las-vegasNevada

Nevada corporation laws have a reputation for attracting companies with its low taxes and minimal disclosure requirements. In fact, Nevada levies no corporate income tax and only limited disclosure is required when registering corporations.

British Virgin Islands

bviBVI is a magnet for anyone who wants to set up a shell corporation.  It is the world’s leading centre for company incorporation, according to the Tax Justice Network. BVI has no effective income tax, no capital gains tax, no inheritance taxes, and no gift taxes. Companies registered in BVI do not have to disclose its true owners, officers or directors. 

Liechtenstein

liechtensteinLiechtenstein, long noted for its strict bank secrecy laws, has long held a reputation as a tax haven. As late as 2008, it was one of only three countries that remained on the OECD’s list of “uncooperative tax havens.” It was later removed from the blacklist but remains highly secretive, particularly in regard to trusts and foundations.

One of the Liechtenstein entities that have long facilitated secrecy is the Stiftung.  Opaque by design, Stiftungs, or foundations, became popular vehicles for tax avoidance or evasion by foreign investors because of the secrecy afforded by appointing a trustee to hold a foundation in trust for an undisclosed founder and beneficiaries. It is structured with no members, participants or shareholders.

According to a Liechtenstein bank document, the foundation can be used for the purpose of managing and safekeeping family and company assets on an international basis and for “optimising asset contributions across borders,” as well as for charitable purposes.  Part of the appeal of these foundations is that the law allows one to “separate assets from their actual owner and thus to anonymize them.” Foundations are not subject to external supervision and are largely exempt from registration requirements.  Neither assets contributed to the foundation, distributions made to beneficiaries, nor any capital gains are subject to tax in Liechtenstein.

Liechtenstein was the subject of one of the first major tax leak scandals which broke in 2007.  A former employee of a Liechtenstein bank, LGT Group, stole several discs with secret information on its global client list and sold them to German authorities, naming hundreds on a leaked client list.

How does the U.S., British Virgin Islands and Liechtenstein rate in the Financial Secrecy Index?