Retirement Detectives

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Helping you find your ideal place in the sun!

Authoritative, unbiased information about current and emerging retirement destinations.
First hand knowledge and experience.
The good. The bad. The bizarre.
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Giving up Canadian citizenship

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 This is an inquiry I just recieved from Joanne - a Candian member - asking about giving up Canadian residency and gaining Panamanian resident status.


I am really enjoying your articles and website.  As a fellow Canadian, I am interested in your perspective on becoming a non-resident of Canada/resident of Panama. Have you gone this route given the tax advantages since from your articles you mention that you spend less than 6 months a year in Ontario? If so, do you have advice on the residency process? Thanks for the information.  Joanne


Dear Joanne,

  Thank you so much for your kind words. I enjoy writing and positive feedback just fuels the fire.

I have kept my Canadian citizenship so far. I bought my house in Panama in late 2007, but I have only been living here full time since December 2008. I have gone back to Canada three times in that time. I still own a company in Canada, own property, investments, RRSP's,  etc, so I still file Canadian tax returns every year.
I am not a tax expert (except in paying them). From what I have gathered, as long as you have any ties - RRSP's, property, own a business, maintain club memberships, etc in Canada, you are still considered a resident and must file tax returns.
       If you give up your Canadian residency completly, you must file a "final" tax form. Talk to an accountant, but it is my understanding that they tax on everything you are taking out of the country (Unless you are The Bronfman's who moved millions to the USA tax free)
There are twelve different immigration programs that you can enter Panama under - talk to a lawyer in Panama as to which one is best suited to your circumstances.
I have permanent resident status in Panama under the Pensionado program ($1,000 a month pension plus $250 for my spouse) a recent copy of your police record, and a letter from someone in Panama that knows you. It cost me $750 and took about twelve weeks to process.
       Panama is one of the easiest countries to gain residency in, which is one of the reasons it ranks so highly on most retiree's lists. (That, and the fact that it is 82 degrees out today and will stay that way all winter long).
       Hope this helps. Roberto
PS: In regards to the $10,000 personal goods tax-free importation exemption, the exemption is one-time, and per pensionado. Meaning that 1 pensionado plus 1 or more dependants is still considered as 1 pensionado. 

Dear Rob,


Essentially you are correct, however determining whether or not someone is a resident of Canada is a question of fact which is determined by jurisprudence and not defined by statute. It is based on the situation and there is no one thing that determines it. You are correct in that if you keep residential ties to Canada you may be considered a Canadian resident for tax purposes, but for example if all you had was an RRSP, then you could definitely be considered a non-resident for tax purposes. Your advice to talk to an accountant is right on the money because everyone’s situation is different and there is no “cookie-cutter” answer.


You are also correct that on becoming a non-resident of Canada you would need to file a final tax return up to the date of departure. At this time you are deemed to dispose of your assets at Fair market value, with a few exceptions. Again, this is a complicated area and I would counsel anyone looking at this to seek professional advice to make sure they are handling it properly. The last thing anyone want is for CRA to hound them and to have to pay any unexpected, and in certain cases, unnecessary taxes. We have a team of tax professionals here who are quite versed in international tax and I can certainly tell you it is one of the more complicated areas we practice.


I trust this will help you and your readers and I am always happy to help you.


Best regards,


Jordan Caplan C.A.

Partner, Assurance & Advisory

Soberman LLP, Chartered Accountants

2 St Clair Avenue East, Suite 1100

Toronto, Ontario M4T 2T5

T     416-963-7191 

F     416-964-6454

E      This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it



Last Updated on Tuesday, 04 May 2010 18:44

XOKO Restaurant opens in Santa Clara

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NOTE: No-one pays to be investigated or reviewed by The Retirement Detectives - all listings and reviews on this web-page are free to the business’s we review. We do not accept payment or consideration of any kind, and we pay our own bills. The only discount we accept is our Pensionada discount. This way I feel free to critique each restaurant, bar, builder, developer or service provider freely and openly - I am not beholding to anyone or owe anyone anything. We hope you feel this unbiased information is important, and useful - if you go - tell the owner Roberto Chocolate sent you!

Last Updated on Tuesday, 04 May 2010 18:53 Register to read more...

Where should I set up a "base camp" to explore Panama?

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 This just came in from Laguna Beach, California. Roberto

Hello Roberto,
I hope this email finds you and yours healthy and happy. We exchanged emails last year regarding my trip to Panama. Unfortunately, my Panama departure date was postponed somewhat. Now, I am back on schedule! As I mentioned, I live in Laguna Beach, California which you said you are familiar with.
I am looking for a city and an apt. to use as a base of “operations” as I venture out to discover Panama. Your city sounds very nice. Can you provide me with any other suggestions for a “Base Camp” and central location? I have many more questions which will follow if you don’t mind.
I will arrive in Panama between April 1 and May 1 2011.
Looking forward to hearing from you.
P. S. Nice looking pool
LagunaGuy (Greg)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 12 January 2011 14:58

Panama's Economic Growth 2010

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Panama's Economy grew 3% in 2009,  and is expected to exceed 5% growth in 2010

According to the Panamanian Finance Minister Alberto Vallerino, Panama's economy has grown 3% in 2009 and is projected to grow 5% in 2010.

While many Latin American countries have been experiencing a recession this year, Panama's economy counties to grow, albeit at a slower rate than in the past few years.


