What is Offshore Banking?
Often it has been asked, what is offshore banking? 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 (i.e. tax havens)
• easy access to deposits (at least in terms of regulation)
• 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, Andorra and Liechtenstein.
Offshore banking has often been associated with the underground economy and organized crime, via tax evasion and money laundering; however, legally, offshore banking does not prevent assets from being subject to personal income tax on interest. Except for certain persons who meet fairly complex requirements, the personal income tax of many countries makes no distinction between interest earned in local banks and those earned abroad.
Persons subject to US income tax, for example, are required to declare on penalty of perjury, any offshore bank accounts—which may or may not be numbered bank accounts—they may have. Although offshore banks may decide not to report income to other tax authorities, and have no legal obligation to do so as they are protected by bank secrecy, this does not make the non-declaration of the income by the tax-payer or the evasion of the tax on that income legal.
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