Author Topic: ETFs for American (USA) expats living in the EU  (Read 4285 times)

TexanInBavaria

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Re: ETFs for American (USA) expats living in the EU
« Reply #50 on: September 02, 2019, 07:48:20 AM »
Starting to wonder if carefully-managed EU-domiciled ETFs might not be the worst thing in the world for new purchases as long as I'm still working and paying my obnoxious German income taxes: https://www.bogleheads.org/wiki/Passive_foreign_investment_company#Mark_to_market

I'm under the Foreign-Earned Income limit, and even if I go a bit over, would still have paid far more in German income tax than US income tax, so unless my investments have a really good year, am unlikely to actually owe anything. Will report back my findings after talking to my tax preparer.

meatro

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Re: ETFs for American (USA) expats living in the EU
« Reply #51 on: September 03, 2019, 11:28:25 AM »
@TexanInBavaria if you are married to a non-US citizen, you can invest the money through your partner in a EU domiciled ETF with an EU broker and avoid this whole topic.  This is a pretty great way to go and if I had a that option, I would most likely take it.

I wouldn't buy one myself.   There are three reasons: one meh, one killer and one just plain crappy!

Meh: It is hard to find an EU brokerage who will take you.   Most ask directly during the application process if you are a US person and then promptly reject your application. In Germany, I have only found Flatex and Lynx to welcome US citizens.  I started an application with Flatex, which it seemed would only allow me to purchase individual stocks.  IB is always an option, based in the UK for more complicated German tax filing.  But let's imagine the broker is cool with you buying ETF's, though.

Killer
: ... then the fund's manager is not.  99% of ETFs cannot be purchased by US citizens as written in the "prospectus" / Verkaufsprospekt.  I tend to search for US-citzen, US person or 1933 and normally find something like the below examples which says that you cannot buy the shares

Quote
Vanguard:
 https://americas.vanguard.com/institutional/mvc/loadImage?country=BS&docId=941
"the Shares have not been, and will not be, registered under the 1933 Act or the securities laws of any of the states of the United States. "
"Shares may not be acquired by a person who is deemed to be a US Person"

Beispiel Deka DAX® (ausschüttend) UCITS ETF
Die Deka Investment GmbH und die in diesem Verkaufsprospekt beschriebenen Fondsanteile sind und werden nicht gemäß dem United States Investment Company Act von 1940 in seiner gültigen Fassung registriert. Die durch diesen Verkaufsprospekt angebotenen Anteile sind aufgrund US-aufsichtsrechtlicher Beschränkungen nicht für den Vertrieb in den Vereinigten Staaten von Amerika (welcher Begriff auch die Bundesstaaten, Territorien und Besitzungen der Vereinigten Staaten sowie den District of Columbia umfasst) oder an bzw. zugunsten von US-Personen, wie in Regulation S unter dem United States Securities Act von 1933 in der geltenden Fassung definiert, bestimmt und werden nicht registriert.  US-Personen sind natürliche Personen, die ihren Wohnsitz in den Vereinigten Staaten von Amerika haben. US-Personen können auch Personen- oder Kapitalgesellschaften (juristische Personen) sein, wenn sie etwa gemäß den Gesetzen der Vereinigten Staaten von Amerika bzw. eines US-Bundesstaats, Territoriums oder einer US-Besitzung gegründet wurden. Dementsprechend werden Anteile in den Vereinigten Staaten von Amerika und an oder für Rechnung von US-Personen weder angeboten noch verkauft. Spätere Übertragungen von Anteilen in die Vereinigten Staaten von Amerika bzw. an US-Personen sind unzulässig. Dieser Verkaufsprospekt darf nicht in den Vereinigten Staaten von Amerika oder an US-Personen verbreitet werden. Die Verteilung dieses Verkaufsprospektes und das Angebot bzw. der Verkauf der Anteile können auch in anderen Rechtsordnungen Beschränkungen unterworfen sein.

