Ana Rieff

The Real Story about Americans Going Offshore by Bowman Offshore Bank Transfers

Reader Question today… An Internet Entrepreneur from the US is concerned about getting sued and wants an incorporation that protects against lawsuit liability, aka asset protection.

I am interested in asset protection I am also just starting out my business and want to do asset protection and plan for tax liability before it becomes an issue. Here is a little breakout of what I have and what I’m planning on doing.

I have some Adsense sites that bring in a small income – I would like to move those off shore (hosting, domain register, Adsense account, etc.) I had some issues with branded sites that cost me a ton in legal bills because they were registered to me personally (stupid I know I bought some domains in bulk and was assured there were no TradeMark or Copywrite issues).

I am in the process of creating some information products and would like to launch them on Click Bank or a network like that, again I want to avoid personal liability I know you can do this with a US LLC or

Corporation but it seems like people are less likely to file a frivolous suit if you are off shore. Are there any issues with CB and say a BVI company?

I am also planning on launching a few eCommerce site selling digital products for now, then drop ship down the road. So I’ll need to do/support payment processing

My concern is the IRS is there any red flag for offshore how do you handle them without getting in trouble or raising any flags?

Going offshore for asset protection purposes is a very intelligent and prudent move. Unfortunately most people only consider this after they are ‘burned’ so to speak. Usually it takes a lawsuit or legal proceeding to wake people up to the reality of doing business. Business is risky, in and of itself. If you are doing business in the US, you are doing business in a developed society with millions of lawyers willing to work on contingency fees.

Going offshore is a great way to protect you from a liability standpoint for several reasons:

Out of State, Out of Mind… I’m Just Plain Harder to find…

Your assets will be harder to find, and will most likely not appear in a preliminary domestic asset search. The way they will be able to find you is by examine your tax returns during a discovery phase of a lawsuit. Ideally you never reach this point because your creditor sees you are offshore and you don’t appear an attractive target because…

Foreign Courts and Laws… You understand? Tu comprendes? Est-ce que tu me comprends?

If someone decides to move forward with a lawsuit, they need to sue you in the jurisdiction in which your legal entity registered. Let’s say you have a company in a Spanish or French speaking country – now they will have to lodge a lawsuit in a different language.

Want to sue me? I’ll see you in Nevis.

Courts in Nevis, for instance, won’t recognize foreign proceedings, and the parasite trying to take your money has to journey to Nevis. When they do, they will be far, far away from home dealing with a lawsuit dealing only with your business assets (and those held in the LLC), and not your personal assets.

Want to Sue Me? Pay For My Lawyer.

For illustrative purposes, let us play devil’s advocate and drag out the lawsuit vignette to its full conclusion. Say for instance a parasite finds your assets held offshore, and the evil person who is suing is so infuriated he follows you all the way to Nevis. Not only does he has to pay for his lawyer, he is also forced to pay for your lawyer, and needs post a bond to file the lawsuit.

A far cry from the US system where lawyers often will take a case on contingency, where there is no money exchanged up front, but they are likely to take 50% or more if successful with the lawsuit.

Fact: You are much less likely to receive a frivolous lawsuit if you set up your business offshore.

No matter what your business, you are far less likely to be sued if you set up in a different jurisdiction. This is because as previously mentioned; your creditors will need to journey to the distant and faraway land to sue you. It effectively places your business outside of the millions of American lawyers and courts.

Make Sure You Properly Transfer Your Assets Offshore

You will want to transfer the intellectual property to the offshore company. The company must legally own the assets – and if you transfer them they must be sold to the company at fair market value. This is complicated tax stuff so I won’t get bogged down on it for the moment, but you want to keep records, and hold paper on these interactions.

Let’s say that you own a series of websites that you want to transfer to an offshore company in Nevis, because you have heard that Belize is the best place for Internet Entrepreneurs to set up offshore.

This means that you need to create a bill of sale to the company, properly conveying the web properties. You’ll also want to have the billing flow to an offshore bank account (so that all parts of the business are offshore) and You should also host offshore, and if you want to take the last step, transfer the domains to an offshore registrar (ie. get them out of Godaddy’s control).

