Clients tired of U.S. taxes? These countries may offer some relief

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When most clients complain about their taxes, the most you can do is offer a sympathetic ear – but for the very few who are willing to do something radical about their tax situation -- like giving up their U.S. citizenship -- one expert has compiled a list of the five best countries for Americans to seek relief.

International investor and tax expert Lief Simon and the editors of Live and Invest Overeas, a resource on investment, real estate, retirement and living overseas, chose the countries based on the opportunities they offer for Americans to pay less tax, protect their assets, open bank accounts, get second passports, and do business in general, among other things.

Here are the five top picks, all of which are in Central or South America, or the Caribbean.

Panama. Panama only taxes income earned in the country, so it should be possible to live there and operate a business tax-free. The experts, noted, however, that Americans should only use Panama corporations for active businesses, not passive investments. It’s relatively easy to establish residency in the country, and it has more than 75 banks – though they are under increasing scrutiny from U.S. regulators, and a very sensitive about money laundering.

The Dominican Republic. The D.R. has a fast-track program for citizenship that lets you apply after just six months of residency. It has a much more limited universe of banks and banking services than Panama, but Live and Invest Overseas says that they are more open to working with Americans, and will lend to foreigners for real estate purchases.

Uruguay. Like Panama, this South American country only taxes income earned there, and it offers a “competitive” residency and second citizenship option, while its banks offer unusual currency options. Another plus, according to the experts? “It remains off most everyone’s radar.”

St. Kitts & and Nevis: An economic citizenship program in the first of these two federated Caribbean islands means you could have a second passport in as little as six months – though it costs a minimum of $250,000. Nevis, meanwhile, offers a number of offshore entities that are useful for asset protection. Finally, like Panama and Uruguay, it’s a tax-efficient place to hold investments, since the islands only tax income earned there.

The Caymans: Perhaps best-known for their more than 200 banks, these islands are a great place for offshore financial investments – though Live and Invest Overseas warns that Americans may have to jump through some extra hoops to operate there, since Cayman banks and brokerage houses won’t deal directly with Americans “thanks to SEC regulations and restrictions.”

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