, a leading global online payment solutions provider. This enables you to accept payments in up to 145 world currencies in real-time on a 100% PCI-compliant platform. Merchant services include:

  • Multi-currency, multi jurisdictional settlement
  • Real-time processing
  • Virtual Terminal
  • Repeat and Subscription Billing
  • Card Number Tokenization
  • 3-D Secure™ (bank dependent)
  • CVV2/CVC2/CID and AVS checks
  • PCI Compliant gateway

We also highly recommend banking and credit card processing services from Royal Bank of Canada.

Now on to US Taxes.

Here’s how to move your business to Cayman Islands tax free. Do it right and you and your staff can earn up to $101,300 tax free in salary. That’s right, everyone who moves to Cayman with you gets $101,300 tax free. That equates to about a 35% pay increase on your first $100,000 in salary… certainly worth hanging out on a beautiful Caribbean island for a year to earn.

  • You will pay US taxes on salary over $101,300. You might create defined benefit or other retirement structures to further defer tax. A small business might simply hold retained earnings tax deferred.

Even better, you and your team won’t be required to pay self employment tax or any of the US social taxes. No FICA, Medicare, or Obama taxes. That’s a savings of about 15% (7.5% to the employer and 7.5% to the employee).

Of course, you’re in business to make a profit, not just pay your employees. Any income generated by the Cayman Islands corporation can be held offshore tax deferred. If you accrue $5 million in net profits over 3 years on the island, so long as you hold them in your Cayman corporation, you won’t be required to pay US taxes.

The devil is in the details of the US tax code and I’ll get to that.

First, let me point out that I am talking about moving you and your business out of the United States and to the Cayman Islands. This is not some tax dodge using shell companies or hiding from the IRS. This is committing to the business, making the move, and earning the tax benefits.

Shell companies and offshore structures with no substance behind them are so 2000. These days, if you want to cut your US taxes, you must have employees and operations outside of the US. For most businesses, this means moving you and your workers out of the United States for a time.

Then and only then will some of the income generated by this division qualify to be held in the Cayman Islands corporation tax deferred. More on this soon….

In support of this fact, the Cayman Islands Government has granted a number of globally competitive tax holidays / tax free zones throughout the Island. They allow your businesses to establish a physical presence plus offer fast-track business licensing and visa processing. These programs attempt to eliminate the red-tape, excessive costs, and uncertainty that one would normally experience when trying to set up a business in Cayman Islands.

These tax free zones provide the following benefits:

  • No corporate, income, sales or capital gains tax in Cayman Islands – tax payable in the USA is a complex matter summarized below.
  • 100% foreign company ownership permitted
  • A 3-4 week fast-track business licensing regime
  • Renewable 5-year work/residency visas granted in 5 days
  • Cutting-edge IT and business infrastructure
  • Offshore hosting & payment gateway
  • Minimal Government regulation
  • No Government reporting or filing requirements
  • A tech cluster with massive cross-marketing opportunities
  • ’One-stop-shop’ Administration services
  • Work visas for your staff and residency permits for your spouse and children at no additional cost.

Note that you must operate your business in one of the Island’s tax free zones to get these benefits. Also, your business must be in one of the industries to which a tax holiday is available. Qualified businesses include:

  • Internet & Technology
  • Media, Marketing or Film
  • Biotechnology & Life Sciences
  • Commodities & Derivatives
  • Maritime Services

How to Maximize the US Tax Benefits of Moving Your Business to Cayman Islands

Let’s get back to the devil (the IRS) and those details.

The key to the offer in Cayman is the fact that you and your employees will receive work and residency permits on the island. In the past, these have been extremely difficult to get and required that you hire a proportional number of Cayman citizens.

As of 2016, Cayman understands that the days of the shell company are coming to an end. The government is moving to a service based offering that allows you to establish a real business with substance and employees who qualify for the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion. One that will pass muster with the IRS and allow you to minimize your US taxes.

Of course, you need to do your part to make Uncle Sam happy as well. You need to move your business, your workers, and yourself to Cayman Islands. You must reside on the island as a legal resident with a work permit (we have that covered for you), qualify for the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion, and obtain a license from one of their tax free zones.

To qualify for the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion, you need to move to Cayman for the foreseeable future, make the Island your home base, and stay out of the US approximately 8 months of the year.

  • Cayman Islands should be your home base and the jurisdiction from which you operate your business. You don’t need to spend a certain amount of time on Cayman, but you do need to be out of the United States for about 8 months a year.

