Article: Merrill Noreen


The Small Business Library

November 22, 2000

"About That Swiss Bank Account...  Or Caribbean...  Or South Pacific...
The Real Truth About Offshore Bank Accounts"

Have you ever joked about putting your money in a Swiss bank account? Haven't we all, at one time or another, thought about how wonderful it would be to stash our cash somewhere outside the country?

Well, lots of North American entrepreneurs aren't just joking about it, they're doing it. And in lots of other offshore locations besides Switzerland, too.

Did you know that it's perfectly legal to put YOUR money wherever you want? Traditionally, offshore bank accounts have only been an option for the very wealthy or for large multi-national corporations, but that's changing. There are now some real advantages for any entrepreneur to consider placing at least a portion of their hard-earned cash in offshore bank accounts.

The first and most obvious reason to place your money offshore is the substantial tax benefits. Many countries are understandably proud of their 'tax haven' status and secrecy provisions, and have developed numerous user-friendly financial vehicles to help entrepreneurs from all over the world safeguard their money. In many cases, you are invited to invest your money rather than just 'park' it, resulting in boosts to that country's economy - a welcome bonus for the country, and a way for you to feel good about your decision to take your money offshore.

Some offshore institutions even allow you to become a member of an investment 'consortium' so that you have the ability, as a 'partner,' to invest your income and take advantage of international fund investments to 'grow' your money while it's there.

There is a great deal of information and MIS-information around about offshore accounts, so the following list is just an outline of a few of the issues you'll need to consider as you research whether or not offshore banking is for you.

  • Are the professional staff fluent in English? (You may need to communicate, and this IS about your money, after all!)
  • Are there tax treaties with the US in place? (Read the fine print.)
  • What are the privacy or secrecy policies of the institution you are considering? (Many of them are NOT ALLOWED, by law, to share your information with, for example, the government of your country).
  • Does the institute provide credit cards or merchant accounts? (Many foreign financial institutes do, and include a debit card, as well).
  • Does it require you to have an internationally incorporated company in order to open an account?
  • If so, does the institution provide 'shelf companies' to choose from? (Quite often, you can simply sign some forms to become the proud owner of a new, legal company, which enables you to bank in that country).
  • Are Internet-based transactions available? (You'll want to be able to monitor your account online - to check the current status of investments, transfer funds, or just track your accumulating wealth)!

Yes, it is possible to do business in a SECURE global environment - and enjoy the tax breaks, and perhaps even a healthy return on your investment - all from the comfort of your home in the good ol' U.S. of A.!

Author Merrill Noreen has investigated offshore banking options for Western entrepreneurs. Visit his website at http://www.life-spring.com/caruba/caruba.html or email carubagold@mail.com for more information.