Investment opportunities for expats in the Philippines

Investment opportunities for expats in the Philippines – that will be the topic of today’s article.

Let us have a look at the general information regarding the taxes and other aspects before getting to our topic for today, which is ‘Investment opportunities for expats living in the Philippines’.

This article should not be considered as tax, legal, financial or any other kind of advice, and the facts might change over time.

This article is long. For the time poor that are looking for advice as an expat, you can email me – advice@adamfayed.com, use the WhatsApp function below or this page.

General Information:

The Philippines is the best example of a diversified country, where one can come across people belonging to various races, religions, languages, cultures, etc.

The Philippines consists of around 7,500 islands and is located in the Asia Pacific region. The people belonging to the Philippines are known as ‘Filipinos’ and the commonly spoken language is Tagalog. However, there are 200 different languages in the Philippines s.

Philippines has more than 111 million people is and considered as 12th most populous country in the world, which exceeds the population count of countries such as France and Turkey.

Philippines is best known for having a tropical climate, which has dry and hot weather, yet, the islands are known to have frequent cyclones and earthquakes.

The economy of the Philippines is known to be a bit complex, especially considering the sectors of agriculture, textiles, and technology.

Expat life in the Philippines:

Expats belonging to Britain and some other countries could be able to live in the Philippines for up to 30 days without a visa. For this, they should have valid permission to leave their country.

On the other hand, the passport should be valid for a period of at least 6 months after the end of their stay in the Philippines.

If you wish to stay longer, you will be asked for birth certificates, marriage certificates, schooling information, and other information, which would be verified by the Philippines Embassy in your country.

Depending on the type of stay, there are various types of visa options available for expats.

If you are an employee going to the Philippines for work purposes or if you are a student going there for education purposes, you can opt for a non-immigrant visa.

If you are not determined about your stay in the Philippines, meaning you want to come and go whenever you want, you can apply for a special resident retiree visa. This type of visa comes with a specific set of financial terms and conditions.

Cost of Living:

The currency of the Philippines is called ‘Philippine Peso’, which is denoted by ‘PHP’, ‘Php’, ‘PhP’ or ‘₱’.

It has been estimated that a family of 4 people would require somewhere around PHP105,000 to PHP115,000.

For a single person, the cost would be around PHP35,000 to PHP55,000.

Some other costs in Philippines are as follows:

  • Chicken:                                             PHP200 to PHP230
  • Milk:                                                   PHP85
  • Eggs (1 dozen):                        PHP90 to PHP108
  • Cheese:                                    PHP330 to PHP470 (quality)
  • Tomatoes:                                           PHP70 to PHP80
  • Potatoes:                                             PHP90 to PHP95
  • Bread (500g):                           PHP60
  • Beef (1kg):                                          PHP320
  • Wine bottle:                            PHP350 to PHP425
  • Local Beer:                                          PHP55 to PHP65
  • Water bottle:                          PHP40
  • Basic Utilities:                         PHP6,000
  • Internet:                                              PHP2,250
  • 1 Bedroom Apartment:                       PHP8,800 to PHP16,000
  • 3 Bedroom Apartment:                       PHP18,000 to PHP32,300
  • Gasoline:                                             PHP50
  • Monthly transport (pass):       PHP560

Healthcare:

The healthcare services in the Philippines are underperforming compared to many countries of the world. Private healthcare is rather expensive and highly recommended for expats, especially those from big countries like the UK or the USA.

It is better to have a good health insurance policy, which would usually amount up to $220 per year.

Money:

People are allowed to bring up to 50,000 pesos ($1,100) into The Philippines. However, people who intend to bring higher amounts should acquire the approval of the Philippines Central Bank and obtain a written agreement.

Inflation in the Philippines is around 1.75% to 2.5%, nevertheless, we must also consider the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, which might result in increased prices.

Tax:

Just like most countries of the world, the Philippines’ government imposes taxes on Filipinos on their worldwide income.

Expats and foreigners, even when they are not resident in the Philippines, are taxed only on the income obtained from sources in the Philippines.

The tax rates vary according to the nature of the income, whether it is for residents or expats.

The tax rates for business income and employment income in the case of non-residents and resident aliens (expats yet to receive residency) are around 0% to 35% depending on the tax bracket of their income.

On the other hand, the maximum tax rate for income subject to final tax for expats is 20%, if they are obtaining it from a trade or a business. If it isn’t from a trade or a business, a flat rate of 25% is applicable.

An expat, either resident or non-resident, is imposed with taxes on compensation income that has been earned from services provided by them in the Philippines region.

This is regardless of the fact of where the actual payment took place and whether it has been remitted into the Philippines.

When it comes to non-resident expats, there are no taxes on compensation income for services performed outside the Philippines.

Employment income of expats, who were engaged in a trade or a business in the Philippines, includes all types of payments for the services they provided within the Philippines.

Some examples are salaries and bonuses, and this is also regardless of the location where the payment took place.

Social security contributions are not included in the salary and are exempt from taxation, which is generally paid by the employees.

