A semi-retired couple moved to Puerto Rico for an adventure and some tax benefits, but a healthcare crisis may soon change their plans (2024)

In February 2021, when a rare snowstorm knocked out power for more than 4.5 million homes in Texas, Sarah Lindsey and Sean Flynn, two Austin residents, were looking for a change of scenery. That experience made them realize they wanted to go south.

"I was just at that point where I wanted a change from where I lived in Austin for 20 years," Flynn said. "We were looking for an adventure of some sort, a pirate adventure, and Puerto Rico was perfect."

Lindsey, a former teacher, and Flynn, a semi-retired IT consultant, moved to Humacao, Puerto Rico, in 2021. While they live in a condo a few hundred feet from the beach, they say there are also financial incentives for people moving from other parts of the US.

But the island may not be for everybody, especially if you are older or have health issues that require regular medical attention because the island is in a healthcare crisis, the couple said.

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The lure of Puerto Rico comes with some strict guidelines

For Lindsey and Flynn, an incentive to move to Puerto Rico was the territory's tax incentive, Act 60.

Under Act 60, no tax on capital gains is realized while living in Puerto Rico for people who move to the island. That is huge for Flynn and Lindsey, who have lots of stock and cryptocurrency investments. If crypto takes off while they live there, they won't have to pay taxes on their profits. The same goes for the condo they purchased on the island.

A semi-retired couple moved to Puerto Rico for an adventure and some tax benefits, but a healthcare crisis may soon change their plans (1)

Sarah Lindsey

Additionally, there is a 4% tax on income for eligible individuals and businesses, compared to a rate that ranges from 10% to 37% for individuals and small businesses on the mainland. There is also a 75% exemption on property taxes. These benefits last for 15 years, but Flynn and Lindsey have heard that renewing after 15 years might be possible.

There is no official minimum-residency requirement for the tax breaks. But Flynn was advised that if his business were on the island for less than three years, it would likely draw some heightened scrutiny from the IRS.

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The catch is that to take advantage of these perks, you must be what Puerto Rico calls a "bona fide" resident. That includes registering to vote in Puerto Rico, obtaining a local driver's license, and having all your major belongings on the island, including cars, boats, and, of course, a residence. To be eligible for the tax benefits, the resident must also show they spend more than half of the year — at least 183 days — in Puerto Rico.

The benefits attract wealthier people to invest in Puerto Rico

The benefits of living in Puerto Rico are enticing more affluent Americans to move to the island, buy homes, spend money, and even incorporate their businesses on the island, as Flynn did. He runs an IT-consulting business, AFI Technologies.

To further emphasize the desire for wealthier American residents, Puerto Rico requires people who sign up for the 15-year decree to give $5,000 to the government and an additional $10,000 to a qualifying charity on the island annually.

A semi-retired couple moved to Puerto Rico for an adventure and some tax benefits, but a healthcare crisis may soon change their plans (2)

Sarah Lindsey

As Lindsey explained, any benefit from the tax breaks could be wiped out for lower-income people by the annual $15,000 contributions back to the island.

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The move is not for everybody

The other issue that might dissuade some from moving to Puerto Rico is the state of the healthcare system.

The island was already in the middle of a "healthcare crisis" in 2015, with the system on the brink of collapse. The situation worsened after Hurricane Maria hit the island in 2017 and about 15% of Puerto Rico's healthcare professionals left the following year.

While Lindsey and Flynn have health insurance, they have not been to a doctor in the three years since moving to Puerto Rico. They also have a special provision in their insurance coverage to fly them back to the mainland in case of a major medical emergency.

A semi-retired couple moved to Puerto Rico for an adventure and some tax benefits, but a healthcare crisis may soon change their plans (3)

AFP Contributor/Getty Images

Local and US governments are working to improve healthcare, but moving to Puerto Rico right now is still not ideal for everyone.

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The issue may even force Lindsey and Flynn to give up on living in Puerto Rico full-time and switch to the half-year model in a few years.

The couple had to make some adjustments to island life

Moving to Puerto Rico came with other adjustments.

Lindsey said some of their favorite products from mainland grocery stores, such as Pillsbury crescent rolls, are harder to find.

Even shopping on Amazon is a new experience because it can often take packages a month to arrive.

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A semi-retired couple moved to Puerto Rico for an adventure and some tax benefits, but a healthcare crisis may soon change their plans (4)

Sarah Lindsey

Lindsey said you have to get a bit "MacGyver-ish" and creative to get some things. The couple has an older dog, Max, who needed a special medication they couldn't find on the island and struggled to get it mailed to Puerto Rico from the mainland. They eventually found the medication at a Tractor Supply Co., a retailer selling farm supplies and pet goods.

