1Is it legal to go offshore?

In the vast majority of cases, going offshore is completely legal. Governments have, over recent years, tried to tar offshore planning with a negative brush, with allegations ranging from lack of patriotism to downright illegality. This is plain propaganda.

In many (but by no means all) countries, tax evasion is illegal. In all countries, tax avoidance – that is, arranging your affairs in full compliance with the law to pay as little tax as possible – is completely legal and legitimate. After all, it would be impossible to draft a law saying you have to contribute more than the law requires!

In fact, we find that tax is not the primary motivation for most of our clients. Most people we deal with accept tax as a cost of doing business, but do not trust their governments, courts and financial systems to respect their rights to do as they please with their own money and property.

Our clients are from many countries. Every jurisdiction in the world has different rules, and our strategy is always to ensure full compliance with the laws where you choose to base yourself, your assets and your business. If you don’t like a particular set of laws, you always have complete freedom to remove yourself from their jurisdiction by severing all ties with it. As a free individual you should have no hesitation in voting with your feet and your money – the most powerful and direct form of democracy!

2Are your services available to US citizens?

Yes certainly.

It is a fact of life that many financial services providers such as offshore banks discriminate against US citizens. This is a business decision based partly on the costs of compliance with burdensome US bureaucracy, and partly because even if they are not located in the United States, they are forced to comply with US laws in order to do business within the US for their non-US clients. We must understand and respect the right of private businesses to decide who they do business with.

We view our clients as sovereign individuals, not as citizens of any particular country. Just as we would not treat people differently based on their gender, race or religion, we would not treat anyone differently based on the passport they carry.

We can certainly help American citizens, acting in full compliance with the law, to move their assets offshore. We can also arrange written legal opinions from U.S. attorneys for clients on request (this service is billable by the attorney directly).

One of our strict policies is that we never do any business in the USA. That means we do not carry out meetings or solicit business in the USA. This is for the protection of our clients.

3Is Offshore Planning Dead?

This is a question we hear all the time. People believe the hype that Big Brother governments have now got such a grip on tax havens, that it is no longer possible to achieve benefits by going offshore.

Nothing could be further from the truth. For a start, governments are masters of scare tactics. Scare tactics are desperate measures by governments with big problems, such as mountains of public debt. But scare tactics work. A few high profile cases such as the UBS case in the USA, or the theft of account data in Liechtenstein and Switzerland, which really resulted in very little evidence being turned over that could be used for successful prosecutions, resulted in tens of thousands of individuals voluntarily turning themselves in.

Secondly, most governments offer tax incentives themselves. Tax competition between nations is a healthy force that keeps governments lean and ensures taxpayers get value for money. It could never realistically be eradicated and in our view can only increase, given that people and businesses are far more mobile than they once were.

On the other hand, it is true however that offshore planning is becoming more sophisticated, and the pace of change has increased. The kind of offshore planning that says ‘Stick your assets in a secret Swiss bank account and don’t declare them’ is indeed dead, and has been for years. We have been writing this since 1996, so it is nothing new. Going offshore requires careful planning and periodic reviews to ensure continued efficiency and compliance. That is why, if you want to achieve solid benefits and sleep soundly at night, it is so important to go with a firm like ours, that seeks to establish a long term business relationship.

4I have undeclared offshore assets. Can you help me?

Yes. Depending on the countries involved, there are various steps you can take to bring your structure into compliance without attracting attention to yourself. We do have the experience and contacts to achieve this. This is a complex area and a consultation is essential.

5I have an Offshore Company but don’t know what to do with it. Can you help me?

You are not the only one. We see this situation frequently. Typically the client thought one day that it would be a good idea to go offshore, went on a search engine, and contacted one of the companies that showed up high in the search rankings. A slick salesperson immediately called back and persuaded the client to wire some money to set up an Offshore Structure, often involving multiple entities. An offshore corporation was duly registered, and the client has received a set of documents. About there, the process ends. The offshore provider becomes very slow replying to e-mails and does not return calls any more. The planned bank account has never been opened because the paperwork was not in order. The client doesn’t have a clue what is wrong, but has paid thousands of dollars for a few sheets of paper that are of no practical use. Usually the client gives up and the story ends there.

Sometimes clients contact us first, but still fall for the slick sales pitch, and then after a month or two they come back to seek our help again.

The truth is that forming an offshore corporation, trust or foundation is easy. The vast majority of the work is in setting up the business relationships that are necessary to use the structure, such as bank and brokerage accounts, and ongoing relationships with trustworthy professionals. That is something we do properly and professionally, which is why our service cannot compete on price or speed with those who simply sell you a sheaf of papers then move on to the next sucker.

Sure, in principle if you have a properly constituted company you can open bank accounts yourself. But the process is time consuming, and time is money. Besides that, there are potentially serious legal pitfalls and traps you could fall into along the way if you are not experienced in the process. Our long term relationships with banks can help you avoid such problems so everything runs smoothly.

If you already have a company but don’t have a clue whether it is really what you need or what you can do with it, talk to us, send us copies of the documentation you have and we can advise you how best to proceed. Unfortunately, however, the cost of restructuring such arrangements is often so high – including further fees that are demanded by the original incorporator for releasing full control of ‘your’ company – that our advice has to be to start over.