I’ve returned to Panama this morning to find that our Irish antiques arrived safe and sound after their trans-Atlantic journey. I mentioned the other day that this has been the smoothest international shipping experience in our…well, experience. But I neglected to let you in on the secret.
It’s International Movers.
Go to www.intlmovers.com. Type in where your furniture resides right now…and where you’d like it to reside at some date in the future…then sit back and wait for bids from international shippers interested in getting your stuff from point A to point B for you.
I typed in “Waterford, Ireland” and “Panama City, Panama,” and, within 48 hours, I had five quotes. Two-and-a-half months later, everything that was in Waterford is now in Panama City…
“You know you want to incorporate your business offshore…or set up a foreign corporation for asset protection,” writes Christian an international tax advisor. “Now the question,” Christian continues, “is: Where?
“What’s important to you? Privacy, transparency, or making a good impression on people you do business with?
“If privacy is your priority, I recommend a Nevis or Cook Islands corporation or limited liability company (LLC). Both these countries offer exceptional privacy laws, well-tested legal systems, and long asset protection track records.
“The Cook Islands recently passed the Cook Islands International Limited Liability Companies Act 2008, modeled after similar Nevis legislation, that integrates CI’s long-standing trust and creditor laws into an LLC statute to maximize both privacy and asset protection.
“When transparency is required, I prefer Cayman Islands corporations and licensed hedge funds. This jurisdiction is more expensive than its competitor, the British Virgin Islands, but the availability of quality legal and accounting professionals on Grand Cayman is worth the added cost. Often, those seeking transparency are operating significant businesses or investment portfolios, so cost probably isn’t a big concern.
“If your agenda is to make a good impression on those who contact your business, you have three choices:
“If money is no object, and image is everything, go with a Swiss holding company with Cayman or BVI subsidiaries. This generally allows you to operate from Switzerland, hold yourself out as a Swiss company, and contract through offshore subsidiaries, without incurring Swiss tax on international (holding company) profits.
“The typical annual maintenance of a Swiss holding company, including a Swiss director, is $10,000+, compared with about $850 a year for a Nevis IBC or LLC without a foreign director. In addition, a lot of planning and complex structuring is required to work through the dividend withholding section of the Swiss tax code. So Switzerland doesn’t work for everyone.
“If you’re on a budget, I recommend Hong Kong or Panama. Hong Kong is an excellent place for a holding company, has a wealth of qualified legal and accounting professionals, balances privacy and business image well, and allows for nominee directors. Plus, most banks are comfortable with corporations domiciled in Hong Kong.
“The drawbacks of Hong Kong are three. First, the directors monitor the company’s activities closely, which results in higher-than-average annual bills. Second, the time difference with the U.S. can delay communications and transactions by 24 hours. Third, you must travel to Honk Kong to open a bank account there.
“Which brings me to Panama, which I believe is the best jurisdiction if you intend to operate a business outside the U.S. with employees, an office, business assets, etc. The Panamanian economy is strong, qualified labor is relatively inexpensive, the costs of firing an employee are minimal compared with Europe, telephone and internet services are cost effective and of a high quality (certainly superior to those in all Caribbean islands and most other Latin American countries), several local banks provide reasonable service and do not have branches in the United States, and Panama’s primary currency is the U.S. dollar, so your Panamanian bank can accept checks from U.S. clients.
“In addition to these business benefits, Panama allows for nominee directors and shareholders, allowing for privacy. And the shares in a Panama company can be held by a Panama foundation, thereby maximizing asset protection.”