Offshore banking may sound very ‘James Bond’, but in fact, offshore accounts are often a must-have for anyone living or working overseas. You don’t need to be super rich nor dodging tax in your home country either… they are simply an excellent financial option for those wishing to save, protect themselves from currency fluctuations, avoid currency exchange costs and have the option of banking in dual currencies.
Let’s start at the beginning…
What exactly are offshore accounts?
• Offshore accounts are accounts set up in destinations such as Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Channel Islands, Isle of Man, Malta and Mauritius
• Being offshore, means the accounts are subject to different tax rules
• All the major banks offer offshore accounts
• There are strings attached. They mostly require you to maintain a large minimum balance and have an annual fee
• On a day-to-day basis, they tend to operate no differently from local bank facilities. You can open a wide variety of accounts, which include various currencies, checking accounts, savings accounts, debit and credit card facilities, fixed term deposits and instant access deposits
Why go offshore?
• To avoid difficulties in opening or maintaining accounts in your home country if you are no longer classed as a resident
• If you have a lack of faith or distrust in the local banking system
• To simplify transactions, if you live outside your home country, frequently move between countries, are planning to buy a property or thinking of retiring abroad
• For ease when make international payments
• To avoid being subject to local Sharia law, which can make people feel vulnerable. If, for example, you have a car accident and are arrested for injuries to someone, if you work for a company and become responsible for damages, if you default on credit agreements, if you lose your employment, or if you die, your UAE bank account will be frozen and inaccessible to yourself and your family. Off shore accounts therefore bring a sense of security
• To better diversify your savings
• For safety and confidentiality
• For potential tax efficiencies
• For protection against any political and financial risks in their own country
How do you choose the best offshore account for you?
Offshore accounts vary dramatically so it pays to scout around before choosing.
• How stable is the legal framework of the offshore country in which your account will be based?
• Do they offer free international transfers between euro, sterling and / or dollar accounts?
• Do you have 24/7 worldwide access to your money through internet and phone banking?
• Can you pay your mortgage or local bills using your offshore account?
• What are the costs involved when making payments?
• Will you have a relationship manager, a direct point of contact rather than a call centre?
• What are the minimum balance requirements and the maintenance costs?
• Are there any additional benefits such as travel insurance or personal concierge membership?
• Is there an interest-free overdraft facility?
• Are there free apps for iPhone / Android / BlackBerry to check your balance, transfer funds and make payments from your phone?
How do you open an offshore account?
As well as the usual documents required for opening an account such as a completed application form, proof of address, passport copy and Know Your Customer (KYC) form, with offshore banking, there are often considerable additional requirements to discourage money laundering, tax fraud or other illegal activities for example:
• They may ask for bank statements for the past six to 12 months from your current bank
• They may ask about the nature of transactions expected and the source of your deposits
• You may need to provide sales contracts or other relevant documents to prove large deposits e.g. from the sale of a property
In a nutshell…
When living and working in the UAE, it is mandatory to have a local account and indeed this is useful for withdrawing cash and or making local payments but a combination of local and offshore accounts is certainly recommended and will certainly simplify your life when remitting funds abroad or moving country.