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Old 12.07.2011, 00:06
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setting up in Switzerland vs. off-shore company

Hi everyone,

Thinking about setting up a training company and most (if not all) the work will be outside of Switzerland. We might not be in Switzerland forever, so I was wondering where it would be best to set the company up (not intending to evade tax so it is not a secrecy thing).

I have looked through the threads and done a search, but cannot find any information. Can anyone point me in the right direction regarding the following:
  • If I am resident in Switzerland (B permit) can I set up an off-shore company outside of Switzerland?
  • Where can I find out more information about the tax implications in Switzerland (spouse is salaried, so we submit a joint tax claim)?
  • Does anyone know of any reputable websites where I can find out more about offshore companies (advantages/disadvantages and implications)?
  • Are there any advisors who deal in these matters? I am based in Geneva.

One other question - if I did instead decide to establish a SARL/GMBH in Switzerland, does anyone know if I can associate relevant outgoings to the company if they are paid out before the company is established (basically, it might take me an extra couple of months to put together the 22,000 CHF needed to establish the company (20,000 plus registration fees) but I already need to book a venue for the launch in six months' time).

Thanks hugely in advance
GVAbound
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Old 12.07.2011, 00:10
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Re: setting up in Switzerland vs. off-shore company

bermuda? cayman?

i was thinking of doing something similar. would like to set-up something offshore. with:

- zero tax.
- preferably zero administration/recurring costs e.g. company filings/annual accounts
- as close to zero for set-up costs as possible
- privacy a plus

any suggestions?
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Old 12.07.2011, 00:53
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Re: setting up in Switzerland vs. off-shore company

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Hi everyone,

Thinking about setting up a training company and most (if not all) the work will be outside of Switzerland. We might not be in Switzerland forever, so I was wondering where it would be best to set the company up (not intending to evade tax so it is not a secrecy thing).

I have looked through the threads and done a search, but cannot find any information. Can anyone point me in the right direction regarding the following:
  • If I am resident in Switzerland (B permit) can I set up an off-shore company outside of Switzerland?
  • Where can I find out more information about the tax implications in Switzerland (spouse is salaried, so we submit a joint tax claim)?
  • Does anyone know of any reputable websites where I can find out more about offshore companies (advantages/disadvantages and implications)?
  • Are there any advisors who deal in these matters? I am based in Geneva.

One other question - if I did instead decide to establish a SARL/GMBH in Switzerland, does anyone know if I can associate relevant outgoings to the company if they are paid out before the company is established (basically, it might take me an extra couple of months to put together the 22,000 CHF needed to establish the company (20,000 plus registration fees) but I already need to book a venue for the launch in six months' time).

Thanks hugely in advance
GVAbound
If youre not doing business in CH then just go for a bread and butter Panamanian company. I think its the easiest and most painless. You simply cant do any business inside of Panama.

Basically all of these are the same (Panama, Belize, Dominica etc...) so it doesnt really matter. The biggest issue is setting up bank accounts. Cyprus and Panama are the normal hubs. Its hard to get a Swiss account for them but not impossible. You have to show that you are going to be bringing in profits etc and that they are all above board.

You should do it all with a nominee. Typically a law firm will offer this service for $500 or something. But they typically use the passport of some one who has died. Thats just to set it up so your name is not in the books.

Depending on who you use to set it up there will be a $1000 fee (maybe more?) every year to re-register it.

So as long as youre doing more than CHF200,000 per year in business with it it would be cheaper than an Anstalt in Liechtenstein.

Also, the name you can choose is pretty flexible. No one has to know its a panamanian company, only the bank. So you could name it "Schweizerisch Beratung A.G." and no one would know that you arent really Swiss.
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Old 12.07.2011, 15:25
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Re: setting up in Switzerland vs. off-shore company

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Also, the name you can choose is pretty flexible. No one has to know its a panamanian company, only the bank. So you could name it "Schweizerisch Beratung A.G." and no one would know that you arent really Swiss.
... unless they choose to search the business register and/or serach the interwebs?
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Old 12.07.2011, 15:37
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Re: setting up in Switzerland vs. off-shore company

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... unless they choose to search the business register and/or serach the interwebs?
If youre doing business outside of Switzerland and you have a Swiss po box address for the company then no one is going to give a shiit.
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Old 12.07.2011, 16:07
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Re: setting up in Switzerland vs. off-shore company

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If youre doing business outside of Switzerland and you have a Swiss po box address for the company then no one is going to give a shiit.
i think they might..it takes 2 seconds to find out and the days of using a dead persons passport are long gone.. try getting a swiss bank account set up with that..

