While you might presume anyone with ‘money in offshore accounts’ is involved in some scurrilous business affairs, the truth is that anyone can use this form of investment as a totally legitimate way to defer or reduce your tax payments.
Locations for offshore accounts can be held in banks in British waters – the Channel Islands or Isle of Man for example, or you could look further afield to the Republic of Ireland or Luxembourg. As with other investments, there are different ways to send your money abroad, with different levels of risk attached.
Some of the benefits include current accounts with higher levels of interest – check out the high street banks, many of which offer offshore instant access accounts. These are a relatively safe way to invest. There are also ‘notice’ savings accounts which can yield exceptionally high rates of interest.
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You may choose to put money into an offshore investment fund, which is similar to the normal onshore type, only you usually find that you pay a performance related fee to your fund manager. This could mean that they have more incentive to make sure your money is working hard for you. Check investment companies like Schroders and Gartmore for this type of fund.
Money funds are a high risk form of investing – your funds will be pooled with those of other investors’ and used to buy international currency at wholesale rates. Your shares will be exposed to the vagaries of international exchange rates, and this can be a nerve-wrackingly unpredictable way to invest abroad.
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More and more people are choosing to buy property abroad – whether as future dream retirement home or as profit making venture. In Eastern Europe and the Middle East you can pick up property for remarkably low prices – developments and agencies advertise in the property sections of newspapers, and websites abound. While this could prove a sound long-term way of investing, there are numerous things to take into account – the stability of a country’s economy, complicated legal agreements and the cost of travel to and from the property are major factors.
Different countries operate wildly different property law, and you will need to get sound advice on all the implications before buying abroad. Check things like inheritance law – for example, in France, there are obstacles to simply leaving property to named recipients in your will. If you do buy abroad, you will probably find it useful to open a multi-currency account.