Offshore Company Formation and Banking

What is “Offshore”?

The term ‘offshore’ denotes an entity situated beyond the borders of an individual’s country of residence. An offshore company represents a corporate entity owned by an individual residing in one place while the company itself is established in another. The reasons for using non-resident corporate structures include the diversication of assets and accounts, reducing the tax burden and providing additional security.

Known as international business companies (IBCs) or non-resident companies, offshore entities replicate traditional domestic companies in terms of their ability to contract loans and debts. However, they  uniquely benefit from the asset protection and reduced tax liabilities offered by offshore incorporation.

Offshore Company Formation

Foreign governments strategically develop offshore jurisdictions to globalise their financial sectors and attract international investment. These jurisdictions are established to attract capital and businesses from non-resident individuals seeking favourable regulatory environments. In return for incorporation fees, these jurisdictions offer a business-friendly landscape characterised by low taxes and simplified regulations.

Offshore vs Onshore Businesses

Onshore companies are usually located in high-tax jurisdictions, where details of the company and beneficial owners are publicly available. They have stricter accounting laws, as well as higher requirements for accounting, record-keeping, auditing and tax reporting.

In offshore jurisdictions, there are usually opportunities for reduced or zero taxation of worldwide income. These so-called offshore tax havens generally have fewer reporting, financial and auditing requirements, as well as more flexible corporate laws.

Offshore – what do you gain?!

  • Favourable taxation treatment
  • Privacy for individuals
  • Confidentiality and security of assets
  • Supportive legal environment
  • Fewer corporate regulations
  • More investment possibilities
  • Easy financial reporting and auditing requirements
  • International financial diversification

It is clear that offshore companies have distinct advantages due to their unique situation. Given their offshore status, they are not legally obliged to act as a domestic company and are therefore exempt from many of the regulations that exist in traditional financial centres. 

How do you use an offshore company?!

Each jurisdiction has specific laws and standards, so the location for business incorporation should be made depending on your business intentions. But regardless of the situation, overall, an offshore company can be used for the following purposes :

  • Trading Company
  • Asset Holding
  • Overseas Bank Accounts
  • Intellectual or Physical Property
  • Real Estate
  • Investment company
  • Offshore Funds
  • Offshore Brokerages
  • Insurance
  • Finance Companies
  • Captive Insurance

The Taxation

Companies incorporated in an offshore jurisdiction can be exempt from taxation or have special tax conditions. However, there is one condition for this to be possible – the activity, transactions and all activities must take place outside the territory of the jurisdiction. Some countries, such as the US or UK, although considered more of a modern onshore environment with a high level of taxation, have offshore company laws that allow some of the benefits that can be found in traditional offshore tax havens. 

Offshore financial centres maintain a tax-free environment, that can include:

  • Corporate income tax
  • Capital gains tax
  • Income tax
  • Dividend tax
  • Withholding taxes

How to choose an Offshore Jurisdiction to Incorporate

Offshore jurisdictions offer a variety of attractive points, but you may come to the conclusion that only a few options will meet your business objectives. We recommend you to ask yourself a few questions before making your final choice, which will help you to understand whether a certain jurisdiction is right for you or not. 

  • What requirements are imposed on the company? 
  • Are there reporting, financial or audit requirements?
  • Is there a minimum amount of capital to be invested?
  • Is there a special licence for the type of business engaged in?

Other important elements  to bear in mind when selecting the jurisdiction are the presence of:

  • Economic and political stability
  • Safe and sound banking system
  • Non-blacklisted by the OECD

Some of the best places to incorporate:

There are many offshore jurisdictions and the  task of coming up with the best one can be complicated. Popular jurisdictions to choose from include:

Hong Kong

By setting up an offshore company in Hong Kong, you can trade internationally without paying local taxes, as long as you do not have a source of income in Hong Kong.

There are no taxes on capital gains and investment income. You may consider this jurisdiction iif you want to do business with China.

Cayman Islands

The Cayman Islands, is known for its convenient offshore business environment. It is particularly popular for investment and large fund formation. The Cayman Islands is currently the largest offshore banking centre.

Bahamas

Investor confidentiality and tax advantages are major factors. You can use an offshore company for a variety of purposes which includes tax reduction, estate planning, and asset protection among others.

Other popular offshore jurisdictions include the British Virgin Islands (BVI), Cyprus, Singapore, Panama, Gibraltar, Isle of Man, Belize and Seychelles.

Banking with an Offshore Account

Once you have successfully set up an offshore company, it is essential to open an offshore bank account. With offshore banking, businesses can operate in multiple currencies in multiple countries. In addition, it offers financial privacy and can protect assets from local economic instability.

Choose the Right Offshore Bank

The right offshore bank depends on factors such as its financial stability, the services offered, the minimum deposit requirements, online banking facilities, and the jurisdiction’s regulations. It is advisable to choose a bank that is well established, financially and located in a politically stable jurisdiction.

Set Up an Offshore Bank Account

Setting up an offshore bank account typically requires:

  1. Completing an Application, including detailed information about the company and its directors.
  2. Providing documentation, including identification documents, proof of address, and corporate documents such as the Certificate of Incorporation and Memorandum and Articles of Association.
  3. Initial Deposit.
  4. Account Activation, if all the requirements are met, the account is activated and ready for use.

Bottom line

Offshore incorporation and offshore banking represent a strategic move for businesses looking to expand globally, preserve financial privacy and optimise taxation. It is essential to proceed with due diligence, clearly understand the processes, and comply with all legal formalities. 

If you need more information on this topic, we invite you to take the first step and book a free consultation with our team now. 

Disclaimer

Widelia and its affiliates do not provide tax, investment, legal or accounting advice.  Material on this page has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, investment, legal or accounting advice. You should consult your own tax, legal and accounting advisors before engaging in any transaction. Please consult https://widelia.com/disclaimer/ for more information.

Author

Fred Trebley

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor. After graduating in European Law from the University of Exeter and l’Université de Rennes 1 in 2005, Fred worked in investment banking in London, qualifying as a stockbroker before moving to Gibraltar to join an asset management firm. Fred has enjoyed a career spanning multiple sectors and countries helping leaders and business owners reach their full potential.

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