This is important because it's possible, for example if you are a dual citizen, that you sweep your US citizenship under the rug during application.  Maybe you purchase things.  But in the end, if they find out, you will have ZERO control about the liquidation of the shares.  This is a pretty big risk.  On a German forum, German citizens are happily investing in EU ETFs until they move to US to work for a few years.  Then they are subject to US tax law and are US persons.  Most German banks forced them to close their accounts and liquidate their shares or transfer to a friend / spouse / someone who is not a US citizen.  You couldn't even hold them for the few years you are abroad.  Again, you can not tell your bank, but if they find out, you are no longer in control.

But this damning sentence in the prospect is only there 99% of the time.  After looking at ALL of Flatex's available ETF prospectuses, prospectusi, prospectei... I found SEVEN EU-domiciled fund with different wording in the prospectus which leads me to believe I could legally invest in them.  I have no desire to purchase these funds, but it is at least allowed.  They are from Amundi Asset Management i.e. FR0010756114  Maybe some other funds managers will warm up here.

Just plain crappy:  And at the end of my quest for a purchaseable ETF, I am rewarded with pain in the junk PFIC reporting requirements!  IRS Form 8621 quotes the amount of work like this

Quote
Recordkeeping 16 hr., 58 min.
Learning about the law or the form 11 hr., 24 min.
Preparing and sending the form to the IRS 20 hr., 34 min.

Don't believe them?  Read through the instructions and see how well you're feeling. Three fund portfolio? You got yourself a good plan for a week of vacation.  Plus, the tax rate is not like the US rates.  I heard it's higher, but I didn't figure that out it as this already goes into the "no no no nope" category for how a US person in the EU can invest in ETFs.

Hula Hoop

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Re: ETFs for American (USA) expats living in the EU
« Reply #52 on: September 03, 2019, 12:43:25 PM »
Duh! Why didn't I think of that before.  I can invest here in the EU through my non-US citizen husband.  Can anyone recommend a Vanguard like place for him to start an investment account here in Europe?

Kwill

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Re: ETFs for American (USA) expats living in the EU
« Reply #53 on: September 03, 2019, 01:20:12 PM »
Hello. Part of me wishes I'd found this thread sooner, and part of me is a little depressed that after so many posts no perfect solution has come up.

I'm an American in the EU, though possibly for less than two more months since the UK is doing whatever it's doing. I don't know what that will mean for the regulations around investing. I still have investments inside IRAs in the US that I've just left alone since coming to the UK, but I'm only currently investing in funds inside an employer-provided retirement plan. My understanding is that funds within the retirement plan aren't subject to the same reporting requirements, but now that I look again online, there seems some conflicting advice. I sold my US taxable investments to provide the deposit for my home, so I currently just have the retirement accounts and ordinary bank accounts.

It'd be nice to find a way to invest and meet all the rules in all the relevant countries at once.

flipboard

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Re: ETFs for American (USA) expats living in the EU
« Reply #54 on: September 03, 2019, 02:14:52 PM »
I'm an American in the EU, though possibly for less than two more months since the UK is doing whatever it's doing. I don't know what that will mean for the regulations around investing. I still have investments inside IRAs in the US that I've just left alone since coming to the UK, but I'm only currently investing in funds inside an employer-provided retirement plan. My understanding is that funds within the retirement plan aren't subject to the same reporting requirements, but now that I look again online, there seems some conflicting advice. I sold my US taxable investments to provide the deposit for my home, so I currently just have the retirement accounts and ordinary bank accounts.
The UK has prepared regulations similar to EU PRIIPS requirements, which means you'll be in effetively the same situation as before Brexit: UK brokers won't be able to sell you US ETF's, and Schwab and IB both happen to be UK brokers.

Duh! Why didn't I think of that before.  I can invest here in the EU through my non-US citizen husband.  Can anyone recommend a Vanguard like place for him to start an investment account here in Europe?
Note that gift tax rules apply when giving to non-US-citizen spouses.

He can invest his own money via e.g. IB, but investing your money is... problematic.

Hula Hoop

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Re: ETFs for American (USA) expats living in the EU
« Reply #55 on: September 03, 2019, 02:52:04 PM »
Duh! Why didn't I think of that before.  I can invest here in the EU through my non-US citizen husband.  Can anyone recommend a Vanguard like place for him to start an investment account here in Europe?
Note that gift tax rules apply when giving to non-US-citizen spouses.

