When we talk about offshore financial companies, the term conjures up an image of huge, shadowy financial monoliths investing funds without any transparency. These types of companies also exist. e.g. many mutual funds and hedge funds whose investors prefer 'foreign country' investments.
But ordinary investors like us too can form offshore investing companies of relatively smaller size to fulfill our more mundane everyday needs. Or we can invest, via our offshore banker, into offshore investing companies who operate investment funds.
There are various uses:
*Professional Services Companies
*Dot Com Companies
*Property Owning Companies
*Intellectual Property & Royalty Companies
*Asset Protection Companies
Professional Service Companies:
Individuals, e.g. Consultants, IT professionals, engineers, designers, authors and entertainers operating outside their resident country can benefit
significantly from using an Offshore Company. The offshore company shows the individual as a company employee and gets a fee for the services rendered by the 'employee' [owner]. This fee is received and saved tax free. The individual can then take the payment as he or she wishes to minimize their taxes.
Import/Export and general trading companies activities are also well suited for the structure of Offshore Companies. The Offshore Company takes orders from the supplier and has the goods delivered directly to the customer. It does the invoicing to the customer and saves the difference in a tax free country. e.g. Products from China to Kenya could be invoiced by a Seychelles offshore incorporation and the profits retained there.
Individuals use offshore investment companies to the n buy mutual funds, shares, bonds, property, jewelry and precious metals. Sometimes they will also use these companies to trade in currency, equities and or bonds either via the internet or through managed funds run by banks and financial institutions. The very rich will also have different offshore investing companies for different class of assets; for different countries or by different types of investments.
The diversification hedges the risk. But also in cases where capital gains taxes are levied, e.g in property or equity, sometimes it is cheaper to sell the company rather than the individual asset itself.
Offshore companies can also be used to own and fund operating companies in different countries. The could also be joint venture partners or the 'promoter' of publicly quoted companies. Mauritius is well suited as a country for investing companies because of its favorable double tax treaties.
Dot Com Companies:
The internet has made the cost of business entry very low and consequently the legal protection of the company's assets, both physical and intellectual, that much easier. Dot com companies now use this flexibility to develop different software projects in different offshore companies to invite different investors and to keep the flexibility of raising funds separately for different projects depending on the project's success. Both Mauritius and Seychelles have Protected Cell Company [PCC] structures available for just this kind of need.
Property Owning Companies:
As discussed earlier, owning property in an offshore company saves you the capital gains taxes that may be levied at the time of the property's sale, which are avoided by selling the company instead of the property. Other important advantages are the legal avoidance of inheritance and other transfer taxes. Importantly, in some countries, e.g. Islamic ones, inheritance is via Shariah Law and not your will. So an offshore ownership will ensure that the assets owned outside the country need not be distributed according to Shariah Law.
The use of Offshore investing companies to own or charter merchant ships and pleasure craft is very common worldwide. Shipping companies accumulate profits in tax free offshore jurisdictions and, if each ship is placed in a separate Offshore Company, it can obtain significant asset protection by isolating liabilities of each individual ship.
Multinational companies use offshore investing companies to employ expatriate staff who are deployed in different tax jurisdictions around the world. To facilitate transfers, reduce the employee's taxes and administer benefits easily an offshore company employment is preferred. working on assignments throughout the world.
Intellectual Property and Royalty Companies:
Offshore investing companies are being seen as vehicles to own Intellectual Property and royalties received for software, technology rights, music, literature, patents, trademarks and copyrights, franchising, and brands. These companies are in the form of trusts or foundations.
Asset Protection Companies:
It is estimated that a professional in the US can be expected to be sued every 3 years! And that more than 90% of the worlds lawsuits are filed in the US. Amazing statistics! If you have an income or assets of more than US$ 100,000, you should seriously consider offshore investing companies!
Most offshore jurisdictions require that for a law suit, a lawyer must be hired and paid up front before a suit can be filed, thus keeping frivolous law suits away. Often a substantial bank bond has to be placed with the government, to even implement a lawsuit. It can also (take years of waiting) to get into court in some offshore jurisdictions.
If you have substantial liquid assets you should consider a Trust which would own the offshore company. This will provide a greater degree of protection, at the least expense. However, we should remember that this structure is for asset protection, not for tax savings and so the focus should be maintained.
What Is Offshore?
Simply put, any country other than the one where you live could be considered "offshore". Providing you are from outside the jurisdiction that you choose (both as a citizen or a resident) you can obtain some special financial or asset protection considerations. If you live in the US, other countries are offshore. If you live in the UK, other countries and the US are offshore.
More often than not however, "offshore" is used to describe a nation where there are either no taxes or low taxes for foreigners either personal or corporate. For anyone except Americans, the US can be an offshore haven of value. Banking, investment (trading/brokerage accounts) and financial activity are included in this. This includes real estate ownership, stocks and securities and bonds.
True, offshore havens have created a unique legal and tax climate for foreign individuals and businesses. They cater specifically to them. More than half the world's wealth resides in such asset havens. Financial privacy, a stable legal climate and realistic regulations are the hallmarks of these jurisdictions.