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Found 14 results

  1. Panama has always positioned itself as an attractive destination for expatriates, businessmen, retirees and foreign investors. Forty percent of real estate assets in Panama above $140,000 are purchased by foreigners. Despite the pandemic we can see that the Panamanian real estate market is going through a boom of international buyers. Real estate buyers often forget that they will most likely sell the property at some point. Personal circumstances may change, and eventually, you want to sell. The purchase of a property should be well structured from the beginning to avoid headaches and bad surprises in the future: What will be the taxes to be paid when the property is sold? What legal figure is the most convenient to acquire the property? Selling a Panamanian Corporation: Asset Deal vs. Share Deal In the past it was very fashionable to invest and sell real estate in Panama by buying and transferring the shares of a corporation, thus maintaining the cadastral value low, so as not to increase it each time it passed from hand to hand (buyer/seller). When the Panamanian government discovered that this was a normal practice, it decided to regulate this type of transactions: Which means in order to transfer a property, the seller must pay approximately five percent (5%) in taxes and the same applies if you sell the shares of a corporation. Five percent (5%) taxes of the value of that share deal must be paid to the tax office. The only advantage of paying that tax for selling the shares, is that the cadastral value will not increase every time the property is sold over and over again, and therefor maintain annual property taxes low. In fact, selling a corporation represents in simple words, selling the shares with all the corporation’s assets included, changing the board of directors, changing the resident agent and paying the taxes to the DGI (tax office) through form 108. The only thing that cannot be modified in this method of purchase and sale are the subscribers, but that does not affect the interests of the new owner... since with the formal resignation of the subscribers, they will not have any right to claim in the future. But, How Do You Sell a Private Interest Foundation in Panama? If foundations are not made as instruments to negotiate, neither to carry out business activities in Panama, since they are made for estate planning and as a living will, then how do you sell them? The answer can be found in an article that modifies the Foundation Law of Panama (already created several years ago by the way), in fact within a Law that is not related to the subject of foundations. Based on this legal footing you can sell all the rights of your foundation, including all its assets, by means of a private and notarized contract, and by making all necessary changes within the foundation (foundation council, resident agent, by-laws, and even the name if you like). Of course, the technical - practical legal details of the whole transaction are too complicated and complex to explain in a blog without boring the reader with technical and legal terms, but in conclusion,… you can sell your foundation. And if the foundation owns a property, well, you do not have to pay transfer taxes to the tax office because what you are selling is not the property itself, it is the foundation with its rights and obligations.
  2. 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.
  3. Good business opportunities are always in the right hands when at the time of closing the deal, you were the one to scout it first. When I go to a different country, not only the language changes, even the culture, the food, and also the websites and classified portals where one is used to look for things and offers. If I want to rent or buy a property in Panama, where should I look? Apart from the websites of various real estate brokers and agents, where do I find local deals? Today I will give you a secret tip on where to find real deals and bargains in Panama. If you want to search for properties where local or foreign owners and most real estate agencies publish their properties you will find them here: www.encuentra24.com. Encuentra24 is the largest and most popular platform in Panama. Besides their large real estate section, you can also find vehicles and even job offers. However, you will have to take some time to search through a lot of information, compare different offers (and sometimes even prices) in order to find your personal bargain. If you search on Encuentra24 you will have everything in one place, owners and real estate brokers, all together. Remember that, if you decide to buy or rent through a real estate broker in Panama, it is the owner of the property who pays the commission of the real estate broker used for the transaction... not the tenant nor the buyer (that would be you). But what other options are there? Where can I find the real secret offers? Many clients do not know that there is a real estate market in Panama managed by the mayor banks. If you look at the banks directly, you will have more options without intermediaries. But if a bank is auctioning for example a property, it will not exactly choose Encuentra24 to publish the auctions. It is for this reason that Banco General (one of the largest and most popular banks in Panama) has just launched its own "property classifieds" advertising portal where new properties (with financing option by the bank), repossessed properties and commercial properties are being published. For bargain hunters, we have compiled a list of sites worth investigating: 1. Banco General “Clasificados de propiedades” https://www.bgeneral.com/clasificados-bg/ 2. Banco Nacional de Panamá: https://www.banconal.com.pa/remates-judiciales.html 3. Global Bank: https://www.globalbank.com.pa/es/bienes-reposeidos 4. Banco Banesco: https://www.banesco.com.pa/bienes-reposeidos 5. Banco Caja de Ahorros: https://www.cajadeahorros.com.pa/bienes-reposeidos/ 6. Banco BAC Credomatic: https://www2.baccredomatic.com/es-pa/people/bienes-reposeidos 7. Banco CanalBank https://www.canalbank.com/banca-empresarial/canal-inmuebles/ 8. Banco Banistmo: https://www.banistmo.com/wps/portal/banistmo/personas/productos-y-servicios/galeria-inmobiliaria 9. Banco Scotiabank https://pa.scotiabank.com/es/banca-personal/prestamos/propiedades-en-venta.html Now what is a Judicial Foreclosure in Panama? It is when someone could not or failed to pay the loan on their property, the bank took back that property by judicial foreclosure and put it up for sale to recover the money borrowed. A bank is not a real estate company, so it is not really interested in the property. Banks live off the interests they generate from lending money. Having a property without generating money is a monthly loss. The expenses caused will be very high if the bank keeps that property, so it is better to let go off it as soon as possible, and that is where you come in to buy "good, nice and cheap" as we say in Panama. Good luck with your hunt!
