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Florent Houssais, CEO of Equance Panamérica

His mission? To assist French nationals living overseas with legal, tax and property issues; thanks to 18 years of living as an ex-pat in Mexico, he is able to draw on first-hand knowledge of ex-pat needs...

Article also available in : English EN | français FR

Expatriation has become an important step in the professional lives of many people. Many ex-pats decide to remain in their adopted country, assisting new arrivals. This is the case with Florent Houssais [1], the CEO of Equance Panamerica, who has been living in Mexico for the last 18 years....

In order to fully understand the needs of ex-pats, one must be an ex-pat oneself.. Experts in Equance, the Private Management company who are known for their expertise in managing the affairs of ex-pats, work in direct association with consultants who are based overseas. Who could better understand the day to day specific needs of a French ex-patriot population ? Around 60 of these correspondents all over the world, study, in detail, local rules and, drawing on actual experiences of their compatriots, are able to report back to Equance in Montpellier, actual and personal information which enables financial and tax advisors in the company to offer tailor-made assistance for each of their clients

The ex-pat experience

"It is clear, that in order to fully understand the problems that ex-patriots have, it is essential, if not indispensable to know first-hand the situation they are in, says Florent Houssais. "My first experience as an ex-pat was when I was a student: I studied in Japan and in the United States. Professionally, I settled in Mexico in 1994 and I have been living there ever since. Since being in Mexico, I have managed seven Equance consultancies based in the United States and Canada and since 2005, I have been, the Honorary Consul and Foreign Trade Advisor. My day consists of meeting French ex-pats in often informal situations, such as in the Embassies and local meetings of Associations of French citizens abroad. Our discussions prove that the ex-patriots are looking for advice and efficient service, particularly with legal, tax and inheritance issues.

Ex-pats need for advice

"Looking at their overall situation, together with patterns which have evolved over time, it is advice on legal and tax issues (non investment-related) which is mostly appreciated. Previously, expats would leaving for a definite job and eventually return to France. Today, more and more people, sent overseas on business, leave, together with their family, and 20% of then never return to France. They decide to settle elsewhere and this presents several problems, for instance, social security, health insurance, retirement. There are more and more bi-national marriages which, when there are children from a first marriage, "franco-francais", it will necessitate extremely careful management of legal and inheritance issues. Similarly, people returning to France to live out their retirement years after having spent many years living abroad, are also in need of advice.

International rules and bilateral tax treaties are complicated and one needs to be really familiar with them in order to sort out associated problems. Each problem is obviously country specific. In Mexico, for example, the problem is often one of repatriation of funds; in the United States, our requests are centered on advice on retirement issues. Because the pension funds system is peculiar to America: part of one’s income is non-taxable , provided one retires in the United States.

When expats want to return to live out the final part of their lives in France, we have to find the most efficient ways to do this by careful attention to tax implications !

Custom Made

Equance can assist expats greatly and not only in terms of financial advice.

Recently I had a case of a French national, living in the United States, who at the time when prices were at their highest, bought an apartment, 7 years ago when the dollar euro exchange rate was 1.30 E. The person, in question, lost his job two years ago and with it,, his residency permit. What was he to do with a house whose value had dropped by 30% and with the dollar/euro exchange rate of1/1.60euro? Re-payment of the home mortgage, over 30 years, was more than the value of his home.... Equance found a way to minimise the losses. Firstly, through our intermediary and our successful system, a buyer was found and we managed to sell the house (this was the first challenge). Admittedly, the house was sold for less than it was worth, but we mitigated the risk, by repatriating the money to France, via a Luxembourg life insurance contract, in dollars. This contract was a type of pledge, to be able to be credited in Euros and purchase property in France.

Since then the dollar has returned to the 1.30 euro value, thus ensuring that our client will not have lost in the exchange. Moreover, if this gentleman dies, the basis of the contract will be settled without inheritance tax and the insurance of the loan will result cancellation of the debt.

Next Finance , January 2012

Article also available in : English EN | français FR

Footnotes

[1] A graduate of the ISG Business school in Paris, international chain and co-founder of Equance, Florent Houssais leads a team of 7 consultants based in the United States and Canada and has, since 2005, held the title of Honorary French Consul and Foreign Trade Advisor in Mexico

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