My Global Summit in the Tax Haven of the Bahamas

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by: Mark Skousen

More than 150 attendees gathered at the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas for the Global Financial Summit. Our theme this year was “Market Solutions to World Problems,” as opposed to government solutions.

In this tax haven just off the U.S. borders, we gained some valuable advice.

Peter Schiff, president of EuroPacific Capital, was a popular speaker. He told us that he has moved his asset management firm and employees to Puerto Rico to take advantage of the low tax rates there (only 4% income tax). Hedge fund billionaire John Paulson did the same earlier.

And there were several experts who talked about the tax benefits of living in the Bahamas, where there is no income, capital gains or estate taxes. (Most of their revenue comes from a 40% import duty.) Mutual fund magnate John Templeton lived there for years and took full advantage of this tax-free lifestyle. (He said his investment performance improved when he lived there.)

I lived in Nassau with my family in the 1980s and saved enough in taxes (all legally) to buy a flat in London. I call my move to the Bahamas “life in living color.” Read my story, “Easy Living: My Two Years in the Bahamas.”

A Funny Line from a Money Manager

I spoke at the event in the Bahamas about how ordinary investors can get in on the ground floor with the ultra-rich and venture capitalists by investing in private equity firms that are publicly traded. Bain Capital, Mitt Romney’s firm, doesn’t trade on the stock exchanges, but KKR, Apollo Investments, and Main Street Capital do – and are beating the market while paying high dividends. (To do so likewise, subscribe to my monthly newsletter, Forecasts & Strategies.)

Adrian Day showed me a tongue-in-cheek statement in his brochure for his Adrian Day Asset Management firm: “We do not accept as clients employees of the IRS, SEC, TSA, or NSA nor other known criminals (whose crimes involve serious violations of other individuals’ rights), nor illiberal dictators or their agents unless and until a public apology for their crimes is forthcoming.” Oh, the subtlety of British humor! Humor aside, Adrian Day is a libertarian money manager with a great track record in foreign stocks and mining companies. He will be one of our top speakers at this year’s FreedomFest.

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Michael “Steels” the Show

One of our most popular speaker at the Global Summit was Michael Steele, former lieutenant governor of Maryland and chairman of the Republic Party in 2009-11. He was raised in a poor family. One time he asked his mother, “Why didn’t you take welfare?” She replied, “I didn’t want the government to raise my child.”

He quoted Jack Kemp, who favored supply-side tax cuts as a way to stimulate the economy. Kemp would always say, “A rising tide will lift all boats.” Steele responded, “But first you have to have a boat!” Then he added, “It’s our responsibility to build that boat; not for the government to give us one.” Well said!

Steele is a big fan of FreedomFest and plans to join us as a speaker in July. You won’t want to miss his inspiring talk.

Consensus Advice: Buy Gold!

There was much disagreement among the speakers about the direction of the stock market and the global economy, but one thing everyone agreed on: gold was an undervalued asset after losing 30% of its worth last year.

It was a good move. Gold has risen 10% since the attendees returned home, and mining stocks have rallied sharply.

How successful was the Global Summit? After the Saturday night closing buffet, some of us went to the casino in the Atlantis Resort — and walked away with some nice winnings.

You Blew It! The Bahamas Imposes a Value-Added Tax

“There is much revenue in economy, and no revenue is sufficient without economy.” — Ben Franklin

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At our Global Financial Summit in the Bahamas, all the rage was focused on the imposition of a new Value Added Tax (VAT) scheduled to begin in July 2014. I was told that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was behind the new tax, arguing that the Bahamas depends too heavily on customs and excise taxes (40% duty or more) on goods and does not tax services (90% of the economy).

Besides, the Bahamas will be required over time to reduce to zero its import duties on European Community (EC) products.

The idea is to reduce the custom duties by 15% while imposing a 15% VAT.

Unfortunately, it usually doesn’t work out that way. Instead, you end up with a new tax (the VAT), plus import duties.

The real problem is that the Bahamas government continues to live beyond its means and currently is running a $500 million annual deficit. In addition, its national debt exceeds $5 billion.

Every government must learn to live within its budget. Giving a government more money won’t solve the problem, since the result tends to be increased spending.

All government officials need to draw from Ben Franklin’s three principles: industry, thrift and prudence. The Bahamian officials could use all three. I applaud the Bahamian people who are entrepreneurial and friendly (even more so than when I lived there 30 years ago). But their government needs to keep up.

I see that the Fraser Institute’s Economic Freedom Index shows a slight rise in economic freedom in the Bahamas. Keep it up! Go to www.freetheworld.com.

In case you missed it, I encourage you to read my e-letter column from last week about how dividends lead to a healthy profit in a bear market. I also invite you to comment in the space provided below.

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