Puerto Rico’s Infrastructure
Puerto Rico offers all of the conveniences you are likely used to if visiting or relocating from any developed nation. If you are contemplating a relocation, please contact us if you have questions or would like a free consultation.
Roads in Puerto Rico
Major highways and tollways are as excellent as any found in the fifty States. The Puerto Rico highway and local road system is substantial and offers good coverage of all parts of the island. Some roads are not repaired and maintained as frequently as in many parts of the States but are still quite usable.
Electricity in Puerto Rico
There is currently only one power company in Puerto Rico – PREPA, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority. PREPA is owned by the Puerto Rico government and is the only company authorized by the government to do this type of business. Dealing with PREPA can be a bit of an ordeal at times, and our concierge service can help manage this for you if you require it.
Electricity prices are a bit higher in Puerto Rico, as much as double the prices in the States, though you might find that your usage is different due to no need for artificial heat.
In some parts of Puerto Rico, electric outages occur from time to time. These are generally only for a few minutes to a few hours, but, especially in some urban areas, can be inconvenient. You can easily mitigate this risk by outfitting your home with a backup generator (or securing a residence that already has one, which is not uncommon). Additionally, it is very easy to find small power backups that offer 1-4 hours of energy for a few devices.
Tap water is safe to drink in Puerto Rico. As with anywhere else in the States, there are still components that can modify the flavor, and we prefer to have a filter on our tap (as we also did before relocating to Puerto Rico).
In some metropolitan residences, water shortages can occur – this varies a lot depending on the area in which you plan to live. When you are looking for a place to live in Puerto Rico, it is good to ask if the house or building has a water cistern to store a backup water supply to avoid inconvenience during these temporary shortage situations.
High-speed internet is available in all metropolitan areas as well as smaller towns. Many find that their internet on the island is faster and more reliable than on the mainland! Prices are comparable to most areas in the States.
Cell Phone Coverage
Cell coverage is strong throughout the island. AT&T is by far the largest provider, and signals are strong in most metro areas, ranging to most rural areas as well. Claro is the largest local provider. T-Mobile, Sprint and Verizon users will have coverage although the quality of coverage is not equal.
This, unfortunately, is not always reliable in Puerto Rico. If you are used to navigating by allowing a GPS device or the map application on your cell phone to tell you where you are and reroute you if you turn the wrong direction, you may have to change your habits here. GPS is fine to get overall directions and show the overall map of where you are looking to travel. However, updates are slow, and GPS sometimes gets confused in mid-trip and re-routes the trip inaccurately. It is best to look at the overall map rather than relying on turn-by-turn instructions based on GPS being able to locate your location at any moment.
Addresses are also not always accurately entered in GPS in Puerto Rico. Some GPS applications will be confused by Puerto Rico addresses as they are listed on websites and other listings, and will attempt to be helpful by giving directions to the address that most closely seems to match the one entered. It is important to make sure that the destination your GPS app has found for you is the same one you told it to find!
Puerto Rico road system
Life in Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico is an amazing place to live and work!
With its moderate climate, strong infrastructure, many beautiful residential options, good private schools, and gorgeous nature preserves, many are finding that Puerto Rico is a wonderful place to live. We highly recommend coming to check it out!
If you do choose to investigate relocation options, we can help you every step of the way!
Benefits of Life in Puerto Rico
The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico offers:
- Excellent tax advantages for many businesses and individuals
- Amazing weather, year round!
- A warm and friendly culture, and great places to see, including beautiful beaches
- Comparable infrastructure and amenities to what is found in the mainland US
- International airports
- Many attractive places to live, to match any taste, including retirement communities
- Cost of living comparable to that found in the States
- Good health insurance options
- Some excellent (private) schools
Living in a US Territory
If you are an American citizen who then becomes a legal resident of Puerto Rico, you remain a full citizen of the US. You still retain a US passport and do not need a visa or any special permits to relocate or work in Puerto Rico. You can start a business, buy property, register to vote, and anything else that a native Puerto Rican can do.
American citizens who are legal residents of Puerto Rico retain the same Constitutional rights, protected under the law, as all other American citizens. Commonwealth laws may vary from that of any State, just as those of any State may vary from that of any other. However, just as in each and all of the fifty States, laws local to the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico cannot circumvent the United States Constitution or the many rights that it affords to its citizens.
Though the Commonwealth has its own legal system, it is part of the US court system, subject to federal jurisdiction with respect to federal and Constitutional law, and has its own US Federal District Court.
Puerto Rico is outside of the jurisdiction of the United States Internal Revenue Service. Legal residents of Puerto Rico only become subject to taxation by the IRS if and when they engage in work or commerce within the jurisdiction of the IRS (such as within the legal territory of the fifty States). For those who are legal residents of Puerto Rico, work and commerce engaged in Puerto Rico is subject to local tax only and isn’t taxable by the IRS.
