With ever increasing challenges to confidential investments, it’s hard to find something you can relax with. Steven Gallagher compares some of the top jurisdictions and what they offer in trusts and special trusts

The terms “offshoring” and “tax haven” have developed unfortunate connotations and are often seen as linked to tax evasion, money laundering and other criminal activities. The identification of offshore tax havens as providing secret resting places for wealth that is not being taxed is often perceived as a criminal endeavour in itself.

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A prominent financial journal’s headline, “China’s elite wealth in offshore tax havens” was typical of the reaction to the 2013 leaking of personal details of thousands of companies and account holders in the British Virgin Islands (BVI). Wishing to keep your business secret is seen as “wrong”. Similarly, those arranging their affairs to legally minimise their liability to taxation – “tax avoidance” – have been categorised alongside those who criminally attempt to evade paying tax already owed – “tax evasion”.

The suspicion of secrecy and tax planning has been further compounded by the US implementation of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), which places a burden on financial institutions around the world to report on US persons’ and entities’ financial information, and fines those who are non-compliant.

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Steven Gallagher is associate professor of practice in law and associate dean for teaching and learning at the Chinese University of Hong Kong’s Faculty of Law