Meghan and Harry: Higher taxes, visa issues reportedly forced L.A. move during coronavirus pandemic

The Mercury News reports more and more, it’s looking like Prince Harry and Meghan Markle didn’t carefully think through what it would mean for them to step back from royal life, leave the U.K. and try to earn their own living.

Of course, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex couldn’t predict that much of the world would soon go into lockdown due to the global spread of a mysterious and deadly virus known as COVID-19. With the U.S.-Canada border closing last week to nonessential travel, Harry and Meghan reportedly rushed to leave British Columbia with their baby son Archie and settle in Los Angeles.

But complicated financial and practical issues around the couple’s move — having to do with higher taxes, immigration issues and security — had already begun to doom Harry and Meghan’s original idea of basing themselves in Canada, The Sun reported.

Those issues were foreseen by Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles, who warned Harry and Meghan in early January to not rush their departure after Harry contacted them via email, the Daily Mail added.

“They understood that he and Meghan wanted something different and were willing to help but it was complicated,” a source told the Daily Mail. “There were issues like security and funding, visas and tax, which neither of them had thought through. Harry was told to put his request in writing and come up with some ideas.”

But Harry, gripped by “a siege mentality” in the couple’s temporary home, a borrowed mansion on Victoria Island, “thought his family were stonewalling and decided to push the nuclear button,” the Daily Mail source said.

Harry also reportedly was fed up with the royal family not doing enough to protect Meghan from U.K. tabloid media attacks, and he resented that the royal family didn’t appreciate that he and Meghan had “star power,” the source added.

The ramifications of Harry’s “nuclear button” has led to the latest in a series of apparently rash moves by the world-famous couple: Suddenly leaving Canada on a private plane and secretly settling into a secluded estate somewhere in Los Angeles. Meanwhile, back in Harry’s home country, his 71-year-old father, Prince Charles, has tested positive for COVID-19. Harry has reportedly kept in contact with his father.

It’s not entirely surprising that Harry and former TV actress Meghan would make their way to California. It had previously been reported that they were eyeing real estate in Los Angeles, and were planning to at least spend the summer there. In Los Angeles, they could be close to her mother, Doria Ragland, and to their post-royal team of P.R. agents and business managers.

But many on social media Friday questioned the couple’s stated desire for more privacy and security for Archie after they relocated to Los Angeles, home to America’s celebrity culture, aggressive paparazzi and a metropolis with far more COVID-19 cases and deaths than Vancouver, British Columbia. Many wondered if ending up in the United States had been their plan long before they announced their decision to leave royal life.

The Sun reported that Harry and Meghan were originally keen on basing themselves in Canada, a Commonwealth country. In their original “half-in, half-out” idea of a new and “progressive” role in the British monarchy, they thought they could still perform some royal duties while earning their own money under their potentially lucrative Sussex Royal brand.

“But their plan quickly fell apart,” the source told The Sun. For one thing, the queen made it clear that they had to fully step back from royal life, scrap their Sussex Royal brand and not try to commercialize on their royal ties.

Other hard realities began to sink in about living in Canada, The Sun reported.

“They were told getting work visas in Canada would be difficult and because Meghan remains a U.S. citizen — so is taxed on her worldwide income — she would end up paying in the U.S. and Canada,” the source told The Sun.

“Then the Canadian government made it clear they would not contribute to their security costs so it made much more sense to live in Hollywood and only pay U.S. tax,” the source added.

Experts told The Sun that Meghan would have to report her income from sponsored social media posts, speaking gigs and commercial deals, while also paying a 15 percent tax to cover social security and Medicare. She also would be required to make disclosures to the U.S Internal Revenue Service on any foreign bank accounts.

With regard to security, the Canadian government made it clear in late February that it was unwilling to help the U.K. government provide guards for Harry and Meghan, once they officially become nonworking royals on March 31.

Their round-the-clock security costs have been estimated to be as high as $25 million a year, if they continued to live outside the U.K. and travel around the globe for their various commercial and philanthropic endeavors.

If Harry and Meghan were still working royals when they came to California, the U.S. Statement Department would arrange for them to receive armed protection during their stay, the Daily Mail reported. That arrangement would come under a reciprocal agreement among different countries that says heads of state and other dignitaries are “international protected persons.”

But Harry and Meghan no longer enjoy this status, which leaves it to the U.K. government to cover their security costs, a situation that doesn’t sit well with many British taxpayers, especially as the country deals with all the massive costs associated with its response to the coronavirus crisis.

Royal expert Phil Dampier told the Daily Mail: “It is unsustainable for the British taxpayer to continue to pay for round the clock protection when it was their decision to move abroad.”

Meanwhile, visa and immigration complications also made Harry and Meghan realize it would be easier for them to live in the United States than in Canada.

In Canada, the couple’s royal status would not offer them special status for immigration. There is no provision under Canadian law to confer Canadian citizenship to members of the royal family, the New York Times reported in January. They are merely British citizens, which means they are no different from “any other prospective newcomers,” The Globe and Mail also reported.

That meant they would have had to “to apply for permanent residency under a points system weighing their skills and education,” The Globe and Mail added.

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