To “go offshore” simply means to place assets (bank accounts, brokerage accounts, etc.) outside of one’s home country. Going offshore also includes forming an offshore structure such as a company or trust, and placing domestic assets (car, home, real estate, art collections, etc.) into that structure.
Not at all. HFS interfaces with offshore institutions to form offshore companies, offshore trusts, open offshore bank and brokerage accounts, forward offshore mail, etc. so that clients don’t have to leave the office to go offshore. See how we do this at How It Works.
A Tax Haven (also known as an “offshore jurisdiction” or “international financial center”) is a country with 2 distinguishing characteristics:
1) The country does not levy taxes on corporate income, personal income, interest income, capital gains, etc. For the person considering going offshore, what this means is that opening a bank account, making investments, forming a corporation or trust will not result in any taxes due to the tax haven country and there will be no requirements to file financial reports or tax returns in the tax haven country.
2) The country has laws, knows as “secrecy laws” or “privacy laws”, that forbid banks, brokerages, financial institutions and incorporation services from giving out any information concerning the owner of an account, company or trust.
Some examples of well-known offshore jurisdictions are: The Bahamas, The British Virgin Islands, The Isle of Man, Belize, The Cayman Islands, Antigua, The Turks and Caicos Islands, Panama, Nevis and St. Kitts, Luxembourg, Switzerland, The Seychelles, Hong Kong and Singapore.
Offshore jurisdictions have secrecy or privacy laws are intended to insure the confidentiality of offshore clients and their financial records and transactions. Privacy laws typically make it a crime for a financial institution such as a bank, brokerage, investment manager or incorporation service (a company that forms offshore companies and trusts) to give out any information about a client or transactions to any third party without an order from a local court.
Simply put, asset protection involves using financials tools to insure that you keep what you own in your hands, and out of the hands of others. A more formal definition of asset protection is: To place a barrier between your assets and creditors or litigants to make it difficult if not impossible for them to seize your possessions. The end result of an asset protection strategy is that your assets (bank accounts, cars, houses, investments, etc.) remain yours and you alone decide what to do with them.
Going offshore helps clients protect their assets in 2 specific ways:
1) Moving assets offshore makes lawsuits less likely. A potential litigant can hire a private investigator for a few hundred dollars and in less than a week that investigator can find information concerning real estate, bank accounts and investments that are in your personal name. If there is a “pot of gold” to go after the potential litigant can easily find an attorney who will file a lawsuit. But if your assets have been protected by moving them offshore or placing them into an offshore company or trust (thereby taking them out of your personal name and putting them into the name of an offshore entity), the investigator will not be able to find them. He will report back to the potential litigant that there are no (or very few) assets in your name. When this happens, the likelihood of getting sued decreases dramatically. If there is no pot of gold to pursue, the litigant will likely move on.
2) In the event of a lawsuit, having your assets in an properly established offshore structure will make it very difficult if not impossible for a plaintiff to take your assets from you. Placing your assets into an offshore entity (an offshore company or trust) means that you don’t personally own the assets any longer, they are owned by and are the property of the offshore entity . You may control the assets, but the assets are not owned by you. If you lose a court case and a judgment is rendered against you, a plaintiff may go after your personal assets to collect the judgment. But the assets held by an offshore company or trust are no longer your personal assets – they are the assets of the offshore entity. As such, they are safe from creditors and collectors.
**Please note: the above information is not to be considered legal or tax advice. It is for informational purposes only. HFS recommends that you consult a knowledgeable attorney prior to placing assets offshore or forming offshore entities.
No. There is not a minimum amount necessary to go offshore. It is possible to place anywhere from a few hundred dollars to hundreds of millions of dollars offshore.
No. Offshore tools may be utilized to protect personal assets (as well as restore personal financial privacy and provide protection from personal lawsuits) just as effectively as they can be used to protect business assets.
1. Experience. HFS founder has set up hundreds of offshore companies, hundreds of offshore trusts, hundreds of offshore bank accounts, etc. Put simply: We’re not novices; we know what we’re doing, and we use our experience and knowledge to take very good care of our clients.