This allows you to earn up $101,300 in salary from your Cayman corporation tax free in the United States, avoid US social taxes, and retain net profits from your active business in the Cayman corporation tax deferred. The fact that you are structured and licensed in one of the Cayman tax free zones means you operate tax free in Cayman also.

Note that I said net profits / retained earnings in your Cayman Islands corporation will be tax deferred – not tax free – in the United States. When you will decide to take out these retained earnings from your corporation, they will be taxed in the United States. You can decide when that occurs, but you must pay Uncle Sam some day.

The Foreign Earned Income Exclusion is a complex topic, and I have merely skimmed the surface here. For more details, see:

  1. Foreign Earned Income Exclusion 2016
  2. Foreign Earned Income Exclusion Basics
  3. Benefits of an Offshore Company
  4. Eliminate U.S. Tax in 5 Steps with an Offshore Corporation
  5. How to Prorate the FEIE

As you read through these thrilling posts, keep in mind that we are talking about moving you and your business to Cayman. You will qualify for the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion using the residency test and not the physical presence test.

Costs of Setting Up in Cayman Islands

I’ve been working offshore since 2000 and I can tell you that Cayman Islands is without a doubt the most beautiful tax paradise. Add to this  their world class services, IT infrastructure, and top legal and business talent, and it’s an amazing place from which to operate an internet business. Cayman Islands is NOT a low cost option Cayman is the Hyatt or Nieman Marcus of the offshore world, not Wal Mart or Best Western.

Cayman is one of the more expensive jurisdictions from which to run your business. You will need to pay your employees the same as you do in a major US city like Los Angeles or New York to cover the cost of living. Everything you do, from equipment to meals to lodging, will cost about the same as the United States. And everyone will want to travel back and forth to the US to escape that Island Fever.

If you are looking for one of the most beautiful and professional spots on the planet from which to operate your business, Cayman Islands is it.

If you are looking for a place that offers low cost labor and a 4% tax rate, and you have at least 5 employees, consider Puerto Rico.

If you want to maximize the value of the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion in a lower cost city, consider Panama. Yes, Panama regardless of the BS you read about the Panama Papers.

Here is a summary of the costs of setting up your business in Cayman Islands. Note that the minimum number of employees in Cayman is one. The tax benefits described here assume you (the business owner) are the first employee. You might be the only employee or you can bring with you as many support staff as you like. 

The tax free zones have created turn-key offerings that include your residency visa, work permit, and office. The total cost for all of this in a shared / group space is about $1,550 per month. The minimum term of the lease is 3 years and the first year of $18,500 is due at signing

  • You can have up to two people working in the group space. If you have 3 or more employees, you will need a private office. See below.

The cost for a private office for one person with 90 to 100 sq ft., again including all permits, is about $3,000 per month on a three year contract. This includes furniture, phone system, etc. Payments are made quarterly at $9,237.50.

A three person office is $53,450 per year and a 2 person office can be either $41,250 or $49,250 per year depending on if a chooses the standard or large 2 person office. Payments are made quarterly and  the minimum term is 3 years.

In addition, each resident will need to have health insurance, which starts at about $200 per person per month. Family plans are available.

And, speaking of families, there is no additional cost to bring your spouse and dependent children under 18 years of age to Cayman in this program. Their residency permits are basically processed for free and included in your office rent.

However, you might consider setting up an office and work permit for your spouse. That will allow him or her to also earn $101,300 per year tax free under the FEIE working in your family business In this way, you can double the value of the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion.

Also, your kids must be enrolled in private school in Cayman. They are not allowed to roam the streets unchecked. Private school costs about $1,300 per month and a wide range of options and price points are available.

Finally, employees are required to have some type of retirement account on Cayman after 9 months of employment. This may provide additional tax planning options.

As I said above, the cost of living in Cayman Islands will be the same or higher than a major US city. Rent in a residential neighborhood for a two bedroom will run you $2,000 to $3,000 per month. The commute would be about 20 minutes to the office. .

If you want to go big, the rent for a two bedroom on Seven Mile Beach will run you $5,000 to $6,000 per month. If you would like to scope out the area, I suggest you stay at one of the many hotels on Seven Mile.

We can have you setup and operating from Cayman Islands in about 40 days. For more information, and a quote on forming your Cayman corporation and US / Cayman tax planning, please contact me at or call us at (619) 483-1708.

Cayman Islands vs Puerto Rico

Allow me to close by comparing Cayman Islands to the US territory of Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico offers a tax holiday at 4%, a tax rate which is guaranteed for 20 years. The catch is that your business must move to Puerto Rico and have at least 5 employees on the island.

  • If you have fewer than 5 employees, Puerto Rico is not an option. Focus on Cayman Islands or Panama.