i would always encourage people to open up a UK company, structured properly you will pay almost zero tax, plus you have the name and reputation of the UK behind it.Opening a bank account in UK or switzerland is easy as well. Clients dont wnt to buy and sell stuff to some dodgy BVI company any more...
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Old 12.07.2011, 16:14
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Re: setting up in Switzerland vs. off-shore company

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i think they might..it takes 2 seconds to find out and the days of using a dead persons passport are long gone.. try getting a swiss bank account set up with that..

i would always encourage people to open up a UK company, structured properly you will pay almost zero tax, plus you have the name and reputation of the UK behind it.Opening a bank account in UK or switzerland is easy as well. Clients dont wnt to buy and sell stuff to some dodgy BVI company any more...
normally, i would also go for a UK company - but in the current environment, i think the tax risks are too high e.g. of it being subject to taxation in the UK due to being incorporated in the UK - and also potentially being a negative factor for british expats trying to demonstrate they have become non-resident.

another choice closer to home could be IOM/channel islands? but i don't have much experience of these...
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Old 12.07.2011, 16:19
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Re: setting up in Switzerland vs. off-shore company

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i think they might..it takes 2 seconds to find out and the days of using a dead persons passport are long gone.. try getting a swiss bank account set up with that..

i would always encourage people to open up a UK company, structured properly you will pay almost zero tax, plus you have the name and reputation of the UK behind it.Opening a bank account in UK or switzerland is easy as well. Clients dont wnt to buy and sell stuff to some dodgy BVI company any more...
????? I guess you dont work at a bank. I just set up 3 companies in the past year for several purposes. Two of the companies have Swiss accounts.

These guys want cheap and easy. UK, BVI, and Switzerland arent what they had in mind. In the old days you could just set up a Wyoming LLC, but today the only place that will open an account for one in Cyrprus
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Old 12.07.2011, 17:09
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Re: setting up in Switzerland vs. off-shore company

no i dont work in a bank, but i work closely with lots of them..

wait, you set up bank accounts in switzerland for a panamanian compnay with a dead persons passport? that i cant beleive.

im not sure what is cheaper and easier than BVI.. by far the most common company set up. The UK is a bit more expensive but you get what you pay for.. both jurisdictions are easy to get bank accounts for.

Phil_MCR.. there are certain ways around that Uk problem (legally i might add!) Im also familiar with IOM companies if you need to know about them?
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Old 12.07.2011, 17:16
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Re: setting up in Switzerland vs. off-shore company

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plus you have the name and reputation of the UK behind it.
In that case I can only recommend the OP to go for a Swiss company instead.
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Old 12.07.2011, 17:30
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Re: setting up in Switzerland vs. off-shore company

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Phil_MCR.. there are certain ways around that Uk problem (legally i might add!) Im also familiar with IOM companies if you need to know about them?
so if in 2 years, the UK tells you that they will charge you corporation tax on your profits (assuming you have any) on the basis that the company is subject to UK taxation due to it being incoporated in the UK, how would you respond?

how cheap is BVI? i can incorporate in the UK for less than 25 and annual filings cost < 25. of course, i'm sure BVI makes up for it in tax savings
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Old 12.07.2011, 17:37
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Re: setting up in Switzerland vs. off-shore company

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so if in 2 years, the UK tells you that they will charge you corporation tax on your profits (assuming you have any) on the basis that the company is subject to UK taxation due to it being incoporated in the UK, how would you respond?

how cheap is BVI? i can incorporate in the UK for less than 25 and annual filings cost < 25. of course, i'm sure BVI makes up for it in tax savings
they would be silly to do this and would lose so much money they couldnt possibly even consider it... but it is the Uk govt i suppose so assuming they did then you would close it down and move to an IOM co.
The way we structure the UK companies means that they dont make much profit anyway and therefor not much tax at all.

remember you have to file accounts and tax returns in Uk but not in BVI
if you did a BVI yourself it would be around USD 500 i beleive and thats it for the year..
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Old 12.07.2011, 17:43
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Re: setting up in Switzerland vs. off-shore company

You say you are a resident with B permit. Do you then have the permit via another employer and will simply run this business on the side? Otherwise, how do you intend to keep your B permit if you have no Swiss company to have you as an employee?
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Old 12.07.2011, 17:51
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Re: setting up in Switzerland vs. off-shore company

Offshore jurisdictions are hugely more expensive than the UK for incorporation and filing. With nominee member classes (directors and/or shareholders) you're talking 1500 quid plus annually for a quality jurisdiction and perhaps half that for somewhere lame (Seychelles etc).

