Having offshore investment accounts has gained a sketchy reputation in the recent decade. Images of tax-evading investors and shady deals happening on isolated island nations come to the mind of many when thinking about offshore investment accounts. No doubt, this is because of the media’s portrayal of anything “offshore” as inherently suspicious.
The truth however is often much more mundane, and perfectly legal. It can even provide a host of benefits to investors. Including risk-reduction, asset diversification, and protection from lawsuits, to name a few.
We will break down some of the myths associated with offshore investment accounts and investing in foreign countries in the article ahead, as well as explain some of the advantages one may enjoy from it.
Table of Contents
- What are offshore investment accounts?
- Benefits of offshore investment accounts
- Types of offshore investment accounts
- Offshore investment brokerage accounts
- Cons of opening offshore investment accounts
What are offshore investment accounts?
Put simply, Offshore investing is depositing your money into an account or asset that is located in a foreign country. This can include a wide range of investment strategies that are meant to take advantage of favorable financial conditions outside of the investor’s own country.
It does not however offer great short-term gains. Many would say that the benefits it does bring to the table in the long run far outweigh the lack of immediate returns.
Usually, the primary goal of having offshore investment accounts is to diversify one’s assets. This decreases portfolio risk as it is spread out between different currencies, asset classes, and national boundaries.
Keeping your investments in only one country can be dangerous as they can more easily be affected by a single risk factor. The risk can be in the form of fluctuations in the local currency, problems in the banking sector, or political instability. Even one unfortunate event can have serious consequences on an investor if their portfolio is too heavily focused on a single area. Heard the phrase “don’t put all your eggs in one basket”? Well, that is the issue offshore investment accounts solve for wealthy individuals.
Benefits of offshore investment accounts
There are many advantages to opening Offshore Investment accounts. From favorable tax rates to asset security, to privacy, here we will discuss just a few major ones.
Many countries are famous as “tax havens” because they offer very favorable tax incentives to investors from abroad. This is done in an effort to draw in foreign investment. For developing countries, especially small ones with limited resources and tiny populations, this foreign money can considerably increase economic activity.
Individuals who invest offshore also enjoy some security from undue litigation and lawsuits. This is because the assets located in a foreign jurisdiction naturally also have international banking laws protecting them. That would otherwise not be the case if the account was held only in your home country, and thus subject only to local laws.
The structures in place in foreign jurisdiction also allow for the avoidance of hefty inheritance taxes. This is because family estates are generally better protected by the laws in countries outside of your primary residence.
Most of these offshore jurisdictions have very good secrecy legislation such as laws that dictate strict confidentiality in the corporate and banking spheres. The divulging of customer identities and even shareholders in some jurisdictions has serious legal consequences. Thus an investor can be confident that their privacy will be maintained.
This may be one of the facts that contribute to the myth that offshore investors are shady, however, valuing your privacy does not equal you having something to hide. It gives peace of mind, and at the same time some practical benefit. For example, having this confidentiality while accumulating shares from public companies can provide significant financial advantages.
It’s also important to note that they will allow identity disclosure if there is clear evidence of illegal activity, such as drug trafficking or money laundering tied to a specific account.
Offshore investments are often more flexible than those in investor’s home countries. Especially in the countries where there are restrictions on international investment opportunities of their citizens. Offshore Investment accounts open up opportunities for unrestricted access to international markets and major exchanges.
Of course, it also has the benefit of protecting investors from major fluctuations in single industries and jurisdictions keeping you safe from uncertainty in your home country.
Types of offshore investment accounts
Investing in foreign countries is not just limited to depositing your money in a foreign bank. There are a variety of offshore investment accounts and some of the most common offshore investment opportunities are found in the realms of:
- Foreign currency
- Precious metals
- Hedge funds
- Forex trading
- Venture Capital
- Private equity funds
- Mutual funds
- Fixed-term deposits
- Foreign real estate
These are only a few examples. Many other possible assets can help diversify your portfolio, these are just some of the most popular. Let’s discuss in a bit of detail some of these.
Mutual funds are a good choice of offshore investment accounts for someone who wishes to get into it with relatively low risk. This is because mutual funds companies are formed by a group of several investors. This spreads the risk out over many people and so reduces the chance of a large loss to any individual among them.
Another staple in offshore investment accounts is in precious metals. Things like gold, silver, and platinum have always been secure assets to have. Although prices fluctuate, their value has always remained high when held for the foreseeable future. Making this investment abroad just adds the benefits of offshore investment accounts to an already sound investment.
On the other side of the fence to mutual fund companies is venture capital which can be very profitable, but also holds higher risk. You will have to have a good deal of confidence in the business that you will invest in to make returns if you want to go this route. If it does go well it can provide a solid capital base for future growth. The fact that it is an offshore investment account will also increase the likelihood of greater profits.