These are the 5 points of doing business offshore: 1. Websites (property, the business etc) 2. Bank Account 3. Merchant Account 4. Hosting 5. Domain Registration

Get all 5 points offshore (outside the high liability country) and you have properly structured your business outside your jurisdiction.

A Word on Merchant Accounts

Everyone I talk to about moving offshore has concerns with 2 payment processors: Paypal and Clickbank. While there are some set ups that afford these companies – these are US companies (primarily) that somewhat defeat the purpose of going offshore in the first place. There are literally thousands of different merchant accounts, payment processors, payment gateways etc for all countries, legal entities and so forth.

You’ll oftentimes even get a better deal on rates and keep a bigger percentage of your profits by using an offshore merchant account if you are an internet entrepreneur.

How to avoid red flags and stay on good terms with the taxman:

Since move your assets offshore is completely legal if it’s done for asset protection purposes – the main thing you will need to do is properly report the offshore legal entity, and the offshore bank accounts with the proper forms.

You will have to keep proper records and report all of your earnings and financial information to the IRS each year.

In addition to the company forms (which vary, and you should discuss with an accountant) You should be very careful to file your FBAR forms as well – which is a yearly form filed to the treasury if the cumulative holdings across all foreign accounts exceeds $10,000. This is form TDF 90-22.1

In layman’s terms: if you have more than 10k in foreign bank accounts, you need to file an form called an “FBAR” to Uncle Sam to let him know about your bank accounts.

As long as you file the correct forms (which are relatively easy) and you properly report your income, then you are well within your rights to journey offshore for asset protection purposes. Once you journey offshore you can enjoy doing business in an environment where you can take risks to generate profit, rather than wait in anticipation of the next frivolous lawsuit…

Three of the best places to incorporate offshore: 1. Form a BVI company 2. Form a Belize Company 3. Form a Nevis Company

Bowman Offshore Bank Transfers: Start an Offshore Company

How an offshore company can lower your taxes

Is the price tag on this year’s tax return still stinging? Are you tired of a high tax rate eating away at your hard-earned business and investment income?

Bankrupt governments are waging war on success. The “lands of opportunity” have rolled up the welcome mats for business.

So, what are you paying? Is 35%? 40%? 50% of your income going to taxes? That’s an awful lot of your money going to greedy politicians who clearly don’t value your success. But do they have a point? After all, they’re letting you create jobs and build wealth in their country. Right…

If you’re tired of paying so much for the “privilege” of running a business in the west, and you want to reduce taxes and protect your assets, then it’s time you explore your options with offshore companies.

Lucky for you, you’re in the right place.

The story behind offshore companies

Setting up an offshore company is a legal, effective way to protect your income from any greedy mouths (like that of whatever western government you call home).

Apple, Google, Microsoft, Starbucks–These businesses use offshore corporations to save a lot of money and grow their businesses on their own terms. Saving money with low tax rates means more money to reinvest in their companies

And your company doesn’t have to make billions of dollars in order for you to apply the same principles to your business and get the same low tax rates. There are legitimate strategies that international business owners and investors can use to reduce taxes and grow their business.

The most important part of these strategies is they’re 100% legal. You just need the right advice (and a little bit of money).

The right advice for your offshore business

If you’ve found your way here, then you’ve probably already tried Googling “offshore company.” And you’ve probably encountered blogs and articles with conflicting information.

“You need an X offshore corporation in Y part of the world.” “No, you need a Y offshore company in X part of the world!”

This information is likely written by people still living in the USA, still paying high taxes (you know, the same high taxes you’re trying to get out from under).

This bad advice will not show you the legal path to low tax rates.

And there’s another red flag to watch out for from these “experts in theory”–there isn’t a single approach that will work for every business. You need to get advice from someone who understands the global tax market, who understands your business, and who understands your goals behind starting an offshore company.

Each type of business has specific needs, and these needs are best served by personalized solutions. Many of the offshore company “service providers” out there are either ill-informed or outright frauds. And if you don’t know what to look for, it’s easy to get caught in their appealing, misleading pitch.