He can invest his own money via e.g. IB, but investing your money is... problematic.
[/quote]

Damn.  And we have separate bank accounts so that he doesn't have to be involved in FBAR.

TexanInBavaria

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Re: ETFs for American (USA) expats living in the EU
« Reply #56 on: September 04, 2019, 11:56:49 PM »
Duh! Why didn't I think of that before.  I can invest here in the EU through my non-US citizen husband.  Can anyone recommend a Vanguard like place for him to start an investment account here in Europe?
Note that gift tax rules apply when giving to non-US-citizen spouses.

He can invest his own money via e.g. IB, but investing your money is... problematic.

Damn.  And we have separate bank accounts so that he doesn't have to be involved in FBAR.
[/quote]

I have assiduously kept my financial dealings separate from my husband's to avoid getting him caught up in my homeland's crazy tax system. The only thing we jointly own is our house. Any other assets are completely separate. We don't even have Vollmacht on each other's bank accounts.

I suppose we could choose a bit more strategically who pays for what - I should pay the mortgage and home improvements, he should do the stock investing.

Hula Hoop

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Re: ETFs for American (USA) expats living in the EU
« Reply #57 on: September 05, 2019, 05:45:45 AM »
Duh! Why didn't I think of that before.  I can invest here in the EU through my non-US citizen husband.  Can anyone recommend a Vanguard like place for him to start an investment account here in Europe?
Note that gift tax rules apply when giving to non-US-citizen spouses.

He can invest his own money via e.g. IB, but investing your money is... problematic.

Damn.  And we have separate bank accounts so that he doesn't have to be involved in FBAR.

I have assiduously kept my financial dealings separate from my husband's to avoid getting him caught up in my homeland's crazy tax system. The only thing we jointly own is our house. Any other assets are completely separate. We don't even have Vollmacht on each other's bank accounts.

I suppose we could choose a bit more strategically who pays for what - I should pay the mortgage and home improvements, he should do the stock investing.
[/quote]

Same here, @TexanInBavaria . It's a shame as a joint account would make things easier.  We have things set up so he pays some bills and I pay others.

BTW - how is living in Nuremberg?  We were just there in July to visit Playmobil Funpark with visiting family.  Everything was so clean and organized compared to Italy- it was great. 

TexanInBavaria

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Re: ETFs for American (USA) expats living in the EU
« Reply #58 on: September 07, 2019, 05:27:12 AM »
To lighten the mood: a person who lives primarily off their financial assets in Germany is called a "Privatier"

TexanInBavaria

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Re: ETFs for American (USA) expats living in the EU
« Reply #59 on: September 07, 2019, 05:33:46 AM »
Duh! Why didn't I think of that before.  I can invest here in the EU through my non-US citizen husband.  Can anyone recommend a Vanguard like place for him to start an investment account here in Europe?
Note that gift tax rules apply when giving to non-US-citizen spouses.

He can invest his own money via e.g. IB, but investing your money is... problematic.

Damn.  And we have separate bank accounts so that he doesn't have to be involved in FBAR.

I have assiduously kept my financial dealings separate from my husband's to avoid getting him caught up in my homeland's crazy tax system. The only thing we jointly own is our house. Any other assets are completely separate. We don't even have Vollmacht on each other's bank accounts.

I suppose we could choose a bit more strategically who pays for what - I should pay the mortgage and home improvements, he should do the stock investing.

Same here, @TexanInBavaria . It's a shame as a joint account would make things easier.  We have things set up so he pays some bills and I pay others.

BTW - how is living in Nuremberg?  We were just there in July to visit Playmobil Funpark with visiting family.  Everything was so clean and organized compared to Italy- it was great.
[/quote]

Nuremberg is indeed fantastic, and has many characteristics that make it surprisingly easy to have a low-cost, pleasant lifestyle as long as you're paying attention. The public transit system is incredible by American standards, though not that great by German standards. Rents are not (yet) Munich- or Berlin-level crazy, though purchase prices are getting that way (got VERY lucky on when we bought our late-50s house). There is a lot of free or inexpensive things to do around here, and the university libraries are also (nearly) free - and even order stuff for me on interlibrary loan without fees!

