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Because IRAs are U.S.-specific tax deferral vehicles, they cannot be administered by non-US financial institutions. They have to 'live' in the US even if you don't, right?

Case 1: Say you have a healthy employer-provided 401K/403B/IRA and you take a job outside the U.S. with an overseas employer. You need a new home for your account. You can transfer it to a stateside broker (like Schwab or AmEx or ML, even your credit union) before you go, but you must provide a U.S. address for the accounts. No brokerage that I have found is allowed to send statements for this type of account to a foreign address--to do so violates some regulation or other.

What do you do? Well, every firm I've talked to says "You have family, don't you? Use a relative's address." Right up front. One even put it this way: "Well, then PRETEND you live in the U.S."

Case 2 (and this is my predicament): You open retirement accounts in the U.S., knowing you're about to move overseas. You roll your IRA over into the new account. You're very open with the company about your circumstances & the fact that you will not have a stateside address. After much conferring with the brains at HQ, the company tells you "Yes, we can do this, but with XYZ restrictions" (no trading while out of the U.S., blah blah). All agree to the restrictions. You set up a systematic investment plan fueled by regularly wired funds. Once overseas, you send them your foreign address and the statements come regularly for two years.

One day, as if waking from a coma, your parochial little company panics ["Omigosh! This account doesn't have a U.S. address!") and insists that you 'transfer or liquidate' your accounts with them immediately. Your retirement accounts! Liquidate? <shudder>. No WAY! Okay--transfer.

You start making calls. Every firm--including the high-flying international ones--tells you the same thing: You cannot transfer IRAs and the like as long as you only have an overseas address. Hafta give 'em a U.S. address. Charles Schwab, Merrill Lynch, Fidelity all say they can't help you, you have to contact a U.S. office.

Fine. A family member volunteers to be your statement forwarding service. You fill out forms, make the transfer, and do all your transacting thereafter online.

THE QUESTION(s): How kosher is this? By giving an essentially bogus address, are you violating the law? Could there be repurcussions? Is there a legal way to do this if you don't HAVE a U.S. address?

Frankly, everyone we've met over here who maintains a stateside retirement account or invests in U.S. mutual funds (legally available only to U.S. residents) gives a bogus address. Does the IRS care if you just go with the flow?

Thanks for any illumination,

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