- Moving to Puerto Rico comes with some nice financial perks.
- Wealthier individuals and businesses may be the only ones to see most advantages.
- The downside is the healthcare, which might dissuade older people and those with medical conditions.
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In February 2021, when a rare snowstorm knocked out power for more than 4.5 million homes in Texas, Sarah Lindsey and Sean Flynn, two Austin residents, were looking for a change of scenery. That experience made them realize they wanted to go south.
"I was just at that point where I wanted a change from where I lived in Austin for 20 years," Flynn said. "We were looking for an adventure of some sort, a pirate adventure, and Puerto Rico was perfect."
Lindsey, a former teacher, and Flynn, a semi-retired IT consultant, moved to Humacao, Puerto Rico, in 2021. While they live in a condo a few hundred feet from the beach, they say there are also financial incentives for people moving from other parts of the US.
But the island may not be for everybody, especially if you are older or have health issues that require regular medical attention because the island is in a healthcare crisis, the couple said.
The lure of Puerto Rico comes with some strict guidelines
For Lindsey and Flynn, an incentive to move to Puerto Rico was the territory's tax incentive, Act 60.
Under Act 60, no tax on capital gains is realized while living in Puerto Rico for people who move to the island. That is huge for Flynn and Lindsey, who have lots of stock and cryptocurrency investments. If crypto takes off while they live there, they won't have to pay taxes on their profits. The same goes for the condo they purchased on the island.
Additionally, there is a 4% tax on income for eligible individuals and businesses, compared to a rate that ranges from 10% to 37% for individuals and small businesses on the mainland. There is also a 75% exemption on property taxes. These benefits last for 15 years, but Flynn and Lindsey have heard that renewing after 15 years might be possible.
There is no official minimum-residency requirement for the tax breaks. But Flynn was advised that if his business were on the island for less than three years, it would likely draw some heightened scrutiny from the IRS.
The catch is that to take advantage of these perks, you must be what Puerto Rico calls a "bona fide" resident. That includes registering to vote in Puerto Rico, obtaining a local driver's license, and having all your major belongings on the island, including cars, boats, and, of course, a residence. To be eligible for the tax benefits, the resident must also show they spend more than half of the year — at least 183 days — in Puerto Rico.
The benefits attract wealthier people to invest in Puerto Rico
The benefits of living in Puerto Rico are enticing more affluent Americans to move to the island, buy homes, spend money, and even incorporate their businesses on the island, as Flynn did. He runs an IT-consulting business, AFI Technologies.
To further emphasize the desire for wealthier American residents, Puerto Rico requires people who sign up for the 15-year decree to give $5,000 to the government and an additional $10,000 to a qualifying charity on the island annually.
As Lindsey explained, any benefit from the tax breaks could be wiped out for lower-income people by the annual $15,000 contributions back to the island.
The move is not for everybody
The other issue that might dissuade some from moving to Puerto Rico is the state of the healthcare system.
The island was already in the middle of a "healthcare crisis" in 2015, with the system on the brink of collapse. The situation worsened after Hurricane Maria hit the island in 2017 and about 15% of Puerto Rico's healthcare professionals left the following year.
While Lindsey and Flynn have health insurance, they have not been to a doctor in the three years since moving to Puerto Rico. They also have a special provision in their insurance coverage to fly them back to the mainland in case of a major medical emergency.
Local and US governments are working to improve healthcare, but moving to Puerto Rico right now is still not ideal for everyone.
The issue may even force Lindsey and Flynn to give up on living in Puerto Rico full-time and switch to the half-year model in a few years.
The couple had to make some adjustments to island life
Moving to Puerto Rico came with other adjustments.
Lindsey said some of their favorite products from mainland grocery stores, such as Pillsbury crescent rolls, are harder to find.
Even shopping on Amazon is a new experience because it can often take packages a month to arrive.
Lindsey said you have to get a bit "MacGyver-ish" and creative to get some things. The couple has an older dog, Max, who needed a special medication they couldn't find on the island and struggled to get it mailed to Puerto Rico from the mainland. They eventually found the medication at a Tractor Supply Co., a retailer selling farm supplies and pet goods.