2. Multi-jurisdictional approach. HFS is not bound to using one jurisdiction only and thereby forcing clients to put all their eggs in one basket. We use the best services offered in the best offshore jurisdictions to insure that our clients get the best of all worlds and have the strongest protection and privacy to be had anywhere on the planet.
3. Communication. Many of HFS’s competitors have little or no contact information on their websites other than an email address. Not so with HFS. Visit the contact HFS page and feel free to contact us directly through the website, call, send an email or fax or schedule an appointment to visit in person.
Do Any Laws Forbid Going Offshore?
Absolutely not. Most countries encourage international trade and investment. As such, there are virtually no regulations forbidding citizens from doing business or having bank accounts in other countries. Should any major country ever forbid foreign banking or investing, international trade would quickly grind to a halt. This would cripple the world economy. Therefore, major countries will likely never forbid foreign business, banking or investing. Rather, sophisticated and knowledgeable individuals and corporations all over the world have used and will continue to use offshore tools.
Offshore Banking Questions
Offshore banking is opening a bank account in a country that is outside of one’s home country. For example, if a U.S. citizen/resident opens a bank account at any bank outside of the U.S., that person is now engaged in “offshore banking”. If a citizen/resident of the United Kingdom opens a bank account in Germany or in the U.S. that person has opened an offshore bank account.
However, the term “offshore banking” is normally used in a more specific manner than the broad definition given above. Opening an offshore bank account typically refers to opening a bank account in a tax haven (offshore jurisdiction, international financial center) country. A tax haven country will not levy any taxes on interest or capital gains earned by the account holder and also has secrecy/privacy laws that insure the confidentiality of the bank account owner and related transactions. For a more detailed explanation of a tax haven go to “What is a Tax Haven”.
Is Offshore Banking Safe?
Offshore banking is very safe as long as accounts are opened with reputable, well-known and well-capitalized international banks. HFS will recommend established, internationally-recognized banks that have been in existence for over 150 years, have billions (or more) in assets and have proven themselves to be service oriented. As long as accounts are opened at a bank HFS endorses, an individual’s or corporation’s money will be safer offshore than it is onshore. View the list of banks we recommend: click here
HFS does not recommend banking with any offshore bank that is located in an unstable country, does not release its financial statements or does not have a physical presence in the country where it operates.
1. Choose an account from the list of banks on our website and place an order. The list can be found on the Services and Fees page. You may place the order online, you may Contact Us and place an order over the phone or you may download the Printable Order Form and send it to HFS by mail.
2. When HFS receives an order for an account we will assemble the application and send it to you. The application comes with instructions and will need to be completed, signed and returned to HFS. The application is highlighted in each place that needs to be filled in (e.g. with the client’s address) or signed. When we receive the completed application back from a client, we will review the application and then forward it to the offshore bank. The offshore bank will then open the account and send the account number and wiring instructions to the client.
3. Once the account has been opened you may make the initial deposit via wire transfer or check. Once the money is in your offshore account you may then withdraw it using a debit card, wire transfer or checks.
The minimum deposit requirement to open an offshore bank account varies by bank and can be as low as $500. There are some offshore banks that require $1M or more to open an account. However, most offshore banks, including large, reputable, multi-national banks have minimum deposit requirements between $1,000 and $2,500.
The banks that HFS refers clients to and the deposit requirement for each bank are listed on the Services and Fees page.
Yes, once the offshore bank account is opened and funded you will receive a debit card or secured credit card linked to the account. Many offshore banks also issue check books. However, international checks take 1 to 2 months to clear and thus may not be practical in many situations.
Yes. Offshore bank accounts can receive wire transfers from virtually anywhere in the world. Wire transfers can also be sent from the offshore account to nearly any international location. Most offshore banks allow clients to submit an outgoing wire transfer request through online banking.
Yes. Virtually all offshore banks have complete online banking services. Online banking through an offshore bank allows a client to check the account balance, send wire transfers, exchange funds in the account into a different currency, etc.