What makes my advice different from the endless stream of “armchair expat” blogs out there?

I’ve personally taken my tax rate from 43% to single-digit numbers with the help of the global tax market. And I’ve helped many others reduce taxes for their business (and continue to do so through my exclusive coaching program).

Years ago, I felt trapped underneath a hefty tax bill while trying to run my first successful company. Unlike most business owners, I decided to do something about it. Now I travel the world, paying single-digit taxes and helping others build this lifestyle for themselves.

Think about it–every day that goes by where you sit in the US, or Canada, or Australia, reading a blog about starting an offshore company, is another day you lose money to high tax rates.

How does starting an offshore business really work?

The “why” behind offshore companies

A prevailing image of the offshore company industry is one of money laundering, gangsters, drug money, and villains wearing white linen suits (that are–somehow–never stained by the cognac they always seem to be drinking).

In reality, it’s not that sexy (although your particular cognac consumption and linen suit-count may vary). Offshore companies are entities that people create in order to legally take advantage of the global tax market.

The benefits of an offshore corporation can include protecting assets from impending litigation, shifting the tax burden imposed upon the company, and protecting the company from political unrest and economic instability within the country of the owners.

Protecting assets from impending litigation

Frivolous lawsuits, ex-spouses, crazy family members, ex-business partners–money leeches are everywhere and you never know when they’ll come gunning for your assets. Setting up an offshore company can provide increased protection for your assets against the crazy people who want to sue you for them.

Shifting the tax burden imposed upon the company

Think of profit taxation as an expense that can be reduced. The global tax market is the legal, lawful system you can use to reduce taxes. Every nation has different policies and budget requirements. That means you can find much lower tax rates offshore than what you currently pay in the western country you call home.

Let’s be clear here: legally reducing your taxes through an offshore corporation is not the same as trying to evade taxes altogether. The former is legal, the latter is not. If you’re trying to evade taxes, you’re in the wrong place (and also, you’re an idiot).

What could you do for your business with the money you’d save if your tax rate legally went from a steep 40% to a low tax rate like 5%? If you could greatly reduce taxes on your business this year–what would that mean for the future growth of your business?

Protecting the company from political unrest

Political unrest, inflation, and hyperinflation–you can’t control any of these occurrences. But you can insulate yourself against them. Forming an offshore corporation can act as a safeguard against any potential turmoil in your home country.

Good businesses for starting an offshore company

Intelligent business owners create offshore corporations to protect their hard work, protect their shareholders and maximize the potential profits of their business.

I say “intelligent” because tax law is a complicated beast. The truth is, offshore companies won’t work for every person and every business.

There are plenty of businesses that would be well-served to go offshore, including e-commerce or web based businesses, international businesses, consultants and coaches, stock and forex traders, international investors, and those holding intellectual property rights. If you have a location independent business, going offshore could be the biggest no-brainer out there.

Online businesses are an excellent fit for an offshore corporation because they can operate anywhere. With an offshore company, you can process payments in one country, host your website in another, keep accounting records in a third, and pay low tax in a fourth.

If you’re a digital nomad or location-independent entrepreneur who earns money while traveling or living overseas, forming an offshore company could make things much easier for you. Onshore incorporation usually means a litany of paperwork and high taxes–but starting an offshore corporation could mean fewer hoops to jump through.

As I mentioned earlier, inflation or hyperinflation in your home country could drastically reduce the value of your wealth. Having an offshore company with an offshore bank account can keep your business assets insulated against this threat.

If you own a patent or trademark, registering it in the name of an offshore company can allow you to buy and sell these rights. Having these registered under an offshore company also makes it easier to grant these rights to third parties.

What type of offshore company should you set up?

Low taxes, secure business assets, and insulation against unrest at home–starting an offshore corporation is probably sounding pretty good right about now.

But starting an offshore corporation isn’t as easy as going online and signing up. Speaking with an expert will help you figure out which type of offshore corporation strategy will work best for you.

