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Found 7 results

  1. Today Panama’s National Immigration Service has published in detail the requirements for the NEW Friendly Nations Visa and additionally August 6th has been set as the new deadline to submit visa applications under the "old" Law. As of August 7, the new Friendly Nations Law will be in effect. What are the requirements for a residency application under the new Friendly Nations Visa? There were several pending issues that were not detailed in the executive decree published months ago. In practice we knew that they had to be modified and so it happened. Finally, the National Immigration Service of Panama made its pronouncement. Below, we have made a summary of what the new Law says. In order to apply for the new Friendly Nations Visa, an investment must be made by purchasing one (1) real estate property whose cadastral value is at least two hundred thousand US dollars (US$ 200,000). This was already known but it was not clear if the investment should be in the personal name of the main applicant or if it could also be made in the name of a corporation or private interest foundation. Now the National Immigration Service has established that the investment can be made either as natural person or in the name of a corporate body (corporation or foundation) as long as the main applicant is the final beneficiary of said corporation or foundation. This means, by presenting a true copy of the corporate documents of the corporation or the foundation's by-laws. There is a NEW option beside real estate investment Beside investing in real estate in Panama, the National Immigration Service now offers a second investment option which is the following: Investing in a fixed-term deposit (certificate of deposit – CD) with a bank in Panama. The CD must be a minimum of two hundred thousand U.S. dollars (US$ 200,000) and with a minimum term of three (3) years. It is possible to obtain the CD in one’s personal name or by a Panamanian legal entity (corporation or foundation), as long as it is demonstrated that the main applicant is the final beneficiary of the corporation/foundation that holds the CD. Remember, that in Panama any interests generated by a savings account or a fixed term deposit in a bank according to the current fiscal code of Panama do not pay any taxes in Panama. The third option to obtain residency under the new Friendly Nations Visa remains the same: for labor reasons. This means, it is necessary to file for a work permit granted by the Ministry of Labor of Panama. The requirements according to the new Law include submitting a letter of employment on letterhead and signed by the employer stating the position, salary and commitment to assume the repatriation expenses, certificate of public registry proving the existence of the company (if applicable) commercial license (if applicable). But there are not any further details given (yet) on how to obtain the work permit and other documents needed. The new law will have modifications as it is usual in the legal practice, but we can foresee positive changes. In addition, there is now the possibility of obtaining residency in Panama not only by investing in real estate but also in a CD, which might be a more practical option for many clients.
  2. Panama has always positioned itself as an attractive destination for expats, businessmen, retirees and foreign investors. Forty percent of real estate assets in Panama above USD$140,000 are purchased by foreigners. Despite the pandemic we can see that the Panamanian real estate market is going through a boom by international buyers. Work from Anywhere Both commercial and residential real estate market trends are changing due to COVID-19. Before the pandemic, digital nomads were a phenomenon of the digital revolution. Traveling and seeing the world with a flexible job working online was a unique way of life for a small group of freelancers, innovative entrepreneurs or highly digitized specialists. But in 2020 an emerging trend became a mass movement. Large, traditional companies that previously demanded a work culture from their employees where the team must be physically "present" in one place, suddenly felt compelled to jump into the 21st century, and all within a few days. Home Office - The New Normal But the home office lifestyle has not only created new fashion trends, sudden shortage of office supplies such as home printers, change of laws, and strange and sometimes even comical situations due to the use of new means of communication such as Zoom, Google Meet, Skype among others, for team and client meetings. People are waking up to new possibilities: Why do I live in an apartment whose rent eats up most of my income, if work can be done after a morning run on a Caribbean beach, while saving a lot of money living in a warm place? Because of the COVID-19 crisis, millions of people are starting to work from anywhere. Even big hotel chains are remodeling their rooms in order to convert them into small, temporary, beach-side home offices for holidaying remote workers. Something for Everyone The type of real estate available in Panama is very varied. The isthmus of Panama boasts mountains and beaches, and allows you to wake up in the Caribbean and have lunch overlooking the Pacific. Although Panama City is a dynamic and modern city, much of inland Panama remains quiet and remote. This geographical diversity converts Panama into an interesting market for buyers who prefer the city, as well as those who do not. In recent months we can observe two trends of real estate buyers in Panama, the purchase of unique spaces located in the interior of the country and the investment in centrally located apartments in Panama City with the aim to put them up for rent and thus create an additional source of income in the long term. Foreign Real Estate Investment in Panama Alberto Grajales, commercial director of encuentra24, a digital portal specialized in classified ads, indicates that 250,000 visitors are registered monthly in the English version of the portal, of which the vast majority are looking for information about real estate properties in Panama. Unlike other tourist destinations, foreigners and nationals can buy almost any type of property in Panama. It is also possible to own and sell property titles in your own name (although it is not recommended) or through corporations or foundations, even without being a resident, only with tourist status. Panama has a fully dollarized economy, with the US dollar being the legal currency in the country, which allows diversification out of the Euro zone. And the current exchange rate between the dollar and the euro favors European investors even more. New demand and opportunities arise from changing lifestyle circumstances due to the new way of remote working, global economy and financial and personal priorities.