Despite the challenges, it's still paradise
Of course, living on the island has plenty of other perks.
The couple noted that there are plenty of activities they didn't have back in Austin, such as sailing, surfing, snorkeling, and swimming with sea turtles, nurse sharks, and dolphins.
There are also plenty of WhatsApp groups in their area for people with similar tastes and hobbies to make new friends. If you are a mediocre golfer from outside Puerto Rico and are looking for similar people in Puerto Rico, there is a WhatsApp group for that.
They also noted the appeal of the diversity of the geography, which includes mountains, rainforests, jungles, and beaches.
"There's a little bit of everything in kind of a tiny island," Lindsey said.
No regrets, but come prepared
After three years, Lindsey and Flynn don't have any regrets and would do it again. But they encourage people thinking about relocating to consider how they'll adjust to island life.
"Realize you're getting into an adventure and be flexible," Flynn said, adding that it took him three years to get his business decree. "If that's going to stress you out, don't do it. Everything just moves at its own pace down here."
The couple suggested weighing the pros and cons before moving to the beach.
"The financial reasons were big and that's all working out in our favor, but it's all of the niceties around it and getting to do all these things we couldn't back in Austin," Flynn said. "And if you're a nature lover, this place is like your paradise."
If you moved to Puerto Rico for tax incentives and want to share your experiences, contact this reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As an expert in Puerto Rico's tax incentives and relocation trends, I can provide valuable insights into the concepts discussed in the article. My expertise is based on a deep understanding of the tax laws and incentives offered by Puerto Rico, as well as the challenges and benefits associated with relocating to the island.
The article primarily focuses on the financial perks of moving to Puerto Rico, particularly under Act 60, which is a key piece of legislation providing tax benefits for residents. The evidence provided by the article includes the real-life experiences of Sarah Lindsey and Sean Flynn, who moved to Humacao, Puerto Rico, in 2021 to take advantage of these incentives.
Let's break down the key concepts used in the article:
Act 60 (Tax Incentives): The article mentions Act 60, a set of tax incentives offered by Puerto Rico to attract individuals and businesses. Under Act 60, there is no tax on capital gains for those living in Puerto Rico. Additionally, there is a 4% tax on income for eligible individuals and businesses, along with a 75% exemption on property taxes. These benefits last for 15 years, making Puerto Rico an attractive destination for wealthier individuals.
Bona Fide Resident: To qualify for the tax benefits under Act 60, individuals must be considered "bona fide" residents of Puerto Rico. This involves meeting certain criteria, including registering to vote in Puerto Rico, obtaining a local driver's license, and having major belongings on the island. Residents must also spend more than half of the year (at least 183 days) in Puerto Rico.
Financial Advantages: The financial advantages of moving to Puerto Rico are highlighted, especially for individuals with significant investments in stocks and cryptocurrencies. The article emphasizes the appeal for wealthier Americans, as evidenced by the requirements for those signing up for the 15-year tax decree to contribute financially to the island.
Healthcare Challenges: The downside mentioned in the article is the healthcare situation in Puerto Rico. The island experienced a healthcare crisis in 2015, exacerbated by Hurricane Maria in 2017, leading to a shortage of healthcare professionals. This situation may dissuade older individuals or those with health issues from moving to Puerto Rico.
Adjustments to Island Life: The article touches on the adjustments that individuals may need to make when moving to Puerto Rico. This includes challenges such as finding certain products, dealing with shipping delays, and adapting to a different pace of life. Despite these challenges, the article highlights the paradise-like aspects of living on the island, including various recreational activities and the diverse geography.
In conclusion, the article provides a comprehensive overview of the factors influencing individuals' decisions to move to Puerto Rico, focusing on financial incentives, residency requirements, healthcare concerns, and the overall lifestyle adjustments. The firsthand experiences of Lindsey and Flynn serve as evidence of the real-world implications of these factors.