offshore trading through companies

How to Setup an Offshore Company for Stock Trading

2022 has seen increased oversight and regulations for stockbrokers and trading operations. On the face of it, this has been introduced to help protect their clients, but the perverse reality is that it has simply restricted access to a vast array of trading instruments. However, there is a way around all of these new regulations and this guide will show you how to set up an Offshore Company for Stock Trading.
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2022 has seen increased oversight and regulations for stockbrokers and trading operations. On the face of it, this has been introduced to help protect their clients, but the perverse reality is that it has simply restricted access to a vast array of trading instruments. However, there is a way around all of these new regulations and this guide will show you how to set up an Offshore Company for Stock Trading.

Does Using an Offshore Entity Get Around the Regulations?

In short, the answer is YES. Using an offshore company, and potentially an offshore broker removes most of the onerous regulations that typical US investors and traders face. The offshore entity is deemed to be domiciled offshore and can, normally, trade as it pleases.

Benefits of Using an Offshore Company for Stock Trading

Offshore Company for Stock Trading
The Cayman Islands is a Key Location for Offshore Trading Operations

There is a myriad of benefits to offshoring your stock trading, including tax and privacy effectiveness, on top of the ability to avoid most of the onerous US regulations.  On the regulation front, you will find that there is very little regulation of the offshore trading of US equities and other financial instruments.

Regulation Benefits to Trading Through an Offshore Broker

As an offshore company, you are not really considered a retail trader and typically fall into the wholesale trader bucket. This means you are not restricted on things like leverage or FIFO operations on any instruments that might have margin trading involved. Additionally, you are likely to discover that you have access to a range of wholesale trading instruments that you typically won’t see as a retail trader.

Asset Protection Benefits

This is typically not something that most equity traders consider but there are plenty of asset protection benefits to using an offshore company for your trading. You can structure the company and holdings, effectively, in a way that makes you judgment-proof.

It can be exceedingly difficult to take legal action against an offshore company especially when you may be using a nominee shareholder to hold your ownership interests under a custodial arrangement. There are plenty of offshore jurisdictions that do not recognize foreign judgments, and this means that any US-based legal action would have to be recommenced in the offshore jurisdiction.

I would always suggest having an asset protection structure in place regardless of your business activities. However, with financial markets trading, it makes significant sense given the counterparty risk as well as the risk of negative account balances.

Privacy Benefits of Using an Offshore Company

Privacy is a big concern in 2022
Privacy Can be Obtained Through Offshore Companies

Probably the biggest benefit to setting up an offshore company, in a good jurisdiction, is the privacy that you can obtain. Unfortunately, US-based lawyers LOVE to search domestic company registers to find additional assets to attach to a lawsuit.

Also, there is an active section of society, who I term vexatious litigants, who go around making trouble by assessing your ability to pay settlements. They then invent a claim against you and start legal proceedings. However, if your assets are not easily discoverable, or are offshore, then it is hard for them to assess your ability to pay.

Finally, divorce in the west is now big business, and partners going after your assets is an unfortunate reality of marriage in 2022. Again, offshoring your trading operations is an excellent way to place wealth, and profitable trading business, outside the reach of a domestic partner.

How Do You Get Privacy Offshore?

One of the primary ways is the use of nominee directors and shareholders. Effectively, they agree to provide these services to your offshore company and have their names on the corporate record, for an annual fee.

The use of nominees is exceedingly common in the offshore world and ensures that your name does not really feature anywhere within the company documents. Subsequently, if someone managed to get a copy of the company register (for the few offshore countries that have a searchable database – most don’t!) then your name will not appear anywhere.

You may question whether the use of nominees is safe or not and I’ve completely covered that in a different guide on protecting yourself against nominees. (INSERT LINK) However, the upshot is that if you have a formal declaration of trust, and you take some additional steps, the chance of you getting ripped off is almost zero.

Over the years, I’ve dealt with lots of nominee structures and I’m yet to run across any outright fraud or theft of the company or its assets.

What Are the Tax Benefits of Trading Through an Offshore Entity

tax benefits of going offshore
Offshoring Your Trading Can Bring With it Tax Advantages

Obviously, domiciling your new stock trading company in a tax haven largely exempts it from most forms of tax liability including income tax and capital gains tax, etc. Offshore companies offer significant tax advantages to US citizens, but the entities need to be structured correctly.

Offshore tax is a complex area that you should spend some time educating yourself on as there is no simple answer for everyone’s individual circumstances. It very much depends on where you are based, what country you form your company in, and what the double tax agreements between the nations are. Additionally, it also doesn’t mean that you will NEVER be subject to income tax given you will need to repatriate funds, via a dividend, which would then be subject to US tax.

Ultimately, taxation liability is a complex area but if you are serious, and your trading business is large enough, then talk to us because there are some options to set up to ensure that the company is seen as having economic “substance” in the offshore tax haven.

How Do You Set Up an Offshore Company?