Despite the challenges, it's still paradise

Of course, living on the island has plenty of other perks.

The couple noted that there are plenty of activities they didn't have back in Austin, such as sailing, surfing, snorkeling, and swimming with sea turtles, nurse sharks, and dolphins.

A semi-retired couple moved to Puerto Rico for an adventure and some tax benefits, but a healthcare crisis may soon change their plans (5)

Sarah Lindsey

There are also plenty of WhatsApp groups in their area for people with similar tastes and hobbies to make new friends. If you are a mediocre golfer from outside Puerto Rico and are looking for similar people in Puerto Rico, there is a WhatsApp group for that.

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They also noted the appeal of the diversity of the geography, which includes mountains, rainforests, jungles, and beaches.

"There's a little bit of everything in kind of a tiny island," Lindsey said.

No regrets, but come prepared

After three years, Lindsey and Flynn don't have any regrets and would do it again. But they encourage people thinking about relocating to consider how they'll adjust to island life.

"Realize you're getting into an adventure and be flexible," Flynn said, adding that it took him three years to get his business decree. "If that's going to stress you out, don't do it. Everything just moves at its own pace down here."

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The couple suggested weighing the pros and cons before moving to the beach.

"The financial reasons were big and that's all working out in our favor, but it's all of the niceties around it and getting to do all these things we couldn't back in Austin," Flynn said. "And if you're a nature lover, this place is like your paradise."

If you moved to Puerto Rico for tax incentives and want to share your experiences, contact this reporter at cgaines@businessinsider.com.

As someone deeply immersed in the intricacies of tax incentives, geographical relocation, and lifestyle adjustments, I can provide valuable insights into the various concepts and experiences outlined in the article about Sarah Lindsey and Sean Flynn moving to Puerto Rico for financial and lifestyle reasons.

1. Tax Incentives (Act 60): Sarah Lindsey and Sean Flynn were drawn to Puerto Rico due to Act 60, which offers substantial tax incentives. Under Act 60, residents can enjoy no tax on capital gains while living in Puerto Rico. This is a significant advantage for individuals like Flynn and Lindsey, who have substantial investments in stocks and cryptocurrencies. Additionally, there is a 4% tax on income for eligible individuals and businesses, compared to higher rates on the mainland. The article emphasizes a 75% exemption on property taxes, lasting for 15 years, with potential renewal possibilities.

2. Bona Fide Residency Requirements: To take advantage of the tax benefits, individuals must qualify as "bona fide" residents. This involves fulfilling certain criteria such as registering to vote in Puerto Rico, obtaining a local driver's license, and having major belongings on the island, including residence, cars, and boats. A crucial requirement is spending more than half of the year (at least 183 days) in Puerto Rico.

3. Financial Contributions and Eligibility: Wealthier individuals are attracted to Puerto Rico by these incentives, but the government imposes financial contributions. Those signing up for the 15-year decree are required to give $5,000 to the government and an additional $10,000 to a qualifying charity on the island annually. The article highlights how these contributions may impact individuals with lower incomes.

4. Healthcare Situation: Lindsey and Flynn mention the state of Puerto Rico's healthcare system, which has faced challenges, especially after Hurricane Maria in 2017. The island is described as being in a "healthcare crisis," with a shortage of healthcare professionals. Despite having health insurance, the couple has not visited a doctor in three years, raising concerns about the healthcare system's adequacy.

5. Adjustments to Island Life: Moving to Puerto Rico required Lindsey and Flynn to make various adjustments. The couple mentions challenges in finding certain products, dealing with longer delivery times on Amazon, and even struggling to obtain special medication for their dog. Despite these challenges, they highlight the unique perks of living on the island, including engaging in activities not available back in Austin.

6. Lifestyle and Recreational Opportunities: Lindsey and Flynn express satisfaction with the lifestyle in Puerto Rico, enjoying activities like sailing, surfing, snorkeling, and unique experiences with wildlife. They appreciate the diversity of the geography, which includes mountains, rainforests, jungles, and beaches. The article suggests that, despite challenges, the overall lifestyle and recreational opportunities make the move worthwhile.

7. Advice for Potential Relocators: After three years, Lindsey and Flynn have no regrets but emphasize the need for flexibility and an adventurous mindset when relocating. They encourage individuals to weigh the pros and cons carefully before making the move, considering both the financial advantages and the adjustments required for island life.

In summary, this article provides a comprehensive view of the motivations, challenges, and rewards associated with relocating to Puerto Rico for tax incentives and a change in lifestyle. The insights shared by Lindsey and Flynn offer a valuable perspective for those considering a similar move.

A semi-retired couple moved to Puerto Rico for an adventure and some tax benefits, but a healthcare crisis may soon change their plans (2024)
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