Bulgarians have one of the lowest income tax rates in the world, making this an ideal place if you are looking to establish financial independence through a lower tax bracket. Corporate taxes are the same as income tax, which means it’s 10% across-the-board regardless of how much money you make or what kind of company you have… but only if you have residency as an expat living here.
Consequently, obtaining a residency visa for Bulgaria is not a difficult procedure, although it does take a few weeks of time. Since they are part of the European Union, it is even more straightforward if you happen to hail from one of the sister countries, but even individuals from the United States have a fairly easy time of getting in the front door. It’s just a matter of filling out paperwork, paying the fees and providing proof of income, which is fairly low considering that the cost of living is around 500 Euro per month per person for a middle-class existence.
There are numerous other benefits to living in Bulgaria as an expat above and beyond the taxes and the cost of living. This is one of the best countries in the world for raising a family, not just because the medical care is top notch with the same standards of care the rest of the Western world uses, as well as doctors who were trained the same universities and have the same equipment as any other doctors throughout the European Union, but also because of the emphasis put on actually curing people rather than just feeding them pills and getting a kickback from the pharmaceutical companies in the form of a percentage for every prescription sold.
The first line of defense for every doctor that I visited when I was in Bulgaria was not a magic antibiotic, but rather they would send me down the street to one of the local apothecaries were I would then be prescribed a variety of herbs and plants depending on my symptoms. Not to mention, the healthcare system in Bulgaria is a hybrid of universal and private, which means if you are paying taxes as a resident/citizen you have access to subsidized prescription medication as well as universal healthcare (which costs around 4 dollars per month), plus a privatized system that is separate but still only costs pennies compared to healthcare in the United States.
Unless you are incredibly sick and on death’s doorstep the chances of them prescribing antibiotic just because you have a tickle in your throat are fairly slim. Bulgarians, and their medical system, realized that the antibiotics should be saved for actual infections, not everyday aches and pains and scratches and sneezes. You’ll find the vast majority of people in this country rely on herbs and tinctures and old-school remedies with thousands of years of proven use, not some magical cure-all pill that leads to dependency and other, greater health issues.
Bulgaria is also one of the best countries in the world to raise a family, with mothers receiving 410 days of maternity leave paid out at 90% salary, 45 days of which must be taken before the due date of the child. After that, they have additional parental leave allowed to raise their child until they are two years old. This is in comparison to the United States where you are lucky you can get a mere 12 weeks out of your employer (the federal maximum), and good luck trying to get your maternity leave paid for up to two years of total leave. The government of Bulgaria realizes the importance of the family unit, and as any good government should they are making sure they take care of their people and putting their welfare first ahead of anything else. Why? Because happy people are more productive people.
A lesser known fact about Bulgaria is that they are one of the few countries who have yet to adopt an addiction to credit. 98% of the Bulgarian population owns their homes, free and clear, with an additional 10% having a second country home as well. That means no mortgages, no $225,000 of debt hanging over their head (the average cost of a home in the United States), and no need to stress about grinding out the rest of their lives as a wage slave. Consequently, real estate prices are also ridiculously cheap in Bulgaria, and you can literally pick up a farm in the countryside for as little as $50,000, and you can find two and three-bedroom accommodations throughout all the major cities in the middle-class districts for between $35,000 and $50,000.
All of this coming from a country whose average salary per month is around $500, far less than the $3,000 per month that is the average U.S. salary…but because the cost of living is so much less and because they pay less in taxes and have access to a subsidized healthcare system and have no debt and no addiction to credit, they have a higher quality of life than the average American despite the fact they are making $2,500 per month less. It all boils down to the myth of net worth and net revenue.
Of course, none of these benefits are available if you are just a tourist. If you want access to the medical system, you have to be a resident. If you want to buy property in Bulgaria, you have to be a resident. If you want to open up a bank account in Bulgaria, you have to be a resident. If you want access to the 10% income tax you have to have residency in Bulgaria. If you want to register a company in Bulgaria and have access to the 10% corporate tax, you have to be a resident.
Bulgaria is just one country out of the hundreds you can choose from in the world. The benefit of living abroad as an expat is you can choose out of all of these hundreds which country you want to call home. The location of your birth was nothing more than an accident; the entire planet is your home, and you have a human right to choose where you want to live.
Want to know more about living in Bulgaria? I spent 6 years traveling there and two and a half years living in Sofia. My immersion travel guide for Sofia, Bulgaria includes detailed instructions on how to navigate immigration to establish residency, as well as recommendations for accommodations, cultural tips and beyond.