The British government doesn’t treat its exiles very well. For example, whilst the pensions of pensioners living in the UK increase every year in line with inflation, the pensions of most expats are fixed at the time they retire. Inflation erodes the pension’s value over time, and what starts out as a trivial sum becomes a pittance.

But then expats don’t have a vote, and since governments are driven by expediency, rather than a moral compass, the expat will be done over every time.

For example, there’s the the discriminatory taxation of expats. Rev. Jonathan Mayhew is famous for proclaiming “no taxation without representation”, whilst James Otis put it a little more directly: “taxation without representation is tyranny”. Both these gentlemen were American just before American independence. They had no vote, just as I have no vote today. I guess British taxation was as odious then as it is now.

There’s discrimination in the treatment of inheritance tax for people with foreign spouses: whilst someone with a British spouse can leave ₤300,000 to their partner tax-free, a foreign spouse only gets a ₤65,000 allowance.

Now, I don’t like the idea of the tax man taking 40% of my hard-earned cash when I die. One way of getting around this is to be non-UK domiciled. Basically you have to prove that you’ve severed your links with the UK. Then only your UK assets are subject to UK inheritance tax. There’s no way I’d ever even consider returning to the UK to live – in my mind my domicile is now Thailand. If for some reason I had to leave Thailand I’d relocate to somewhere else in South East Asia. The tax man, however, may have a different idea – particularly when the prospect of stealing my savings when I’m gone arises.

In an attempt to clarify my domicile I wrote to the tax man. He was written back, refusing to comment on my domicile because … I’m not UK resident. Quite frankly, I think that’s outrageous; there shouldn’t be such uncertainty when it comes to taxation.

Anyway, I’m now in the process of moving my pension to Guernsey, where it will be beyond the tax man’s greedy grasp. I’m also contemplating moving the bulk of my investments to Luxembourg. This won’t exempt them from inheritance tax if I’m deemed to be UK domiciled, but will if I’m not. Such are the hoops we must leap through.


The Thai Baht used to be divided into 100 Satangs. One Satang is worth about 0.014 of a British penny – not a lot. In theory there are 1, 5 and 10 Satang coins, but I’ve never seen one. The smallest coin now encountered is worth 25
Satang. There’s a 50 Satang coin, too. Both are pretty well unusable. The vast majority of shops won’t accept them. Only Tesco-Lotus and a chain of department stores in Bangkok seem to use them. Anyway, the government has finally decided to phase them out; they were costing more to manufacture than their worth. Bizarrely, however, they have also announced that they are going to phase out the 1 Baht coin, too, leaving the 2 Baht coin the smallest. In
future, nothing can cost 1 or 3 Baht. (There’ll still be a 5 Baht coin, so 5, 7 and 9 Baht will be possible. However, I suspect shopkeepers will round every price up to the nearest even number, making things just that little bit more expensive.)

The 2 Baht coin rather elusive. I’ve only ever seen a handful of them. Of course, that could be because they are almost identical in size and colour to the 1 Baht coin. (The 1 Baht coin is 20 mm in diameter; the 2 Baht coin 21.75 mm.) More than once I’ve handed over a 2 Baht coin not realising it wasn’t a one. The government, realising the problem, has announced that it will change the colour of the 2 Baht coin from nickel to bronze. Quite how the problem wasn’t anticipated when the 2 Baht coin was first minted in 2005, I’m not sure. Still, better late than never.

There are images of these coins at


There’s been a lot of grumbling from our American cousins on various
web bulletin boards about the falling value of the dollar. Retirees
here have been particularly hard hit; they are required to have
800,000 Baht in their bank account each year three months before they
renew their retirement visa.

Personally, I haven’t been particularly bothered by the dollar’s fall.
Less than 10% of my investments are in the US (I saw the writing on
the wall several years ago), and the values of the pound and euro
aren’t that far from where they were three years ago.

I was, however, taken aback when I booked my hotel room in Bangkok for
this weekend. The cost has gone up from about £35/night three years
ago to closer to £50. It took me a moment to realise that this was
because hotel room prices are based upon a US Dollar figure. I then
decided to dig up some data on the USD/THB exchange rate over the last
couple of years.

USD/THB Exchange Rate
[Click for larger image]

In short, whereas two years ago one dollar would buy you 42 Baht,
now you get less than 30 – a 29% fall in value.

Putting it another way, the American retiree who two
years ago had to transfer $19,000 to stay in Thailand now has to
transfer $27,000 – a staggering increase. I can now see why some
retirees are saying that they don’t have enough money to continue
living here and will have to leave the country, abandoning their wives
and children.

This isn’t all because the Baht is particularly strong, though it has
been supported, as have almost all currencies in the SE Asian area, by
proximity to China. And a large inflow of speculative money has
forced the value of the Baht up (though the government has taken
fairly draconian steps to halt this inflow). The root problem is that
the value of the Dollar has fallen against pretty well any currency
you care to mention.

America is bankrupt, and has been for some time. It owes far more to
other countries than it can possibly hope to repay. Its currency has,
in the past, been propped up by what are effectively loans from other
countries – massive loans. Now, these other countries (most notably
China) are dramatically cutting back their US Dollar reserves. This
in turn drives the value of the dollar down further, making it look
less and less suitable as a reserve currency. And so the spiral
downwards begins. At the same time you have the rise of the Euro as a
credible alternative reserve currency. (Oil and other international
deals are increasingly being done in Euros rather than Dollars.)

I feel rather like Cassandra, but I can’t help but think that we’re
seeing the beginning of the end of the American empire.