There are some fringe benefits, which are generally paid out to an employee by an employer and are tax-free. Some examples include foreign travel expenses, life insurance premiums, housing, vehicles, expense accounts, etc.

Taxes on capital gains and investments – People who are considered Non-resident aliens are taxed on the capital gains derived from Philippine sources, which is regardless of their stay in the Philippines.

The rates are as follows:

  • 0.6% of the selling price when it comes to shares of stocks that are listed and traded on a stock exchange of the Philippines.
  • 15% on the overall capital gains when it comes to shares of stocks that are not listed on a Philippines’ stock exchange.

This includes the shares of publicly listed companies that were not able to comply with the minimum public ownership (MPO) requirement.

  • 6% on the excess of the gross sales price or fair market value of real estate property sold or withheld at the time of sale.

Capital losses are deductible, yet it is only possible to deduct them from capital gains. While calculating the overall capital gains or losses from other capital assets, an individual should take 50% of the gain/loss into account which is if the capital asset has been held for a period of more than 12 months.

If not, 100% of the gain or loss of that particular asset needs to be taken into consideration.

Non-Resident Aliens/expats: A non-resident expat is levied with taxes on their investment income derived from sources in the Philippines. This includes interest, dividends, and royalties.

For these, the tax rate is 20% (if the individual is involved in a trade or a business in the Philippines).

The tax rate would be 25% (if the individual is not involved in a trade or a business in the Philippines).

These tax rates happen to be the final tax (or a lower treaty rate). The tax deducted at source, and such type of income shall not be subject to the graduated rates.

Resident Aliens: The tax rate remains the same 20% for resident expats/aliens as well when it comes to royalties. Interest income is taxed at 15% for resident aliens.

Upon meeting with certain criteria, resident aliens are exempt from taxes on long-term deposits, savings, individual trust funds, investments that have proof provided with certificates, etc.

Dividend income, royalties from music/literary works are taxed at 10%. However, tax rates for capital gains from stocks and real estate properties are the same for both resident and non-resident expats.

Tax Relief and Tax Treaty – If the expats are deriving income from other countries and pay taxes in other countries as well, they cannot use that tax credit against taxes to be paid in the Philippines.

There are many countries, which have a double taxation treaty in effect with the Philippines, out of which, some are given below.

  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Brazil
  • Canada
  • China
  • Denmark
  • France
  • Germany
  • India
  • Japan
  • Kuwait
  • New Zealand
  • Mexico
  • Norway
  • Russia
  • UAE
  • UK
  • USA
  • Switzerland
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Singapore

Banking in the Philippines:

Just like in many countries, the banking system of the Philippines supports major international banks, national banks, and rural banks.

Expats generally opt for national banks like Philippine National Bank, Metrobank, Bank of the Philippine Islands, etc.  

When it comes to choosing an international institution most expats go with Citibank, Bank of America, and HBSC.

We highly recommend that expats should avoid small, rural banks because the services offered by such banks are limited and may be subject to closure with a very short notice period or no notice period at all.

Internet banking can be accessed via most large national and international banks.

The physical branches of most banks are usually operational between 9 AM and 3 PM during weekdays and the banks are closed on weekends and holidays.

For opening a bank account in the Philippines, an individual would be necessitated to visit the bank in person along with various types of identification documents.

In general, all the necessary documentation should be provided at any bank. However, the necessary documents that are required may vary based on the bank chosen.

Expats holding immigrant and non-immigrant visas and have been in the country for more than 59 days would be required to apply for an ‘ACR I-Card (Alien Certification of Registration Identity Card)’.

The process of applying for this card is very simple and can be done at any main office of the Bureau of Immigration or one of its branches located all over the country.

The cost of applying for this card would generally be around $50, along with an additional P500 (which results in $60).

In some cases, you can open an account even without an ACR I-Card. For doing so, you must meet with the bank manager directly before your bank account can be approved.

Nevertheless, almost all the major banks require you to have an ACR I-Card. Along with that, you will be asked to provide a photo ID, passport, photos, address proof, and any other documents necessary.

Most banks need a minimum deposit to be made, which can vary around PHP3,000, for opening a savings account.

If the bank thinks it is necessary, you will be asked to provide a reference from the bank in your native country as well. The bank verifies your application by contacting the reference you’ve provided or asking for a written document obtained from that reference bank.

This process can be avoided if you know an existing client or an employee in the bank in which you want to open an account.

In the Philippines, the deposits made by customers are insured for an amount of up to PHP500,000, which is equivalent to $10,000. This insurance cover is applicable per person and not for each account they possess.

Based on the information gathered by us, the best bank for expats in the Philippines is ‘Citibank’. However, if you are looking for an account that offers higher interest rates or the best deposit accounts, you can go ahead with banks such as ‘Security Bank’.

Investment options for expats in the Philippines:

Bank Accounts – In the Philippines, people can earn an interest of around 0.50% to 4.50% on their deposits made in bank accounts.

However, people who wish to obtain a higher interest rate should meet with certain types of terms and conditions such as maintaining the required amount of minimum deposit, especially when depositing in savings accounts.