http://www.whichoffshore.com/offshor...brid-companies
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Old 12.07.2011, 17:55
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Re: setting up in Switzerland vs. off-shore company

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they would be silly to do this and would lose so much money they couldnt possibly even consider it... but it is the Uk govt i suppose so assuming they did then you would close it down and move to an IOM co.
The way we structure the UK companies means that they dont make much profit anyway and therefor not much tax at all.

remember you have to file accounts and tax returns in Uk but not in BVI
if you did a BVI yourself it would be around USD 500 i beleive and thats it for the year..
yeah. i heard around 650usd as an annual fee, which i guess isn't so bad.
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Old 12.07.2011, 18:00
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Re: setting up in Switzerland vs. off-shore company

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no i dont work in a bank, but i work closely with lots of them..

wait, you set up bank accounts in switzerland for a panamanian compnay with a dead persons passport? that i cant beleive.

im not sure what is cheaper and easier than BVI.. by far the most common company set up. The UK is a bit more expensive but you get what you pay for.. both jurisdictions are easy to get bank accounts for.

Phil_MCR.. there are certain ways around that Uk problem (legally i might add!) Im also familiar with IOM companies if you need to know about them?
I guess you have clearly NEVER even tried to set anything up like this before. Congrats, and thanks for your input. The passport belongs to the lawyer who creates the nominee agreement and all the bank needs is a signature stating that the nominee will have no access to the account and that the voting rights belong with the person who is setting up the bank for the company.

You shouldnt be giving advice if you clearly have never done any of this. BVI is twice as expensive as Panama and three times as much paperwork. I dont think thats what these guys want.

In all the years I have ever used these companies no one has ever asked "So where is your company domiciled"..... When is the last time you did business with some one and asked that question? If these guys are doing offshore business no one gives a shiit..... I guess you dont do much business offshore.
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Old 12.07.2011, 18:17
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Re: setting up in Switzerland vs. off-shore company

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I guess you have clearly NEVER even tried to set anything up like this before. Congrats, and thanks for your input. The passport belongs to the lawyer who creates the nominee agreement and all the bank needs is a signature stating that the nominee will have no access to the account and that the voting rights belong with the person who is setting up the bank for the company.

You shouldnt be giving advice if you clearly have never done any of this. BVI is twice as expensive as Panama and three times as much paperwork. I dont think thats what these guys want.

In all the years I have ever used these companies no one has ever asked "So where is your company domiciled"..... When is the last time you did business with some one and asked that question? If these guys are doing offshore business no one gives a shiit..... I guess you dont do much business offshore.
so not a dead persons passport then??? the banks in swtizerland and worldwide need to know who the beneficial owner is.. if you tell them its the lawyer you are breaking the law.. also you have the fees of the lawyer then to pay for and the added hassle of instructing a lawyer everytime you wants somethign done..please explain to me what the point of this is when you have nominee shareholders and directors for any jurisdiction?

So you get panama companies for USD 300 a year? If you could let me know the source...

i do a huge amount of offshore business and indeed today was the last time someone asked that question actually. a big US firm wants to do business with a client of ours and would not deal with a dodgy BVI or Panama offshore structure so we set them up a proper tax efficient structure in UK..
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Old 12.07.2011, 19:46
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Re: setting up in Switzerland vs. off-shore company

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so not a dead persons passport then??? the banks in swtizerland and worldwide need to know who the beneficial owner is.. if you tell them its the lawyer you are breaking the law.. also you have the fees of the lawyer then to pay for and the added hassle of instructing a lawyer everytime you wants somethign done..please explain to me what the point of this is when you have nominee shareholders and directors for any jurisdiction?

So you get panama companies for USD 300 a year? If you could let me know the source...

i do a huge amount of offshore business and indeed today was the last time someone asked that question actually. a big US firm wants to do business with a client of ours and would not deal with a dodgy BVI or Panama offshore structure so we set them up a proper tax efficient structure in UK..

We have 2 BVI;s that we started out with about 10 years ago. At one point we were paying more than $30,000 per year in lawyer fees for one of them. For a panamanian company that does about the same amount of business we dont pay any lawyers fees. So it depends on how much business your doing and what kind of accounts you wish to keep. If you dont do more than $1mn with your company then perhaps its not statistically relevant? But in my personal experience Panama, Belize etc are the cheapest no matter how much money you drum up with them.

The majority of our companies (we set up SPV's for just about every physical investment we make) have Swiss bank accounts across 4 different banks. We have used nominees every time. When we asked to meet the nominee they explained to us how it works.