The tax deal in Puerto Rico is very different from that of Cayman Islands. In fact, it’s the reverse of the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion described above.

In Cayman, you earn $101,300 tax free and leave the balance of the profits in the offshore corporation tax deferred.

In Puerto Rico, you draw a reasonable salary and pay tax at ordinary income rates on that money. The remaining net profits of the business are then taxed in the corporation at 4%. If you are living in Puerto Rico, you can pull these profits (less the 4%) as tax free dividends.

So, if your salary is $100,000, and your remaining profit is $2 million, you will pay about $110,000 in Puerto Rico tax (($100,000 x 30%) + ($2 million x 4%) = $110,000). This is all of the tax you will ever pay on this income.

In Cayman, the $100,000 salary is tax free. At some point, you will pay US tax at 35% on the $2 million, or $700,000.  This might be years or decades in the future, but the bill will come due.

For more on this topic, take a read through Puerto Rico’s Tax Deal vs the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion.

I also note that you, as a US citizen or resident, do not need an visas or special permission to move to Puerto Rico. It’s a domestic flight and you can relocate as easily as you would from New York to Miami.

Next, your cost of labor in Puerto Rico will be 30% to 40% lower than in Cayman Islands. The same goes for your cost of living and operating the business.

Finally, Puerto Rico allows you to spend more time in the US. You should be on the island for 183 days a year, not 240 as you should with the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion using the residency test.


Whether you want to operate your business from an island paradise like Cayman Islands or a fiscal paradise like Puerto Rico, all tax deals these days require substance. This means a business with employees abroad adding value and working in the business.

You need to move you and your business outside of the US to maximize the benefits of the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion or of the US territorial tax offerings of Puerto Rico.

I hope you’ve found this article helpful. For more information on moving your business to Cayman Islands or Puerto Rico, please contact me at or (619) 483-1708 for a confidential consultation.

Puerto Rico Bank License

Lowest Cost Offshore Bank License is Puerto Rico

Want to setup an offshore bank? Looking for an international banking license? Obtaining an offshore bank license and negotiating offshore correspondent accounts have become extremely difficult in every jurisdiction except one. The lowest cost offshore bank license is Puerto Rico. Yes, the US territory of Puerto Rico is the best island in the Caribbean to negotiate an offshore bank license.

Puerto Rico is the lowest cost offshore bank license available anywhere in the world. And, it comes with the ability to get US correspondent banking relationships more efficiently than other offshore bank licensing jurisdictions.

Let me first clarify two terms.

When I write about an offshore bank license, I mean a banking license that allows you to do all types of international banking business. The only limitation is that you can’t accept clients from the issuing jurisdiction. So, an offshore bank licensed in Puerto Rico can accept clients from anywhere in the world (including the United States) except Puerto Rico. Likewise, an offshore bank licensed in Panama can accept clients from anywhere but Panama.

And, when I say Puerto Rico is the lowest cost offshore bank license jurisdiction, I mean the lowest set up, capital, and operating cost by a long shot. I mean that an offshore bank license in Puerto Rico can be had for a fraction of the cost and capital of any other jurisdiction.

To give you an idea of the cost difference, it would require 10 times the capital of Puerto Rico to set up in the country of Belize. The cost of operating in Cayman would be 17 times higher than the cost of operating in Puerto Rico.

  • The annual fee for the international banking license in PR is $5,000. This compares to $85,365.85 in Cayman. The cost of labor and all other services are dramatically higher in Cayman than Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico has been aggressive in courting financial service, hedge fund, and banking companies since 2013. Their Act 20 which any US business to move to Puerto Rico and pay only 4% in tax. They also approved Act 22 which cuts the capital gains rate to zero for any American who moves to Puerto Rico and spends at least 183 days per year on the island (becoming a legal and tax resident of Puerto Rico).

An offshore bank licensed in Puerto Rico under Act 273 receives the same  4% tax rate. This tax holiday is guaranteed for 15 years. Also, full property and municipal license tax exemptions, 6% income tax rate on distributions to PR resident shareholders and a 0% tax rate on distributions to non-PR resident shareholders, are available to offshore banks licensed in Puerto Rico.

  • This article focuses on Act 273 and not Act 20  and 22. When doing your research, note the distinction between 273 for banks and 20 / 22. For example, Act 273 guarantees you a 4% rate for 15 years where Act 20 guarantees you the same for 20 years. Act 273 requires 4 employees where the latest version of Act 20 requires 5 employees.