The possibility of acquiring higher interest increases depending on the amount of balance a person has in their bank account.

Some time deposit accounts offer a higher interest rate as high as 4% or even more depending on the term.

Real Estate – An expat can’t purchase land in the Philippines under their name.

However, expats can buy residential properties and condos under their name. For this, the land where the property is built should be owned by residents of the Philippines.

This land can be leased for a period of up to 50 years and could be extended for another 25 years after that.

If an expat decides to buy an apartment or a condo unit, then the ownership should not exceed 40% of the total ownership.

Therefore, investing in Philippine real estate might not seem to be a good idea when it comes to investing as an expat.

Stocks – Similar to the restrictions in real estate, an expat is allowed to invest in the stocks of the Philippines, while the ownership should not exceed 40% of any company.

So yes, you can buy stocks of a publicly listed company in the Philippines and become a part-owner of a shareholder, even if you are an expat.

You can do so by having at least PHP 5,000, which is required to open a stock trading account. However, as with any other country in the world, stocks come with a great amount of volatility.

It is highly suggested to keep your investments diversified and allocate the assets properly based on your financial goals.

Some of the best Philippine stocks known to have a higher potential over the long term are as follows:

  • SM Investments Corp. (SM)
  • Ayala Corporation (AC)
  • SM Prime Holdings (SMPH)
  • Ayala Land, Inc. (ALI)
  • International Container Terminal Services, Inc. (ICT)\
  • Jollibee Foods Corporation (JFC)
  • JG Summit (JGS)
  • Alliance Global (AGI)
  • BDO Unibank (BDO)
  • Aboitiz Equity Venture (AEV)

While choosing to invest for a long term in the stock market, an individual should choose 5 or more profitable companies, buy their shares, hold them, add more shares whenever possible or whenever the market experiences a fall, never panic, and sell the shares exactly after the completion of your long-term goal period.

Funds – Another important asset that needs to be a part of a person’s portfolio is Funds. Foreigners are allowed to invest in mutual funds.

Let us have a look at some of the major funds of the Philippines, which had the best performance (along with returns) in the year 2020.

  • Soldivo Bond Fund                                        (8.06%)
  • ATRAM Dynamic Allocation Fund              (6.77%)
  • Philequity Alpha One Fund                          (6.52%)
  • Philam Bond Fund                                        (5.98%)
  • Philequity Peso Bond Fund                          (5.62%)

The best Equity Funds in the Philippines in the year 2020 is ‘Philequity Alpha One Fund (6.52%)’.

Best Dollar Equity Funds in the Philippines in the year 2020 are as follows:

  • SunLife Prosperity World Voyager Fund      (21.33%)
  • ATRAM AsiaPlus Equity Fund                      (16.97%)

Best Balanced Funds in the Philippines in the year 2020 are as follows:

  • ATRAM Dynamic Allocation Fund               (6.77%)
  • ATRAM Philippine Balanced Fund               (4.78%)
  • Sun Life Prosperity Achiever Fund                (0.68%)

Best Bond Funds in Philippines in the year 2020 are as follows:

  • Soldivo Bond Fund                                         (8.06%)
  • Philam Bond Fund                                         (5.98%)
  • Philequity Peso Bond Fund                            (5.62%)
  • Philam Managed Income Fund                      (5.13%)

Investment strategy for expats:

While opting to invest, either residents or expats should be aware of all the risks involved. Depending on factors such as age, financial status, risk tolerance, etc., it is better to create a portfolio where the assets are allocated appropriately.

Importance of a Financial Planner – It might be hard for some people to invest on their own as they might not be aware of the tax-related issues or fees related to investments.

Some people may not be aware of the basics of investment as they might not have enough time to know all the relevant topics. On the other hand, some people may not have enough time.

For such people, it would be advantageous if they acquire the help of a financial expert to assist them in such endeavors.

Offshore Investments – By investing offshore, expats could gain more profits, have an increased amount of exposure over their investments, easy access, etc.

While making an offshore investment, it is better to invest in a country that has tax benefits, excellent investment opportunities, and good economic conditions.

Moreover, offshore investments also help an individual maintain his/her confidentiality while providing the maximum amount of security.

Offshore investments are not only beneficial for expats, but they are also an excellent mode of investment for residents of almost any country in the world.

Bottom Line:

Even though you are an expat living in the Philippines, there are many investment opportunities available.

When you allocate your investment capital equally among the funds, stocks, and other investment vehicles, then you can be able to acquire the maximum amount of profits.

If you don’t have enough time to take care of all these aspects by yourself or if you are not familiar with the process of investing, you can acquire the financial services offered by us.

Not only do we help clients who have a lumpsum amount readily available to invest, but we also take care of the financial needs of average people who wish to have a financially secure life.

You can even learn the art of investing with the help of our ‘Adam Fayed Academy’ so that you can take care of all your financial/investment needs by yourself.

That being said, we hope that you were able to find all the necessary information in this article.

Adam is an internationally recognised author on financial matters, with over 301.9 million answers views on Quora.com and a widely sold book on Amazon

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