  4. If you are considering obtaining residency in Panama through the Friendly Nations Visa, be advised that yesterday through the publication of Executive Decree # 197 the requirements of the Friendly Nations Visa have been modified: The up-coming changes can be summed as following: 1. The Friendly Nations Visa will be a two-step application. This means that the foreign applicant(s) must submit an application through a Panamanian lawyer. Once the file has being processed and the petition has been approved the applicant(s) will be granted a residence permit for two (2) years. Contrary to what was granted in the past, where with a single application a permanent residence permit could be obtained. Now after two years, all applicants must present a second application, submitting practically the same documents requested in the first application (with the exception of the governmental state application fees and repatriation deposit) in order to receive their permanent residency in Panama. 2. The second modification relates to the proof of economic activity in Panama and proof of financial solvency. Until now it was necessary to open a bank account in Panama and set-up a Panamanian corporation to fulfill these requirements (although the details have been changed constantly in the past years). The bank account has been eliminated as a requirement, as well as the obligation to have a Panamanian company to demonstrate the intention to carry out an economic activity in Panama. Now, unless you have a guaranteed job offer from a Panamanian company you must proof a real estate investment in Panama for a minimum amount of USD$200,000 in order to qualify for the Friendly Nations Visa. Which documents do I need to qualify for the NEW Friendly Nations Visa? Here we have listed the detailed requirements for you: 1. Three (3) passport-size photographs. 2. Documentation that proves the reason for requesting permanent residency, which may be fulfilled in two ways: Option 1 - for labor reasons: This means a company in Panama wants to hire you as an employee and therefore the employer must present documents to the migration authority, for example: employment letter, certificate of incorporation issued by the Public Registry of Panama that proves the existence of the company, business license etc. The employer and employee must also file for a work permit through the Ministry of Labor. Option 2 - for investment reasons in real estate: The applicant must invest in a property in Panama with a minimum value of two hundred thousand dollars (US $ 200,000.00). 3. In case you apply as a family with children or married couple you must also submit a marriage certificate and/or birth certificate of the (minor) children in order to prove kinship, together with a proof of domicile in Panama and a letter of responsibility signed by the main applicant. Remember that the marriage and/or birth certificate must be duly authenticated via apostille (or through the Panamanian consulate in your home country) as well as translated into Spanish by a licensed interpreter in Panama. The general requirements remain the same: All applicants of legal age must present a criminal background check (duly authenticated via apostille or through the Panamanian consulate in your country, and translated into Spanish by a licensed interpreter in Panama), copy of the complete passport, health certificate, and state application fees (250USD$) as well as repatriation deposit (800US$), among others. I have already planned my Friendly Nations Visa application in June. What do I do now? The changes and new requirements will come into force in August 2021. All clients who wish to present before this date will obtain permanent residency with a single application by fulfilling the requirements to date (bank account, Panamanian corporation etc.). According to the law, the government will respect all residency permits that have been already granted or are currently being processed. After August, when filing for a Friendly Nations Visa a two-step application will be required, and the new requirements (job offer or real estate investment) must be met.
