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Virtual mail box for expats
Old 01-12-2022, 11:43 PM   #1
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Virtual mail box for expats

I would need to take care about family member living abroad who is seriously ill. By that reason, the plan is to live outside of US for years. From what I learned so far, most expats keep US address on record. I know there are plenty of virtual mailbox services available, other people prefer to provide the home address of close relative. From other side, I also hear some horror stories that firms like Fidelity or Vanguard does not accept virtual address and require actual residential street address on file. Also it is not clear how virtual address is considered for tax purpose, i.e. for example does California address confirm the residency for tax purpose? It would be nice if those living abroad can comment on this, and which mail forwarding service may be better to this extend?
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Old 01-13-2022, 12:13 AM   #2
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What a coincidence, I've been looking into this recently also. We'll be travelling for a minimum of 6 months to a few years with no home base. We'll need a CA address also. Hopefully some here have experience with a virtual mailbox and can give feedback.
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Old 01-13-2022, 12:30 AM   #3
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I've read some RV'ing folks, and they wanted to have an address for residency in a no income tax State, why pay income taxes when not even living there.

If one sets up residency in NV for example, then don't have to worry about paying CA income tax.
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Virtual mail box for expats
Old 01-13-2022, 12:39 AM   #4
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Virtual mail box for expats

Iíve used us global mail https://www.usglobalmail.com/ for years and have been very happy. When evaluating different services do not simply look at monthly fees: the key charges that will make or break your budget are the charges for forwarding mail and packages to you. Some places jack up the fedex/us mail charges; others pass on their bulk discount. US Global has been very reasonable. When my mother got sick and died it was an absolute gift to have bills, insurance, bank records and other paperwork sent to Houston; some I just scanned and tossed, some I tossed after seeing the (free) scan of the envelope, some I had forwarded on and the monthly charges were never unreasonable even when the paperwork was huge.


It is true that these commercial forwarders arenít acceptable addresses for some financial institutions. American Express will use my US global as a correspondence address but they want a us street address on file as a physical address (I use my motherís old address); vanguard needed a us street address when I opened an ira but they accept the Houston address as the correspondence address and now have my Uk address as my physical address - no hassles. (Again I used my motherís old address as a physical when I had to). Hsbc happily accepts the Houston address (but they know where I actually am since Iím a customer here too). So it depends but you can usually find ways of making it work.
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Old 01-13-2022, 12:46 AM   #5
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On taxes - my non lawyerly understanding is that an address per se means little for tax purposes. Every state is different so you need to research but by and large actual physical time in state is key but also things like where is your drivers license from, where are you registered to vote, where is your doctor and your dentist etc etc. I used to live in NY - when I moved overseas (again) New York audited me to try to prove continued ties. I eventually won but it was a hassle. My mailing address was completely immaterial in the audit. What counted was where I lived, spent money, owned things, and was registered for things. But as I say that was New York and Iím no lawyer - if you want to become non resident for tax purposes better do it carefully and correctly!
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Old 01-13-2022, 09:20 AM   #6
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Dd852, thank you so much for valuable info.
What bother me about USGlobalMail, is that they have just one address in Houston which is I believe very well known by everybody including those brokers and banks insisting on physical address.
I live in California, and like NY this state is also known for audits. If I have a virtual address in California, they may try to use it as a prove of residence. But overall you are absolutely right, mailing address should not have anything to do with tax residency.
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Old 01-13-2022, 09:29 AM   #7
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The UPS Store might be a good alternative for you. They seem to be pretty much everywhere.

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Don't settle for a PO Box; with private mailbox services from The UPS Store, you'll get a real street address, package acceptance from all carriers and quick and easy access to your mail and deliveries, kept in a secure location. Sign up today for your mailbox from The UPS Store location at [wherever you are].
  • A real street address
  • Package acceptance from all carriers
  • Package and mail receipt notifications
  • Mail holding and forwarding
  • Call-In mail check
  • 24-hour access (at participating locations)
  • Key Savings Cardô
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Old 01-13-2022, 09:42 AM   #8
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Having lived as an expat in Mexico for 5 years I've both researched this and listened to the experience of many fellow expats (full disclosure:I'm back in the U.S. - for now).

