I receive a lot of subscriber questions, and while I cannot answer them all, I wanted to specifically address three of them that key in on recurring themes in this community– second citizenship, investing, international opportunities, corporate structures, banking, and gold/silver storage.
1) Paul asks– “I was wondering what your 1st choice would be in setting up an online business offshore. Which country would be best for business structure, hosting, and merchant accounts?”
There are a lot of great reasons to have an online business– portability, scalability, maneuverability. You can go from zero to profit very quickly, and the Internet allows people to live and work anywhere on the globe.
Most importantly, though, online enterprises provide a great opportunity to easily plant multiple flags in a cost efficient way; you can live in one country, have citizenship in another, have your business structured in another, process credit cards in another, and have your servers based in another.
This prevents significant influence from any single government over your business. As to the right jurisdiction? This is a tough call because it really depends on your country of citizenship and your country of residence.
The United States, for example, is one of a handful of countries that tax its residents on their worldwide income. Some people with online businesses think they are smart because they structure their business in some Panamanian IBC and/or process credit card transactions offshore.
Then they don’t report the income and hold everything offshore.
Not only is this a completely bonehead move, it’s largely illegal. The IRS has clear rules for what it calls ‘check the box’ entities, as well as how to determine the source of income.
I’m going to be talking about this much more in the future, but for now, the bottom line is simple: with a well-structured plan, it is possible to set up an online business to maximize your personal tax advantage while minimizing sovereign risk.
There is great danger, however, in establishing an overseas structure without performing substantial research into the tax implications of your home country.
I’m going to help you solve this problem in a few weeks– early next year, I will bring you some really valuable information from some top North American tax advisers who specialize in offshore structures; they’ll teach you what you need to watch out for.
For instance, you may want to consider structuring your business in a country that has a comprehensive tax treaty with your home country. Switzerland is a great example that has treaties with both the US and Canada. Zero-tax jurisdictions like Panama or BVI do not have tax treaties.
More to follow on this in a few weeks, it’s an incredibly important topic that merits more than a short-answer.
2) Peter asks: “What do you think about Israel? In spite of all the political unrest in the news, Israel has a growing GDP and has a decreasing trade deficit.”
This is a great question. My take on Israel is that it’s a great place for second (fairly valuable) citizenship. If you’re willing to convert to Judaism and live in Israel for a bit, you can obtain an Israeli passport fairly easily.
Other than that, I’m not keen on investing in the country; it’s too closely tied with the United States, and there is no ‘blood in the streets’ discount that you would expect of a nation perpetually at war.
If you compare Israel to a place like Sri Lanka, there is no contest when it comes to value.
3) Stefan asks: “I have an account at DBS (Singapore) but they do not give any information about bankruptcy protection. Do you know anything about this? Do you prefer other Singapore banks? Any idea for a safe deposit box in Singapore?”
I can’t comment specifically on DBS, but you should always, ALWAYS, feel comfortable with the balance sheet of your financial institution. Banks in the US are backed by the FDIC, and this gives some people confidence in their account value.
I am not one of them. I bank overseas because I trust in the financial solvency of overseas institutions, but it means I have to do my homework.
Even the most cursory analysis can say a lot about a bank– what is their ratio of liquid assets to deposits? Does the loan portfolio consist of ticking time bombs? How well are they provisioned against loss?
This is why I wrote about Islamic banking a few weeks ago; based on requirements of their religious law, Islamic banks tend to have higher capital adequacy ratios, providing a greater cushion against insolvency in the event of a financial cataclysm.
There are several Islamic banking institutions in Singapore, though overall I’m quite confident in the country’s financial infrastructure. I rely on it myself.
As for gold storage in Singapore, look at Cisco-Certis. Their facilities have fantastic security, and the boxes are reasonably priced.