  5. The owners of apartments or real estate that are subject to the Horizontal Property Regime in Panama, have the obligation to pay taxes, related to their individual real estate unit, as well as regarding the land on which the building is built. Here we are going to explain why you must pay taxes for your condominium under the Horizontal Property Regime, even if you have a tax exemption for the apartment. In Panama many years ago, most of the owners of an apartment (which we will now call PH) took into account that if the value of their apartment was less than USD$30,000, they did not have to pay real estate taxes for the land on which the building is built. But as a result of a law created in 2010 that modified the tax code in relation to real estate taxes, it is established that "the first $30,000 of this fee will not apply to the land of the properties subject to the horizontal property regime". In other words, the land where the building was constructed is taxable since it becomes common land, that is to say, the co-owner's land. The law does not say how to pay the taxes, and generally people forget to pay them and accumulate a debt with the tax office over the years. The Panamanian tax office distributes this tax among all the co-owners of the building and assigns the payment to each one of them in their individual account (according to the respective property number). In my professional opinion, and I agree with other professionals on this, as the land is a common good, that is to say it belongs to all the owners where the building is built, the tax should be paid in full and each owner should deliver his share with the monthly administration fee. But in practice this is not the case. The tax is not included in the common maintenance fees, which is why it is often forgotten. Nevertheless, each individual owner is responsible for paying his taxes and keeping up with his fiscal obligations. Now why is this happening? When a property is incorporated into the PH regime, two properties (fincas) are automatically created. The first property is the PH (the common property) with a different number and which is registered in the PH section of the Public Registry. This property has an initial value that is set by the developer that built the project. The other properties that are created, are all the apartments, one of them or several can be yours. This is called private property. The exempted improvements only correspond to each of the properties of the PH, i.e. the apartments, but this does not include the common property, i.e. the building constructed on that land. By law you will not be able to exonerate the real estate tax of that land. Therefore, if the value of the land is 1 million dollars, the tax to be paid is calculate based on this value at the rate of 1%. And this 1% is distributed among all the real estate units, i.e. all the apartments in the building. The 1% is paid in three installments per year: at the end of April, August and December. However, it is possible to pay in advance. When the exemption period of your apartment expires, you will pay for the value of the apartment plus the amount of the participation coefficient, that is to say, the 1% we have already mentioned. What if I have a "normal" property? How much do I pay? As of 2019, properties declared as family patrimony - principal residence (through a special procedure at the tax office, because nothing is automatic in Panama) must pay a real estate tax according to the value declared in the Public Registry, i.e.: Between USD$0 and USD$120,000 = exonerated. Between USD$120,001 and USD$700,000 = 0.5% of the value. Over USD$700,000 = 0.7% of the value. My property has not been declared a family patrimony, how much should I pay? From USD$0 to USD$30,000 = exonerated. From USD $30,001 to USD $250,000 = 0.6% of the value. From USD $250,001 and USD $500,000 = 0.8% of the value. Over USD $500,000 = 1.0% of the value. Banks became property tax withholding agents. The amendments to the Tax Code now obligates banks in Panama to help the tax office by withholding the respective tax for each apartment or property in general that has been acquired through a mortgage financing. With the exception of new homes which have an exception for up to three years, with the condition that you have never purchased a property before and that it is your first home. Property Exemptions in Panama: Why? The developers, or construction companies according to the tax office are recognized a type of exoneration to the constructions of those projects which construction permit was in force prior to 2018. After this date the developers must pay the respective tax from the legal birth of the PH property. The exonerations in Panama are created with the purpose of promoting the economic development of the country encouraging people, nationals or foreigners who want to do business in Panama and develop the country, and in return the Panamanian government grants them tax incentives. Therefore, farms dedicated to agricultural activities which cadastral value does not USD$350,000.00 are exonerated from taxes every 5 years while maintaining their activity.
  6. 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.