The US dollar is the legal tender of Puerto Rico, and banks in Puerto Rico work much the same as other US banks.
English and Spanish are both official languages, and though many Puerto Ricans are more fluent in Spanish, you don’t have to learn it to get around.
See our FAQ for answers to some common questions we have heard.
Do You Need Help Relocating to Puerto Rico?
Those of us relocating to Puerto Rico generally find it to be a fairly easy transition. You will need help, though, as there are some key differences as well. We managed our relocation ourselves – which is definitely the hard way! – and we have heard stories about people who hired local companies that made big promises that ended in disappointment.
We have been in your shoes, and we know what you need. We’ve found expert local partners who deliver what they promise, and we will manage them every step of the way. You will have a single point of contact who understands your needs and has the means to fulfill them. Our team includes bilingual members who understand how things work in Puerto Rico, and know how to get things done.
With a free initial consultation, we can help you decide if Puerto Rico is the right fit for your needs, contact us now to get started.
Helpful Resources from Other People’s Experiences:
This is not intended to be a comprehensive reference on life in Puerto Rico, but an overview, to give you a taste. We also recommend the following expat blogs that are both entertaining and helpful in acclimating to Puerto Rico:
- Abroad Dreams – Useful, practical information on a wide variety of content and subjects, from the real-life perspective of an expat’s first year living in Puerto Rico.
- Alaskan family of five moves to Puerto Rico – As the title suggests, relocation experiences from a family perspective.
- Caroline in the City – Travel blog focusing on tourism info and attractions. Full of fun things to do and beautiful places to visit!
- New to Puerto Rico – Up-to-date blog about a relocation by a family with young children relocating to Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. Great practical information from a very personal perspective.
- Polar Rico – Up-to-date blog about a family that relocated to Rincon, Puerto Rico with young children. Interesting posts that focus on personal experiences, not so much practical information.
Another helpful site about Puerto Rico is Welcome to Puerto Rico, one of the longest-lived sites about Puerto Rico and its culture.
Puerto Rico: Taxation as a US Territory
As a US territory, Puerto Rico is part of the United States of America, but without the same legal status as one of the States. Federal laws apply and can override local laws, much as the legal system works in any State. However, Puerto Rico residents are subject only to local taxation for work performed on-island.
For US citizens, who are usually subject to double-taxation when living abroad, Puerto Rico offers a unique and very attractive situation for those that qualify for Puerto Rico’s tax breaks. Some US citizens can pay single-digit tax rates on much of their Puerto Rico income!
Obtaining these benefits can be somewhat complex, and that is where we come in. We can help you to analyze whether the Puerto Rico tax incentives can work for you, and estimate what kind of tax savings you might expect from a Puerto Rico relocation. Then, we can help you every step of the way to check out Puerto Rico living, set up your business here, apply for whatever tax grants are appropriate for your situation, and even manage your business ongoing, if you require that.
Taxation for US Citizens
Under the US’ section 933 exemption, Puerto Rico residents are exempt from paying some types of tax to the US federal government. On an individual level, a resident of Puerto Rico who is a US citizen is exempt from paying personal income tax for work performed in Puerto Rico, but would be required to pay US federal payroll taxes on any salary that they draw (Social Security, Medicare, etc.).
A US citizen who is a legal resident of Puerto Rico and earns part of their income outside of Puerto Rico would pay US federal income tax on that income only, and would need to file with the IRS only regarding that income. If a US citizen who is a legal resident of Puerto Rico earns all of their income on-island, they may not need to file with the IRS at all.
Other Taxes in Puerto Rico
Most municipalities impose an additional 1% tax, with some exceptions. This is similar to paying a city tax in the States.
Puerto Rico has an estate tax of 10%, which applies to those born or naturalized in Puerto Rico. US citizens who have relocated to Puerto Rico but were not born or naturalized here must pay the normal 40% US estate tax rate.
The sales and use tax rate in Puerto Rico was recently raised to 11.5%.
Contact us with any other Puerto Rico tax-related questions you may have.
With the new PROMESA law, changes are in progress. PROMESA gives power for oversight of the Puerto Rico government to a 7-member, bi-partisan board appointed by the United States Congress. This page will be updated as new information is released.
Here is an article with details on the current PROMESA board appointees.
Puerto Rico’s Commonwealth Status
As a Commonwealth of the United States, Puerto Rico is part of the US but does not have the same status as a state. Citizens of Puerto Rico are citizens of the US and are entitled to a US passport. Any citizen of a country with travel rights to the US can travel freely to the US.
