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Switzerland is regarded as one of the best offshore banking jurisdictions in the world today and is on of the world's premier offshore tax havens. This is not surprising, as their banking system has been at the forefront of safety, stability and efficiency for literally centuries. Owning an offshore bank account in Switzerland is about as prestigious and secure as you can get.
Gone are the days of the Swiss numbered bank accounts, however, Swiss banks still maintain their strict banking secrecy laws and client confidentiality. Even though it was only recently that Switzerland was forced to hand over the names of US persons suspected of tax evasion, Swiss banks pride themselves in discretion and confidentiality. Nonetheless, despite their historic banking secrecy laws that go back to the 1700s, they have had to establish information exchange agreements in order to satisfy the OECD directives against money laundering.
Since before the Second World War, Switzerland began setting the standards of offshore banking by offering foreign account holders the highest levels of confidentiality and security. This originated with the Swiss Banking Law of 1934, which established strict rules for bank account confidentiality. These laws made it illegal to disclose information about the identities of account holders and of account transactions to outside parties.
Most are familiar with the infamous “numbered Swiss bank accounts” which became a legitimate way to conceal the identity of Swiss bank account holders. While times are changing, and there is an increasing call for information sharing and disclosure across the globe, the high level of confidentiality that a Swiss bank account offers is still what attracts many to this day. Indeed, there needs to be a legitimate and severe criminal allegation for Swiss banks to consider divulging their account-holder’s information.
The other reason why Switzerland has been able to continue setting the benchmark for offshore banking to this day, is the fact that their banking system remains highly sophisticated, adapting quickly to technological innovations and thus maintaining their position as worldwide leaders in advanced and modern banking systems. It has been estimated that a third of all money which is held in offshore bank accounts around the world is in Swiss offshore accounts. This figure clearly demonstrates the dominance that Switzerland has in the offshore banking industry. Their pristine reputation is well-deserved.
A Swiss offshore bank account is one of the safest places on earth to store your wealth. This is in part because the Swiss economy is incredibly strong and stable. The Swiss banking system is also highly sophisticated, secure and reliable. Switzerland is home to many of the top-rated and most stable private banks in the world. Banking regulations require Swiss banks to maintain high levels of capital reserves and depositor protection measures. Switzerland also has a famously stable political system which has gained its reputation for its neutrality and lack of conflict with other nations.
All these factors come together to practically guarantee that the wealth which is stored in a Swiss account is safe from all types of financial, economic and political risks and crises.
Swiss Banking has been associated with high levels of discretion and confidentiality for many a decade. While anonymous accounts are not what they used to be, where the identities of account holders were totally hidden to all. Numbered accounts are indeed still available in Switzerland, but these are simply bank accounts which are identified by a number as opposed to the actual account holder’s name. The identity of the account holder must still be registered with the bank and linked to the account, but it is kept highly confidential, and is only disclosed to authorised outside parties in the case of severe financial issues or criminal activity arising.
In any event, all types off Swiss offshore bank accounts (numbered or not) offer utmost privacy, whilst simultaneously being extremely well-regulated and above-board. The banking law in Switzerland means that banks cannot disclose any information about an account, or even its existence, without the express permission of the account holder. The only exception to this law is in the case of serious criminal activity being suspected.
Switzerland has strong anti-money-laundering laws, and sophisticated measures to ensure they are followed. Extensive documentation and checks are required to open a Swiss bank account, and the legal source of the funds needs to be shown. This means that Switzerland is not a place to hide illegally generated funds or to evade taxes. It offers legitimate confidentiality for legitimate reasons.
Swiss bank accounts offer increased tax efficiency for their offshore account holders. The low capital gains and income tax on investments and interest returns is one key benefit of Swiss offshore bank accounts. There is no withholding tax on accounts which are held in a currency other than the Swiss Franc, and accounts generally have low taxes across the board if the source of the deposits are from outside Switzerland.
Most people who open an offshore bank account in Switzerland are wealthier clients who choose to open investment accounts. Swiss banks offer top-class investment opportunities and services. There are various options available for offshore account holders to actively invest, such as stock trading, bonds, mutual funds, or purchasing gold and other precious metals. Swiss banks also employ highly skilled fund managers which can help to grow your investments, so you can instead choose to have one of their trained financial experts oversee your portfolio for you.
You can also choose between multiple currencies for your account. This allows you to diversify your currencies and effectively hedge your currency risk through a Swiss bank account.
Swiss banks are known for their efficiency and quality customer service. Therefore, banking in Switzerland is extremely smooth and rewarding. You can expect everything to be handled in a professional manner, and to be treated very well, especially if you are a high net worth investor.
Almost any non-resident can open an offshore bank account in Switzerland, provided they are over the age of 18. However, it is important to note that Swiss banks have strict protocols for evaluating your official documents. You will need to provide extensive proof of identity and be able to clearly show the legal source of your funds.
Documents which you will be expected to present include: Certified passport copies, documents which show your profession, such as company documents, tax returns, professional certifications etc., proof of the legal source of funds, and other relevant types of personal information.
Some see this level of scrutiny as a downside to opening a Swiss bank account, but for those who have nothing to hide and are willing to gather the required documents, the rewards of an offshore account in Switzerland are well worth this initial effort.
Due to the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) in the United States, Swiss banks must provide tax information to the United States for any of their US account holders. The high cost of FATCA compliance has resulted in many Swiss banks refusing to accept US citizens. Some Swiss banks do still accept US account holders, but the minimum deposit requirements are in the region of USD 250,000 to USD 1 million to compensate for the high costs. This means that it is only viable for high net worth US account holders.
An additional attraction to banking offshore in Switzerland is the fact that they are one of several European nations which offer a residency by investment program. This makes it easy to obtain residency in Switzerland granted you can prove you have at least USD 1 million at your disposal before applying. You will then need to pay a lump sum taxation of CHF 200,000 to obtain your residency permit. Permanent residency can be granted after approximately 10 years of living in Switzerland, and citizenship by naturalisation shortly thereafter. Therefore, owning a Swiss bank account could be a good first step toward eventual permanent residency and/or citizenship in Switzerland if that is what you are after.
Offshore banking in Switzerland is among the best, if not the best, in the world today. The level of sophisticated service offerings, asset security, and client confidentiality that Swiss offshore bank accounts offer is unmatched. Whatever your specific offshore banking requirements are, it is likely that you will find the right solution through a Swiss offshore account.
That being said, the Swiss banking industry is highly compliant and does not accept money-laundering or tax evasion. It is therefore not the place for hiding financial crime or escaping taxes. It offers a legitimate way to obtain increased banking privacy (whether it be from business competitors, ex-spouses, unscrupulous creditors etc.), greater security and stability, and tax efficiency.
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