Setting up an offshore company is actually a very simple process and shouldn’t take up much of your time. Typically, all you would need to do is select where you want to form your stock trading entity and then work with a formation agent to get it set up and operating.

You will need to determine the following points before the agent can form the company for you:

  • Do you intend to use a Nominee Director/s
  • Do you intend to use a Nominee Shareholder/s
  • How many Shares, and at what par value, do you intend to have issued
  • Do you intend to use their location as the registered office
  • Where will you bank and or broker through

You should also expect a reputable agent to undertake Know Your Customer (KYC/AML) on you to ensure you are not on one of the global sanctions lists. Also, you will normally need to provide notarized copies of your passport, utility bill, bank statement, and potentially a source of funds declaration.

Normally, the whole process is exceedingly quick, and you will receive back copies of your corporate documents, nominee agreements, and bank account forms within around a week or two. At this stage, you can then start the process of opening bank and brokerage accounts for the offshore company.

Which Tax Haven or Jurisdiction Should I Setup a Company in?

Tax considerations on the Cayman Islands
The Cayman Island’s and Panama Remain Strong Choices for Offshore Trading Companies

This question very much depends on where you are based. However, given that most of my readers are US citizens I will respond to the question on that basis. Primarily, you should be picking a tax-neutral offshore jurisdiction that has strong privacy protections.

Considering the US case, I would typically recommend the use of a Cayman Island’s offshore company. The jurisdiction is strongly aligned with the US financial sector and is used to dealing with trading and financial services companies. They have an experienced body of professionals who can assist with everything from tax advice to establishing economic substance.

However, there is now a public register of Cayman entities, and information on directors and shareholders is available for a fee. Subsequently, it’s important that you utilize nominee directors if you move ahead with setting up a Cayman Islands IBC.

The other option would be establishing an international company based in Panama. The Central American nation also provides excellent protection for US trading operations and has a full suite of professionals that can assist you. However, their reputation is probably not as good as the Cayman Islands and your banking options are likely to be more restricted in Panama.

What Complications Will I Face as a US Citizen

FATCA Offshore Stock Trading
FATCA Regulations Can Complicate Things

Unfortunately, the US has recently instituted probably the worst of all reporting systems around the world. This reporting program, known as FATCA, requires ALL financial institutions to report upon any American citizens or residents using their facilities.

FATCA is an abortion of a law that has made it much harder for US-based individuals to bank globally. Rightly so, international banks would rather not have to deal with the mess that is FATCA and, sometimes, will reject Americans out of hand.

However, I would say that this is the exception rather than the rule in 2022. US citizens can still retain banking and brokerage facilities around the world but may face some additional fees and paperwork to complete. Many banks now simply charge a FATCA fee annually of around $250 to cover the additional compliance fees of dealing with the annual reporting.

Should I Use Nominee Directors in my Offshore Company?

The short answer to this is a resounding YES. There is a global push toward public company registries and the use of nominees ensures your name does not appear anywhere on the corporate paperwork. Otherwise, you largely lose the biggest benefit of going offshore which is privacy and the company providing a liability shield.

The use of nominee directors is safe and very common in the offshore world. If you are working with a reputable consultant or company agent, you will find your interests looked after. No reputable agent would risk their reputations, which take years to establish, for a short-term gain. Subsequently, you would be crazy to go through the expense of offshoring your trading operations without using nominee directors and, potentially, nominee shareholders.

Be Careful about Which Brokers You Use for Trading

offshore broker stock risk
Be Cautious With Offshore Brokers

One thing I would caution against is hopping into bed with just any offshore broker. Counterparty risk works the same offshore as it does domestically, and you need to be very cognizant of that risk. Many offshore brokerages do not have the same regulatory obligations as US brokers which means you might find no avenue for complaint if something goes sideways.

However, most offshore equity brokers are honest and account theft is not really a big risk. What I have witnessed more often is poor execution, typically not in your favor, and requotes which can complicate your trades.

Ultimately, there is nothing stopping you from dealing with Interactive Brokers or one of the other large US trading houses. You would be surprised as to their comfort level dealing with offshore companies from certain jurisdictions like the Cayman Islands.

Key Points Recap

  • Offshore Entities Can Be Used for Trading
  • There are Tax, Privacy, Asset Protection, and Regulation Benefits
  • Get Some Advice on the Tax Implications
  • The Cayman Islands and Panama are Premier Locations
  • Use Nominee Directors and Shareholders
  • Be Cautious if You Use Offshore Brokers

Next Steps

If you are seriously contemplating setting up an Offshore Company for Stock and Financial Markets Trading, then feel free to reach out to us for a confidential conversation. We have operated in this sector, both as consultants and in the industry ourselves, for many years and can probably steer you in the right direction.

Ultimately, it’s important that you think through some key questions about how you will repatriate your profits and where you intend to base your operations (economic substance) before moving ahead. Therefore, it’s important to talk to us, or another experienced consultant, as we can guide you through what you need to know before plunging into the world of offshore tax structuring.

Feel free to reach out to our consultation arm for a confidential discussion:

OCBF offshore consulting and company formations

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