  3. When investing in a real estate in Panama, it is necessary to consider several factors and numbers in order to analyze if the purchase you want to make is profitable. This is why it is important to foreign investors to understand how the tax system works in Panama and what types of taxes must be paid when investing in real estate. There are three types of property taxes in Panama, which I will explain in detail below. First of all, Panama does not have what is known in Germany as “Grunderwerbsteuer" (real estate purchase tax). That is to say, the fiscal code in Panama does not contain a tax that must be paid for the acquisition of a plot or lot of land. When buying a property it is the seller who must pay the transfer taxes. Nevertheless it is customary that the buyer pays the registration fees of the Public Registry and the notary fees. What transfer taxes must be paid when selling a property? At the time of selling a property, the Panamanian government charges the seller the following taxes: 2% transfer tax calculated based on the cadastral (registered) value "or" the capital gains value (calculated by the system) "or" the selling price. The highest of these values is the one the government chooses as the calculation basis for charging the tax. And then 3% on the cadastral (registered) value "or" the selling price (whichever is higher) as capital gains tax. There are properties that pay annual taxes, others do not, some have exonerations, what does all this mean? In the past all properties whose value exceeded $30,000 were obligated to pay a progressive percentage of taxes on the cadastral value of the property (annually). However, there were different options to request an exoneration on these annual taxes for a maximum period of 20 years. This no longer exists today. But still the tax office respects the exemptions already granted, and for this reason you will see different offers in the real estate market with valid exemptions. Currently there is a new law where properties whose value is less than $120,000 do not pay taxes in Panama, as long as it is your primary residence. For properties with a cadastral value of $120,001 up to $250,000 the annual property tax rate is only 0.5%. Properties from $250,001 and above pay a rate of 0.7% (seven tenths of 1 percent). Now, if we are talking about horizontal property, that is to say, I have an apartment, what taxes do I pay? First of all, there are fixed expenses for the apartment that are calculated based on the registered square meters of construction, and from this measure the monthly maintenance fees that must be paid to the building’s administration is calculated. The maintenance fees must be paid on a monthly basis (you can also pay in advance if you wish) and never stop. The last reform of the law in 2020, made it very clear that for no reason it will be possible to stop paying the common maintenance fees since with these expenses the building exists and is maintained, that is to say as if it were a child's alimony. There is also a real estate tax that is divided in two, i.e. the tax on the apartment and then on the coefficient of participation of the land on which the building was constructed. It is important to mention that the payment of the (annual) property taxes is not included in the payment of the monthly maintenance fees. It is the responsibility of each co-owner to comply and pay their tax obligations for their apartment with the Panama tax office. What is a NIT? In order to have this information of how much you owe and if you are up to date in your tax obligations, it is advisable to process a user and password (called NIT) to have direct access to the electronic platform of the Panamanian tax office called "e-tax". This way you can check your current account statement, pay the corresponding taxes by credit card and even request a certificate of good standing, all of this can be done online. The NIT is also mandatory when selling your property in order to process the payment of transfer taxes and to obtain the documents requested by the notary for the closing of the sale. What if I sell the shares of my company ("share deal") instead of the title of my property ("asset deal")? Years ago the Panamanian government has regulated the sale of corporate shares in order to avoid the evasion of the transfer tax when selling a property. Now there is also a tax that must be paid if you have a corporation and this corporation owns a property and you sell the shares of your corporation (as a package). As the owner of the shares the seller pays a tax of 5% of the sales value, but the payment must be made on his behalf, by the buyer and both will have the legal responsibility before the Panamanian tax office. In the past the sale of corporate shares was a very popular strategy used to optimize the transfer taxes when selling a property, however each case is unique and individual and requires prior analysis by the lawyer. We will talk about this topic in the next blog, stay tuned!
