For expats looking to relocate to Europe, the typical destinations are usually Western European countries such as France, Portugal, and Spain. However, there are many hidden gems in Central and Eastern Europe that offer a unique blend:
Old-world charm, rich cultural heritage, affordable cost of living!
One of the more attractive features of Europe for U.S. expats is the ability to visit, work or even live in more than one country. The mobility of EU passport has enhanced the appeal of all EU nations. Let’s explore three off-the-radar EU nations in Central and Eastern European countries that U.S. expats should consider.
There are many non-financial factors to consider when deciding on moving to a foreign country. Including an array of subjective qualities that make one place seem more like “home” to an expat than other locations. While these more subjective qualities are superficially touched on below, this is after all a blog from an international financial advisory perspective.
Accordingly, lower cost of living and lower relative tax burdens played the key role in pinpointing three of the EU’s most fiscally appealing destinations. These three nations are tax-friendly standouts. They have something to offer many expats looking to live on the cheap. To even live relatively lavishly without breaking the bank, or to protect that family wealth. Actually, the order above was chosen simply to accommodate a semi-cheesy axiom that can help you remember our top three choices:
For EU capitals where tax rates are the best, consider Budapest, Sofia, and Bucharest!
Hey, it was catchier than anything we could come up with using the country names instead of their capitals.
Romania, located in Southeastern Europe, is a country that is often overlooked by travelers but has much to offer. The country is home to stunning natural landscapes, including the Carpathian Mountains and the Danube Delta. It also has a rich history and cultural heritage. Bucharest is the capital and is a bustling metropolis with a vibrant nightlife and a thriving arts and culture scene. The country offers a low cost of living and a high quality of life, making it an attractive destination for expats.
Romania, with that scenic beauty and rich history, is also a good place to live in the EU if you are on a budget and need a low-cost, low-tax place to call home. Or if you are rich and wish to stay that way, and leave your legacy of largesse to your heirs. Romania employs a flat tax on personal income at the rate of ten percent. This ten percent rate applies to virtually all sources of income, including wages, self-employment income, interest, dividends and capital gains. Significantly, there are also no wealth, inheritance or gift taxes levied in Romania. The standard value-added tax (VAT) rate is nineteen percent (which compares favorably with most EU countries), with some goods and services exempt from the VAT regime.
Located on the eastern coast of the Balkan Peninsula, Bulgaria is a country with a rich history and a unique blend of Slavic, Greek, and Ottoman cultures. Sofia is a vibrant and cosmopolitan city with a thriving arts and culture scene, and a low cost of living. The country also boasts stunning natural landscapes, from the Black Sea coast to the snow-capped peaks of the Balkan Mountains.
The healthcare system in Bulgaria is also affordable and of good quality, making it an attractive destination for retirees. Bulgaria also employs a flat tax rate of ten percent on personal income from most sources. This includes earnings (employment or self-employment) and capital gains. Dividends are taxed at an even lower rate of five percent. Also like Romania, Bulgaria does not impose a wealth tax, nor taxes on inheritances and gifts. There is a low rate of property tax, ranging from 0.01% up to 0.45% on the value of real property. VAT is a comparably favorable standard rate of 20 percent, with lower rates on certain goods and services.
Hungary, though not quite as tax friendly as Romania and Bulgaria, offers a terrific mixture of liveability, workability and affordability that is sure to check a lot of boxes for many adventurous expats. It has a rich culture and history, with a long-standing tradition of music, literature, and the arts.
-Fisherman’s Bastion in Budapest
-The second-largest synagogue in the world in Szeged
-Historic thermal baths of Hévíz
Expats can immerse themselves in Hungarian culture by attending festivals, visiting museums, and exploring the country’s many historic sites. Hungary has a thriving job market, particularly in the technology, finance, and healthcare industries. Many multinational companies have set up operations in Hungary. This offers expats the opportunity to work in a dynamic and growing business environment. Additionally, the country has a low unemployment rate, making it easier for expats to find employment.
A country of natural beauty…
Hungary is a country of stunning natural beauty, with rolling hills, forests, and lakes. The country is also home to the Danube River, which flows through Budapest and offers stunning views of the city. Expats can enjoy the great outdoors by hiking, cycling, or simply exploring the countryside.
Hungarians are known for their warm hospitality and welcoming nature. Expats can expect to be greeted with open arms and will find it easy to make friends with locals.
PATHS LESS TAKEN ARE MORE INTERESTING AND COMPLEX, BUT WE CAN HELP
Also comparing favorably against the tax regimes of most EU countries, Hungary employs a modest tax rate of fifteen percent. This includes all forms of personal income (earnings, dividends, interest, capital gains, and even cryptocurrency trading gains). VAT is a bit higher in Hungary than in Bulgaria or Romania. With a standard rate of twenty-seven percent, with reduced rates of eighteen percent or five percent for certain goods and services. There are no wealth taxes, but there is a gift and inheritance tax regime in Hungary. The standard tax rate on gifts and inheritances is eighteen percent. A lower nine percent tax rate applies for gifts and inheritances of residential property. These gift and inheritance taxes do not apply to wealth transfers to spouses and lineal relatives (children, parents, grandchildren, etc.). Such lineal wealth transfers are exempt for these tax regimes.
Europe is already home to millions of Americans who have ventured back across the Atlantic to work or enjoy their retirement. The majority of these expats, however, accept a steep tax bill and sometimes a cost of living hike (depending on where you’re coming from and where you are going to) for the privilege of a European lifestyle.
At Walkner Condon Financial Advisors, our Expat Team is proud to offer financial guidance and ongoing planning and investment management to American expat families. We’ve also dedicated a great deal of research to inform those considering a move to Europe about the various tax incentive programs that certain Western European countries have to offer. However, most of those incentives are for a definite period of time and standard resident tax rates apply thereafter – rates which can be considerably higher than the U.S. federal tax rates that all U.S. citizens must pay, even while living abroad.
Accordingly, we believe that, given the growing mobility of the global workforce and the abundance of potential low-cost, low-tax alternatives within Europe, we think looking a little further east may provide Americans looking to venture abroad a whole set of new alternatives. Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary are by no means the only attractive destinations to consider outside of Western Europe that offer the benefits of living within the EU. Whether you are planning a move to Europe or any other continent in the world, we’re here to lend our financial planning and investment insights to help you navigate the complexities of a cross-border (U.S. and foreign) financial and regulatory environment. If you’d like to learn more, please reach out to our team to discuss your specific circumstances: Book Now!