Maybe a Limited Company in Hong Kong is the right move for your offshore corporation–foreign profits aren’t taxed and local Hong Kong profits are only taxed at 16.5%.

A private limited company in the UK or Australia might make sense for you, or even an offshore PLC in Singapore (it won’t get you to 0%, but it will reduce taxes). Each type of offshore company and each jurisdiction have their own unique strengths and appropriate uses.

And certain offshore company types are only available in specific jurisdictions. For example, if a SARL makes sense for your business, you’ll be setting up in a French-speaking country. (It rarely does make sense, though.)

Low tax or no tax?

As tiny tax havens become impossible to deal with, people are actually moving into strategies in places like the US. There are ways for non-residents with LLCs to legally pay no or low tax. Same result, different structure–and another reason why a little expert advice is the right way to go.

What are the best countries for an offshore company?

Your goals will determine the best place for setting up an offshore company.

One business might do well forming an offshore corporation in a country with no accounting or audit requirements and zero tax.

A slightly larger, more diverse company might be better off going to Hong Kong or Singapore and paying a small amount of tax to get the benefits of a great international reputation.

A company seeking to raise venture capital funds might go somewhere else entirely.

While it is often possible to pay zero tax, sometimes it makes sense to pay a little tax. You won’t see me whining that I was able to legally reduce my taxes from 43% to 1%. The savings have put a rather substantial sum back into my pocket.

For some companies, paying a low tax is better than paying no tax. First, low tax locations often grant you more access to world-class banking, financial opportunities, and merchant services.

And paying small tax amounts can make the difference between your home country leaving you alone and giving you a hard time. As the global war on tax havens heats up, setting up your offshore corporation in a respected jurisdiction might be the best strategy for you. And in some cases, it might not even cost you anymore.

Common countries for offshore corporations

Common traditional offshore jurisdictions include Nevis, Seychelles, Mauritius, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Antigua, Anguilla, and even the Gambia in Africa.

Other low-tax jurisdictions popular for offshore companies include territories like Gibraltar, as well as low-tax European countries like Ireland, Malta, and even “zero tax” Estonia.

In Asia, places like Hong Kong and Singapore offer the potential for zero or single-digit tax rates for foreign business, as well as a network of global tax treaties.

Meanwhile, the Middle East is growing as an offshore hub, with Dubai and Bahrain offering their services to those interested in that region.

Tax implications of offshore corporations

We’ve talked a lot about how a big part of forming an offshore company is trying to reduce taxes or eliminate your tax burden entirely. In order to get the best legal results, you need to have the right team in place to manage your business.

Having the right team in place to manage your business once it is set up does two important things–It makes sure you are 1) in compliance and 2) making the most of all tax benefits.

Some higher-level offshore jurisdictions will require you to file annual accounts showing your transaction history. These include places like Hong Kong, Singapore, Cyprus, Gibraltar, etc.

Many traditional offshore jurisdictions may require you to keep books on your own, but they don’t require you to file them. Even if you don’t have to file reports or pay tax offshore, you might be required to declare your interest in any offshore company to the country where you’re a citizen or resident.

Forming an offshore corporation is about saving money and protecting assets legally, not hiding away or evading taxes. You want to make sure you’re not only aware of all the rules and regulations surrounding your home country and the jurisdiction of your offshore company, but that you’re complying with these rules, too.

Offshore company requirements for US citizens

The US government has some tight restrictions on offshore companies.

As a US citizen, you’ll need to disclose any interest in an offshore corporation on your taxes each year. The same goes for any offshore bank accounts you are an owner of or signer on, in most cases.

Failure to comply with these rules in the US (or any other western country that requires them) can lead to steep penalties. You can reduce taxes with an offshore corporation, but you won’t benefit from a low tax if you get whacked with penalties and fees. Tax deferment is one way for offshore companies to reduce taxes. The system in place lets you defer the taxes that will be imposed upon your company indefinitely.

You can take the money you’re no longer putting towards taxes and reinvest it in your company. You won’t have to pay these taxes off until you sell the company.