Here’s a summary of the offshore bank license options in Puerto Rico:

Puerto Rico Full International Banking License – Requires capital of at least $300,000 to held by the central bank or in a bond (as stated in the Act: $300,000 financial guarantees acceptable to OCFI). Authorized shares are to be at least $5 million. Of this, only $250,000 must be paid-in.

Puerto Rico Restricted International Banking License – Capital held by the central bank or in a bond of $300,000 (as stated in the Act: $300,000 financial guarantees acceptable to OCFI). The authorized capital stock or the proposed capital, as the case may be, shall not be less than $500,000, out of which at least $50,000 shall be paid in full at the time the license is issued. This can also be referred to as a captive license.

In most cases, a full international banking license is required. Of the many banks licensed in Puerto Rico, only 1 has a restricted license.

A full international license in Puerto Rico allows you to provide financial services to other international financial institutions or to persons outside of Puerto Rico.  “Financial services” are any service which is generally accepted in the banking industry of the United States and Puerto Rico including:

  1. Accept deposits and borrow money from non-residents of PR.
  2. Accept deposits and borrow money from certain government institutions
  3. Place deposits in any PR bank and foreign banks organized in PR.
  4. Make loans to non-residents of PR. Issue letters of credit to non-residents or PR.
  5. Issue letters of credit for export activities to both PR resident and non-residents.
  6. Discount money orders and bills of exchange to non-PR residents.
  7. Invest in securities and stocks as well as PR government bonds exempt from tax
  8. Carry transactions in any currency and gold or silver and foreign currency trade.
  9. Underwrite and trade notes and debt instruments issued by a non-PR residents
  10. Engage in trade financing of import  and export of raw materials and finished goods.
  11. Act as a fiduciary, executor, administrator, registrar of stocks and bonds, custodian, trustee, agent and any other fiduciary capacity with non-residents of PR after obtaining a special permit from the government.
  12. Acquire and lease personal property on behalf of non-PR residents.
  13. Buy and sell security outside of PR on behalf of non-PR residents.
  14. Act as a clearinghouse of instruments of foreign persons
  15. Organize and manage international financial entities not related to residents of PR.
  16. Lend or guarantee loans originated in some governmental institutions.
  17. Purchase sub-standards non-performing loans from a PR bank.
  18. Establish branches outside PR in the continental USA or in other foreign country.
  19. Provide the following services:
    • Asset management.
    • Management of alternative investments.
    • Management of private capital.
    • Management of hedge funds
    • Management of pools of capital
    • Administration of trusts
    • Management of escrow  funds for non-residents of PR.

An offshore bank licensed in Puerto Rico gives you access to the US market and a wide range of corresponding banks.  In addition to the usual suspects, corresponding bank options include:

  • Scotiabank *
  • FirstBank Puerto Rico
  • Banco Popular de Puerto Rico
  • Banco Popular North America (US Bank at
  • Centennial Bank (a US bank in FL

    * Scotia has a partnership deal with Bank of America that can be leveraged.

Puerto Rico is the second largest offshore banking jurisdiction in the Caribbean after Cayman Islands. The Cayman Island has decades more history, 40 of the top 50 banks in the world, and a total of 196 banks licensed as of the end of June 2015.

This compares to about 50 offshore banks operating from Puerto Rico. That’s more than all of the other Caribbean islands combined… not counting Cayman, of course.

So, next time you hear about offshore banking jurisdiction “hotbed” like Belize with 6 banks, all combined holding less capital than one bank in Puerto Rico, you will have some sense of scale.  

Here is a partial list of the active banks in PR.

  • Pfizer International Bank – Int. License
  • Santander Overseas Bank – Int Lic.
  • Bank of Nova Scotia – General
  • Chase Manhattan – Int Lic
  • Citibank – General, but operate as an international bank
  • Popular Bank – General & Int. Lic ( publicly traded, operated in PR for 120 years, 52 yrs in US)
  • Puerto Rico International – Int. Lic
  • Metro America Int – Int Lic
  • Amtrade International Bank of Georgia – General
  • Charles Schwab Bank – General
  • BNC International – Int Lic
  • FirstBank International – Int Lic
  • Santander Overseas – Int Lic
  • WesternBank – Int Lic
  • OBT International – Int Lic
  • SB Pharmco (owned by Glaxo) – Int Lic
  • Bank of Southeast Europe – Int. Lic.
  • First Bankcorp – Int Lic
  • Oriental Bank – This is one of the larger local banks
  • VS International – Int Lic
  • Face Bank – Int Lic
  • BST – Int Lic
  • BBO Private – Int Lic
  • Paramount International – Int Lic
  • Bancredito Int – Int Lic
  • Italbank – Int Lic
  • Activo – Int Lic
  • ARCA – Int Lic
  • Nodus – Int Lic
  • Andcapital – Int Lic
  • Elite International – Inc Lic

For more information, please review my articles on offshore bank licensing and operation. I’ve been working in offshore banking for over a decade, so there are a few older posts floating around the web. My recent articles on the topic are:

I hope you have found this review of offshore bank licenses in Puerto Rico helpful. If you would like to setup a licensed bank in Puerto Rico, please contact me for a confidential consultation at or call (619) 483-1708.

