Buying a house in France: part 17: Offshore banking

Offshore banks are banks that operate in various tax havens around the world. The most familiar in the UK are the Channel Islands and the Isle of Mann but there are many based in small islands in the Carribbean.

If you’re moving abroad, it can be useful to have an account with one of these banks both to simplify your taxes a little and for the additional services that many of them offer to the expat community. None of the legitimate centres offer tax-free interest on your accounts these days but offer you two options for the interest on your accounts: 1) a withholding tax roughly equivalent to the tax that you would normally pay in your country of residence and 2) no tax but they report your income to the authorities in your country of residence.

Although no longer taxfree, the additional services that many of these banks offer can still make them worthwhile. Even the simplest of them are much more familiar with international bank transfers than a normal high street bank could be expected to be but most go beyond that offering multi-currency accounts, debit cards in a range of currencies and often expat advisory services.

On the whole, the range of services on offer increases in proportion to the increase in the minimum income that the banks ask for. A reasonable compromise with this seems to be Abbey International which offers accounts and debit cards in pounds, euro and dollars for an opening balance of £5000.

Most people will think of Switzerland in terms of “offshore” banking, but is there anything special about it? The banks there are generally more aware of the needs of international clients but this generally comes at a price. By and large, unless you have fairly sizeable amounts of money (say 25,000‚€ upwards) to deposit or invest, they probably aren’t worth it. However, even the post office in Switzerland is geared up for international clients and in this case a relatively modest amount of money (about £3,000) will get you quite economical banking.

We’ve included a list of the main banks operating in this arena in the directory which should let you choose the perfect combination of prices and services for you.

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