In the long run there's really no great alternative other than getting a trusted friend or relative to let you use their physical address as yours if you have brokerage accounts. And as others have pointed out, you ideally want said friend to live in an income tax-free state. Not to say you couldn't get by for quite some time with a mail forwarding service like the UPS store.

Anecdotally it helps to be using a brokerage that is used to expat clients. Schwab for example is far better than Vanguard. (And speaking of Schwab, having an account there gets you access to their bank's debit card, which reimburses ATM fees worldwide. That alone has probably saved us $2000+ over the years).

All of the long-term expats we know either use a friend or family member's U.S. address as their legal address or have done something a bit more complicated like buying a cheap mobile home in the U.S., renting it out to pay expenses and using that as their address.
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Old 01-13-2022, 11:42 AM   #9
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RE: CA Taxes. My estimate is that we will only owe $25 in state taxes. CA is a progressive tax system where rates start at 1% and has a standard deduction and exemptions.
It's not that bad when you no longer work and can somewhat control your sources of income.
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Old 01-13-2022, 11:54 AM   #10
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Yes I realize the family member or friend would be the best choice, but they have to be accurate and responsible which unfortunately not always the case.
braumeister, thanks for the link to UPS store. I did come across it, but it looks like an old school method as they do not scan mail and many other services available from someone like USGlobalMail are not there.
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Old 01-13-2022, 12:03 PM   #11
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Wes used these folks when we were sailing. They were great. We had them on our driver's licenses too.

https://www.sbimailservice.com/

They have moved since we used them, but we did have a proper address with them. They sent mail to use all over the Caribbean. They even filtered out all the junk mail.
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Old 01-13-2022, 12:24 PM   #12
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USPS mail box rental is another.
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Old 01-13-2022, 01:06 PM   #13
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We moved back to the UK 4 years ago and as we had been big travelers for the previous 7 years already had most things set up online so no physical mail needed. A couple of exceptions were Vanguard and Amex where we kept a US address, which was our daughter in L.A. Although Vanguard are quite clear that the UK street address on our account is where we are resident, they also allow a correspondence address. The phone number on record is our UK mobile number and works perfectly for 2FA. However, California IRS came after me for the 2017 tax year so I had to complete the forms they sent, plus copies of all the non Vanguard 1099s (including my 2 US pensions AND 2 UK Pensions which are reported on substitute 1099s along with US and UK bank savings accounts). Everything has my UK address including the street address on my Vanguard account which I also provided screen shots of.

I decided that I didn’t want to do that every year so checked with my Vanguard rep what restrictions having only a UK address would impose and it is only the inability to create new accounts. This last couple of years I have had no problem trading and buying new funds within my existing accounts. I can’t see any need to have to open a new account in future.

I also have a US credit card with my US bank, both of which have my UK address. I only maintain the Amex card with a US address because I like to buy TurboTax each year and Intuit will only accept cards with a US address. I read on forums that Taxact is also very problematic when it comes to paying.
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Old 01-13-2022, 01:16 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Morgan22 View Post
RE: CA Taxes. My estimate is that we will only owe $25 in state taxes. CA is a progressive tax system where rates start at 1% and has a standard deduction and exemptions.
It's not that bad when you no longer work and can somewhat control your sources of income.
This is an excellent point. Yes my plan is to have a passive income only. But I'd rather take advantage of the fact that I do not need to limit the income for ACA and do Roth conversions aggressively. By that reason, I will have some income and avoiding CA tax is not essential but desirable.
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Old 01-13-2022, 01:33 PM   #15
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We use Traveling Mailbox for a lot of our stuff.

That being said, can't use that address for financial and credit cards.

So we have residency as my BIL. Have Umbrella and renters insurance listed at his address (Texas) which gives us proof. A few things do go to him. Have set everything to paperless to try to minimize.

Financial institutions; are my accountants address also in Texas. He will need the EOY paperwork anyway so it works for that. Close to my age so has promised me a two year heads up if he is going full retire and I need to make other arrangements.

One or two gotchas in the last 2.5 years but nothing a Skype call couldn't sort out. Also make certain I have a good to-do list when back in the states for anything better sorted in person.
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Old 01-13-2022, 01:46 PM   #16
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One or two gotchas in the last 2.5 years but nothing a Skype call couldn't sort out. Also make certain I have a good to-do list when back in the states for anything better sorted in person.
Good point about Skype. We maintain a US Skype account so that US toll free numbers still work. My wife recently called SSA, spend a LONG time on hold so it was good to have been a free call. SS is paid directly into our UK bank and all paper correspondence with them come in the mail to our UK address.
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Old 01-13-2022, 04:51 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by rt-texas View Post
That being said, can't use that address for financial and credit cards.
May I ask what is a problem with credit cards? Why cards cannot be sent to Traveling Mailbox address? Is it a problem for specific bank?
As regarding phone number I do have google voice where everything is forwarded and hope it will work. If not, I will also maintain US cell phone number and service and use it through wifi calling feature abroad.
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Old 01-13-2022, 05:23 PM   #18
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I moved from the US to Canada a few years ago, but I set up a UPS store mailbox for my US bank accounts and US credit cards I own before I left the US. I can't remember if I had to show that I had a physical address in the US to get the box or not. I get the content of the mailbox forwarded to me once a year. As for my Fidelity account (after-tax, rollover IRA and Roth IRA) and my 401K account at another brokerage firm, I did tell them that I moved to Canada, and they send me all the correspondence to my Canadian address. Due to my move, Fidelity froze my after-tax account (no more trading) and my 401K deals with me differently (I cannot request distributions online). I personally do not want to lie to brokerage firms because my Canadian residency status changes the way they treat my accounts and also for tax purposes.

As for my bank/credit card accounts, they've been wanting my mobile number for verification more and more, and it's kind of annoying as I don't own a US mobile number. I would have set up a cheap mobile with a US number before I left the US if I had known. I closed a couple of bank accounts due to this reason. (It was a pain to get my 10-year matured CD cashed out. I had to email a copy of my US passport and SS card.) My cross-border tax accountant is the one who suggested that I keep a US address with UPS or something similar and keep my bank/credit cards so I won't lose my credit history just in case I decide to go back to the US to live again.
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Old 01-13-2022, 08:19 PM   #19
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In my experience (about 2 yrs ago):
Fidelity, Vanguard, Chase, e-Trade, Bank of America and JPMorgan accepted the address of my personal mailbox (PMB) as my physical address. That is where I am registered to vote, have my drivers license, and have registered and insured my auto.

TD Ameritrade, Morgan Stanley and TheMasters.com did not accept this address. When I provided an alternate physical address, the first two rejected that address because it was not in the USPS database. The provided physical address was, in fact, a real property, with an apartment, a barn and a driveway. Just no mail box. So they said no.

The Masters has a lottery and only one entry per address is allowed.

Yes, I have too many accounts and need to clean that up.

Oddly, BofA accepted the address yet MS did not.

I have decided not to utilize a friend/family physical address in a different state than my personal mailbox (PMB). I don't want another state claiming I am a resident when I am not. So, for those firms that did not recognize my PMB, it was "see ya later".

I have had no issue having credit cards mailed to my PMB.
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Old 01-13-2022, 08:32 PM   #20
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I have used the Escapees RV Mail Service* since 2006 --some years I have been a nomad, other years living variously in OR, NC and TX. I don't currently have a fixed abode (working on that, but the real estate market is nuts), so the mail service address is my "domicile" address for DL, voter registration, vehicle registration (TX and FL do not require a sticks and bricks address). I have filed my federal tax returns from this address for years.

The only time I ran into an issue using the mail service street address to open an account was with Ally Bank in 2007. So I didn't open it.

I have not tried their "scan" service nor having mail sent outside the US. Most everything is now paperless, so I get about 6 pieces of mail per quarter, and have that forwarded as a batch to me wherever I am.

* similar to St Brendan's Isle in FL mentioned by ShokWaveRider above.

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An aside: in 2019-20 I had an address in Swansea, Wales via Expat Post as I explored moving to the UK, but Covid put that possibility on hold, and I cancelled the mailbox. If I need an address in the UK again, I'd certainly use that service.
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