Advice | July 6, 2016 9:00 am

Here’s Why Lionel Messi Isn’t Going to Jail for Tax Evasion

And how — well, where — you, too, can operate above Johnny Law

As you may have heard, diminutive soccer player/wizard Lionel Messi just received a 21-month prison sentence for tax fraud. The Barcelona forward and his father were found guilty of evading more than $4 million in tax payments from 2007-2009.

But the real kicker here? He’s not going to jail.

Under Spanish law, you can serve any tax-related prison sentence under two years on probation.

So Messi, who had no prior convictions and raked in an estimated $81.4 million last year, gets off with just a fine.

It got us thinking: If you find yourself with similarly dodgy tax issues, or want to avoid taxes altogether, where is the place to live? There are actually several countries even laxer than Spain.

To start, the publication Nomad Capitalist recommends getting a second citizenship: aka becoming a resident of a zero-tax country “that does not impose income taxes or capital gains taxes.” Barring that, become a resident of a country that only imposes taxes on income you earn within its borders — but then don’t, you know, earn money at home.

Your choices of country are pretty solid, and often require little more than a temporary residence fee of as little as $1,000 and/or a modest amount of local real estate to start. The Bahamas, the British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Monaco, and Turks and Caicos all fit the zero-tax criteria, while Costa Rica, Gibraltar, Hong Kong (which does require depositing $1.29 million in an HK financial institution), Paraguay and Singapore fit the border-only tax status.

While Switzerland is usually considered a tax haven, that status has come under threat in recent years, as it’s become more difficult to “hide” your money in their notoriously lenient banks.

And then there’s Spain. The tax laws there are as seemingly byzantine as anywhere else.

Or you could just save yourself the headaches, pay what you’re legally supposed to and grumble about it afterward.