  7. What should I do, sell the shares of the corporation I own or just transfer the title of my property to the buyer? In this week’s blog I explain you two very common situations which only apply to Panamanian corporations (SA - sociedad anónima) since private interest foundations have no legal framework to "sell" a foundation because they are originally used as a living will, for estate planning purposes and therefor the transfer of a foundation is not regulated (from a tax point of view), but this would be a topic for another blog. If I wish to sell my property, that is to say, transfer the title of ownership to the buyer, the taxes that the owner must pay to the tax office must be calculated, that is to say, the Real Estate Transfer Tax ("ITBI") which is 2% that must be paid based on the higher value of either the sale price or the updated cadastral value (VCA). But this value will be different from the one calculated by you, because for the Panamanian tax office, the property has as increase in value over the years (regardless of the global economic situation or crisis). Therefore, the period of time the property has been kept by you without selling it, will influence the calculation of the VCA. That means that the VCA calculated by the tax office might differ from the original value of the property. A property that costs $25,000 dollars, and being kept in your hands during 15 years increases its value. When you sell this very same property, the tax office will take into account this increase in value (the system calculates it automatically and you cannot modify it) using a coefficient of 0.75 for the full 15 years. That is to say that for the tax office that property had an increase of the VCA of $18,750.00 dollars. If you add this increase in value to the $25,000.00 dollars that you have in your deed, then your property is now worth: $43,750.00 dollars (for the tax office, regardless of the market value). Now, this tax for this specific example will be about $875.00 dollars, not much compared to the price, and it is still in your best interest to sell the property and not the shares and I will explain why. We continue with the same example of only 2% but with another sale value: If the sale value of the property is $352,500.00 dollars and under the same example, the property was kept for 15 years in your hands gaining value as a long term investment, the tax office is going to perform the same calculation with a coefficient for the land (0.75) and another for the improvements, the house, (0.5) because the value between land and improvements (house), results in the value of the property; In this example it turns out that the VCA is now $529,375.00 dollars. Even if you sell your property for a lower price, the government will base its calculations on the higher value in order to apply the 2% tax. This means you will have to pay $10,587.50 dollars and on top of that, the cadastral value of the property will increase (if applicable). In this particular case, it is recommended to sell the shares of the corporation that owns the property, because there is a capital gains tax on the sale of securities (shares of the corporation) which is 5%. For territoriality purposes, it is considered as Panamanian source income , an income produced by capital or securities economically invested in the national territory, whether its sale has taken place inside or outside the Republic of Panama. Therefore, if you sell the shares instead of the property, you will not increase the official registered value of the property (remember that annual property taxes are calculated based on this value). You pay your transfer taxes for the share deal and sell the property without further charges. The taxes for a share deal must be withheld and remitted by the buyer to the Panamanian tax office within 10 days after the closing. Taxpayers who commit tax fraud, and do not pay this tax to the national treasury, will be sanctioned with a fine of not less than 5 times nor more than 10 times the amount defrauded. The other tax to be paid is the Capital Gains Tax, which is 3% on the official registered price and the gain (if any) on the sale price. It is said "updated" because if you built "improvements" i.e. a house on the property, the improvements incorporated to the real estate must have been declared and registered in the Public Registry of Panama, otherwise legally they do not exist. These taxes were created to tax transfers of real estate, personal property and securities, made by individuals and legal entities. Each case is unique and special and we cannot guarantee that this example is accurate for your needs, but it does provide you necessary information to understand a little more about how buying and selling in Panama works so you can make an informed decision when selling your property or investing in real estate in Panama.
  8. 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!