Puerto Rico is self-governing for internal matters and established its own constitution in 1952. Its chief of state is the President of the United States, and Puerto Rico itself is under the protection of the US military. Puerto Rico elects a Governor as its head of state, governing all internal affairs. US citizens who are residents of Puerto Rico may not vote in US presidential elections, and Puerto Rico does not have elected representation in either house of the US Congress, although a single resident commissioner from Puerto Rico has a voice, but cannot vote.
Puerto Rico corporate entities are considered foreign corporations according to US laws, a distinction that is important when considering your strategy if you are considering relocating. Contact us to discuss more how this may impact you.
Residents of Puerto Rico who earn their income by work done in Puerto Rico (or investments made while formally residing in Puerto Rico) are not subject to tax by the IRS; instead, US citizens in Puerto Rico pay tax to Hacienda, the Puerto Rico internal revenue organization.
Puerto Rico’s Legislative and Judicial Systems
With few exceptions, Puerto Rico is subject to all Federal laws and regulations put in place by the US government. Most relevant US agencies have representation within Puerto Rico.
The island is divided into 78 municipalities, each of which is governed by a mayor and municipal assembly. The senior legislative bodies consist of the 27-member Puerto Rico Senate and the 51-member Chamber of Representatives. All of these political positions are put in place by popular election and last for a term of 4 years.
Puerto Rico’s judicial system is directed by its Supreme Court, which consists of 7 judges appointed by the Governor. The system includes a Court of Appeals, a Superior Court, a District Court, and Municipal Court.
Puerto Rico’s Government Agencies
Here is a partial list of government agencies and offices you may find to be a helpful reference:
- AT: Land Administration (Department of Economic Development)
- DDEC: Department of Economic Development and Commerce
- DH: Department of Finance
- DTRH: Department of Labor and Human Resources
- Hacienda: Treasury Department
- JR: Review Board and Use Permits
- La Fortaleza: Governor’s Office
- PRIDCO: Puerto Rico Industrial Development Company (Department of Economic Development)
- Promoexport: Trade and Export Company of Puerto Rico (Department of Economic Development)
- OCIF: Office of the Commissioner of Financial Institutions
- OGPe: Permit Management Office
- OIGPe: Office of Inspector General Permit
- OITE: Office of Industrial Tax Exemption
[Please note that the acronyms commonly used as names of agencies, by both English and Spanish speakers, reflect the original Spanish-language full names of the agencies. The acronyms listed above are what is commonly used by all; the full English-language names listed are the official translations of the full Spanish-language names of the agencies.]
Official directory of government agencies (note that this site is in Spanish – if you are not fluent, the Google translate feature will be your friend here)
Hacienda official site (also in Spanish)
Employee management can be more complex in Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico labor laws can be said to favor the employee. We have also heard from a number of sources that lower wage, non-exempt employees commonly know the employment laws well and hold employers accountable to them. If you will be managing employees of your own, you must become familiar with these laws, especially if you are required to maintain a certain number of employees to remain compliant with a tax exemption grant.
Because management of employees can be complex, our company offers business management services to oversee your human resources needs. We assist our clients in hiring and management of employees, as needed.
Below are some important notes (though this is not intended to be comprehensive).
Employment is not “at will:
It can be more difficult to release an employee in Puerto Rico. If you wish to terminate an employee due to their performance, it must be for just cause, and you must be able to show documentation of disciplinary actions taken over time to remedy the situation. It is also possible to lay off an employee because their position has truly been eliminated for demonstrable, valid business reasons.
In addition, it is possible for an employee to be hired for only a pre-defined length of time or to have an initial probation period of up to 90 days. These types of arrangements would need to be explicitly stated in the employment contract and cannot continue indefinitely.
Firing someone without just cause can result in owing severance compensation based on years of service.
Paid Time Off
Puerto Rico requires employers to pay for time off in situations not required in the mainland US.
Mandatory paid maternity leave: Employees are entitled by law to 8 weeks paid maternity leave. Paid leave rights also apply to miscarriages, abortions, and adoptions of children 5 years or younger. The Working Mother’s Act also protects employees from pregnancy discrimination.
Vacation leave: All non-exempt employees are entitled to 1.25 days of paid vacation leave for each month in which they work at least 115 hours, though they aren’t entitled to take this leave until it has accrued for an entire year. Employers owe employees payment for vacation time not taken upon termination.
Sick leave: Non-exempt employees are also entitled to accrue one day of sick leave for each month in which they work at least 115 hours.
Paid Christmas Bonuses
Puerto Rico employees are legally entitled to a bonus in December of 6% of the first $10,000 of the employee’s annual wages.
Exempt employees: The July 2016 FLSA rule change that doubled the minimum salary for employees defined as exempt from overtime does not apply in Puerto Rico. The minimum annual salary for exempt employees in Puerto Rico currently remains at $23,660, but this matter is subject to a review underway by the Comptroller General of the United States.