Puerto Rico Tax Deal

Puerto Rico Tax Deal vs Foreign Earned Income Exclusion

The Puerto Rico tax deal is the inverse of the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion. Here’s why:

  • With a Puerto Rico tax contract you can live in the US, your first $100,000 or so in salary is taxable, with rest deferred at 4%.
  • If you live offshore and qualify for the FEIE, your first $101,300 is tax free in 2016 and the rest is taxable in the US as earned.

The FEIE is intended for those living abroad and operating a business that earns $100,000 to $200,000 max. The Puerto Rico deal is intended for those who live in the US or PR and net $400,000 or more.

This article will compare and contrast the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion with the Puerto Rico Tax Deal. There are still deals out there for Americans if you know how to work the system.

Here’s how the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion works:

If you live abroad and work for someone else, or have your own business, the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion is the best tool in your expat toolbox. The FEIE allows you to exclude up to $101,300 in salary in 2016 from your US taxes.

This salary can come from your own offshore corporation or from your employer. So long as the company is located outside of the US, and you qualify for the Exclusion, you’re golden.

If a husband and wife are both working in the business, they can each earn $101,300 in salary tax free for a total of $202,600. Take out more, and the excess is taxable in the US at about 40%.

Likewise, if you work for someone else, the amount you earn over the FEIE is taxable in the United States. If you work for yourself, and hold earnings in an offshore corporation, you can usually defer tax on these retained earnings.

To qualify for the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion, you must be 1) outside of the US for 330 out of any 365 days, or 2) be a legal resident of a foreign country, file taxes in that country, and travel to the US only occasionally for work or vacation.

  • What qualifies you a resident of a foreign country is a complex matter. For a more detailed article on the FEIE, see: Foreign Earned Income Exclusion Basics
  • The above assumes you are living in a low or no tax country and does not consider the Foreign Tax Credit.

The Foreign Earned Income Exclusion is an excellent tax tool for those willing to live and work outside of the US. If you wish to spend more than a couple months a year in the US, or to take out a salary of more than $101,300, the FEIE might not be your best bet.

Here’s how the Puerto Rico Act 20 tax deal works:

If you incorporate your business in Puerto Rico, you can qualify for an 4% corporate tax rate. That is to say, you can live in the US, operate your business through a Puerto Rico company, and get tax deferral at 4%.

In order to qualify, you must hire at least 5 full time employees in Puerto Rico and provide a service from the island to businesses or individuals outside of PR. Popular examples are affiliate marketers, website developers, investment funds, phone and online support providers, and any other business that is portable or operates via the internet. Really, any company that can put a division in Puerto Rico can benefit from Act 20.

  • If you don’t need 5 employees, we might create a joint venture that allows partners to share employees in one corporation that benefits the group.
  • EDITORS NOTE: On July 11, 2017, the government of Puerto Rico did away with the requirement to hire 5 employees to qualify for Act 20. You can now set up an Act 20 company with only 1 employee (you, the business owner). For more information, see: Puerto Rico Eliminates 5 Employee Requirement

If you, the business owner and operator, live in the US, you must take a “fair market” salary that’s taxable and reported on Form W-2. This might be around $100,000, but the exact amount will depend on many factors. The remaining net profits of the income attributable to the Puerto Rican company will be taxed at 4%.

This is basically the inverse of the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion. With a Puerto Rico contract, you pay tax on your fair market salary and defer the balance at 4%. With the FEIE, the first $100,000 (or $200,000 if married and both are working in the business) is tax free and the excess is taxable at ordinary rates.

I note that the Act 20 offer is a better deal than the multinationals have in Europe. Most of them are paying about 12.5% for tax deferral. Even at 12.5%, their tax contracts are under constant attack by the US and the EU. If you want to out maneuver Apple, and get an offshore tax deal blessed by the US government, move your business to Puerto Rico!

So, what’s different about Puerto Rico? As a US territory, it’s tax code trumps the Federal Code… or, more properly put, PR’s tax code is on equal footing with the US Federal code.