Who ever is listed as the signer on the bank account does all of the signing. Why would the nominee sign anything????? The nominee is just used as a registering agent for the company..... But I guess you already knew that because you do so much offshore business....?

Anyway. Am guessing you own a BVI and nothing else. Thats why your so keen on them. And thats fine. But I have used an array of shell companies and in my humble opinion, if your just a regular joe, then a Panama, Belize, Or Dominican company off the shelf is the easiest, fastest, and most useful.

"Dodgy offshore BVI or Panama structure"..... wow, sure mate... In all of the years Ive dealt with offshore companies no one has asked about the domicile. I deal with governments, family offices, Ibanks, and hedge funds. Not one of them cared. If they really cared they would boycott GE and Google (two of the largest users of dodgy offshore structures).....
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Old 12.07.2011, 21:49
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Re: setting up in Switzerland vs. off-shore company

Hi there - just checked back on and there are loads of responses. Thanks!

Firstly, to fill in a bit more details: spouse is employed here and has a B permit (both EU citizens, so I also have a B permit). I have also been working (salaried) so we submit a tax declaration as a married couple (neither are taxed at source). I want to move into doing something else and hence the idea of the company. Spouse will continue salaried work and we will continue to reside in Geneva canton (or possibly Vaud). We already have personal Swiss bank accounts linked to our address here (with salary going in every month).

Now for the questions! I have read through the thread and have to admit that I am confused about quite a few issues, so would really appreciate assistance.

Er, is the "dead man's passport" a) real and if so, b) legal? It sounds very dodgy.

On the basic question of managing / administering an off-shore company: can it be set up off shore, all the trainings be delivered off-shore or on-line, but physically administered from Geneva? How does that then fit with Swiss tax?

I suppose my question on this is therefore more basic and not just linked to off-shore: what happens when someone comes to Switzerland and owns a company back home (e.g. UK, France, etc) and continues to run it?

I was under the impression that Switzerland taxes you on global income (for example, I have to include rent from foreign property on our tax return) - in that case, how are off-shore companies beneficial?

I was just looking at Cyprus - EU member, established practice - but there is no double-tax treaty with Switzerland. What impact will this have?

I think that is enough for now - thanks hugely for your advice
GVAbound
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Old 12.07.2011, 22:14
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Re: setting up in Switzerland vs. off-shore company

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Hi there - just checked back on and there are loads of responses. Thanks!

Firstly, to fill in a bit more details: spouse is employed here and has a B permit (both EU citizens, so I also have a B permit). I have also been working (salaried) so we submit a tax declaration as a married couple (neither are taxed at source). I want to move into doing something else and hence the idea of the company. Spouse will continue salaried work and we will continue to reside in Geneva canton (or possibly Vaud). We already have personal Swiss bank accounts linked to our address here (with salary going in every month).

Now for the questions! I have read through the thread and have to admit that I am confused about quite a few issues, so would really appreciate assistance.

Er, is the "dead man's passport" a) real and if so, b) legal? It sounds very dodgy.

On the basic question of managing / administering an off-shore company: can it be set up off shore, all the trainings be delivered off-shore or on-line, but physically administered from Geneva? How does that then fit with Swiss tax?

I suppose my question on this is therefore more basic and not just linked to off-shore: what happens when someone comes to Switzerland and owns a company back home (e.g. UK, France, etc) and continues to run it?

I was under the impression that Switzerland taxes you on global income (for example, I have to include rent from foreign property on our tax return) - in that case, how are off-shore companies beneficial?

I was just looking at Cyprus - EU member, established practice - but there is no double-tax treaty with Switzerland. What impact will this have?

I think that is enough for now - thanks hugely for your advice
GVAbound
No one will tell you who's passport it is for the nominee. They just say its one of the lawyers. But if you do enough business with these guys they will tell you how it works. No one wants their name on 500 companies. So they use some ones ID who wont mind so much

But thats just for opening the company, for privacy reasons. Its called a nominee.

Yes, it can be administered from Geneva and that will be listed as a company expense. As long as you only have expenses in CH and no business here it wont matter a lick. Most of our stuff shares 1 of 3 addresses in CH. You can use your home address if need be.

If you own an offshore company then you probably wont tell everyone about it if youre living in CH. You are supposed to list it as an asset but most people dont. Many treuhanders in CH have Panamanian companies for this reason. If they do business for some one out of the country the client pays into this account rather than their Shaan/Zug account. Minimizes their taxs and keeps their privacy.

Cyprus would also be fine. Typically easier and faster for banking reasons, to set up. If youre not doing business in CH then you dont have to worry about taxation agreements.
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