  4. With the aim of increasing investment in the country and creating a positive impact to the economy hit due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Government of Panama has approved the creation of five new free trade zones in the country, generating a combined investment of US$21.9 millions and more than 10,000 jobs. Some of the free zones are investments of Panamanian entrepreneurs and others of foreigners. The new free trade zones authorized will be located in the provinces of Panama, Chiriqui and Herrera. Three of them will be dedicated to agribusiness, with the objective of becoming important sources of economic growth in vulnerable regions of the country and at the same time strengthening the national logistics supply, knowledge transfer and the incorporation of new technologies in the productive processes. Two facilities will be built in the eastern area of the province of Panama, the Panama Agroindustrial Free Trade Zone (Pacora) and the Aristos Free Trade Zone (Chepo, Puerto Coquira). The Panama Agroindustrial Free Trade Zone will be the largest free trade zone in the country, promoting year-round commercial agricultural production, incorporating the concept of vertical farming and thus lowering water consumption by 95% compared to field production. The objective of the Aristos Free Trade Zone is to promote the agricultural and fishing sector in the area, to support the various production sectors to offer their products in the national and international market, and to increase exports of national products and create new opportunities for the border area with Colombia. In Panama Centro, Zone 1 of the Juan Díaz Terminal will be built, a warehouse for merchandise, manufacturing and logistics activities. In Pesé (province of Herrera), the Las Cabras Free Trade Zone will be installed focusing on agroindustrial activities (fruit processing, production of organic fertilizers, production of high-end liquors, etc.), creation of a productive chain cluster, biomass processing, and management and treatment of urban waste as a source of energy generation. In the province of Chiriquí (Bugaba), the construction of the Global Logistic Free Trade Zone was authorized, targeting companies related to international trade to Central America.
  5. Rights of Possession (ROP) or “Derechos Posesorios” may seem a simple way of investment...but they are not. In fact, they are more complicated if you really want to prevent a legal problem in the near future. In order to explain the difference between a property that has ROP and a property that is titled, we must first know how the Panamanian government legally creates a property. In simple words, the land from the beginning belongs to the government of Panama. Then the government "assigns" those rights so that there is supply and demand and the land increases in value as it passes from hand to hand (buying and selling) that is where the government starts to make money from taxes. As the government of Panama is not a real estate company, nor is it dedicated to real estate activities, they have to guarantee that the land that belongs to the government are for public use and benefit, of course protected by the law. Faites votre jeux - Get your game on. Once I know that I want a property "without title" the first thing I must do is to have the right to "occupy" it, that is why they are called “rights of possession", because I must possess it as my own. If a person "occupies" a property but it belongs to another person, and this person does not care, because it is a "possessory" right, he can lose this right in a period of one (1) year. Obviously, in Panama, nothing is automatic. This person who is the new unregistered owner, and just arrived and occupied the property, can approach the government and ask to be given that ROP. If there is someone who opposes, then they don't give it to him. If nobody objects, then it is theirs. The same happens if you want to title the property, that is to say, a public deed is drawn up, registered and it is known to all, that this property belongs to you. To do so, you will have to prove that you are the owner. If you are thinking of buying ROP, keep in mind the following (as a frame of reference, remember that every case is different). You need to ask for the plan with the geographic coordinates, to define exactly where the property is located. Also, your seller has to prove that he is the "de facto" owner, that is to say, by means of a certification from the police authority stating that the seller has been living there for five (5) years, you can also ask for affidavits from the neighbors as witnesses. In addition, receipts for electricity, water and telephone expenses must be presented, as well as all other suitable documentation that may prove that this person exercises the spirit of owner over this property. This happens because, although a property has ROP, according to the law in Panama, you can lose your right when another person takes the property for himself in a "peaceful" way. Or in short, another person lives on the property for more than one (1) year and you allowed him to do so without expelling him. The stakes are set, or not? The law in Panama establishes that the person who has the ROP has to occupy the property, has to fence the property, has to work it, has to build on it, has to preserve nature, watch over it and protect it so that other people do not take it. There is a technical legal word for this situation and it is called "Acquisitive prescription of dominion”. That is to say, if I have a ROP and I did not exercise my right, and I allowed another person to do so, according to the law in Panama, I can lose my ROP in one (1) year, and that gives the right to another person to prove in the courts of justice in Panama that he is the legitimate owner. Another important issue to know is that the ROP can be registered by a natural or corporate body. When the land titling process is finished, the natural person will pay a symbolic price to the public office of the government, but when it is a corporate body it can be very expensive compared to what a natural person would pay. You should also keep in mind that not all properties that have ROP can be titled, i.e. it must not be a protected area, comarca territory, private estate, administrative concession area, land assigned in use and administration, among others, as well as it must not have a conflict, or judicial/administrative litigation. If you wish to title an island or insular territory, you must prove the occupation for more than five (5) years and the physical dominion with owner's intention, in a pacific and interrupted way, through suitable means, that is to say, certifications of the Mayor's Office (this documents by itself is not enough as a proof), affidavits of witnesses of the community or of the neighbors, photos of the land and of the constructions made on the property, plans with GPS position and detailed location, with its boundaries, measurements and neighbors, public services contracts, construction permits, among others. Rien ne va plus - The die is cast. In summary, buying a ROP can be cheaper compared to a property that has registered title. However, as lawyers we do not gamble, and due to our professional experience we strongly recommend buying titled properties in order to guarantee your investment in the future.