And bike theft is rare, as long as you make some trivial attempt to lock it.

meatro

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Re: ETFs for American (USA) expats living in the EU
« Reply #60 on: September 11, 2019, 12:07:10 PM »
To let everyone know:  you cannot buy US domiciled ETFs at Toledo Trade.

I opened an account with Toledo Trade.  The account itself is fine (just like my current IB UK account, only a different logo).  And Jason is very quick and professional in his responses. 
... but it uses IB US LLC as it's clearing house and they are enforcing MIFID with the same criteria as IB UK i.e. you need to become an "elective professional", which most of us aren't.  I wrote that I had two countries of legal tax residence when opening the account.  If I were less open about the German residence, I doubt I would have this problem.

To sum up of the theoretical possibilities known to me,
roughly ordered from OK to dire:
 . open a Schwab account before the policy change in eight days prohibits ETF purchases (a one time move, but the holdings can be held and transferred)
 . look for the unicorn broker that accepts non-resident US citizens, trades in US- ETFs and does not enforce MIFID
 . look for a way to become MIFID pro by "Financial Authority Regulation" (via USA, via Germany, via any government authority)
 . look for a reasonably priced SMA that would purchase ETFs for me
 . direct index individual stocks
 . officially loan money to a US resident buddy, pay US taxes on loan interest, they invest in ETFs and pay taxes, they pay back the loan over time, they gift me the winnings (your countries gift tax laws are crucial here, also I assume this is legal)
 . look for the EU ETF PFIC which accepts US citizen purchases, enjoy tax reporting,
 . look for the EU ETF PFIC and somehow put it in a US tax deferred account (IRA or similar for US) to avoid reporting
 . get married to an EU person (great conversation starter for a first date),
 . hang up my citizenship hat, flipping the bird to the US government's bearing on my life
 . move out of the EU, kowtowing to the US government's bearing on my life
 . thumb twiddle until regulations change

... am I missing something (besides what was once my free time)?

Kwill

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Re: ETFs for American (USA) expats living in the EU
« Reply #61 on: September 11, 2019, 04:23:53 PM »
Here's what I've been thinking of doing on a very small and occasional scale. It'd be helpful if someone could tell me if this isn't allowed and why.

I have an old IRA at Vanguard, which can hold US mutual funds because it's inside a US retirement account except that I would need US-earned income to add anything to it. Occasional side income has to be reported on Schedule C for the US but, if under £1000 a year, doesn't need to be reported for UK taxes. I occasionally have some small amounts of side income coming in from academic things, so I was thinking I could send that money to my IRA. Without seeking out any work like that particularly, I'm unlikely to reach even £500 a year in such things, but I could do freelance translation or seek out more things if I really wanted to build that up to the IRA contribution limit and didn't mind doing the UK reporting.

I had trouble with the Vanguard site once not being able to put in my correct address overseas. I think it was that I wanted to move an old IRA from my credit union over to combine it with the Vanguard one. I called and was told that it wasn't a problem, but it was just that since the website was only set up to handle US addresses and since they might need to ask more questions, I would have to talk to someone or request things in writing sometimes.

flipboard

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Re: ETFs for American (USA) expats living in the EU
« Reply #62 on: September 12, 2019, 11:39:44 AM »
I have an old IRA at Vanguard, which can hold US mutual funds because it's inside a US retirement account except that I would need US-earned income to add anything to it. Occasional side income has to be reported on Schedule C for the US but, if under £1000 a year, doesn't need to be reported for UK taxes. I occasionally have some small amounts of side income coming in from academic things, so I was thinking I could send that money to my IRA. Without seeking out any work like that particularly, I'm unlikely to reach even £500 a year in such things, but I could do freelance translation or seek out more things if I really wanted to build that up to the IRA contribution limit and didn't mind doing the UK reporting.
I don't believe that's true. Foreign (i.e. non-US-source) income is also eligible for the IRA - and I know plenty of people contributing to them. The key catch is: you can't exclude that income under FEIE if. I'm more familiar with FTC, in which case you can definitely use an IRA, but if you can choose to only cover some of your income under FEIE (and that's the catch: I'm not sure about the technicalities of FEIE since I've never had clients who needed it) then you can still contribute to your IRA. (Or you can switch to FTC which gives the same results for most countries, and better results for some.)

