Russian expatriate Katie Ananina has spent the last three years helping people dodge taxes on their bitcoin gains. It is all part of her mission to stick it to the man, one case of tax avoidance at a time.
As the name suggests, Plan B Passport offers crypto-rich clients a path to a second passport in their pick of seven, mostly tropical, tax-haven states, all of which are exempt from capital gains taxes on crypto holdings.
“I was smart enough to figure out that $200 in bitcoin will be worth $100,000 at some point,” said Ananina. “I don’t think the government should have 40% of that.”
Ananina isn’t your stereotypical bitcoin maximalist, a phrase used to describe people who believe that bitcoin, and not necessarily other cryptocurrencies, is the future of finance.
Born and raised in Chelyabinsk, a city in central Russia, 90 miles north of the Kazakhstan border, the former professional sailboat racer moved to the States in 2016 after landing a green card, thanks to her status as one of the world’s top sailors.
Five and a half years ago she spoke no English, but you’d never know it to meet her.
For Ananina, the appeal of bitcoin was laid bare when she saw the Russian currency drop 50% during the two months she was living in Spain while competing for the Russian national sailing team in early 2015.
“My macroeconomics professor wasn’t able to explain that to me. There was no chance I could run my equations and figure out what happened there,” she said. “I realized I wasn’t happy with how money works.”
So began Ananina’s days as a bitcoin evangelist.
But being a bitcoin maxi isn’t just about believing in one currency, according to Ananina. She believes whole-heartedly in jurisdictional arbitrage, which, to her, means ditching any one government’s rules over her actions and finances, and going to the place that suits her best at the moment.
“If the government starts affecting me, I will take all [my assets] into my hands and go elsewhere,” she said.
This is the mindset that led the 26-year-old entrepreneur to start her own company designed to help others do just that. Ananina says that several bitcoiners she knows who have held the cryptocurrency for over one boom-and-bust cycle are thinking about getting a second passport as a way to avoid paying capital gains taxes on their holdings.
Every year, Plan B Passport helps hundreds of people from countries like the U.S., the UK, Australia, and Canada obtain a second passport in one of seven countries: Saint Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Vanuatu, Grenada, Saint Lucia, and Portugal. The company works in tandem with each government’s residence- or citizenship-by-investment programs.
“It’s an attractive way to draw foreign investment and especially prominent in countries with few natural resources,” said Ernest Marais, an attorney with international tax law firm Andersen.
Marais, who has significant experience advising clients on cross-border tax structuring, told CNBC that that this kind of passport purchasing scheme is commonly found in tax havens — or what are sometimes referred to as “International Finance Centers.”
“In Saint Lucia you can obtain citizenship by an investment of between $100K (donation), $250K (government bonds) or $300K (real estate),” continued Marais via email.
Ananina says the average check for her customers ranges from $130,000 to $180,000.
“It’s basically a donation into the sustainable growth fund of the country,” she said. “So, clients make a $100,000 or $150,000 donation, plus some due diligence fees, government fees, and then $20,000 for my legal fees.”
Typically, families opt for Saint Kitts, while Saint Lucia is the most popular program for single applicants, because it’s one of the cheaper destinations and has a decently quick application turnaround time.
Business has never been better, according to Ananina.
“My only marketing channel is Twitter,” she said. “I literally do not spend a single penny, but I’m booked out three…