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Governments clamping down on the offshore private banking market

Press Release   •   Jun 12, 2013 14:39 BST

Governments globally have been taking initiatives to curb offshore tax evasion for many years. However, this phenomenon has assumed increased urgency since 2008-2009 when economies across the world, developed nations in particular, were severely impacted financially. Their prime targets have been offshore tax havens such as Switzerland and Singapore.

An offshore bank is a bank located outside the country of residence of the depositor, typically in a low tax jurisdiction (or tax haven) that provides financial and legal advantages. These advantages typically include greater privacy, low or no taxation, easy access to deposits, protection against local, political, or financial instability.

While the term originates from the Channel Islands being "offshore" from the United Kingdom, and most offshore banks are located in island nations to this day, the term is used figuratively to refer to such banks regardless of location, including Swiss banks and those of other landlocked nations such as Luxembourg and Andorra.

Coordinated and individual actions taken by different jurisdictions have significant ramifications for offshore wealth management companies and other institutions whose business is significantly driven by offshore deposits.

The economy at the forefront of fighting offshore tax evasion is the US. It has entered into agreements with several nations to ensure that their financial institutions implement the provisions of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), passed by US Congress. Under FATCA, the financial institutions of partner nations are required to give details of accounts held by US taxpayers with them, or be subject to a withholding tax of 30%.

Jurisdictions such as the UK have been signing bilateral agreements with other economies, under which limited timeframe disclosure facilities are being offered to offshore account holders to come clean on their wealth or face penalties.

Wealth management companies in tax havens entering into these agreements are expected to handle significant funds through tax payments by offshore account holders. This comes under the category of tax information exchange agreements, whereby financial institutions in treaty countries are required to submit client data.

Due to the reduced returns on wealth deposited offshore due to penalties, individuals will increasingly keep their money onshore. In the long run, it would be in the interest of the offshore wealth management companies to obtain full-fledged licenses to operate onshore in the countries that they have previously been dependent on business for.

For more information on offshore private banking market, see the latest research: Offshore Private Banking Market

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