What is an Offshore Savings Account?

Malcolm Tatum

An offshore savings account is a savings account established with a bank that is based and primarily operates outside the jurisdiction of the nation where the depositor is located. Sometimes considered to be a somewhat clandestine means of hiding assets, many people use accounts of this type for legitimate reasons, and routinely report their savings and any accrued interest to the proper tax authorities. People who maintain residences in more than one country or who travel to different nations frequently often make use of an offshore checking account as well as an offshore savings account.

A savings account book.
A savings account book.

One of the main attractions associated with an offshore savings account include the interest rates that are offered by many offshore institutions. Typically, the rate of interest is higher than the rates offered by domestic institutions. This means that depositors who can afford to place a lump sum in the high yield savings account, or are even able to make monthly deposits, can earn a higher annual return from their savings than would be possible otherwise.

In some cases, the institutions that offer various offshore savings account options will report any interest earned to tax agencies on behalf of the depositors. For example, a UK citizen with an offshore account may find that the institution provides annual information on interest earned directly to HM Revenue and Customs, just as that same financial institution may provide data to the Internal Revenue Service on behalf of any depositors who have their primary residence in the United States. At other times, the depositor is responsible for reporting the earned interest to the domestic tax agency or agencies, using documents provided by the offshore bank.

When considering the possibility of opening an offshore savings account, it is important to look closely at the terms and conditions that apply to the account. Attention to the banking laws that prevail in the area where the bank is located must also be taken into consideration. Assuming that the applicable terms and laws are simply a mirror of the domestic laws and terms the depositor is already familiar with can lead to a great deal of confusion and frustration. By taking the time to know what rights and responsibilities are afforded to depositors, and how much protection the institution offers to the balances in the savings accounts they service, a depositor can compare different offshore banks and settle on the one that provides the best combination of protection and interest for the depositor.

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