April 21 2009|04.55 PM UTC

Stan Reybern

15 Of The World’s Most Significant Tax Havens

Category: UncategorizedTags: , ,

Grenada Tax HavenAs long as there have been taxes, there have been tax avoiders. And as long as there have been tax avoiders, there have been tax havens. Broadly speaking, any country that is known for helping individuals or businesses avoid taxes can be described as a tax haven. Some are very forthcoming and proudly advertise the tax advantages of living there, while others are more discreet. In either case, tax havens have a long and enduring legacy in civil society (with an estimated $11.5 trillion currently stashed in offshore accounts) and each one offers something different to aspiring tax dodgers.

Luxembourg

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Luxembourg is an attractive place for foreigners to stash excess wealth, as the entire country (said to be among the richest in the world – in per capita terms) seems to have a rather lax attitude toward tax collection. According to one website that profiles tax havens: “although they have taxes, nobody seems to work too hard on collecting them.”

Amenities: No tax on bank interest, investment dividends, or capital gains for non-residents.

Cook Islands

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The Cook Islands have much to offer prospective tax dodgers, including the sheer natural beauty of its beach climate. Combined with the tax advantages discussed below, it’s no wonder shamed Australian entrepreneur Alan Bond stashed his money here before it all came crumbling down on top of him. Not everyone has such a rosy view of the Cook Islands, however. AssetProtectionBook.com describes several instances where Cook Islands-based trusts were successfully invalidated by foreign judges and attorneys, some of whom actually specialize in going after trusts that are based there.

Amenities: No capital gains taxes, income taxes, or death taxes levied on investors.

Cayman Islands

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Hedge fund managers and investors have grown particularly fond of the Cayman Islands, which relies solely on indirect methods of taxation like import duties, tourist fees, and licensing fees to sustain its government and operations. The Caymans got major press during the 2008 Presidential debates when Barack Obama slammed their tax haven status, declaring “there’s a building in the Cayman Islands that houses supposedly 12,000 US-based corporations. That’s either the biggest building in the world or the biggest tax scam in the world, and we know which one it is.”

Amenities: No income, capital gains, gift, or estate taxes on individuals or offshore corporations.

Channel Islands

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Investors with real estate-based investment trusts (or REITs) in their portfolio will find the Channel Islands much to their liking. A 2007 Telegraph article notes that UK-based REIT investors are flocking to the Channel Islands (located between the shores of France and England) where their investment income is taxed at far lighter rates than the mainland UK. In addition to REIT investors, the Channel Islands are also apparently attracting their fair share of of e-commerce firms and web companies (including UK retailer Play.com.)

Amenities: Low taxes on property investment income, low incorporation costs.

Bermuda

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What could be better than floating in these crystal-clear waters and sipping an exotic drink with the knowledge that your business profits are completely shielded from taxation? These and other benefits help explain why entire companies (such as Tyco) have moved their operations to Bermuda. And while other tax havens are coming under intense legal scrutiny, a 2002 Seattle PI article notes that “what these American companies are doing in Bermuda appears to be perfectly legal under the tax code.”

Amenities: While Bermuda does not currently offer much in the way of tax benefits for individuals, businesses enjoy a total exemption from income and capital gains taxes.

Dubai

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Dubai is the tax haven of choice for those seeking to do business with Russian companies and investors. It is also home to a sizable pool of job talent and business contacts of all kinds. According to one website, Dubai is blossoming into “leading UAE commercial gateway to more than 1.5 billion consumers in Asia, Africa, Europe, India and the Middle East.”

Amenities: No taxes of any kind, no tax audits, no information shared with prying government agencies.

Lichtenstein

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Lichtenstein is rumored to be one of history’s earliest tax havens, and it has a well-deserved reputation among tax dodgers. Unfortunately, the success of evading taxes in Lichtenstein may be leading to its own undoing! Forbes recently reported that German spies have been dispatched to the country to hunt down suspicious activity from its own citizens.

Amenities: Very easy for foreigners to set up trusts (just use a locally-hired attorney or nominee.)

British Virgin Islands

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According to a Yahoo! News article, ‘More than 400,000 companies share a few local addresses” on the British Virgin Islands, despite having no employees there and often evading taxes in their native countries as well. Indeed, offshoring is so integral to the local economy that it provides over half of all government revenue.

Amenities: Business owners are attracted to the British Virgin Islands for, among other things, the extremely low incorporation and trust maintenance fees that the Islands have to offer.

