HOW TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT OFFSHORE JURISDICTION

There are about fifty countries in the world that offering various tax benefits to non-residents, thus promoting what is called offshore business. Some of those countries are extremely popular and widely perceived as offshore tax havens - like British Virgin Islands, Panama or Seychelles. At the same time interesting tax breaks to non-resident businesses are actually available in some places that are not at all recognized as "offshore" – for instance, UK, US, Denmark or Netherlands. And there are all sorts and types in between.

So, which is the best jurisdiction to incorporate an offshore company?

There is really no standard answer. The choice of the right offshore jurisdiction will depend on the intended use of the offshore company, the personal and business circumstances of its owner, and the actual regions of the world where this company intends to trade.

But, before going into the details, what is a tax haven, anyway?


Legislation


Another very important factor is that the offshore and corporate legislation is solid, yet modern and flexible. Some countries have introduced new and modern suites of offshore corporate legislation, specifically designed for the international business. Others have amended existing domestic legislation to provide benefits for offshore investors. For quite many offshore jurisdictions the most important elements of the offshore legislation may seem virtually copied from each other. For instance, quite a number of jurisdictions have taken the (now former) British Virgin Islands IBC Act 1984 of the British Virgin Islands and adapted it to their circumstances without much of a change. These adaptations – as in case in Seychelles or St.Lucia - are often better than the originals, having taken care of all the shortfalls and errors of the earlier laws in the other, more mature offshore tax havens. The most competitive older tax havens still stay on top by introducing new replacements, as is the (new) British Virgin Islands Business Companies Act 2004. All in all, if the total number of offshore companies registered in a given country is in five figures or more (you can usually tell by the current company registration numbers), it means that the system is working fairly well.

A successful offshore financial centre must also have a reliable, independent judiciary system with a proven track record of defending offshore interests, especially against claims and requests originating from abroad.