  6. The process of buying real estate overseas can be complicated, time-consuming, and stressful. But it should not be like this. Read our guide below on the biggest mistakes buyers make and how you can avoid them: Mistake #1: Location is Everything Almost everything can be fixed, but the location, the location, the location cannot be fixed. Buy location, NOT price. When investing in real estate overseas remember to do your due diligence and pay attention to the small details that can turn your dream home into the home of your worst nightmare. Before buying try to get information from different local sources in order to be sure that the location you chose is really the right one for you. Besides common factors such as traffic connection, security, neighborhood, distance to the nearest hospital, and infrastructures such as supermarkets, shops, and restaurants, it is important to verify the connection to basic public services. That is water, telephone, internet, electricity, and garbage collection. Which are the available providers and how reliable are their services? Are there any (regular) interruptions or connectivity problems with one of the basic services in the sector? Does the availability of one of these services vary according to the season (rainy season/dry season)? Speaking of seasons, although Panama is a tropical country without seasons, there are sub-climates in different areas of the country. Depending on the location and time of the year there are regions that are more humid than others, in certain areas, there is a constant strong wind during the dry season, others where heavy rain falls during certain months of the year, while there are zones suffer from drought during the dry season. Mistake #2: Not thinking about selling the house someday Buyers often forget that they will most likely sell their home at some point. Personal circumstances can change, and eventually, you have to sell. The purchase of a home should be structured well from the beginning to avoid headaches and bad surprises in the future: What will be the taxes to pay when you sell your home? Which legal figure is the most convenient to acquire a property? If something happens to me, what is the quickest and least expensive way to transfer the house to my heirs? Mistake #3: Falling blindly in love with a house Just as in love relationships there are properties that are "problematic". Some details are cosmetic and can be solved in one way or another, but there are real estate options that can be called an "uncontrollable risk". Whether it's a lawsuit, a conflict of interest, or some kind of encumbrance. Unless you like to play Russian roulette, don't get distracted by the "flashy" details of a house. Mistake #4: Trying to buy without a lawyer Last but not least, one of the biggest mistakes we can observe in our legal practice is when buyers try to buy without an attorney. There are too many factors that cannot be calculated and making a mistake is somehow inevitable. Lack of experience combined with the desire to save “some pennies" can have serious consequences. The Laws and the legal basis in Panama are not the same as in other countries. You should not sign contracts or legal documents that were not reviewed by a trustworthy lawyer. If you have doubts about a transaction, seek advice from an experienced lawyer who will not only protect your interests during the purchase transaction, but also your wallet by avoiding problems in the future.
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    Free consultations at GOMEZ TOMICZEK LAW FIRM (ENGLISH AND/OR SPANISH SPOKEN) Instructions: The consultations will be managed by a first-come, first-served basis. Our address in Plaza San Francisco (second floor), office #23, near Magda Crespo Seguros. The free consultations will be performed by Lcdo. Abel Gomez covering his different legal expertise areas, as: -Corporate and Commercial Law -Relocation Services and Migration -Foreign Investment -Asset Management -Maritime Law -Tax Law -Intellectual Property and Patents -Real Estate Law
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