Andorra

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Those who are looking for a “basic” tax shelter to avoid taxes on personal income (versus sophisticated tax avoidance schemes for hedge funds, corporations, or investment vehicles) will find what they have been looking for in Andorra, a small, landlocked country in Western Europe that is one of only three countries remaining on OCED’s blacklist of “uncooperative” tax havens. While Andorra recently instituted a small capital gains tax, the overall tax savings still far outweighs it’s liability.

Amenities: No personal income tax.

Switzerland

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No list of tax havens would be complete without the one that paved the way for them all: Switzerland. Famously utilized by celebrities and rich people around the world, Switzerland is best known for its “Swiss bank accounts”, which offer anonymity and protection from prying eyes of all kinds. An eye-opening article at Tax Justice USA describes how celebrities hide their money in Switzerland. It’s well worth a look!

Amenities: High level of secrecy and confidentiality, no taxes on money saved.

Gibraltar

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The UK colony of Gibraltar has a proud and distinguished history as a tax shelter and today, an online gambling epicenter. But as with many successful tax havens, Gibraltar’s reputation is landing it in hot water with countries who frown upon tax evasion. Most recently, Spain pleaded with OCED to blacklist Gibraltar as “uncooperative”, as a result of Spanish efforts to investigate financial corruption and, allegations that Gibraltar “shelters corrupt businesses.” The EU has also recently pressured the UK to stop offering tax breaks to offshore companies based in Gibraltar, but this yet too have resulted in any significant changes.

Amenities: Low gambling tax (1% on all winnings), low taxes on offshore corporations

Belize

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Not all countries are eager to advertise their coziness with tax dodgers, but Belize has nothing to hide. According to Shelter Offshore, Belize openly writes its laws with an eye toward tax avoidance, further noting that Belize “learned from the successes and mistakes of other tax havens around the world and designed its legislation carefully so that it would become THE most attractive tax haven globally.”

Amenities: Names of directors & shareholders of offshore companies are concealed, very fast incorporation time (1-3 days)

Vanuatu

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An important consideration in choosing a tax haven is whether the country in question will share information with governments or investigators. This is where the Micronesian Pacific island of Vanuatu shines, as it shares no account information whatsoever with law enforcement.

Amenities: Highest level of secrecy, no income, capital gains, or inheritance taxes.

Greneda

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Another tax haven with exceptional climate and cultural appeal beyond its tax advantages is Greneda, a favorite of banking trust investors around the world. But be careful! As recently as 2001, Grenada was entangled in a scandal that saw roughly $150 million stolen from some six thousand offshore American depositors. It was also reported that while many tax havens were beginning to clean up their act, Grenada “has proved a particularly poor regulator.”

Amenities: Strict confidentiality of offshore corporations and accounts, bank trust laws among the best in existence.

Cyprus

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Named in a recent survey as “one of the most attractive tax havens in Europe”, Cyprus has almost unprecedented support from the local civilian and business community regarding its taxation practices. In all of Europe, no other country’s citizens are as happy with the level of taxation currently in effect than those living in Cyprus. It is also described as an ideal country in which to form an offshore corporation.

Amenities: Low corporate tax rate (10%), no capital gains tax, no withholding tax on offshore companies

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{ 78 comments… read them below or add one }

tim vanovickoyo April 22, 2009 at 6:32 am

You forgot to put the USA..

a non-resident alien pays no capital gains or dividend tax.

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BigAl April 24, 2009 at 8:18 am

Fascinating.
I thought Switzerland was the only tax haven…thankfully not.
Great post.

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Ronald Baro April 24, 2009 at 8:38 am

I wish I could pay taxes again but just a fair amount. Not what they ask for by taking three quarters of your paycheck. City, State, And Federal. Why can’t it be just one?

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TheFingDay April 24, 2009 at 10:25 am

The Cayman islands would be my personal choice, as long as I get to go there to “secure” my money in person :).

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Mathew April 24, 2009 at 8:17 pm

I’ve been in a position over the last 5 years where I’ve had to research this every 6 months or so, and I have to say, this list is sadly outdated.

I would recommend to anyone looking to use any one of these to shelter themselves from liability to do their research very carefully.

Switzerland (and I think Andorra) have recently begun to bow-down to the demands of the EU, for example, which makes it a less attractive option than it would otherwise have been.

It seems also that New Zealand was left off the list. Standard companies are still taxed at 33%, however, it has an unusually favourable status for offshore companies/trusts, as well as double-taxation agreements with many countries, PLUS the passport is very useful for travelling and respected worldwide (should you need to/be able to obtain one).

With many of the above-listed options, companies attempting to use those jurisdictions to their advantage (which I fully support, agree with and advocate), will inadvertantly cause the “tax man” to want to scrutinize the accounts more closely than otherwise possible.