If you’ve been deferring taxes for a number of years, and using those funds to either continue to build your business or invest otherwise, you will be coming out far ahead of those who never start an offshore company. Try as those homebodies might to reduce taxes, tax-free compound interest from your offshore company will blow their onshore earnings out of the water.

How to get started setting up an offshore company

Remember those bad blogs and articles from earlier? Well, offshore corporation misinformation isn’t the only thing you need to be wary of…

There are plenty of cheap “start an offshore company” service providers advertising on the internet. They offer the lowest price and the best results. Oxymorons.

Unless you’re an African warlord, you’ll want to steer clear of these service providers. Flouting the law, avoiding and ignoring sound legal and tax advice–If that’s your M.O, the lowest-priced provider will get you set up in no time (I mean, maybe…there are plenty of scams out there).

And while the process of forming an offshore corporation is straightforward (and can be done in a matter of minutes, in some countries), laying the proper groundwork before and after the official process is important.

You need to consult with a provider who understands the rules and regulations in your home country, which most so-called “lawyers” on some deserted island have no idea how to handle (since most of them are just deflated volleyballs with painted-on faces). The best thing you can do is choose the right representative. Overpaying a little up front is a no-brainer when it comes to your peace of mind down the line. The next step after “reduce taxes” shouldn’t be “reduce jail time.” You’re asking for trouble if you don’t vet these cheap offshore corporation services before buying in.

What to do after forming your offshore corporation

Once your offshore company is approved and set up, the next step is to open a bank account (and possibly an offshore merchant account).

Whether or not you’ll have to physically travel to the bank depends on a few things, including where your company is incorporated, your nationality, and where you intend to bank.

But don’t let that turn you off. The most important first step towards an offshore corporation is to simply take action. The sooner you get your business set up, the sooner you can enjoy the benefits. And it can be a life-changing process–What other process lets you reduce taxes, insulate your assets from turmoil, and keep greedy hands away from your hard-earned assets?

Do you want to reduce your taxes?

Look, if you’re serious about starting an offshore company, I might be able to help.

Every month I personally help five people build their own Nomad Capitalist life–starting an offshore company, getting a second passport, opening an offshore bank account–whatever they need to build more wealth and live a life with more freedom and success.

If you’re ready to stop spending your time (and money) reading article after article on offshore companies, you might be ready for my help. Be honest with yourself, here.

If you’re committed to pursuing the Nomad Capitalist lifestyle, then you should fill out this application. If my team and I decide you’re a good fit, the next step is a phone call with me.

This isn’t a free consultation, and this isn’t a “sales call” where I try and convince you to do something you don’t want to do.

I don’t work with you unless you’re already convinced this lifestyle is for you, and you’re 150% committed to making it happen.

Your phone call will confirm that you’re qualified for my services and that I can help you achieve your goals. When the call checks out, we get to work.

By the way, at five people a month, I’m not cheap to work with (I don’t need to be, and you shouldn’t need me to be, either). If you’re looking for the best spot to bury your gold, or a soapbox to spout your anarchist rhetoric, or “a week to think it over” then you’re probably in the wrong place, and I can’t help you.

Expat guide: Offshore deposits by Bowman Offshore Bank Transfers

We all work hard for our money, whether we are living and working in the UK, or overseas as an expat. But the key ingredient to successful money management is often missing: we fail to make our money work hard enough.

So, if you are one of those people who just let your salary sit in an account paying paltry interest, then you need to start looking at how to make your money do more for you.

Our guide to offshore deposits takes you step by step through choosing the right account and making sure you continue to get the best deal.

Know what you need

The first thing you need to do before deciding what type of account you want is to ask yourself what you need that account to do.

When doing that, you should consider all of the following points:

• Do you need to visit the bank regularly? • Can you use internet access for an account? • Are you happy with using a bank you have never heard of? • Can you afford to have your money tied up for a period of time or do you need instant access? • Do you need to hold your money in a different currency to the one you are paid in? • How do you want your interest paid? • Are you subject to tax in a jurisdiction where you are not resident? • How safe will your money be in the account? • For most expats, choosing an offshore account will be the most sensible option when the answers to these questions are taken into account, as you have more control over how the tax on the interest is paid.

