March 2, 2010 - Phil Hodgen

Dispatch from Asia

Hey. I’m in Singapore, meeting with bankers, lawyers, and clients. I’m headed for Jakarta tomorrow night, and will be there for 3 days. I’ll be back in the office on March 8 (Monday).

It’s good to do a face-to-face with people we’ve worked with over the phone and the internet. Skype is a wonderful thing but there’s nothing like meeting someone face-to-face.

Every time I get on a plane I marvel at how my head tells me “Oh, it’s just to hard and too expensive to travel.” It is neither. The hardest part is dealing with saying goodbye to my family at the airport. “Why do you have to go, Daddy?” has no really good answer.

Upcoming trips: Mexico and the Middle East, then back to Asia.

Anecdotes or leading indicators?

Here’s what I’m seeing from my meetings:

§                  U.S. expatriates who ran afoul of the IRS’s FBAR Crusade are grumpy. (Seriously, who can blame them? A normal person, living a normal life outside the U.S., owing in some cases a trivial amount of tax, and for that the IRS wants to throw massive penalties at them?)

§                  U.S. expatriates who are not (yet) fully compliant in reporting the existence of offshore bank accounts have no interest in coming forward due to the uncertainty as to how they’ll be penalized, and the current harsh penalty regime. Anecdotal or a trendline indicating how the IRS has trained a whole set of otherwise law-abiding people to deliberately lie on their tax returns?

§                  An increasing willingness to give up U.S. citizenship. One of my reasons for coming to Asia this time was to meet with people who are launching the expatriation process. Anecdotal or a trendline? And if it is a trendline, what is causing productive, high achieving people to cut all ties with the United States?

§                  Bankers are hesitant to set up and administer trusts which have U.S. beneficiaries. Anything touching the United States has highly complex accounting and paperwork requirements. Anecdotal or trendline indicating that the cost of doing business in/with the United States is getting too high?

§                  Interest in buying U.S. real estate. The dollar is cheap compared to many Asian currencies, and the U.S. market, well, I don’t need to tell you what’s happening there. Anecdotal or trendline? My job here is to make it happen — make the real estate deal occur, set up the tax planning, etc.


Fullerton Hotel in Singapore.

XpenseTracker app for the iPhone. Easiest travel expense tracking app I’ve used yet. And I’ve tried a bunch, on the Treo, Blackberry, Windows Mobile phones, and iPhone.