[Mitt Romney] has been criticized by some for having some of his vast fortune in the Caribbean offshore banking center. Yes, it was politically clumsy. But it was not uncommon, and -- assuming he has filed all the right disclosures -- it was perfectly legal.
But if you're not running for president, and don't have to worry about public relations, what are the legitimate reasons for moving money offshore?..
Contrary to popular opinion, it's not really to save on taxes. That's because American taxpayers are taxed on their worldwide income -- so if you're making $10,000 (or $10 million) in interest on a bank account in, say, the Caymans or Switzerland, you're getting taxed by Uncle Sam as if you're making it in a bank account here...
There are two [reasons to do so], says Duggan: Litigation risk, and political risk.
Litigation risk is the old reason. You could get hit by a crazy lawsuit here in the U.S. The wealthy are an easy mark, and anything onshore is vulnerable. But the U.S. courts don't have jurisdiction overseas and if you plan things right you have at least some chance of protecting money held offshore, Duggan says. "It keeps you away from our court system and the caprices of our courts," he says.
The new reason, though, is political risk: "Diversification from our government, policies, and banking systems," says Duggan. The last few years have shaken faith in our system. Duggan says growing numbers of his clients are worried about the financial system, confiscation -- the whole shebang. "They're concerned about our government, and where our society is headed. There's a lot of socialistic tendencies, capital controls, the redistribution of wealth."
Once again it's easy to scoff. Financially, the very wealthy have probably never had it so good in this country. Corporate profits and financial assets are booming. Tax rates on dividends and long-term capital gains are very, very low. But Duggan says the wealthy feel under attack, and government rhetoric is making them nervous.
14 February 2012
Justifying offshore banking
According to Smart Money, it's NOT for tax avoidance: