Assessing the Reputability of Offshore Jurisdictions

Reputability is one of the most overlooked aspects when forming an offshore company and/or opening an offshore bank account.

What good is an offshore company if no bank accepts the jurisdiction? What good is an offshore bank account if all wires in and out of the bank are subject to severe scrutiny, or even refused?

There are number of factors to consider. But maybe we should start in the other end.

Why Reputability Matters

The reputability of a jurisdiction is important for both B2C (Business to Customer) and B2B (Business to Business) companies. It is of enormous importance when doing B2G (Business to Government).

Some countries, such as the Scandinavian nations, have special rules for invoices that come from offshore jurisdictions. These invoices are subject to further scrutiny and many companies shy away from doing business with offshore companies. To get around this, some entrepreneurs opt to incorporate an onshore invoicing entity owned by the offshore entity. This adds extra costs and complexity, which may be unwanted for smaller entrepreneurs, but it may be the only solution in some cases.

Reputability also affects how likely banks are to accept you as a customer. While there are banks out there that will open an account for anyone who can spell their name correctly on an application form, other banks – and this is a growing trend from what I have experienced – take a more cautious approach. Take for example jurisdictions like Nauru and Comoros, which have a terrible reputation worldwide for being lawless. It can be difficult to open a bank account for a company incorporated there.

On the flip-side, if you bank in a highly disreputable jurisdiction, transactions in and out and card purchases made by cards issued there may raise alerts. In some cases the wires can even be blocked due to sanctions.

Factors That Affect Reputability

When assessing a jurisdiction’s reputability, there are number of factors – or criteria, if you will – that you need to look at. These include:

  • Common sense. What do you already know about the jurisdiction?
  • Political stability. Is the government going to be around for the next 5, 10, 20, 50 years? Are there any significant international or internal conflicts?
  • Geographical and geological stability. You wouldn’t want your bank to disappear in a flooding or earthquake, would you?
  • Financial stability. You might not bank in the country; maybe you just have a company there, so a fiscal collapse won’t affect you, right? Wrong. While unlikely to happen to non-resident companies (such as IBCs), tax resident companies may suddenly become subject to capital controls. A financial collapse of the country of your company may impact the reputation of your company towards clients and business partners.
  • Crime and corruption. This can bite you two ways. Either no one wants to do business with you or the local government might decide to buy the mafia a vacation to some paradise island using your money.
  • Transparency. While you might seek high privacy or even anonymity, this has a significant impact on how you are perceived by others. Public records are good.
  • Freedom. Is it a totalitarian state or is the population free? Somewhere in between? This impacts how the international community views the jurisdiction.
  • Justice system. This relates to crime, corruption, and freedom. A country with flimsy courts and corrupt police does not look good to other countries.

Source of Information

Below I have listed some of my preferred sources of information when assessing a jurisdiction reputability.

Using these and researching the jurisdiction in newspapers, you should be able to get a clear picture of how the jurisdiction is perceived throughout the world.

5 Comments on "Assessing the Reputability of Offshore Jurisdictions"

  1. Can you elaborate a bit on this:

    Some countries, such as the Scandinavian nations, have special rules for invoices that come from offshore jurisdictions. These invoices are subject to further scrutiny and many companies shy away from doing business with offshore companies.

    What do you think they consider “offshore” in Scandinavia? Everything with corporation tax rate below theirs might fall into this category.

    Also I’m wondering whether it’s just invoices they are inspecting or more like destination IBANs/SWIFT codes? Nothing stops you to issue an invoice from a “legit” country and point it to a bank account in Iran for example.

    Your statement discourages me from my ideas to try shift my transactions coming from Sweden from an EU-based to an offshore company. That reminds me Gibraltar is in EU but still considered offshore by most legislations.

    • They don’t really work from lists but rather interpret each case on its own. Some jurisdictions are pretty obvious (Panama, Seychelles, Liberia, et cetera).

      This falls under so-called CFC rules, which you may want to do more research on. The exact implementation varies and the methodology by tax authorities changes all the time to keep up with trends.

  2. Well SFM gave me bum advice about banking in Gib and have since completely ignored/missed my email from 5 days ago. But that was before I discovered this place.

    Anyway, I’m now leaning towards Dominica for IBC as they appear to be quite strict on privacy and probably banking not too far away from there providing they don’t mind our customers paying by paypal. Found a great location for the server too which gives great connectivity and is also offshore. That was far more difficult than I’d hoped it would be!

    With no requirement for nominees I think this whole solution fits us. If I may ask you one question, is there any benefit/risk in adding names as shareholders? And if you think there are serious errors in this solution, feel free to stick your oar in.

    It is a truly fascinating subject and something that I will continue to enjoy reading about.

  3. This makes interesting reading and those links are great for digging deeper. I am just starting out on this journey and there is way too much conflicting information out there even from so called experts in company and bank account formations. Doing plenty of groundwork and not rushing into things has already saved me a couple of potentially costly errors and I’m glad that the groundwork led me to your site Streber! Your knowledge is excellent and the content of this site is essential reading so thanks for taking the time to do this.

    We are a European business who only wants to set up offshore to avoid the hassle of charging customers vat/tax and paying corporation tax at a fixed percentage. We’ll happily pay corporation tax on dividends taken in our respective countries but this is such a minefield and I’m still not convinced if my final choices are the right ones!

    • Thanks a lot for your feedback, squibble! Always good to know my little notes and scribbles bring some value to readers.

      It’s great to hear that you are researching and gathering data to form a good understanding of what it means to form and operate an offshore company. Informed decisions tend to be the best decisions.

      There are a lot of companies and consultants that can help you. I have reviewed three so far (SFM, Marcaria, and Kaizen) and will review a fourth and fifth one early next year. And there are many more. My reviews contain some basic information on how to determine the reputability of a service provider.

      I wish you all the best out there!

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