If you can allow the interest in the account to roll up without the tax being taken off at source each time, then you will benefit from a higher return. But you need to be careful to ensure you are not breaching any tax regulations.

There are a variety of accounts available to expats, and while this means you have a wide choice, it can make for a bewildering array of options. You should research the type of account that will work best for you. Here are some options:

No-notice accounts

These accounts allow you to access your money at any time, without giving the bank prior notice. You will often receive a lower rate of interest than you would on an account that ties your money up for a period of time. But this is not always the case, so compare them carefully.

Notice accounts

As you can guess from the name, you have to give the bank a period of notice before you can withdraw your money without penalty.

In most cases you can withdraw your money in an emergency without giving the specified notice period; but, at the very least, you will suffer interest penalties.

Generally, you will have to give 30 days, 60 days or 90 days’ notice of withdrawal from these accounts; in return you should get a higher rate of interest.

Currency accounts

It is possible to hold your savings in specific currencies, such as pounds sterling, euro or the US dollar. Choosing these accounts can improve the interest you receive, and mean you hold your money in the same currency you are paid in or have to spend.

Multi-currency accounts allow you to switch currencies, which can help reduce exchange fees if you have income and expenditure in different currencies.

Monthly interest

Most accounts pay interest annually, but if you would prefer to receive your interest more regularly, perhaps to augment your income, then you can use a monthly interest account.

The advantage of this is that the interest will sit in your account, if you do not withdraw it as income, and will build up each month, rather than coming as a lump sum at the end of the year.

The interest rates on these accounts are usually slightly lower than the equivalent annual interest accounts.

This is calculated to take into account the additional interest you will accumulate on the monthly payments (interest on the interest) to ensure you do not receive more overall than an annual interest customer.

Fixed-interest accounts/bonds

These offer a fixed rate of interest, usually higher than elsewhere, provided you leave your money in the account for a set period of time, which can be anything from one year to five years. You can sometimes make withdrawals within strict rules. If you withdraw money outside these, you face losing all the interest you would have earned. You should never sign up to an account like this if there is even a small chance you could need your money outside the permitted allowances.

Deferred interest accounts

If you would prefer to tell the bank when you want your interest paid, for tax purposes, use a deferred interest account. In most cases, the interest on these accounts would automatically be paid when it is closed, unless you ask the bank to pay your interest at a specific time – perhaps when your other income has fallen and you want to take advantage of paying a lower amount in tax.

Compare Bank Accounts

Once you know what you need, you must find the accounts that offer you those services. This has been made a lot simpler thanks to the comparison services, such as, which are now available on the internet.

You can look at everything – what the account's rate is, whether it is fixed for a period of time, how you can access the account, whether any additional bonus is applied to the interest rate for a period of time – and compare the benefits of different accounts.

The bonus rate is particularly important, as banks will often add a bonus to a standard interest rate to get the account to the top of the best-buy tables, but when the bonus expires the rate may be pedestrian at best.

There is no reason to avoid the accounts that have a bonus rate added – you may as well get the extra while it is on offer. But always make a diary note of when the bonus expires, and then check the rates on offer again to see if you can move your money to a better paying account.

As an expat, you should consider using an offshore account based in a jurisdiction that has a high level of consumer protection. The key areas are the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, and often their banks are subsidiaries of onshore banks that are household names.

It is vital you understand what protection you would get from each regime if your bank fails – something few of us worried about before the banking crisis.

Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man all have depositor protection schemes that will pay out the first £50,000 of any savings deposited with a bank within their jurisdiction. Gibraltar will pay out 100 per cent of the amount deposited up to €50,000.

In the European Economic Area, the minimum deposit protection is €50,000, although Cyprus, the Netherlands and, from January 1, 2011, Ireland have increased protection to €100,000.

However, you should always check the depositor protection scheme for the bank you are interested in, as these limits can change at any time.