This is not true with New Zealand – the authors of this article seem to have missed the pages on Shelter Offshore about NZ (Google “NZ Tax Haven” – it was the second result for me).

**Disclaimer – I am an NZ citizen whom lives permanently outside of the country (since 2004). I own and operate 3 limited liability companies, 1 of those with branches in other countries, as well as 2 trusts.

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Wayne April 27, 2009 at 8:04 pm

Thanks for the info on NZ Matt, but the fact that it holds some advantages over the other shelters does not mean the article is “sadly outdated.”

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Edgar May 16, 2009 at 5:57 pm

Clearly, the tax landscape for US-based companies doing business overseas is about to change dramatically. It is time to include the USVI as part of your global tax strategy. Why?

1) The United States Virgin Islands is a possession of the United States, not a foreign tax haven.

2) The United States Virgin Islands is not considered a tax haven and is one of only two Caribbean countries identified on the OECD ‘white list’ of jurisdictions that “have substantially implemented the internationally agreed tax standard”.

3) There are no bank secrecy laws that are being utilized to hide assets or transactions. The United States Virgin Islands is not about hiding money from the IRS, but instead about a legitimate, US-sanctioned program to provide incredible federal tax incentives in exchange for bringing much-needed business operations and jobs to the US-owned Territory of the United States Virgin Islands.

4) The United States Virgin Islands Economic Development Program is authorized jointly in the United States tax laws (Internal Revenue Code §934 & §937) and the United States Virgin Islands tax laws.

5) The United States Virgin Islands Economic Development Program creates jobs in the USVI.

6) The United States Virgin Islands Economic Development Program has been in existence since 1960 as a result of a federal mandate by the United States Congress and it firmly remains in existence today with US political support.

7) The United States Virgin Islands Economic Development Program offers competitive tax incentives, which include:

* 90% exemption on US income tax (results in a top federal tax rate of 3.5%)
* 100% exemption on 4% gross receipts tax
* 100% exemption on 0.75% real property tax
* 100% exemption on 4.2% excise tax
* 100% exemption on 7% US Customs import duty
* 1% VI Customs Duties instead of 6%

8) No need to defer income with a top federal tax rate of 3.5%.

The time is now to include the USVI as part of your global tax strategy. To learn more about how you and your company can receive these significant incentives, contact us at http://www.usviedc.com.

Regards,
Edgar
Administrator -USVIEDC.com

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Randy May 25, 2009 at 3:12 pm

Given that so many people in the nation, and worldwide have NO money, this list might prove to be the most insignificant. What about countries trying to help their people eat and have medical?

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david forde June 29, 2009 at 6:07 am

The Channel island of jersey is now considering inheritance tax

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kevin June 29, 2009 at 6:16 am

Glad someone mentioned the good ol US of A with Delaware & other states offering the respectability of USA but no reporting/filing tax etc + bearer shares as long as no trading with US
Often wondered about US focus on Cayman,BVI,Switzerlans etc when they offer so much themselves

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Vic Butler June 29, 2009 at 6:44 am

USVI tax rate of 3.5%. WOW. It is a US owned or controlled place. Can an American live there and still be an American?

Does this tax rate apply to income generated from the US and sent to USVI?

Can money funnel through USVI and back to the US and still receive this 3.5% rate?

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Christoph Wuth June 29, 2009 at 6:54 am

And what about Panama, Panama? Why do so many people prefer to stash their savings in that country?

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Mark Swanson June 29, 2009 at 7:14 am

Why have you not commented on Panama which has some of the most significant bank and entity secrecy laws in the world? Panama’s laws are so strict that it is criminal to release the name of an offshore account or entity holder.

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Mike Sueirro June 29, 2009 at 7:26 am

To Randy: Ah, another let-me-spend-your-money liberal heard from. The whole point of this and similar lists is specifically to prevent people like you from getting your hands on other people’s money. You didn’t earn it, but you’re more than happy to take it away and give it away. Do you know that 50% of Americans pay no income tax? And you can bet they’re not all pathetic soles, not by a long shot. But folks like you want the every declining percentage of Americans who are successful to shoulder the bill for these people and the wasteful plans of the liberal congresses of this nation. No wonder the wealthy are looking for places offshore to take their money.

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Ewt June 29, 2009 at 7:33 am

@randy
How about countries that let there people free and prosperous so they can earn they’re food and medical needs? A whole lot of human trouble is caused by government control, edicts and taxations.

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ernst seiler June 29, 2009 at 7:55 am

Austria?