Panama's economic growth rate has slowed sharply after averaging above 8 percent in recent year. Traffic passing through the Panama Canal, a driver of the economy, has fallen due to a worldwide recession. 

The slowdown has in turn cooled inflation. Consumer prices in Panama rose 0.2 percent in October from the previous month, bringing 12-month inflation rate to 0.7 percent, the national statistics agency said. 

Consumer prices rose 8.7 percent in 2008

Currently Panama's debt is rated just under investment grade, but this may be changing. S&P and Fitch rate Panama BB+, while Moody's rates it a Ba1, but all three agencies have indicated that thier ratings could be raised soon. 



Last Updated on Tuesday, 04 May 2010 18:41

Advice on buying real estate in Panama

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This is a response to an inquiry I received about two new developments in Panama.

Dear KC,

I don't personally know the two developments that you referred to - they sound like they are early stages.

Caution - some developments will never get built due to the economic crisis. Some projects get started but never finished, leaving some investors holding the bag. Be careful - know your builder!!!!

Find out:

  1. Is the property titled?
  2. Is the project fully approved? (there will be a green sign with yellow lettering at the entrance - don't believe anything else (verbal contracts or contracts not in Spanish are NOT legal in Panama) - I say "see the sign, or see ya")
  3. Is it financed? Many - including some huge developers, are having difficulty getting financing - (Developers NEVER use their own money - so it does not matter how rich they are personally) Find out which bank is financing the project - ask to see the letters - before you put a deposit down. If it is not financed there is a good chance it will never be built, or it will be so radically different from what you thought you won't recognize it. (I know one development that started out as townhouses, then became a high-rise tower - a little different.
  4. Use your OWN lawyer. Not the developers or the real estate agents.
  5. Use a legal real estate agent - They must have a realtors number on their card or don't deal with them - otherwise you are not protected. With a very few exceptions they generally must be a Panamanian citizen to sell real estate in Panama. The worst crooks I have met in Panama have been ex-pats - seriously - don't fall for it - nothing is more dangerous than a fellow ex-pat that needs money (they are not allowed to take a job here) and smells fresh meat in the cage.
Hope this helps! Roberto Chocolaté
Last Updated on Tuesday, 04 May 2010 18:45

How to choose a Retirement Destination

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The Seven "C" 's of selecting a retirement destination.

I have found  that in choosing a retirement destination, it all boils down to these seven primary factors:

1)  Cost of Living - not just house prices - all expenses.


2)  Care - Medical and Dental - Do they speak English?

Last Updated on Tuesday, 04 May 2010 18:53 Register to read more...

Reader's comment

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 Here is a reader's comment - I appreciate the feedback, postive or constructive criticism. Thanks. Roberto Chocolaté


Though I'd just drop a note of thank's for a great website. My wife and I are in our mid fourties and are seeking investment property in Panama. Long from retirerment in years and money yet still young enough to work hard with some rewards.  Keep up the good work.

Todd and Gina

Last Updated on Tuesday, 04 May 2010 19:04

Winners Opens In El Valle

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No, not the discount shop - this one is WINNERS BAR AND GRILL on the main highway in El Valle. It is located in a strip plaza beside an ice cream shop and a hardware store, just down from the large Hong Kong market.


The owner, Raul is one of the most interesting people I have met in Panama. He is currently serving as the Trade Consul for Panama in Hamburg, Germany. Now that it seems likely that there will be a change in government in May, he decided to start this venture.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 04 May 2010 18:53 Register to read more...

Panama Top 10 tourism sites

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 This article first appeared in Thanks David. Roberto

Last Updated on Wednesday, 05 January 2011 12:36

Monkeys in Panama

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Monkey conservation program in Panama


                                                                     A white faced capuchin  


                                                                   A mantled howler monkey

Red backed squirrel monkey - less than 2,000 red-backs remain in the world today

A monkey conservation program is underway in Punta Burica (South of Puerto Armuelles, near the southern most border with Costa Rica) through the Tigre Salvaje Eco-Lodge.

For more info, see their website:

or contact: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 A kinkajous

Yolanda Van Der Kolk has designed a t-shirt to help raise money for monkey conservation -  watch this site for more details, coming soon!



Last Updated on Tuesday, 04 May 2010 19:03

US Citizens opening bank accounts in Panama

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This is an enquiry e-mail via from:
Ed (Ed's e-mail address has been removed to protect his privacy)

Dear Roberto,


What does one do about the banking problem for expats in Panama? Does one have to become a Panamanian citizen to open an account. I think the U.S. is over stepping their boundaries. 


Some banks in Panama are not accepting US Clients right now. Citibank is here, as is ScotiaBank and HSBC, and over 80 other international banking institutions. Only a few are not accepting clients from the USA.
        Panama does have a "know your customer" policy, so be prepared to fill out lots of forms. 
Go in, introduce yourself and ask what they require. It is that simple. I can take a few weeks, (mine took six months - corporate accounts take longer) so start the process early.
You do not have to be a Panamanian citizen to open a bank account - I am not - neither is my brother-in-law (we're Canadian). 
There are procedures; you need a letter of introduction with your current bank balance from you bank, a recent copy of your police record, copies of your passport and a letter from someone living in Panama that knows you.
As far as the US overstepping their boundaries, Panama is under pressure from the US to disclose private banking information. So far it has steadfastly refused. Time will tell. Roberto

Last Updated on Tuesday, 04 May 2010 18:47

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