You do. The client is in complete and total control of all accounts at all times. You will be the only signer on the account and therefore no one but you will have any knowledge or control of the account. No other parties will ever have access or control of your offshore account.
HFS recommends that clients open offshore accounts in the name of an offshore corporation, rather than in their personal name. There are two specific reasons for this:
1. Opening a personal bank account offshore will provide a moderate level of additional privacy and safety. However, because a personal account is opened in the name of the client, any transactions (wire transfers, debit card purchases, checks, etc.) conducted with the account will be in the client’s own name. This may very well negate any privacy gained by opening an account in an offshore tax haven country. And a personal offshore account will not give the client any asset protection advantages. For an explanation of how going offshore helps protect assets see “How does going offshore help me protect my assets?“.
2. Opening an offshore bank account in the name of an offshore corporation (also know and an International Business Corporation or IBC) allows the client to conduct all banking transactions (wire transfers, checks, etc.) in the name of a private offshore company, rather than his/her own personal name. This provides a significant level of privacy to the client that cannot be obtained with a personal offshore bank account. There are many other benefits to owning an offshore company. The client may make investments in the name of the offshore company, purchase real estate and vehicles in the company’s name and carry out business transactions in the company’s name. There are also asset protection advantages to owning an offshore company: see “How does going offshore help me protect my assets?” . – Given these considerations, HFS recommends opening offshore bank accounts in the name of an offshore corporation, rather than opening a personal account offshore.
Offshore accounts (personal and corporate) may be opened in any of the following currencies:
USD (United States Dollars)
GBP (Pounds Sterling)
CHF (Swiss Francs)
JPY (Japanese Yen)
ZAR (South African Rand)
AUD (Australian Dollars)
CAD (Canadian Dollars)
Not all banks offer accounts in all of the above currencies. Please see our list of banks for information on which banks offer accounts in specific currencies. As a general rule, all offshore banks offer accounts in USD, EUR and GBP.
Yes. Offshore banks generally allow account holders (personal and corporate) to hold up to three currencies simultaneously in an account. For example, an account may have ten thousand U.S. Dollars (USD 10,000), five thousand Euro’s (EUR 5,000) and eight thousand Pounds Sterling (GBP 8,000) at the same time.
Wire transfers may be sent or received from an offshore bank account in any currency allowed by the bank. For example, the above account could receive a wire transfer in Euro’s. This would be added to the existing Euro’s in the account. The account holder could also send a wire transfer in Pounds Sterling and the amount of the wire transfer would be subtracted from the existing Pounds Sterling balance.
Yes. An offshore account (personal or corporate) can be opened with 1, 2 or 3 signers. A husband and wife or multiple business partners may sign jointly on an offshore account.
A personal offshore account typically takes 2-3 weeks to establish once HFS has received an order.
Forming a new offshore corporation takes 1-2 weeks. Setting up the new corporate account takes 2-3 weeks once the company has been established. Accordingly, the total turnaround time for establishing a new offshore company and an account is 4-6 weeks. This time frame can be shortened by paying a rush fee or purchasing a “shelf company” – a company that has already been formed and is available for immediate purchase. The process for forming an offshore structure and opening offshore accounts is explained in detail at How It Works
** Please note: There are services that claim to open offshore accounts in days. Some offshore banks even claim on their websites that they open accounts in very short periods of time (1-2 days). However, this is simply, unequivocally not true. Offshore banks, once they receive an application nearly always take 1-2 weeks or more to open an account. This has been the case for many years and is consistent regardless of the bank or the location of the bank. The only exceptions to this are banks that require the client to make a personal appearance at the bank in order to open an account – they can open accounts quickly. But most clients prefer not to incur the expense (not to mention the time and hassle!) of traveling. Opening a new bank account at a reputable offshore bank takes time. Unfortunately, there is no way around this.
No. Not all offshore banks require references to open an account. One of the oldest, largest banks in the world will open an offshore account without any references – they do not require a bank or attorney reference. Please contact HFS and we will be happy to discuss banking options with you.