  9. Foundations are a fantastic tool for estate planning and to structure and administrate your assets, but is a foundation really necessary? The answer to that question is not that simple, as there is no golden rule that is applicable to everyone and everybody. It depends on the type of assets you own and their value. If you purchase titled real estate in Panama you practically have three options: 1. Register the property in your personal name, 2. Register the property in the name of a corporation, 3. Register the property in the name of a foundation. Due to Panamanian inheritance law and its legal procedures I will always recommend my clients to avoid option number 1. Why should I avoid buying real estate in Panama in my personal name? When you own real estate in Panama in your personal name and you have a will, or otherwise you do not have a will, after your demise the procedure for your heirs to claim their inheritance will always be the same in Panama: 1. Your heirs must hire a Panamanian lawyer 2. The lawyer must file a lawsuit of succession (with will/ without will) with the court in Panama. 3. The process of the lawsuit will take from one (1) to two (2) years to be completed (given there are no complications in the process). 4. Meanwhile, you heirs cannot take possession of the assets until the Judge passes judgment in their favor. In other words, it is the Judge who has the order and the last word. 5. According to the minimum fee scheduled established by the Bar Association in Panama the lawyer handling the lawsuit has the legal right to charge 10% to 25% of the total commercial value of the estate as legal fees. Is it better to buy real estate in the name of a corporation of foundation? If you invest in real estate in Panama you should always register the title either in the name of a corporation or foundation in Panama. But using a foundation might not always be the best choice. Why? It depends on the type of real estate and the usage you want to give the property. The character and objective of a foundation in Panama is to hold and protect assets, while a corporation is per se created to execute commercial activities. Foundations in Panama are prohibited to execute regular business activities. So, if you plan to purchase real estate in Panama as a private retirement home and keep the asset as a long-term investment, a foundation sounds like a solid option. But if you want to invest in real estate as a short-term investment in order to rent, sell, and make it a profitable business , a corporation might suit you better. In fact if the property already has a very low cadastral value or a high cadastral value, it might be smart to use a corporation. Are there examples where a foundation is not necessary at all? Yes, I recommend my clients to never ever register a car title in the name of a foundation. Also, if you have a personal (savings) bank account, depending on your bank you can nominate a beneficiary at the bank. After your demise, your designated beneficiary(ies) can access the funds in the bank account (the procedure varies from bank to bank, so comparing different options is recommended). And if you are a permanent renter in Panama and only own a average bank account and a car, using a foundation or even a corporation to hold those assets is not worth it. Stay safe and healthy!
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. The death of a loved one takes many people by surprise. Besides the emotional burden and grief, one suddenly has to deal with legal, financial and administrative procedures, especially if the deceased did not have his/her assets organized. Everyday life can very quickly confront us with situations in which it is absolutely necessary to consult a legal expert. Knowledge edge in legal matters helps you to make an informed decision and protect not only your investment and assets, but also your family, heirs and loved ones. Two case studies from our legal practice regarding inheritance law in Panama. Let's make an analysis of two "figurative" case studies with their respective pseudonyms: Due to unpredictable circumstances, Michael Bauer arrives at the hospital in critical condition. He and his wife Carola moved from Canada to Chiriqui over three years ago. While the doctors try to establish his health status, Michael asks his lawyer to prepare the necessary documents to leave "everything in order”, and transfer his share of the family home located in an exclusive residential area in Boquete to his wife. I have a will, why do I need a foundation? Michael never wanted to create a foundation to protect his family's assets because he felt it was "too expensive" and an "unnecessary" expense. Unfortunately, Michael passes away before he could sign the legal papers. He leaves a vehicle (worth $10,000), his share of the house (worth $300,000 in total) in Boquete and a savings account at a local bank. There is a formal will signed before a Notary Public in Panama, declaring his wife Carola as the sole heir. She feels alone in Panama and wants to sell everything fast in order to return to Canada. However, two long years go by before she is able to transfer the title of the car and her deceased husband’s share of the house in Boquete to her name, and finally put the property and vehicle up for sale. But what happened? And, how could they have avoided this situation? Inheritance Law in Panama and its pitfalls The delay in the inheritance procedure is due to the legal basis in Panama. If the deceased had assets within Panama, in his own personal name, regardless of whether or not he has a will, a probate proceeding must be completed. In order to do so, it is necessary to hire a lawyer and to file a probate lawsuit (tested if there is a will, or intestate if there is no will, which in practice is almost the same procedure) before a judge in Panama. Courts and Judges Your file must go through different stages and hands in the court and once all the formalities are completed the judge will make a decision and assign the final beneficiary(ies). Legal procedures in Panamanian courts take their time, and even under the best conditions, it will take at least two years until your heirs have the right to transfer your assets to their names, so that they can finally sell them. In the meantime, they will have to pay for expenses, lawyer's fees (15% of the total inherited assets according to the minimum lawyer's fee in Panama), among