Is Switzerland Safe?


The answer to this question might bring a surprise.

Dear International Friend

A recent message warning about Swiss francs may have confused. Here is a question that was asked.

"DEAR GARY, DO YOU BELIEVE SWITZERLAND IS STILL A GOOD TAX HAVEN AND PLACE TO INVEST? THANK YOU."

Switzerland is a very safe, very democratic country which has somehow managed to maintain neutrality through many wars.. The Swiss are generally very conservative, hard working people who believe in privacy and frugality. Because of this there are many excellent, financially strong Swiss banks (for more details contact Swiss eclub advisor Andy kaegi at akaegi@bpcs.ch) that offer many excellent banking services.

Switzerland has never been a tax haven. The Swiss impose a 30% tax on all interest and dividends earned in Swiss investments and most residents of most industrialized countries (at least) owe tax on interest, dividends or gains earned in any bank in any country including Switzerland. This misnomer about Switzerland has been created because Switzerland does not tax earnings and dividends earned out of Switzerland through investments held in Swiss banks. In addition Swiss bank privacy was so highly revered that for years many investors thought it was safe to hide money in Switzerland and avoid tax by simply not declaring income or gains received.

The strength of Swiss banking privacy began to erode in the 70s. As Swiss banks were forced to become international to compete their ability to ignore legislation of other countries was destroyed. From the 80s on, hiding money in Switzerland became a fairly bad idea. With the introduction of global money laundering laws in the late 90s it became almost stupid. From this week on, with the advent of new US anti-terrorism laws, hiding money in foreign bank becomes downright dangerous.

I have been saying this message in my printed newsletters for at least a decade so let me add it here with extra emphasis. DO NOT TRY TO AVOID TAX OR GAIN ASSET PROTECTION BY HIDING MONEY IN FOREIGN BANK ACCOUNTS. BANK SECRECY IS DEAD!

You can gain a lot of privacy and asset protection by having bank accounts abroad, but you can no longer depend on total bank secrecy.

I regret this fact but have to say it, lest anyone using ideas and idioms that linger from the 50s 60s and 70s gets themselves in real trouble. If you need tax or asset protection use legal structures to do the best you can. Attorney eClub advisors Joe Cox jcox@coxnici.com, Leslie Share las@pnrlaw.com, David Melnick (Canada) dm1976cp@netcom.ca and Colin Bowen (Isle of Man Assurance) colinb.ioma@ioma.co.im all have expertise in these fields.

Otherwise if you hold a bank account aboard, decal re what you earn. If you are a US citizen or resident be sure to file the required treasury department form each year declaring your overseas accounts.

The Swiss franc is a good currency but pays very low interest and cannot be counted on to appreciate much above the Euro. Finally many who defamed the Swiss over their Holocaust holdings should be aware that this situation was not anywhere as bad as it was assumed. An article in the October 13 Times of London explains that most dormant Swiss bank accounts thought to have belonged to Holocaust survivors were opened by wealthy, non-Jewish people who then forgot about their money. You can read the entire article here.

Until next message, Good global investing!

Gary


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