Change is the only unchanging reality in life, as we've discovered over the past dozen years of living and working abroad.
Some change is easy to track... like the average prices for real estate in many of the countries that have become popular with U.S. and Canadian expats and retirees over the years.
We just spoke with a friend of ours who settled in Boquete, Panama, nine years ago. Boquete is one of the best-known expat havens in Panama, attracting hundreds of foreign retirees seeking great weather and a more relaxed lifestyle. And just as has happened in many other such desirable locations, our friend has seen property prices jump upwards over the years, fueled by an increasing number of expats seeking American-style homes. Markets are markets, and they behave much the same everywhere in the world.
Another change that hasn't been as obvious to folks who don't already live abroad is the U.S. law regarding foreign bank and investment accounts held by U.S. citizens. The U.S. is now very serious about the reporting of these accounts and is putting pressure on foreign banks to comply with new and far-reaching requirements to provide information about their U.S. customers.
The U.S. is one of only a few countries on the planet that requires tax reporting on all of a citizen's income, no matter where they live or where that income originates. The new disclosure rules for foreign accounts are meant to uncover undeclared-yet-taxable income abroad, and reporting requirements for both foreign institutions and U.S. citizens living abroad have been getting ever more stringent with the increasing enforcement of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, or FACTA.
Because of these stringent reporting requirements., an increasing number of foreign banks are no longer accepting applications from U.S clients or are making the application process more onerous.
For expats who need foreign bank accounts or have invested through foreign asset management companies, this is an unwelcome change. And this change could also be part of another recent change... an increasing number of people actually renouncing their U.S. citizenship. News reports indicate that in the first quarter of 2013. there was a six-fold jump in such renunciations over the same period in 2012, from 189 to 1,130.
It is presumed that those renouncing their citizenship will live outside the U.S. like the rest of us expats.
Just to add some perspective... as of July 2013, the U.S. had a population of 316,418,000. That means the number of people currently seeking to renounce their citizenship amounts to about .0004 percent of the total population.
Significant? It is if you're part of the .0004 percent.
No one knows exactly how many expats who are still U.S. citizens are living full- and part-time abroad, but even if we use an estimate of three to four million, that's still just either side of one single percent of the population.
Again... significant? It is if you're living or working abroad.
Both the numbers of expats and of people renouncing their citizenship seem insignificant in the perspective of the total U.S. population. But both numbers seem enormous when compared to the number of people who were moving abroad or renouncing their citizenship just a few years ago.
And that is yet another change we've noticeds in our years living overseas... a dramatic jump in the number of people who, for one reason or another, are bailing out of the U.S. in some way, shape, or form.
And for many expats, that has everything to do with the way the U.S. itself... or at least U.S. taxation and banking policy, is changing... and changing fast.