Offshore investment brokerage accounts
One of the specific types of offshore accounts that are of significant interest to many traders is the offshore brokerage account. This is a foreign bank account that is specifically for the purpose of investment and securities exchanges.
In most cases, an offshore brokerage account is held by a company, rather than an individual. There are numerous ways it can be used but commonly they are used for:
- Investing, holding, and trading in stocks and other financial instruments.
- Performing flexible transactions with different accounts.
- And enjoying favorable tax rates from its offshore status.
Brokerage accounts are opened with brokerage firms that operate in these offshore territories. They require an initial deposit to fund the account, but after this is made you are free to start trading using this account.
Types of Offshore Brokerage account
There are three common kinds of brokerage accounts that you should be aware of:
1. Cash account
Cash accounts refer to when you deposit funds into an account to make investments and other transactions using it. This is the typical account type that most brokers will instinctively set out and register for their clients.
2. Margin account
In contrast to cash accounts that only accept cash from you, Margin accounts allow you to “borrow” funds from the brokerage firm to make your investments.
This is a little tricky for investors however because the brokers have the right to sell your investments to cover any deficit from your loan. However, the benefit of this comes in the form of low-interest rates and flexibility in managing the trade settlement of your investment.
3. Discretionary account
A discretionary account allows authorized brokers from the firm to make investments on the behalf of the account holder.
This is done without prior consent from the account holder. This kind of account is suitable for those with large portfolios but without self-directed investors.
Common countries for offshore investment
Another thing to consider, are the countries where an investor may choose to do their offshore investments. For the most part, these are smaller, developing countries, that are looking to stimulate their economy with foreign investment. Some of the most well-known offshore financial centers are as follows.
- The Cayman Islands
- The Cook Islands
- The Bahamas
- Isle of Man
Specific regulations vary from country to country, but in general, the investment structures are the same. Groups of investors may form corporations in those particular jurisdictions. Because the group does not invest locally, taxes levied on the corporations are minimal, or sometimes even nonexistent.
Opening offshore investment accounts
Considerations in Offshore investment
Before doing anything, an investor has to take into account some important points to make sure they do not make any costly mistakes. Especially if they are new to foreign investments.
- Extensive research must be done on the economic and political situation in the country that you are looking to house your funds.
- It is preferable to invest in funds that give you exposure to global opportunities, rather than ones that are specific to only the country hosting your investment. After all, the whole point of overseas investment is diversifying and breaking into international exchanges.
- You must have a significant amount of capital to spare if you want to engage in offshore investments. Usually, only the wealthiest of investors can engage in these foreign investments because of the high costs involved.
Requirements for an offshore brokerage account
To those looking to open an offshore brokerage account. Here is a list of some things that are generally required. You will need to present the following documentation.
- Your passport and usually another ID, authenticated by a notary.
- Proof of your physical address
- Bank statement
- (optional, if required) Proof of funds, in the form of a receipt stating where the funds came from.
Some other requirements that might be asked are a CV or a professional reference letter.
Cons of opening offshore investment accounts
While there are many benefits to offshore investment accounts. Like with everything, there are a few drawbacks as well.
Government scrutiny (Especially in the USA)
Recently, countries like the United States of America have started realizing the large amounts of tax revenue being lost to offshore investing. With this realization, more restrictive and specific laws have been enacted to tie up tax loopholes. So now investment revenue from offshore accounts is in the sights of governments and tax laws.
Cost of entry
These offshore investment accounts are not cheap to set up and the cost depends on the individual’s goals in starting offshore investment accounts, and what territory they plan to invest in.
Offshore corporations may need to be started, and these come with their own costs, in the form of legal fees and corporate registration fees. Some countries require property, in the form of a residence to be owned by the investor within the jurisdiction. Minimum investments into offshore accounts can range from 100,000 up to 1,000,000 USD, a prohibitive cost of entry for many people.
There is also the inherent risk of movement in the foreign exchange. This can in turn negatively affect returns of investments and counter gains.
Despite some people’s skepticism of offshore investment accounts, it is a legitimate and effective way to invest in structures abroad. It brings many advantages to the would-be investor from diversifying portfolios, to tax benefits.
Before diving into any offshore investment accounts it’s important to do your research. Not all countries have the same laws regarding them, and it can get very expensive. So if you are inexperienced be wary. It may also help to consult with companies that specialize in helping people start investing in offshore accounts.
If however, you think you have the means and are willing to put in the time, this may be the opportunity to seriously consider offshore investment accounts. Advances in technology in this age of the internet have made offshore investing as accessible as ever, and many are now reaping the benefits that they have always offered.