« Last Edit: September 12, 2019, 11:49:42 AM by flipboard »

Kwill

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Re: ETFs for American (USA) expats living in the EU
« Reply #63 on: September 12, 2019, 01:23:22 PM »
Hmm.. I had to look up FTC, but I see now. I'd heard of the foreign tax credit, but I wasn't familiar enough to follow the acronym. My income is well within the limits for foreign-earned income exclusion, so I've only needed to pay self-employment tax in recent years and that only on small amounts.

The FTC paperwork looks a lot more complicated than the paperwork for the foreign-earned income exclusion. Maybe it is only that I'm used to the one and not the other. One thing that complicates taxes as an American in the UK is that the UK tax year is 6 April to 5 April, so it's hard to match up the numbers when filing taxes in both countries. That would be part of my hesitation with the FTC, even though it would be nice to contribute more to the IRA.

I'm also contributing to an investment scheme within my UK employer's pension plan, which has low-cost index funds, and it seems less critical for me to find an out-of-retirement-plan option until I build that up sufficiently and pay down my mortgage a little bit. I guess it's a different situation if you are thinking about saving on a very high income that is subject to a lot of tax.

flipboard

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Re: ETFs for American (USA) expats living in the EU
« Reply #64 on: September 12, 2019, 11:46:32 PM »
Hmm.. I had to look up FTC, but I see now. I'd heard of the foreign tax credit, but I wasn't familiar enough to follow the acronym. My income is well within the limits for foreign-earned income exclusion, so I've only needed to pay self-employment tax in recent years and that only on small amounts.

The FTC paperwork looks a lot more complicated than the paperwork for the foreign-earned income exclusion. Maybe it is only that I'm used to the one and not the other. One thing that complicates taxes as an American in the UK is that the UK tax year is 6 April to 5 April, so it's hard to match up the numbers when filing taxes in both countries. That would be part of my hesitation with the FTC, even though it would be nice to contribute more to the IRA.

I'm also contributing to an investment scheme within my UK employer's pension plan, which has low-cost index funds, and it seems less critical for me to find an out-of-retirement-plan option until I build that up sufficiently and pay down my mortgage a little bit. I guess it's a different situation if you are thinking about saving on a very high income that is subject to a lot of tax.
Indeed, probably not that useful in your case. But it would still result in similar if not lower US-taxation (I wonder if FTC can be counted against self employment tax though, in which case it might be worth it - I'm not super familiar with the self-employed scenario so couldn't say off the top of my head).

The FTC isn't actually that hard with the usual tax software (or at least H&R Block). All you need to enter is: Foreign income (eligible for FTC), foreign tax on that income (which generally reqires figuring your local taxes first though), and some exchange rates. The rest is automatic. But indeed, it's harder if tax years don't match.

Passive income re-sourced by treaty (e.g. dividends which have to be taxed in the UK first) is a bit trickier, but not significantly so.

Kwill

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Re: ETFs for American (USA) expats living in the EU
« Reply #65 on: September 13, 2019, 01:42:27 AM »
Indeed, probably not that useful in your case. But it would still result in similar if not lower US-taxation (I wonder if FTC can be counted against self employment tax though, in which case it might be worth it - I'm not super familiar with the self-employed scenario so couldn't say off the top of my head).

Sadly the FTC can't count toward self-employment tax. I was wondering about that last night and looked through the forms. Self-employment tax gets added on at the end after all deductions are taken out. So either way my tax would end up being 0 + whatever. It's because self-employment tax goes towards social security, but it's still a bit annoying.

WowWhatALifeUSAT

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Re: ETFs for American (USA) expats living in the EU
« Reply #66 on: September 13, 2019, 09:15:16 AM »
Hey guys! I just stumbled upon this thread today and I went from really excited to pretty frustrated. Classic US-EU citizen life.