others. Being Prepared… On the other hand, our second “figurative” case study is the case of Max Mueller. He has been a part-time resident of Panama for five years. Max has been traveling back and forth between Panama and Germany, but now it is too exhausting, his health is not good. Mr. Mueller owns a piece of land in Las Lajas (with a value of 40,000US$) in the name of a foundation, and a personal savings account at a local bank. On his last trip, he spoke with the bank official and filled out a form to leave his son Robert as the final beneficiary of the account. His lawyer has an original copy of his foundation's by-laws that declare Robert as the secondary beneficiary and secondary protector of the foundation. A foundation does not die After Max passes away in Germany, his son Robert contacts his father's lawyer in Panama. He sends him his father's death certificate, duly apostilled, and a few weeks later he travels to Panama. Since the foundation (which is a legal entity) is the owner of the land in the Public Registry of Panama and the duration of the foundation is perpetual, no lawsuit, process or legal procedure has to be filed. Robert now, in his role as universal beneficiary and protector of the foundation, leaves a signed mandate for the sale of the land, and immediately hires the service of a local real estate broker to sell the property. Before returning to Germany, he goes to the local branch of his father’s bank, complies with the internal procedure and can access the funds in the account. Create your individual estate plan A Panamanian Private Interest Foundation (PIF) can ensure that after your death, your estate passes to your chosen beneficiaries without any stressful complications, delays, or litigation. For legal purposes, the assets of a PIF constitute a separate estate from the assets of its founder and the beneficiaries. Just as in a will, the foundation's private by-laws govern the conditions of the PIF. It can be established how the assets will be distributed, and who has control over the administration of the foundation's assets. It is not required that the Founder be a resident in Panama, and with the telematics, originated due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Panama made an effort so that lawyers can create corporations and FIPs without the need for their clients to appear before a Notary Public. The commercial registry of the legal entity is filed electronically, making the registration process more expeditious. Knowledge edge makes the difference Carola is hopeful that the title to the house in Boquete will be transferred to her name soon, so that the property can be put up for sale. She has already traveled many times to Panama and sometimes she feels tired and exhausted due to so much protocol, stress and expenses. Robert received a message from the broker a few weeks ago. There is an interested party who wants to buy the land in Las Lajas. The down payment has been already made and the deal will be closed this week. In a few more days he will receive the funds from the sale in his bank account in Germany.
  13. The real estate market in Panama (as in the world) is changing. In our practice, we can observe an increase in the purchases and sales of properties in the country for this year. Below we would like to inform future buyers and sellers about legal changes regarding ESCROW services in Panama. What is an ESCROW? An ESCROW is a custody service, where a neutral third party offers (through a binding legal contract) to hold funds or assets until the other parties fulfill certain duties and obligations. Upon completion of the transaction, the ESCROW agent releases the funds according to the instructions received previously. In addition to delivering the funds to the seller once the closing has been completed, the ESCROW agent can pay the real estate broker's commission, attorney's fees, taxes caused by the transaction or due, unpaid utility bills, and other fees and payments required to close the transaction. Having a neutral third party holding the funds and pay all outstanding accounts at closing protects both the buyer and the seller. The buyer does not have a bank account in Panama. Can an attorney receive the funds and hold them as an ESCROW agent until the transaction is closed? In the past, lawyers and law firms in Panama used to provide this type of ESCROW service for real estate transactions. The lawyer received the buyer's funds in a bank account in Panama and kept them until the buyer was registered as the new owner of the property at the Public Registry. However, in the year 2017, Law 21 was created in Panama, which "establishes the rules for the regulation and supervision of trustees and the trust business" in Panama. In practice, this means that any individual, company, real estate broker, lawyer, or law firm that receives funds as part of an "ESCROW service" must have a trust license registered with the Superintendency of Banks of Panama. Otherwise, at the time of receiving the funds in the bank account (especially if the funds are wired from abroad), they will be rejected by the bank and returned to their origin. To avoid unnecessary delays in your sales transaction with the risk of losing a potential buyer or promising investment opportunity, please consult with your attorney about the available options for the legal custody of funds in Panama. Read more...
  14. ForSaleByOwnerBoquete.com Provides International Exposure for Your Property! Are you struggling to sell the property you just listed? Social media has solutions for you! There are a lot of things you can do to market the house online. That’s where we come in! Do you want to sit around and hope someone drives by and sees that your house is for sale or would you rather put it in front of them where they spend their time? We can provide SO MUCH MORE exposure for your home than the local agents. Exposure sells homes, and our social media campaigns build audience and attention. We at ForSaleByOwnerBoquete.com are online marketing experts. We are NOT real estate agents. We started this site to help others use the power of the internet to gain exposure for their properties. We actively market ForSaleByOwnerBoquete.com into the international real estate investment community! What are you waiting for? Sign up now!! Simply Register by clicking here to get started! Marilyn Jenkins
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