To open an offshore account, the signer on the account will need to provide at least three items:
1. A copy of a driver’s license or passport
2. A copy of a utility bill
3. A copy of a document that indicates how the client earns the funds that will be sent to the offshore bank account (bank statement, pay stubs, work contract, etc.)
Some offshore banks also require a reference letter from a bank and an attorney or accountant. However, it is possible to open an offshore account at one of the oldest, largest banks in the world without having to provide any references. Please contact HFS and we will be happy to discuss banking options with you.
The initial deposit into the bank account should be sent to the bank AFTER the account is opened. In countries such as the U.S. an individual may walk into a bank and open an account. The initial deposit is made at the same time as the account is opened. The process for funding an offshore bank account is different. Offshore, a bank will open an account with a $0 (zero) balance after receiving the account application. The bank will send the account number and wiring instructions to the client via email, fax or mail. Once the client receives the account number he/she then has approximately 30 days to make the initial deposit into the new account.
No. Offshore banks do not require the client’s social security number to open an account.
There are many ways to bring money back from offshore:
1. Money may be wired directly from offshore into a domestic account.
2. The client may write a check from the offshore account or have the bank issues a Cashier’s Check.
3. Offshore banks and brokerages issue Visa/MasterCard debit cards and secured credit cards to account holders. These cards may be used to make purchases from merchants or to withdraw cash from an ATM.
4. An offshore company (IBC) or offshore trust may purchase real estate, cars, businesses, etc. Typically, the founder/client acts as an agent of the IBC or trust to purchase assets on its behalf. By this means, assets are held under a corporate or trust name, thus protecting the client’s privacy.
5. The client may borrow funds from the corporation or trust. The IBC or trust is a separate legal entity from an individual and may make loans to individuals or other entities.
Offshore Company Questions
An offshore company (also know as an offshore corporation, International Business Corporation or IBC) is a company that is incorporated (formed) in a tax haven country and is authorized to do business anywhere in the world except its home country (i.e. an offshore company formed in Belize may do business anywhere in the world except Belize). Don’t be confused by the word “corporation”. There is no requirement to start an actual, running business or to travel to where the IBC is formed.
Just as with domestic corporations, the same person may act as the shareholder, board of directors, president, agent or as any other officer within the company. An offshore company is private; the founder (you) may be the only person in the company, may completely control it and may be the sole shareholder (owner). No one else need be involved or have any knowledge of the company’s business or affairs. The founder may include others in the offshore company if he/she wishes to, but there is no obligation to do so. The founder/owner’s identity remains confidential through the use of bearer shares. The person or organization who holds the bearer shares is the IBC’s legal owner. An IBC can own property, automobiles, boats, businesses, bank accounts, etc. in its name.
The primary benefits of an offshore company are that it provides financial privacy and helps protect assets. Opening an offshore bank account in the name of an offshore company allows the client to conduct all banking transactions (wire transfers, checks, etc.) in the name of a private offshore company, rather than his/her own personal name. The client may also make investments in the name of the offshore company, purchase real estate, boats and vehicles in the company’s name and carry out business transactions in the company’s name. Using the company’s name rather than his/her personal name insures that the client’s privacy is protected. Moving assets into the offshore company helps keep those assets out of the reach of third parties and in their rightful hands: yours. Keeping your assets in your hands is known as asset protection and is explained in greater detail at “How does going offshore help me protect my assets”?
An offshore shelf company is an offshore company (also know as an offshore corporation, International Business Corporation or IBC) that has already been in existence for weeks, months or years – sometimes many years. Most shelf companies are literally sitting on a shelf waiting to be purchased, thus the name “shelf company”. A shelf company affords the same privacy and asset protection advantages that a newly formed offshore company provides. “What are the benefits of an offshore company?”.
Visit Shelf Companies to see our list of available shelf companies.
