Paulson Eyes Puerto Rico Tax Haven Move

John Paulson
Bloomberg | Getty Images
John Paulson

Billionaire John Paulson has explored abandoning his native New York for the tropics of Puerto Rico as he tries to shield his fortune from US tax collectors.

The Queens-born hedge fund manager considered the option, according to people familiar with the situation, after Puerto Rico passed a law designed to encourage the rich to relocate to a Caribbean island that is not traditionally considered a tax haven.

(Read More: Paulson's Gold Fund Tumbles 18% in February)

It comes as a U.S. tax break for alternative asset management partnerships, known as "carried interest", may be eliminated this year as part of congressional budget wrangling.

U.S. citizens such as Mr. Paulson, who is worth an estimated $11.2 billion according to latest Forbes rich list, are normally taxed on their worldwide income even if they live in another country.

But under the Puerto Rico law, new immigrants who have not lived in the unincorporated US territory in the previous 15 years may be exempt from U.S. taxes on capital gains accrued after they move there, in addition to income derived from Puerto Rican domiciled businesses.

To take advantage of the new law a person must spend at least 183 days in Puerto Rico each year, and prove they have substantial family and social connections on the island.

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According to Bloomberg, which first reported Mr. Paulson's exploration of the possible move, 10 wealthy individuals have already located to Puerto Rico to take advantage of the tax break, and 40 more are in discussion with the government.

(Read More: John Paulson Still Bullish on Economy, Housing)

Fernando Goyco-Covas, of law firm AMG, said that relocation could be "attractive to owners of financial businesses, such as hedge funds and money management operations" who could organise a Puerto Rico domiciled corporation to provide services to their existing businesses.

Paulson & Co, Mr. Paulson's hedge fund group, declined to comment on his personal affairs but said: "While we have looked at real estate investments in Puerto Rico, we have not made any investments. Paulson is, however, one of the largest shareholders in Banco Popular, the largest bank in Puerto Rico."

A move to Puerto Rico would mark a sharp change for a life-long New Yorker, who last year made a $100 million donation to the city's Central Park that he said had given him decades of enjoyment.

(Read More: Morgan Stanley Brokerage Dumps Two Paulson Funds)

Mr. Paulson, who made billions of dollars from bets against the value of securities tied to subprime mortgages during the financial crisis, also responded sharply to criticism during the Occupy Wall Street protests in 2011.

After protesters marched past his New York home, he said that Paulson & Co had chosen not to relocate to a lower tax state. "Instead of vilifying our most successful businesses, we should be supporting them and encouraging them to remain in New York City and continue to grow," he said.