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DANIEL BROWN June 29, 2009 at 8:07 am

Try Uruguay, You left it off. In this country anyone divulging your personal account details will end up in prison. There’s a much closer connection here to New Zealand than you think. MATT Check that one out.

Good info on USVIEDC. Except I would never trust anything that comes out of the USA.

Also a lot of the countries mentioned are no where near as safe as you might think. I know I have had Offshore Companies and bank accounts in nearly everyone of them, this past 15 years. Anywhere connected to the UK is being swallowed up by our American Friends in terms of disclosure.
That’s thanks to a jelly livered British Government.

Rgds,

Daniel.

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FiscalCorruptocrat June 29, 2009 at 8:10 am

@Randy – “What about countries trying to help their people eat and have medical?”

Randy, if you’re in the US, give it a little more time. The great leader Obama is working hard to insure you won’t have to lift a finger for any of these essential services going forward. You will however, have to get on a bus and lift a finger to continue voting for the architects of these fantastic programs every couple of years if you want them to continue. Beyond that, just kick back and enjoy the fruits of others labor!

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Egad!! June 29, 2009 at 11:41 am

You totally forgot about Uruguay as well as St. Kitts- Nevis.

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Paul June 29, 2009 at 12:36 pm

What about Uruguay? Heard it’s also privacy friendly about foreign bank accounts.

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Sargam June 29, 2009 at 2:53 pm

The Feds can change the USVI rules in the blink of an eye. Not a stable regime.

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Kurt June 29, 2009 at 6:58 pm

I think Panama should be included in the list as well as a number of people are going that route. Others seem to be going a different route than tax havens: Brazil, Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay are not so much tax havens but places where people, from the US in particular, are moving their wealth to. They don’t worry about US tax laws if they aren’t there anymore. That could be considered the ultimate tax dodge, can’t tax who ain’t there anymore.

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Blair Christink June 29, 2009 at 11:37 pm

I have one of my offshore accounts in Mauritius – another offshore country. What are your thoughts concerning it?

Blair

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Greg June 30, 2009 at 6:05 am

Canada will soon be another-its new tax free account allows citizens to deposit $5,000 annually to grow, invest, and spend tax free. It’s like an offshore account in-Country!
Next year will be the second of this type of account, and I’ll have $10,000 to spend, invest and live tax free.

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Tim Beall June 30, 2009 at 7:33 am

What are your thoughts or anyone eles’s on Costa Rica as a safe haven?

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cach June 30, 2009 at 9:05 am

vanovickoyo YOU ARE WRONG im a non-u.s. resident and I pay 28% on dividend gains!
just not on capital gains, which for the past 15 years yuor country hasnt being giving anyways!

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jay June 30, 2009 at 10:33 am

the USVI economic program is legitimate so long as you meet the code requirements for sourcing and residency. USTreasury has not been cooperative in this program and drove most businesses away in 2003-2004.

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John June 30, 2009 at 5:55 pm

These places are truly amazing though.

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sergio June 30, 2009 at 7:26 pm

great article but you forget to mention that some of these jurisdictions (Switzerland and Jersey for example) will NOT open accounts for American citizens after the whole UBS mess. Don’t know about the others though. Any ideas??

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BJ Antigua July 1, 2009 at 7:23 pm

Another safe place is Guatemala, Antigua is THE place, for those with modest funds that want anonymity and a great exchange and cost of living rate. To release info on accounts, the requesting or extraditing country must prove in Gua court that there was a Gua crime that was committed related to the money. None of that “domestic terrorist” distraction while the Fed steals your life savings. And IRA’s can be used to buy property outright, yes, in foreign countries. Done here in Antigua all the time. And as a barely making it gringo, I can afford to buy a really nice 3 br home 15 minutes from Antigua for 75K. I have a huge new, 2 br condo with my very own courtyard (20′x25′)and garage, for 600 a mo. My maid/cook is $150 a month! If it were not for the big mess in the US, I would never have moved here, and now I wish I had moved here fifteen years ago.

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Thomas Crown July 2, 2009 at 7:20 am

Well done – in the top 15 Panama and Uruguay really need to be added.

I agree with Kurt from above – if you physically move outside the States – and acquire a second citizenship and passport – or a new identity altogether – you are way ahead of the game.

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jerry ross July 4, 2009 at 5:04 am

I would like some information on money invested in
Nicaragua Banks. The reason would be to have it
re invested in Gold Properties in the North East section
of Nicaragu.

we are a Canadian company doing preliminary work on a gold
properties in this area and we need more capital to
operate a small gold mining operation. We can offer
25% interest in this operation for an investment of
$75,000 or it could be broken down into small segments of
$37,500= 12%; or $12,500 = 6%

Would this method help investors with their financial wealth
to have a better much lower tax rate or no taxes to be
paid on this investment
You can contact Jerry Ross Toronto Canada
416 285 1980 or email. rossequip@rogers.com

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Doug July 4, 2009 at 8:09 am

All of these mentioned off shore sites neglect the risk of that countries governments having a revolution… Goodby to foriegners investments / bank deposits.

