Hello everyone. I hope to be pointed in the right direction, approaches, options, resources, etc., as I figure out if and how I can do what I want.
Among the steps to consider, you must prepare to simulate an American presence. All the steps below will be difficult or impossible to implement after you move abroad. It is therefore prudent to prepare them while staying in the United States. It is important that your brokerage firms and banks never find out that you robbed the co-op or they will likely close or freeze your account.
1. Make sure you have checking accounts at several banks. I recommend State Department Federal Credit Union and Capital One. SDFCU is the only bank/cu I know that will open a new account for an expat, but it’s easier as a US resident. I don’t know how many bank accounts would be enough in the long run.
2. Make sure you have several low-cost credit cards that don’t charge foreign transactions or annual fees. SDFCU and CapOne have good cards as well as many more. I make sure that we make at least one charge on each card per month so that none of our cards are canceled for inactivity. The discounts available these days more than cover the cost of currency exchange.
3. Brokerages are worse than banks at excluding expats, especially Fidelity and Vanguard. I speak here from experience. Interactive Brokers is the only US brokerage I know that is willing to open an account for an expat, but they’re not that appealing so I don’t have an IB account yet. I can’t have too many brokers.
4. You must have a commercial mail receiving agent who will provide you with a US mailing address, which is very helpful for the SSA, IRS and your banks and brokers. It is best to open an account with a CMRA well in advance of the move and immediately change your address of record with each bank and broker with the CMRA. This way, if questions arise, you can always substantiate your physical address in the United States. Your CMRA mailing address must be in a non-income tax state. I recommend sbimailservice.com located in Florida. The base cost is around $20/month.
5. If you don’t have a Google Voice phone number yet, you need to get one right away and make it your registered phone number with US institutions. You can even transfer your landline number, which is even better. Google Voice will provide you with a free US phone number that will ring your cell phone and most importantly send US text messages, although it is true that some US institutions will refuse to send text messages to a GV number. I haven’t experienced this myself yet. It’s good to have an emergency US phone number. Mine is Ooma, but they don’t deliver SMS, so not as good as GV.
6. Research the tax domicile rules of the state where you currently reside if it has income tax. Next, you need to be very careful that you will not meet any of the conditions that could make you still liable for state income tax even after you move. The law does not operate on common sense. The worst states are AC and VA. VA, only, continues to claim your Commonwealth tax domicile until you establish residency in another US state.
This means surrendering your driver’s license (and getting a receipt), changing the address of record on all your financial accounts, removing yourself from the voter registration list, and more. If you live in a united blue or red state, your vote doesn’t matter. If you live in a swing state, this may matter, but most states count continuing to vote in the state as one of the indicators of maintaining tax residency in the state. As an expat, you can only vote in your last state of residence. Since I moved from NY Blue United, I stopped voting immediately after the move.
7. Once abroad, you must inform the SSA of your new physical address, but no one else. Even the IRS doesn’t know my physical address because they only ask for a mailing address.
8. Since your distributions from IRA accounts in the future will not be taxed by the French tax authorities and will not incur costs for Social Security, you might consider making appropriate adjustments to reduce your tax liability in the future, especially Roth conversions, if any. .
9. Obtain multiple official copies of all your vital documents such as birth certificate, marriage certificate, etc.