For most clients, forming a new offshore company achieves their goals. However, there are some clients who may want or need to demonstrate that their offshore company has been in existence for months or years. A shelf company is the perfect solution for this scenario. Once a shelf company has been purchased; bank and brokerage accounts may be set up in its name. This allows the client to do banking, investing and business in the name of a company that has been in existence for a long time. The client can also move assets such as real estate, cars or boats into the shelf company.
Shelf companies are almost always more expensive than newly formed offshore companies. In some cases a shelf company’s price may be several times the price of a newly formed company. This is due to the fact that each year that an offshore company is in existence a fee (called an “annual fee” or a “renewal fee”) must be paid. The price of a shelf company increases each year by at least the price of the renewal fee. For example, if a shelf company is three years old, the purchase price not only includes the price of a newly formed company, but also includes three years of annual fees.
Visit Shelf Companies to see our list of available shelf companies.
An offshore mailing address is not required for an offshore company, but it is a necessary tool if a client wishes to preserve his/her privacy. An offshore address will insure that the wrong eyes never view sensitive information. Once an offshore company has been formed and bank and brokerage accounts have been opened for it, these accounts may generate mail. This presents a potential problem. If the wrong eyes see mail from offshore the privacy of the entire structure could be in jeopardy. To insure that this never happens, an offshore mail forwarding address is assigned to the offshore company. Any mail for the offshore company (such as offshore bank or brokerage statements) is sent to the assigned offshore address and then forwarded to HFS. It is then placed inside a discreet envelope and mailed to the client. Using offshore mail forwarding will avoid any breaches in privacy that might occur as a result of offshore correspondence being sent directly to a domestic residence or business.
There are many countries all over the world that are considered tax havens or offshore jurisdictions that form offshore companies. When choosing a country to form an offshore country in several factors are important. First, the offshore countries under consideration must have strictly enforced privacy laws. Next, English must be the main language, the country must have a long history of political stability and must be completely independent from one’s home country. Price is also an important factor. Given these criteria there are several countries that HFS recommends: Belize, The British Virgin Islands (BVI), Hong Kong, Nevis, Panama and the Seychelles. Each of these jurisdictions forms private offshore companies that are authorized to do business worldwide (except in the country of incorporation). An offshore company in any of these locations is an excellent tool for helping clients regain privacy and protect personal and business assets.
An offshore company may be named nearly any name its founder desires. There are very few restrictions. The name of an offshore company must end with “Incorporated”, “Limited”, “Corporation” or the abbreviations “Inc.”, “Corp.”, or “Ltd.”. Names that include “trust”, “bank”, “banc” or “insurance” require a government license. Other than these limitations an offshore company may have virtually any name. The offshore company’s name may include numbers and symbols.
A corporation is owned by its shareholders. In most onshore jurisdictions (such as the U.S., Canada, Great Britain, etc.) nearly every share a company issues or sells is recorded or registered. Thus the name “registered shares”. However, offshore corporations issue bearer shares. The bearer (the holder, or the one with possession of) the share certificates is the owner of the shares. Only the bearer knows that he/she owns stock in an offshore corporation. Therefore, the ownership of an offshore corporation remains private. Bearer shares may be bought, sold or exchanged in complete privacy.
Every company must have a Board of Directors. The Board may consist of one person or many people. For instance, the founder of an offshore company may appoint himself/herself as the director and sole officer of the corporation. However, most offshore companies are formed with a nominee director. The nominee may be, but does not have to be, an individual who works and/or resides in the country where the offshore company was formed. The nominee may be used to sign (contracts, loans, etc.) for the offshore company should the founder not want his/her signature to be connected with the corporation. The nominee director has no knowledge of the offshore company’s affairs or accounts, cannot control or influence the offshore company and will not act unless instructed to by the founder. All of the offshore companies formed by HFS come with an optional nominee director.
In offshore jurisdictions only a licensed, local organization known as a Registered Agent may order an offshore company directly from the country’s formation office (also known as the registry). The Registered Agent that forms a particular offshore company is the Registered Agent of and for that offshore company. Registered Agents charge a fee for their services and their fees are included in all of the offshore company prices listed on the HFS website.