I'm also a dual citizen (age 19) of the US and Austria (Austrian resident, not planning on going back to the US forever) who came across the whole Mustachian/Boglehead world about 2 years ago. I have about 15-20k to invest and I'm looking for a way of doing long-term passive investing in a world market replicating ETF portfolio, maybe with some bonds. Up until now, however, I haven't even started investing because of the horrible US & EU situation. Unfortunately, I'm a beginner (I know the basic ideas/rules of creating a passive portfolio, sensible personal finance, along with more situation-specific topics like PFICs, PRIIPs, MiFID II, etc.) so some of this info kinda went above my head and I'm clearly far away from being a professional investor. I was wondering if y'all could help me out a bit and get me on track in this thread/finding the path towards a good financial setup.

1) So am I correct in understanding that we still haven't found a broker that would take us so that we could buy non-PFIC (i.e. US-domiciled) ETFs?
2) Are there any other alternatives that could work without a crazy hassle, especially for a young and poor guy like me?
3) Have you guys looked at other discussions of our situation, e.g. https://www.bogleheads.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=10&t=253872 ? You guys didn't wanna go through the process of establishing a mailing address, getting a US broker to take you, changing all your currency all the time, investing in ETFs through it as if you were a normal US resident, (getting a VPN if necessary), and then dealing with weird taxation on your dividends? Just wondering, not that I really wanna go down that path...
4) Have you guys looked into passively managing stocks ( https://www.bogleheads.org/wiki/Passively_managing_individual_stocks )? How about the tax/tax-filing situation on that?
5) I actually found an Austrian broker that would take me, after a week of calling around. Are there any ETFs that could combine to be a reasonable portfolio, that have their domicile in the USA, but at the same time are PRIIPs compliant and with a KID (for an Austrian)?
6) I'm going to be moving to the UK soon for university for 3 years. Are there any ways of starting something from there that would be reasonable?
@flipboard What's your source on the info that the UK has prepared regulations similar to EU PRIIPS requirements? Where can I find out more about that?
7) Have any of you legitimately looked into just renouncing your US citizenship? I know about the super high fee, but what about returning to the US afterwards?

I know it's a ton of questions. I'm new here and I'm sorry, I'm trying to get as much as possible. Bear with me guys and let's hope there's a solution out there!


flipboard

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Re: ETFs for American (USA) expats living in the EU
« Reply #67 on: September 13, 2019, 10:02:52 AM »
6) I'm going to be moving to the UK soon for university for 3 years. Are there any ways of starting something from there that would be reasonable?
@flipboard What's your source on the info that the UK has prepared regulations similar to EU PRIIPS requirements? Where can I find out more about that?
7) Have any of you legitimately looked into just renouncing your US citizenship? I know about the super high fee, but what about returning to the US afterwards?
6: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/draft-packaged-retail-and-insurance-based-investment-products-amendment-eu-exit-regulations-2019/packaged-retail-and-insurance-based-investment-products-amendment-eu-exit-regulations-2019-explanatory-information
7: I'm not affected so I've never had to consider such a step, ut I know a lot of people doing it. For them the fee is less than the additional taxes they have to pay to the US each year, so it's clearly worth it - but they've done it more because of the pure pity of having to pay the US government for nothing.

Kwill

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Re: ETFs for American (USA) expats living in the EU
« Reply #68 on: September 13, 2019, 01:30:30 PM »
For the UK, the government has this site with a list of 'Approved offshore reporting funds' that is updated monthly. It seems like funds on this (long) list should be OK from the point of view of the UK. It includes Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund - ETF Shares       CUSIP No 922908769.

The page doesn't mention anything about PRIIPS, though, so I don't know how that fits in. I would imagine that most US funds that bother to register with the UK government would also try to comply with EU regulations.

I guess it's back to a question of whether you can open a US account from overseas if you don't already have one.

meatro

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Re: ETFs for American (USA) expats living in the EU
« Reply #69 on: September 14, 2019, 03:17:43 AM »
1) 2) 5) no

3) I think you've got two things mixed.  If you find 1) or 5), you will still have to convert money from EUR to USD (appx. 0.4% each time) and do weird taxes (with either the US or your country of residency).   The part about 3) that didn't make my list earlier is that these people are sometimes "borrowing" a US address to make it seem to the brokerage that they are normal US residents.  That entire method is not based on not getting caught so I rule it out categorically.  Read those threads and you will see a lot of people living in fear since they know at any moment a policy might change, the VPN provider might sour, the bank might get wise, etc.  Half of those people have one experience, the other have another even though they are doing essentially the same thing so it's no guarantee.  And since you have no real right to do it, you can't press the issue if something happens. I didn't calculate the fees, but they can only be worse with the US phone number, US mail forwarding, etc. compared to 1) or 5).
>  For me, too much can go wrong and a big mental burden not knowing that you stand on solid, legal ground.