Find Out How to Apply

Once you have decided on an account, you need to apply for it. If you have a branch of the bank nearby, it may be easiest to call in to complete the relevant forms. That way, you can present the information the bank needs to establish who you are and where you live – usually a passport or driving license with a photo, and utility bills sent to your address within the past three months.

Of course, for many expats this is not possible, so you will have to open the account by post or online. You will still need to provide proof of identity, and usually the banks will not accept photocopies, as these are easy to doctor.

Call the bank using the relevant numbers online, and ask for the details and any paperwork you would need to open the account you want. Always check with the bank what its policy is before you send your documents through the post – and make sure you send them by registered or recorded delivery, so if they go missing you will have an idea of where they have gone astray.

Many banks will allow you to go through the account-opening process online now – Alliance & Leicester International have one of the most sophisticated online facilities – but, even so, you will have to prove who you are, so the bank complies with money laundering rules.

Read the Terms and Conditions

It is always tempting to throw the bumf you get from banks into a drawer, never to be looked at again, but if you do not know what terms are applied to your account, you could end up losing out. Yes, reading these documents can be very dull, but ignoring them can leave you open to unexpected problems.

Banking literature is never easy to get through, but remember: if it is hard to understand, that is most likely to be the area where you are going to get caught out. Make sure you read the small print and don't get stung by the banks because of your ignorance.

It works the other way too. Knowledge is power, and if you know what the bank should be offering, you can make sure it keeps its end of the bargain.

Transfer your Money

If you are transferring money from another account into the one you have just opened – and most people will be – then you have to make arrangements to do this with your existing bank.

If you want to close the account where the money is currently held, you will need to instruct the bank and fill in any necessary paperwork.

This can be easier in some countries than in others, and if you are planning on leaving a country and you want to close the account and have the money transferred before you go, give yourself plenty of time. The UK banking system is, believe it or not, relatively efficient at such requests. If you are dealing with banks in other countries, they may not act so quickly.

In any case, if you are leaving a country and closing accounts, make sure the accounts are closed before you leave to avoid any problems, such as having to go back to sign a document to release funds.

If you returning to the UK from Australia, for example, this could be an expensive mistake.


Tax for expats can be phenomenally complicated, and there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution, so the best thing is to get advice that is specific to the country you are living in and to your circumstances.

The one thing you cannot do with tax is ignore it.

The UK HM Revenue & Customs is cracking down hard on tax evasion by expats, where people have held money offshore and not declared it to the UK tax office.

The powers HMRC now has to force banks to provide details of customers are extensive and, with the announcement in the Comprehensive Spending Review that a further £900 million will be used to tackle tax and benefit fraud, things are only going to get tougher.

It is only fair that you pay the right tax. If you have a bank account offshore and you are subject to tax in the UK, then you must declare it.

The European Savings Directive came into effect in 2005, and gives you the option of having a withholding tax automatically applied to your savings by the EU member state in which you reside, or the institution holding your money will pass on information on the interest you have been paid to the UK tax authorities. Switzerland, Jersey Guernsey and the Isle of Man, although not part of the EU, have put equivalent voluntary measures in place.

Depending on where you hold your account, you may not have this choice – some areas have a default option of the withholding tax.

You need to check with the bank holding your account to be sure what measures apply.

Monitor the Rate at which you’re being paid

Banks are famous for getting your money through the door with a tempting rate, then cutting it while you are not looking. So play them at their own game – check the rate regularly and vote with your feet if you are not getting what you want.

Bowman Offshore Bank Transfers: How to Send an International Wire Transfer

Everything You Need To Know About Wiring Money Overseas

I’m getting a lot of feedback from people trying to send international wire transfers.

A reader wrote this week to say:

“I went to my bank branch to initiate a wire transfer on Monday. The teller had to call over the branch manager to help with the paperwork. Once the manager saw I was transferring money to Panama, she told me they wouldn’t be able to do the wire transfer. When I asked why not, she said because investing in Panama is too risky.”

A similar tale from another reader:

“I tried to wire money to Panama for a property purchase, and the teller told me they couldn’t do the wire because they didn’t have a branch in Germany. The Panama bank uses a German bank as their intermediary, but isn’t that what they (an intermediary bank) are there for—to accept international transfers?”

