Offshore Structures—What Do You Need, How Much Is Too Much?
Sept. 25, 2014, Panama City, Panama: When deciding what offshore corporations, trusts, IBCs, or other structures you need, less is more and simpler is better.
Dear Live and Invest Overseas Reader,
A consulting client came into our office yesterday to ask me some questions about how to structure property investments he's making in Panama and Colombia. This client has been working with attorneys in both of these countries as well as in the country where he set up his LLC, but he wanted to make sure he's fitting all the pieces together as advantageously as possible in the context of his big-picture goals.
"In the context of his big-picture goals" is the critical phrase here. No single entity or set of entities fits every situation. What you find, though, is that whatever advisor you work with has his or her individual experiences and advises based on what he or she is familiar with.
Most Panamanian attorneys, for example, will advise you to put any property purchase into a corporation. Because that's what they do in Panama, both locals and foreigners. Historically, this has been to avoid capital gains tax, which is not imposed on the sale of company shares. You could set up a single-purpose corporation to hold a piece of property, then, when you wanted to sell that piece of property, you were in fact selling the company that owns it...meaning no capital gains tax issue.
Panama changed the relevant tax rule years ago, but people in this country still put real estate they buy into Panama corporations. There are other reasons why using a Panama corporation to hold your Panama real estate can be a good idea, but you should understand them before taking a Panamanian attorney's blind recommendation. Don't let custom dictate how you organize your affairs. Question the reasons why you're being advised to do whatever you're being advised to do, in Panama or anywhere.
The client who came in to meet with me yesterday had been advised by his Colombian attorney that, if he wants to have the title for the property he's investing in in that country issued in the name of his offshore LLC, he'll need to have the LLC documents officially translated and apostilled. That is mostly accurate. I confirmed with my attorney in Colombia that, yes, the LLC documentation must be officially translated but only the certificate of formation...not all 20 pages of the articles of formation. That difference saves money and time on the translation.