Tax Havens target individuals and corporations who wish to avoid large scale tax liabilities which may be payable within their own country. Naturally, this makes tax havens a magnet for the wealthy. With that in mind, the key message to remember throughout is, having wealth placed in a tax haven is not illegal, but whatever investment vehicle has been constructed, it must be above board and properly declared.
A tax haven is, basically, any jurisdiction which provides low or non-existent taxes. They consequently provide a legal avenue for foreigners to open offshore bank accounts or incorporate businesses. Foreigners do not have to reside or operate in the country itself.
Many developed nations have progressive tax systems whereby wealthy individuals or high earners, and/or companies, have their incomes reduced significantly by high taxes.
Offshore companies are offered little, or, in some cases, zero corporate income tax within tax haven countries. Tax havens such as Antigua and the Cayman Islands have no personal income tax, capital gains tax, inheritance, or corporate income tax.
Tax Havens – a magnet for the wealthy, but do they work?
There are a variety of offerings by tax havens including opening an offshore bank account or becoming a fully registered and permanent tax resident of that country to benefit from their tax systems and low, or non-existent personal income tax.
Tax havens provide incentives to try and attract wealthy individuals for offshore investments and encourage the formation of companies and trusts within its borders. Offshore companies and offshore trusts are generally the most common finance structures.
Tax Havens – a magnet for the wealthy, but who uses them?
Any wealthy individual or corporation has the right to access the financial benefits which tax havens offer.
Offshore companies are the most common vehicle for those wishing to incorporate the offshore element as part of a business. This allows access to new markets for trade and investment.
Offshore trusts are generally utilised to provide protection for an individual’s personal assets. Inheritance taxes, ownership disputes and estate planning benefits are the usual deciding factors. Offshore trusts operate with a high level of discretion and non-disclosure.
What are the benefits of “Offshore”?
The US and Europe have fewer Tax Information Exchange Agreements (TIEAs) in place. Individuals and/or companies benefit from a higher degree of privacy, nondisclosure, and asset protection. Details of corporate ownership of offshore companies are not easily available. There are also limited audit requirements or exchange controls. Some tax havens such as Antigua take privacy so seriously that it is an actual crime to disclose unauthorised information.
Tax havens are set up to attract offshore investors, wealthy individuals and businesses wanting offshore financial avenues. The process of setting up these financial vehicles is generally fast and low cost. The process is also available completely remotely.
Tax havens operate outside of the legal jurisdiction of the EU, US and the rest of the developed Western world. Local court rulings or creditor claims have no significance against offshore assets.
The Disadvantages of using Tax Havens
Obviously, intelligent use of offshore havens has financial benefit but there are also disadvantages. One obvious reason is the perception that tax havens are a magnet for the wealthy and elite classes who are just looking for tax avoidance. This can generate varying degrees of potentially negative sentiments. As previously stated, full disclosure and complete transparency is highly recommended.
Businesses can be subject to additional vigilance and inspection from their local authorities and progressive tax systems. Audits and requests for full disclosure may be requested during investigations. Potential suppliers or customers may also be more wary of engagement with an offshore financial vehicle knowing that any dispute may be hard to resolve.
Attracting outside investors
As above, external investors may be reluctant to invest in companies which operate through an offshore tax haven. Active businesses may face potential difficulties when seeking funding or cash flow injection.
Opening Corporate Bank Accounts
Many well-established banks regard tax haven companies as clients in the high-risk category. That is why higher levels of due diligence when opening a corporate account are likely.
In today’s modern financial arena, countries offering attractive tax structures will always be more favourable to foreign investment. Switzerland, Ireland, the UK and even the USA, as well as many other developed countries have utilised tax incentives to entice both businesses and individuals from abroad and with the right financial advice, you can easily navigate the tax benefits within your own country.
Contact us today to find out how we can help with planning your financial future.