This is not the case in a foreign jurisdiction. So long as you hold a US passport, you’re subject to US taxation. The IRS doesn’t give a damn about the laws of your new country. They want their cut.

The US code is clear when it comes to Puerto Rico: Income earned in a Puerto Rican corporation, or as a resident of Puerto Rico, is exempt from US taxation. See: 26 U.S. Code § 933 – Income from sources within Puerto Rico.  

The code as applied to foreign jurisdictions is incredibly complex. Try reading up Controlled Foreign Corporations, Passive Foreign Investment Company rules, and Sub Part F of the code.

I suggest a Puerto Rico tax contract is best suited to firms with at least $400,000 in net profits that can benefit from (or, at least, break-even on) three employees in Puerto Rico. 

In contrast, the FEIE is great for those who wish to live outside of the United States and earn a profit of of $100,000 to $200,000 from a business. Additional tax deferral is available to business owners who live abroad operate through an offshore corporation.

I hope you have found this article on the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion vs. the Puerto Rico Tax Deal helpful. For more information, please send an email to or give me a call at (619) 483-1708. 

Puerto Rico Tax deal

Puerto Rico Tax Deals for Corporations

Thinking about moving your business offshore? If you are a US citizen, and your profits exceed $400,000, I guarantee Puerto Rico has a better deal for you.

As I reported last month, a US citizen can move to Puerto Rico and pay zero capital gains tax on his or her passive income and investments. That’s right, no US Federal or State tax on capital gains tax from real estate, stocks, and/or other investments acquired after you move to and become a resident of Puerto Rico.

This time around, I am here to tell you that Puerto Rico has a deal for business owners and entrepreneurs…a deal you can’t find anywhere else in the world unless you turn in your US passport.

Puerto Rico is offering business owners a tax contract similar to the one Switzerland and Russia negotiates with high net worth Europeans. Yes, Snowden’s Russia is a tax haven. For example, the actor Gérard Depardieu, angry over a plan by the French government to raise taxes to 75 percent for the wealthy, accepted a Russian passport from President Vladimir V. Putin. Russia has a flat tax rate of 13 percent.

A tax contract with Puerto Rico will allow you to cut your total (worldwide) tax rate down to 10% or lower without the need for any complex planning or structuring. Once you enter in to a contract, it can’t be modified or revoked by the government until 2036. Of course, you can leave Puerto Rico, thereby opting out of the tax deal, at any time. You can also spend a few months a year in the United States.

To receive these benefits, you are required to move yourself and your business to Puerto Rico, spend at least 183 days a year on the island, become a legal resident of this territory, and enter in to a tax contract with the government. Once you have relocated, you have opted out of the US Federal and State tax systems and in to the Puerto Rico tax code…which trumps the Federal code.

  • As a US territory, Puerto Rico’s tax code takes precedent over the US Federal tax code. While US Expats are bound by Federal tax law, American’s in Puerto Rico need only follow local tax rules.

Such a contract is the inverse of the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion (FEIE) and allows you to pay all of your taxes now at a reduced rate without the need to lock earnings in to an offshore corporation, captive insurance company, or some other complex tax deferral mechanism.

Let me explain: If you qualify for the FEIE you can earn up to $97,600 in salary free of Federal income tax in 2013. If a husband and wife are both working in the business, they might take out $195,200 combined. That is a major tax break which allows a properly structured offshore business earning $195,200 to be completely free of US tax.

Well, what if your business earns significantly more than the FEIE amount? You can usually retain excess profits in to your corporation and thereby defer US tax until you distribute these profits as a dividend. Capital gains, interest income and other returns derived from these retained earnings are taxable (may not be deferred) and dividends are taxed as ordinary income.

While the FEIE works great for those with business profits near the exclusion amount, it is not so wonderful for those earning significantly more. If you net $1 million a year and want to take that money as income now, then you are stuck paying US tax on the amount over the FEIE at 39.6% in 2013. This comes to about $318,000 in Federal income tax assuming a husband and wife both qualified for the FEIE and no State tax is due (($1m – $195,000) x .396) = $318,000. If only one person qualifies for the FEIE, your tax bill will be about $357,350 (($1m – $97,600) x .396) = $357,350.

In Puerto Rico, you pay income tax on the first $250,000 (using a graduated rate of up to 33%) and 4% on income over $250,000. There is no need to retain earnings in an offshore corporation and no issues related to tax deferral. You are paying tax each year as the money is earned…at a lower rate compared to those of us in the States, but no deferral or retainer earnings to worry about.

