Living as an expat while being a Mariner

Saw a comment somewhere else and am wondering if anyone is doing it or know if someone is.

I know many who are.

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Well worth considering. The sticky point is that unless you’re willing to abandon your US citizenship the IRS has first dibs on your income tax.

I think your allowed up to 105,000 before the IRS wants a cut if the income is made and spent outside the states. But you can only spend 30 days a year in America for that to apply.

What countries are their favorites?

I think that time spent on a US flag vessel counts as time in US.

I think that’s right. You don’t have to establish residence in a foreign country if income tax is not an issue for you. I’ve lived on dive boats in the Bahamas with occasional hotel stays when operating out of there and I’ve sailed deep sea with guys who spent their time off living in hotels in places like Costa Rica between long hitches.

Philippines, Costa Rica, Dominican, Thailand, Spain, Portugal, Norway, Florida, South Africa, Singapore off the top of my head. Laos or Cambodia or something… Someone was telling me about his Swiss plan today. that’s a new one.


Yes, I know a guy who was burned bad by not knowing that rule.

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I live in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico and lived in Colombia for a few years before that. Never was about avoiding taxes, it was about a better quality of life (for me) and lower cost of living.


The last time I did it I could only visit the US for 30 days & the cap was a little under $80k. Each year it is raised a little & now it’s over $100K. I always paid my taxes throughout the year & got a big refund at the beginning of the next. Not all CPAs know about this tax loophole so it is important to be on the same page with your CPA before handing over your documents. Some dummy CPAs who aren’t aware of the rule will tell you what they assume or make things up to keep your business so make sure you get one that has done it before without being audited. I was told that you could still file this way even if you’re on US flag vessels but the vessel couldn’t be in international or US waters. At that time, according my CPA then, even if you were on a FOC vessel you had to count international waters as days in the US.

IMO, concerning cheap places to live abroad. I always fantasized about moving out of the US to live like a king in retirement. Over the years the destinations would change between 6 or so places. Then I had a retirement destination discussion with a Hungarian-American captain & he changed my paradigm on the subject. He said he never again wanted to live in a place where the gap between the have’s & have-nots is too extreme. He said he grew up with people who hated the middle class & rich. He said when he became wealthier he could feel the resentment between the classes while in public. The suffering of the poor was too much. Then I pointed out that I have often felt guilt & despair when I see people suffering or hungry & can’t or won’t do anything about it. You can’t give change to every beggar that comes by or you’ll be broke quick & spend all day giving away change. A wealthy person has to turn off something in their soul to be able to live surrounded by poverty & the wealthy person becomes a lesser person once that thing has been turned off too often or for too long IMO. I still fantasize about retirement often but no longer envision myself living in the cheapest paradises in the world because I know what exists a few blocks or neighborhoods over.


I remember a few crew going the route to avoid taxes as we were at sea so much of the year. I think they ended up having to pay it back but i’m not sure… i just know it’s better to render unto Caesar that deal with the aftermath when you’re wrong.

Florida? Depending on what part you can certainly feel like an expat.

If you stay out of the USA you don’t pay much tax if any assuming you plan well.
Some of the other countries listed have low cost of living, good health care, low taxes and lower crime rates than the US. Lots of expats from many countries living in those places. One thing to remember is Medicare won’t pay for care outside the USA. Some US citizens in SE Asia go to one of the many US territories but CONUS is only hours away. Others just pay out of pocket for minor issues. Cost is MUCH less pretty much anywhere . Bumrungrad International Hospital in Bangkok is world class and sometimes cheaper than paying the 20% deductible in the USA.

Lots of WAGging here. See IRS Pub.54

U.S. Ships are U.S. “territory” when they are in international waters. The best thing is to be engaged in the oil & mineral activity. There are special rules that let you exclude your foreign-earned income.

I don’t know anything about a “130 days rule” but there are 2 tests for excluding income. The physical presence test and the bona fide resident test. See Pub. 54.

I’m in Mexico.

Yeah its 30 days not 130

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I was working for one of the major drilling companies overseas. US flagged vessel working in another countries waters. The company had to pay the other countries income tax on my earnings which of course I got a foreign income tax credit for. The company offered employees, even insisted they use the companies accountants to file their income taxes. I did it one year and got a big refund due to the foreign income tax credit. The IRS deposited the refund check in my account. The drilling company insisted I give them the money. I told them the check was not made out to them and I figure the IRS knew what they were doing so go talk to the IRS. They were not at all happy.


Canadians, mostly. Tampa is Montreal South, reckon.

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I moderate on an RV Forum and have met numerous RV’ers who travel and live abroad. They feel that being charged taxes while living outside the USA would be the same as “taxation without representation”. They have to purchase so many things that would normally be provided to them in the states so the generous tax ceiling is eaten into with a lot of expenses they have to cover for themselves when outside the USA.

Most of them are choosing South Dakota as a “Domicile State” since they only have to stay there for one day to declare residence. They take the receipt from the Motel or RV park to one of the large international Remail Services to set up a PO Box Address with them. From there they can use that as their address (without being “landed”) Next to the Court House to register to Vote. Then to the Motor Vehicles to get an operators license and then title and license the RV.
Then they set up as an Expat with a Lawyer Accountant who can file their paperwork.

The Remailer will have them to go to the Post Office and get a copy of form 1583 (I believe) and fill it out for them. This will allow the Remailer to open their mail and scan it so that they can email it to them as an attachment. Their Sat Phone if set up for the area they will be living in will receive the emails.

South Dakota like several other states does not have a state income tax. (Texas, Florida, Alaska, Nevada, Wyoming, Washington. Tennessee & New Hampshire do not tax wages you’ve earned but do tax income on savings investments)

There are those whom for one reason or another need to resort to this and I don’t cast any stones at the. They may have had family sickness which prevented them from working for a number of years etc. If they stay home
they may wind up on welfare, food stamps, medicade, SSI etc which will come out of the tax payers pocket just the same. So if they go offshore and work to recoup, they are working and not costing the system. (just my view) Others
may do this to avoid taxes and build up an estate and they are within the law
in doing it. Just as so many big business corporations or clergy people who stay here tax free with a 15501 C3.or other corporate tax deferring instruments
to avoid taxes.

Several states have Remail services that allow you to use their address as your own.

My Dakota Address

St Brendan’s Isle

Escapees RV Club of Texas

Mail Messages & More of Nevada

We Ship Santa Fe

Exat Forums

American Citizens Abroad

Expat Forum

Escape Artist 5 steps to Expatriate

I don’t know about being classed as being in the USA if sailing on a Ship that sails under the American Flag. If it is beyond the 10 mile international coastal lines it isn’t in America until it comes into an American port. But expats have 30 days where they can come back into the USA for funerals, weddings, to visit the sick, etc or just vacation & personal days. (and there are those who sneak in and out without reporting it.

Hollywood FL has enough Canadians in the winter to make me feel like I’m in Canada. Great people though.


I know Canadians only spend 6 months abroad because they lose their right to government healthcare if they do.