Offshore investing typically refers to making investments through or from an offshore entity (such as an offshore trust or offshore company). A client who establishes an offshore company, then uses that company to open an offshore brokerage account and purchase shares of publicly traded companies is engaged in “offshore investing” because the investments are held by an offshore entity – rather than by the client personally. Similarly, a client who establishes an offshore company and uses it to trade options, futures or FX (foreign exchange) through an offshore brokerage account is involved in offshore investing for the same reasons – the trades are placed through an offshore brokerage for an offshore entity. Investments made into hedge funds, mutual funds, bonds, real estate or any other type of investment are considered offshore investments if the investment is made through or by an offshore company or trust.
Many if not most offshore investments are made through an offshore company (also known as an offshore corporation, International Business Corporation or IBC). An offshore company is formed and a brokerage account is opened at an offshore brokerage. An offshore brokerage account is much like an offshore bank account, only it is used for investing, not banking. The account can be at a full-service brokerage or an online discount brokerage. The brokerage account is opened in the name of the offshore company thus protecting the client’s privacy. Any purchase or sale of stocks, bonds, options, mutual funds, futures, FX, etc. is carried out in the name of the offshore brokerage on behalf of the offshore company. The client’s personal name is never connected to any transaction. The client is the sole signer on the brokerage account and maintains complete control of the account. The client’s identity is kept confidential because of offshore privacy laws.
There are really no limits to what type of investments are available offshore. So long as an investment is made through or by an offshore entity (such as an offshore company or trust) it is an offshore investment and is confidential.
Available offshore investments Include:
Publically traded companies in the U.S. and international stock exchanges
Foreign Exchange (FX)
Contracts for Differences (CFD’s)
Yes. Most offshore brokerages offer the ability to place trades through an online platform.
Is it possible to buy and store gold and silver offshore?Yes. Precious metals such as gold, silver and platinum can be safely and privately purchased and stored through offshore banks and brokerages.Existing precious metals holdings may also be transferred to an offshore bank or brokerage.Please Contact Us to discuss holding precious metals offshore.
Yes. Existing brokerage accounts may be transferred to an offshore brokerage account. First an offshore company is established. Then an offshore brokerage account is opened in the name of the offshore company. Once the offshore brokerage account is opened, transfer authorization is submitted to the domestic brokerage and the account will be transferred offshore. All of the securities positions will be transferred from one brokerage to another, the holdings within the account do not need to be sold.
Yes. An existing IRA account can be transferred offshore. This is an easy and simple process. Contact Us to discuss moving an IRA account offshore.
1. Choose a brokerage account from the list of brokerages on our website and place an order. The list can be found on the Services and Fees page. You may place the order online, you may Contact Us and place an order over the phone or you may download the Printable Order Form and send it to HFS by mail.
2. When HFS receives an order for an offshore brokerage account we will assemble the application and send it to you. The application comes with instructions and will need to be completed, signed and returned to HFS. The application is highlighted in each place that needs to be filled in (e.g. with the client’s address) or signed. When we receive the completed application back from a client, we will review the application and then forward it to the offshore brokerage. The brokerage will then open the account and send the account number and wiring instructions to the client.
3. Once the account has been opened you may make the initial deposit via wire transfer.
Offshore Trust Questions
An offshore trust is a trust that is formed in an tax haven or offshore jurisdiction. A trust, in its simplest form, is an agreement whereby one party manages assets (shares, real estate, etc.) on behalf of another party or parties. A Trustee manages any assets owned by the trust on behalf of the Beneficiaries. A Protector may remove a Trustee and appoint another Trustee. An offshore trust may own the shares of an offshore corporation. In fact, HFS recommends that an offshore trust own the shares of an offshore company. Creating an offshore trust and having it own an offshore company creates an extra layer of privacy for the client -see Offshore 101. However, the trust cannot influence or control the affairs or accounts of the IBC. Additionally, any knowledge that the Trustee or Protector have of the offshore company’s business interests is protected by strict secrecy laws. Therefore, the offshore company’s affairs remain confidential.