I’m not a gambling man. That makes perfect sense, given that my specialty here is wealth preservation, not investing for income. (Not that investing is gambling – when done right, it’s a science.)
Speculative types tend to go for big predictions. My predictions tend to be more of the… ahem… common-sense variety: Government is going to continue to cause you problems; there are more threats to your privacy in the near future; the election isn’t going to change anything fundamental.
Occasionally, however, I stick my neck out, as I’m going to do here and now.
There is an overwhelming chance that during 2016, a great many of you are going to take a critical step… one I’m convinced has become absolutely necessary in our troubled world.
How Not to Be Seen
Readers who are accustomed to my quirks probably know – or could guess – that I’m a fan of the great British comedy troupe, Monty Python. Casual watchers of their sketches often assume that they’re just nonsensical madcap. But anyone who studies Monty Python a bit more deeply knows that their farce contains some serious social and political commentary – usually aimed at haughty institutions that claim to know better than we do and seek to control us.
One of their most memorable sketches is a faux British public service announcement on “how not to be seen.” In it, various law-abiding Englishmen, such as “Mr. E.V. Lambert of Homeleigh, the Burrows, Oswestly,” are blown to smithereens while trying to hide from Her Majesty’s cameras.
As you may imagine, that one has stuck with me since I first saw it as an impressionable lad. The Pythons were definitely on to something.
Hiding in Plain Sight With an LLC
Periodically, I receive letters from readers wanting to know where they can open a foreign bank account that the IRS won’t know about. I tell them to forget about that. These days, you can’t hide from the government, and there’s really no point in trying. It will only create more risk to your wealth. We always advise compliance with the law, and as much as we may hate it, failure to report income to the government is illegal and severely punished.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t put a little distance between yourself and your wealth. The basic step everyone should take – one that I predict many of us will take in 2016 – is to create a legal identity separate from your own to hold the bulk of your wealth.
For example, a limited liability company (LLC) can own financial accounts, real estate, businesses, precious metals and other assets. It can own your car and your credit card accounts, as well as serve as a legal address for correspondence. An LLC can even own your Individual Retirement Account (IRA) and allow you to take direct control, giving you the ability to invest in things most IRAs can’t touch.
Due to the legal concept known as the “veil,” anything legally owned by a properly-structured LLC is out of reach of litigants who may attack you, and vice versa. For example, owners of rental property portfolios can vest title of their properties in one or more LLCs, insulating themselves and their other properties from tenant lawsuits. Bank accounts owned by an LLC are off-limits to litigants who sue you personally.
Now, this doesn’t give you 100% freedom to do as you please with no consequences. If you’re successfully sued, assets can remain stuck in an LLC until you reach a settlement. But the beauty of the LLC is that the time, effort and expense of attacking assets held that way serves to discourage lawsuits in the first place, both by making ultimate ownership hard to determine and creating serious legal obstacles to successful litigation.
In other words, LLCs allow you to hide in plain sight.
The Offshore Advantage
LLCs based in foreign jurisdictions can do the same things their U.S. counterparts can do. But being located in an offshore jurisdiction makes them much more effective at discouraging attacks, especially against assets also held offshore, like bank and investment accounts or precious metals in storage. Like lions encountering a prey that’s too big to bring down, those predators will move on to another target.
Offshore LLCs also offer some unique tax advantages. For example, if you live abroad, create a business in a foreign country and vest ownership in an LLC, you can pay yourself a salary that matches the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion and pay no U.S. tax on it. Any profits above the salary can be retained by the LLC to be reinvested, with no U.S. tax unless and until those profits are distributed -the same trick big U.S. corporations use to minimize their taxes.
Many people are reluctant to get involved in offshore asset protection, thinking they don’t have enough to justify it. Wrong. For about $5,000 – often even less – you can set up an offshore LLC that will put your assets at the very back of the queue for any financial predator… including the IRS.
So here’s my prediction for 2016: Given the storm-clouds on the horizon, many of you will create an LLC in 2016. In my opinion, it’s the single most important asset protection step you can take.