4) yes, this is also called direct indexing in the middle of my list
Pro:  legal, tax law straightforward.  Can tailor to your ESG or currency tastes. Ability to tax loss harvest.
Con: tracking a global index requires many, many stocks to do well.  The fees are not as low as ETFs: from my rough calculations, holding 50 stock positions in different global markets and adjusting them quarterly incurs fees of 700 with IB.  That is about 0.5% if you have around 150k to invest.  With 20k, the fees are about the same, so it is more like 3.5% fees.  Because you can't replicate a world index with 50 stocks, you will have high tracking error (under or overperformance).  Also, the diversification will be much lower.  It is unrealistic to be done by hand (without a robo-advisor or at least a good broker tool).  Not as liquid as ETF, since you have many positions and it can be difficult to sell what you need in order to get at your capital.  The work is high: researching the indexes, rebalacing relatively often, tax reporting due to the number of positions.
> inefficient, not care-free

7) yes, it is roughly 3000 USD, some paperwork and takes a few months.  If you want to go to live and work forever in the US afterwards, you have to apply like anyone else who is a non-US citizen (i.e. difficult).  If you want to go back to visit for a few months, visa.  I am seriously considering this one as it is a permanent solution and I personally have no desire to work in the US.  FIRE in the US, maybe, but working in the US is right out.  I would probably also only go there if I had a partner who was a US citizen and needed to live there again.  And then I'd get a residency permit by marriage (and start a new thread since I'd become a US-person again).  But since it is so very very permanent, I'm exhausting my other options first (although it is more like they are exhausting me). 
> an all or nothing option not to be taken lightly and very personal.
« Last Edit: September 14, 2019, 03:19:28 AM by meatro »

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Re: ETFs for American (USA) expats living in the EU
« Reply #70 on: September 14, 2019, 09:37:06 AM »
3) I think you've got two things mixed.  If you find 1) or 5), you will still have to convert money from EUR to USD (appx. 0.4% each time) and do weird taxes (with either the US or your country of residency).   The part about 3) that didn't make my list earlier is that these people are sometimes "borrowing" a US address to make it seem to the brokerage that they are normal US residents.  That entire method is not based on not getting caught so I rule it out categorically.  Read those threads and you will see a lot of people living in fear since they know at any moment a policy might change, the VPN provider might sour, the bank might get wise, etc.  Half of those people have one experience, the other have another even though they are doing essentially the same thing so it's no guarantee.  And since you have no real right to do it, you can't press the issue if something happens. I didn't calculate the fees, but they can only be worse with the US phone number, US mail forwarding, etc. compared to 1) or 5).
>  For me, too much can go wrong and a big mental burden not knowing that you stand on solid, legal ground.
0.4% on currency conversion?  That's not categorically true, IB lets you trade market rate (at a cost of USD 2 per trade), and apparently Revolut gives you market rate for no fee (but are trickier to use etc.).

Weird taxes: depends on country of residence, but most countries literally won't care where the fund is domiciled. The issue for EU investors is the purchase (blocked by laws designed to protect consumers), whereas taxation once you already own the funds isn't that tricky in most countries (perhaps UK excepted).

For the UK, the government has this site with a list of 'Approved offshore reporting funds' that is updated monthly. It seems like funds on this (long) list should be OK from the point of view of the UK. It includes Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund - ETF Shares       CUSIP No 922908769.

The page doesn't mention anything about PRIIPS, though, so I don't know how that fits in. I would imagine that most US funds that bother to register with the UK government would also try to comply with EU regulations.
UK tax reporting is a separate issue, and something they have had to do for years. And it's highly likely that Vanguard are doing the tax reporting to keep commercial investors happy. The key issue is that they aren't producing KIID's for any of their US funds, and that's unlikely to change for many reasons (it's just not worth it for the small number of private investors who would want to buy US-dom funds).