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roger anderson July 5, 2009 at 5:36 am

You forgot Hong Kong and Ireland for non resident and non trading within the juristictions. Seychelles and Mauritius are also excellent.

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Jim Gryner July 5, 2009 at 6:06 am

Hi:
Any of these foreign tax dodges could be no better than a ponzy scheme. There are tons of liberal parasites out there looking to take from the rich or poor to favor whatever they promote. J

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wannabfree July 5, 2009 at 7:30 am

And you don’t think the US is heading for a revolution at breakneck speed?? What do you think will happen to your money/investments here when that happens? and if you are in doubt, check out what happened to the citizens of the Civil War and their holdings…

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Kenneth Zervos July 5, 2009 at 7:37 am

Hello Jerry, nothing personal, but a close friend of mine lost his entire Nicaraguan investment recently in real estate. I advised him against it, but he was tempted by their claims of the percentage return. I would just say, “Investor Beware”.

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TonyM July 5, 2009 at 8:35 am

Can someone confirm that Panama is safe from the prying eyes of the Tax Guys here in US of A?

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Brad July 5, 2009 at 8:36 am

According to the last AARP figures I saw,7 million people have already left.Im sure this will accelerate as we are taxed into oblivion but this socialist administration.

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Mehul July 5, 2009 at 9:57 am

The UAE the government has guaranteed the deposits of the customer in any of the banks for a period of 3 years.

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MNP July 5, 2009 at 12:43 pm

you forgot to put Hong Kong

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Alvaro July 5, 2009 at 3:52 pm

Don’t worry Doug. The USSA will bully us into surrendering information about their born slave citizens – I mean, taxpayers, before we have a revolution here. We will have peaceful elections this year though; in fact, last weekend it was the parties primaries.

See you around,
Alvaro, from Montevideo – Uruguay.

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sam July 5, 2009 at 5:00 pm

How about Hong Kong and Singapore? low tax regimes, extremely business friendly. no capital gain, no estate tax,

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RJ July 5, 2009 at 5:29 pm

No one has mentioned Hong Kong – its a fantastic place to manage ones private money!

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Horseracer21 July 5, 2009 at 5:43 pm

Really?? is this a big problem for like 90 % of Americans??where to hide money?? Com ‘on…
I am self employed I have not made enough to have to pay taxes here in the states in 3 years. I am not proud of that but business sucks so it happens. I do still pay 15% Social Security, I just hope there is some of that money left for me in 3 years.
(with an estimated $11.5 trillion currently stashed in offshore accounts) and each one offers something different to aspiring tax dodgers.
FOR Those of you ,who have ever wondered where you IRA’s an 401K’s went, now you know!! The stock market tanked to just under 7000 from 14,000 and every one seems to think the money just vanished in to thin air….well IT DIDN’T ….some Wall Street Crooks have it all safely tuck away in on these Tax Havens. The middle class will always get screwed, that is our lot in life.

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Ronald Gonsalves July 5, 2009 at 6:36 pm

re Tim Vanovickoyo 22/4/09 is wrong ,the USA charges /deducts 30% on dividends and what is worse an inheritance tax/ death duties of 49%!

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Robert Gillies July 5, 2009 at 8:11 pm

Some of the jurisdictions you mention are not really good tax havens. You have left out Panama which is one of the better ones. Also it is a good place to live ( I have lived here in Panama for 10 years). They use the US dollar as their currency. In order to benefit from a tax haven you need to have above a certain amount of income so I am not really helped by it. But it is cheaper to live here and I pay no property tax. Sales tax is only 5% and is not on food. Also bank interest is not taxed.

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smayer97 July 5, 2009 at 8:50 pm

What about Turks & Caicos?

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ace July 5, 2009 at 10:49 pm

Interesting article. I didn’t know there were more tax havens than “talked about”.

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Jonathan July 5, 2009 at 11:40 pm

There is NO tax haven – if you are US citizen.

Honestly, I sometimes feel sorry for you guys when I see overseas brokers, online brokers, banks, et… claiming on their web sites “we are not accepting US citizen” It is almost like they put US in the same category with Nigeria or something… Swiss bankers dont want to open bank accounts any more for you, etc, etc…

It is hard to be american those days, in every way. But, this will just make you even more stronger…

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