New Zealand: A Great Place to Ride Out A Storm
Without Borders readers know that we think everyone should have a place they can go if things in their home country become intolerable. We are investors and speculators so we are always looking for a place that makes economic sense and is a great place to spend time. We have mentioned some of our favorite places like Argentina, Slovakia and Uruguay. Another viable location to consider is New Zealand.
While it isn’t for everyone, it should be a consideration for those looking for a beautiful, sparsely populated, English speaking country with modern amenities, the rule of law and a relatively benign tax system.
As much as it pains me to say it, the world is changing. Places previously seen as ‘tax havens’, like the Cayman’s, Switzerland and Uruguay (the most recent painful and personal example) are seemingly falling like dominos to the global ‘tax vampires’. Immigration to a foreign country based solely on tax advantages is looking to be a fool’s game, since governments can (and seemingly will) change the rules at any time. As more and more of the once rich nations go bankrupt they will use draconian measures to extract their proverbial (we hope) pound of flesh. The bottom line is that at the end of the day you need to feel safe, happy and secure where you live. This should be your PRIMARY goal when choosing a place to hang your hat for a while or forever.
I have many friends who make New Zealand their part-time residence. Most are my age or closer to retirement. Some, like me are polo fanatics, others just like walking in the country. Some others enjoy NZ because it gives them the feeling of moving back in time to the 1960s of their youth. Another younger hipper friend has just decided to make New Zealand home so I peppered him with questions. We talked about the advantages and disadvantages, and it’s clear that this should be a place you consider, seriously, when deciding where you want to plant your next flag. My friend Mark and his wife both yearned for a place where they could find a piece of nice farm land, raise some animals, grow organic fruits and vegetables and not be too bothered by ‘society’ at large. They were looking for a bit of sanity in an insane world. “New Zealand fit the bill, Fitz”, Mark said. “The only thing that can kill you in New Zealand is another person, or your own stupidity!” New Zealand, due to its geographical remoteness, is one of the only places on the planet where there are no indigenous predators and the government and populace at large will also generally leave you alone.
What makes New Zealand a place worth considering for an American or European expat? Let’s start by looking at what was important to my friend Mark and his wife, since his values and priorities are probably not much different than most peoples’. Here are his top 10 ‘criteria’, in no particular order.
Geo-politically and physically ‘Remote’
Abundant and reasonably priced properties
Plenty of water. Ocean, lakes, rivers…
Reasonable annual sunshine hours
Educated, English speaking population
Safe, clean and readily available organic food
Physical safety and the rule of law
Accessible, high-quality health care
His criteria may not be the same as yours or mine and he didn´t even know how much good cigars and Scotch run at the local shop but I think you would agree his list is attractive. New Zealand fulfills all of these, with the exception of number 9 ‘fair taxation’. We think ¨fair taxation¨ is an oxymoron so let´s look at the details.
New Zealand is NOT, and never has been, a tax haven. Residents are taxed on their incomes, both domestically and worldwide. However, the tax system is undergoing reform, and the top rates for individuals were just lowered from 38% to 33%. Corporate taxes will be lowered from 30% to 28% and the VAT will be pegged at 15%. New Zealand has some interesting tax advantages for new residents, including a 4-year hiatus on reporting worldwide assets, some interesting trust options and other ways to structure your affairs. So, as far as taxation, at least they seem to be moving in the right direction. New Zealand is an attractive citizenship to acquire as nobody has ever uttered the words ¨If our demands are not met we are going to start executing the Kiwis¨. So if tax considerations are top of your list it may make sense to live in New Zealand only long enough to gain citizenship before moving on to the next place as Kiwi´s are only taxed on their world wide income if they are resident in New Zealand. Unlike Americans if they are resident in a no or low tax jurisdiction they owe nothing to their home country.
Is New Zealand perfect… absolutely not! Look, there is no perfection, and you will never find a place that has everything you want or desire, please realize that. But according to Mark and some of my other friends if it’s wide open spaces, beautiful beaches, majestic mountains, mirror perfect lakes, roaring rivers, quaint towns, empty roads, great food, excellent property values (if you know where to look) and an educated, English speaking population that you seek… look no further.
Fortunately for us, Mark recently co-wrote an eBook on the subject of immigrating and living in New Zealand with a South African born associate who has made it his home for over 6 years. Both of the authors are successful entrepreneurs in their own rights, and are living the expat life.
If you’re interested in their eBook, ‘The New Zealand Retirement, Immigration and Lifestyle Guidebook’, click here to read more and order a copy. I’ve read it, and I think it’s definitely the best source of information out there and worth a look if your search for a life Without Borders continues.