For example, on $1 million of business profits, your tax bill in Puerto Rico will be about $105,000, significantly less than the same US owned business operating offshore using the FEIE. This equates to an effective tax rate of about 10% ((.30 x 250,000) + (.04 x 750,000)) = $105,000 or 10%.

As your net profits increase, the benefit of Puerto Rico’s tax system increase and your effective tax rate drops. For example, on net profits of $3 million, your tax is approximately $185,000, for an effective tax rate of 6.2% ((.30 x 250,000) + (.04 x 2,750,000)) = $185,000 or 6.2%.

As stated above, if your net profit is anywhere near the FEIE amount, then living and working abroad and operating through a foreign corporation will give you the best tax deal. If your profits are between $100,000 and $500,000, then you might need to run the numbers to determine whether Puerto Rico or the FEIE provides the better option. Such an analysis would take in to account how much you are willing to retain in to an offshore corporation, how long you can lock those profits away, and the deductions you have available on your US personal income tax return (itemized deductions such as mortgage interest, property tax, charitable contributions, etc.). I have not considered these issues in the examples provided.

What about those of us earning less than $1 million from our business? In Puerto Rico, you will be required to take salary of 1/3 of your net profits, up to a maximum salary of $250,000, and pay 4% on the remaining 2/3. So, if you earn $300,000 in total profits, your tax would be about $38,000 or 12.6% ((.3 x $100,000) + (.04 x $200,000)) = $38,000 or 12.6%.

If that same $300,000 was earned as salary by a US citizen using the FEIE and an offshore corporation, the first $97,600 would be tax free and the remaining $202,400 would be taxed at around 31% in 2013. This means your US Federal income tax will be about $62,644 (($300,000 – $97,600) x .31) = $62,644 for an effective rate of about 20%.

If a husband and wife are both working in that business with a net of $300,000, the FEIE amount becomes $195,200, and the balance is taxed at approximately 29%, for a total tax of $30,392. Therefore, at this income level it will be more efficient for a single person to operate in Puerto Rico and a married couple to be based offshore (($300,000 – $195,200) x .29) = $30,392 or about 10%.

When you combine these business tax incentives with the personal tax benefits of zero capital gains, you have a very strong contender in Puerto Rico. It is a deal that no country in the world can offer a US citizen.

So, why is Puerto Rico doing this? This island territory is in its 8th year of recession and is desperate to attract some wealth and prosperity. 4% tax on business profits is better than no business and no tax revenues.

How bad is the economy? Puerto Rican bonds are sold in the US with yield above 10%, which is extremely high. So high that Puerto Rico was forced to cut its offering this week the island’s Government Development Bank announced it would cut bond sales to between $500 million and $1.2 billion for the rest of the year. This yield compares to California municipal bonds at a current high of 3.13%, up from 2.17% at the end of 2012.

As the territory struggles with $70 billion in public debt and a 13.9% unemployment rate, higher than any U.S. state, it is searching for new ways to bring in capital, employment and investment. The government hopes to cut its $820 million budget deficit in half by 2015.

But, there is hope for Puerto Rico. While the US is completely out of control, Puerto Rico’s deficit has been reduced from $2.4 billion over the last couple of years. The island’s five-year economic plan calls for creating more than 90,000 jobs that would add as much as $7 billion to the economy by 2016, and another 130,000 jobs and as much as $12 billion of growth by 2018.

While these tough economic times might prevent a firm from building a large factory, or committing millions to the Island, they should not deter a high net-worth investor and business owner from picking up and moving. These tax incentives are guaranteed by the government until 2036 and can’t be withdrawn or amended. Even a law change would have no affect because your earnings are not locked in to the corporation, as they are with retained earnings in excess of the FEIE.

For more information, here are some links to other sites.

Links to Outside Resources

If you are considering moving your business  to Puerto Rico or abroad, please contact me for a confidential consultation. You can reach me directly at or (619) 483-1708.

Puerto Rico Pic

Move to Puerto Rico and Pay Zero Capital Gains Tax

Are you tired of paying in to the Obamanation? Is most of your income from capital gains taxed at 24% plus whatever your State grabs? You can eliminate tax on interest, dividends and capital gains by moving to Puerto Rico…immediately and legally.

Those of you who have been following me on  Live and Invest Overseas and for a while know I am focused on showing business owners how they can move their operations offshore to eliminate or defer US tax using the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion. While this model works great for the entrepreneur or small business owner, it provides little benefit for retirees or those who make a living trading stocks and investing.

