• How to open an offshore bank account: Note before you start.

  • Offshore banking is becoming increasingly popular as more people recognize exactly how they could benefit from an offshore bank account and because the set up process is straightforward. If you've ever wondered whether you could benefit from an offshore bank account, or you're considering opening an account but you're not sure which one to go for, this guide has been written with you in mind. Generally speaking anyone is free to open an offshore bank account. In fact, offshore banking has been widely used for many years by both individuals and organizations worldwide. Specifically an offshore bank account can also be of benefit to some expatriates residing in low or no tax countries as any interest earned on offshore bank deposits is paid without the deduction of taxation.

    What is Offshore Banking?

    Simply defined, an offshore bank account is an account held in a bank that is located outside your country of residence.

    Asset Protection Structures

    If you're going to go out now to get your offshore asset protection started, consider the best offshore banking structure: The foundation/corporation. A foundation is an offshore asset protection tool that can be used in the form of a trust. A foundation can hold all your assets and have a bank account, but a foundation can not conduct business. When a foundation owns a corporation, which owns a bank account, this is the only powerful privacy protection offshore structure you will ever need. So if you have your offshore corporation within a foundation, you can conduct your business through the offshore account and plan your income taxes accordingly.

    Panama has a number of unique attributes that make this a great asset protection jurisdiction for corporations, foundations, banking and stock brokerage accounts. It is also known as one of the world's greatest haven for keeping and securing the cash assets of corporations, businessmen and individuals.

    Tax Considerations

    Most countries have no restrictions on where your business interests, investments or bank accounts are located; it is simply your responsibility to report any income you earn to the appropriate tax authority. You will need to establish a suitable structure in a tax friendly country to gain access to some of the better opportunities available, which is reason enough to go offshore for some even ignoring the tax benefits. Any business that is conducted outside of Panama is not taxable through Panamanian income tax.

    Offshore Banks

    Virtually all offshore banks want to receive some form of evidence of the account signatories' identity. Many offshore banks, but not all, request that letters of reference from another bank is provided by account signatories. Some offshore banks go even further: they demand that a bank reference each be given by all directors and shareholders of the company. Sometimes an introduction by a party known to the offshore bank (such as an existing customer) is accepted instead of a reference. A fair number of offshore banks still happily open company accounts without any references at all. Some offshore banks provide their own resolutions for the directors to sign.

    Internet Banking Security ConcernsHow to open an offshore bank account: Note before you start.

    You can shield your internet movements using an anonymising service. Privacy, on the internet, is created by technological means. In fact, the internet has become the global, no barriers, free market.

    Privacy

    Most (maybe all) traditional jurisdictions are no longer suitable for asset protection, privacy and confidentiality. When a foundation owns a corporation, which owns a bank account, this is the only powerful privacy protection offshore structure you will ever need.

    Jurisdiction

    Usually such an account is located in a low tax jurisdiction and offers certain financial and/or legal benefits to the holder of the account. If you believe that an offshore bank account structure could benefit you, the next step is selecting the right bank, the right jurisdiction and of course the right account type. There are jurisdictions where banks are under legal obligations to seek references, and there are banks that request references despite any legal obligation to do so. Policies vary greatly across offshore banks and jurisdictions, so make a choice that is acceptable to you.

    Belize

    Offshore banks in Belize provide their customers with various services including internet and international banking services. You don't have to worry about confidentiality though; Belize banks will strongly protect any information you provide. The government has created banks secrecy laws which provides harsh penalties for anyone who would violate the secrecy provisions, except when a client is under a criminal investigation in Belize.

    Panama

    Panama has a number of unique attributes that make this a great asset protection jurisdiction for corporations, foundations, banking and stock brokerage accounts. Any business that is conducted outside of Panama is not taxable through Panamanian income tax. Panama is the most secure banking jurisdiction today, because Panama backs up its strong bank secrecy laws with real life enforcement. Other jurisdictions like Belize (mentioned above) have been known to be lax in their enforcement. Its one thing to have strong banking secrecy laws and its quite another to enforce them.

    As a general guide it is often more discrete to establish your offshore structure in a location far from your residential jurisdiction. Panama has a number of unique attributes that make this a great asset protection jurisdiction for corporations, foundations, banking and stock brokerage accounts. Some call Panama the Switzerland of Latin America but this is not fair, Panama is far better than Switzerland and any other jurisdiction. With regard to reliability and stability make sure to investigate the laws and regulations for each jurisdiction you are investigating. Stable governments help to keep investor trust which in turn further adds to the credibility of the banks in that jurisdiction. Some offshore jurisdictions, such as Panama, have rock solid privacy laws governing banking while others such as Switzerland no longer protect their clients in the same fashion as in the past.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    To learn about other offshore bank account considerations visit Offshore Legal.
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