My column’s title last year was “Time to Hunker Down,” and it was. Brewing above was a storm of new taxes and required disclosures on the main front, with a few spots seeking to attract investors.
This year, I’ve solicited experts who practice in different countries to provide some highlights from around the globe. The big focus is still on Switzerland, the traditional sanctuary. Edgar H. Paltzer and Goran Studen, from Zurich, update us on the continued U.S. scrutiny of Swiss banks. Next, Anne Guichard gives us the report from France, which is still finding ways to encourage wealthy residents to leave and adding new taxes. Last in the European trio is the United Kingdom: Russell Cohen and Nicola Pomfret show how the United Kingdom has also found more ways to tax more people.
Leaving those principal European countries, the offshore jurisdictions are more interested in polishing their products, especially trusts and foundations. Michael McAuley reviews Guernsey and the Bahamas trust law.
Across the globe, Hong Kong has felt left behind with its antiquated trust law, and there’s excitement about the pending modernization, as Mimi Hutton and Philip Munro explain.
Finally, a smaller offshore center, Labuan, will be in the news more, as it tries to attract private funds fleeing from elsewhere (particularly Switzerland). On the government’s website (http:tinyurl.com/ckltkwt) is the following pitch:
Labuan is located off the north west coast of Borneo and is home to Malaysia’s International Business and Financial Centre (IBFC). . . Labuan IBFC’s position—strategically located between the two giant economies of China and India—as well as our proximity to several other regional financial centres puts us in a unique position to tap the many investment opportunities in Asia and beyond. Sharing a common time zone with many large Asian cities makes Labuan convenient for business dealings.
Labuan plans to publish its own international private client journal sometime this year.
Note: The most influential global player in 2012 was the United States, with its aggressive Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) legislation, which was reported in the November issue of this magazine, and will continue to be reported by Trusts & Estates, especially as FATCA’s various deadlines change. Under FATCA, there will be no place to go.