While the US is taxing and redistributing wealth as quick as it can, Puerto Rico has seized upon this opportunity (an Obamatunity if you will) to entice high net worth individuals to move to their happy islands. Puerto Rico has completely eliminated tax on capital gains, interest and dividends. Yes, that’s right, once you become a resident of PR, you can legally pay zero capital gains tax. No more Federal tax, no complex planning, and no fear of the US government finding your offshore account.

I am not talking about only cutting out your State tax…I am saying you can jettison ALL United States tax on interest, dividends, and capital gains. This is possible because Puerto Rico, while a commonwealth of the United States, is treated as separate for tax purposes. By moving to PR, you can opt out of the Federal tax system and in to the PR tax program. This is because, under the Internal Revenue Code (IRC), capital gains are sourced to your place of residence and the IRC has one section detailing Federal law and another specifying laws of the territories.

Retired? Puerto Rico does not tax social security or unemployment income.

I would like to note here that moving to a foreign country with a low capital gains tax rate does not reduce your effective tax rate on passive investments. This can only be accomplished by relocating to a tax friendly US territory. As a US citizen, you are taxed by the US IRC on your worldwide income no matter where you live. When you move abroad, you remain under the jurisdiction of the Federal Government. So, if your country of residence taxes your gains at 5%, and the US at 20%, then you pay 5% to your country and 15% to Uncle Sam for the right to carry his passport. But, when you move to Puerto Rico, you fall under a unique section of the US tax code for the Commonwealth which trumps Federal law. You are opting out of the IRC Federal system and opting in to the IRC commonwealth system.

In other words, once a U.S. citizen becomes a resident of Puerto Rico, any income derived by that person from sources within Puerto Rico is excluded from U.S. Federal income tax, and taxed under the Puerto Rican income tax code. However, any income derived from outside of PR remains taxed under the Federal law.

So, capital assets (such as land, stocks, bonds, etc.) acquired after moving to PR are tax free. As for property acquired prior to becoming a resident, special provisions can result in a 10% long term rate from the day you qualify and a 5% tax rate applies to property acquired prior to becoming a resident and held for at least 10 years thereafter. See details below.

Why is Puerto Rico Doing This?

While I could pontificate on how PR sees the error of our ways and is a bastion of freedom and capitalism, the truth is probably less grandiose. Puerto Rico’s per-capita income is around $15,200, half that of Mississippi, the poorest state in the nation. Puerto Rico has been battered by several years of recession and its unemployment rate is over 13 percent, well above the national rate, and its economy remains in a funk. Moody’s Investors Services rates the island’s debt one notch above junk status; and in a recent research note, Breckenridge Capital Advisors said the island was “flirting with insolvency.” The island has the weakest pension fund in America and by some estimates could run out of money as soon as 2014.

I also note that these tax breaks apply only to new residents and not those currently living in Puerto Rico. More specifically, they are available to individuals who have not been residents of Puerto Rico within in the last 15 years and who become residents of Puerto Rico on or before December 31, 2035. As such, PR is obviously attempting to bring in new money to revitalize their fledgling economy.


To qualify, you must become a tax resident of Puerto Rico, reside in PR for at least 183 days a year, and file an application for the exemption with the local tax authority. Once approved, the decree establishes the terms of the exemption and has the effect and force of a contract during the entire benefit period. Considering the weakness of the PR economy, and how frequently tax laws change, this contract status is a major benefit.


The tax incentives available to individuals are as follows:

  • 100% tax exemption on interest and dividend income earned after the nonresident individual becomes a resident of Puerto Rico; also applies with respect to alternative minimum tax (AMT) up to tax year 2036
  • 100% tax exemption on interest, financial charges, dividends or distributive share on partnership income from international banking entities in Puerto Rico including AMT
  • 100% tax exemption on long-term capital gains realized and recognized after becoming a resident of Puerto Rico but before January 1, 2036
  • If not realized and recognized within the incentive timeframe, regular individual long-term capital gain applies (currently at 10%)
  • Applies to appreciation of property after becoming a resident of Puerto Rico
  • 5% tax on long-term capital gains realized before becoming a resident of Puerto Rico, but recognized after 10 years of becoming a resident of Puerto Rico, as long as recognized before January 1, 2036
  • This 5% long-term capital gain tax only applies to the portion of gain that relates to the appreciation of the property while the individual lived outside Puerto Rico
  • If the long-term capital gain is not recognized within these time periods, applicable individual long-term capital gain rate would apply on any Puerto Rico-source long-term capital gain

Puerto Rico also has great incentives for business owners, based around the tax breaks on dividend payments, which I will detail in a future article. If you are considering living and working abroad, give Puerto Rico a chance. Because of its status as a US territory, these islands can offer tax incentives to US citizens that are not available anywhere else in the world.