I share the frustration these and the other readers I’ve been hearing from are feeling. Recently, two Los Islotes investors tried to wire money for their lot purchases. The first client’s funds never made it because they were rejected by the Panama bank’s intermediary bank and returned to the client almost two weeks after the wire had been initiated.

The second client’s funds arrived the next day, after having passed through the same intermediary bank.

The difference? Who knows?

Every Bank Is Different and So Are Their Processes

Every bank has its own way of handling wires, but wiring money from one money-center bank to another money-center bank should be straightforward regardless of the banks involved as minimal information is required. However, sending money from a non-money-center bank, as the first reader I quote above was trying to do, to another non-money-center bank in a foreign country is a different story.

This is why banks work with intermediary or correspondent banks, to facilitate international transfers of funds. Unfortunately, this means another layer of information, including the recipient bank’s account number with the intermediary bank. If any of the information is missing or not included in the instructions in the expected format, the wire can be rejected, as it was for my Los Islotes buyer.

Most folks don’t send international wires on a regular basis, and, even if you do, it’s hard to keep up with all the particulars.

The easiest strategy these days is to initiate a wire online. The trouble is that online systems don’t work when trying to send a wire using a bank that requires several layers of intermediate and final beneficiary details. In a situation like that, you have to go into a bank branch to initiate the transaction in person.

When you do, don’t stand in line and wait your turn to speak with a teller. The typical bank teller in the typical neighborhood bank has never sent an international wire and probably wouldn’t be able to find the transfer’s destination on a map. You want to speak instead with a personal banker or a manager.

Engage the conversation confident in the fact that your bank can, indeed, wire your funds where you want them to go. Don’t let the banker you speak with try to tell you otherwise. Also, don’t let the banker try to talk you out of the transaction altogether. It’s your money, not his. What you do with it is none of his business (unless he’s also your money manager). You don’t have to justify your plans to him or anyone else (well, maybe to your spouse).

Wire Transfer Terminology and Fundamentals

Here are some fundamentals and some terminology for reference.

U.S. banks use what is called an ABA number, which identifies banks within the U.S. banking system. If you’re transferring money from one U.S. bank to another, all you should need is the recipient bank’s ABA number and the beneficiary’s name and account number (maybe their address, too).

International banks are identified by what’s referred to as a SWIFT code. A SWIFT code is all letters, no numbers, and it should be all you need for most international wire transfers. Sometimes the sending bank will require the intermediary bank’s details, as well, including that bank’s SWIFT code.

In Europe, the system is much simpler in my view and is based on the IBAN number. This is an aggregated number that includes the bank identification and the recipient’s account identification along with some other numbers to guide the transfer through to the recipient. With an IBAN number, nothing else is required for the money to arrive where it’s supposed to arrive, though most banks still request account names for confirmation.

Sending a wire from one currency to another creates further complications. Again, from a reader last week:

“The bank says they can’t send a wire to Singapore for me because they don’t have any Singapore dollars.”

Another case where the teller had no idea what he was talking about. The teller was correct when he told your fellow reader that his bank didn’t have any Singapore dollars to send, but that’s irrelevant. That’s what currency exchanges are for. In the case of a small local or regional bank, it may be necessary for your banker to contact his correspondent bank first, before initiating the wire, to get the exact U.S. dollar amount required to send the specific foreign currency amount, but don’t let your banker tell you he can’t send the wire at all. That’s just not so.

When sending a wire online, you typically can elect to transfer the funds in your currency or in the currency of the recipient. Again, online is always easier when it’s an option.

Back to the reader who wrote in to say that his banker insisted he couldn’t wire money to Singapore. Finally, thanks to the guy’s persistence, the banker came around and sent the wire. However, he wired the U.S. dollar amount rather than the Singapore dollar amount. Now the poor guy is due a refund in the amount of the extra Singapore dollars.

And now his banker is now telling him the bank can’t accept a wire from Singapore.

So it goes.