Introduced in 2005, the EU Savings Tax Directive has affected many who hold assets offshore within the European Union. It has eroded their privacy or their returns.
The Directive was introduced in a bid to prevent cross-border tax evasion within the EU and associated territories. The ultimate objective of the Directive is for all tax authorities to disclose and share information about any savings income payments made to those who hold accounts locally, but who reside elsewhere within the EU.
This is in a bid to ensure that everyone is declaring all assets and income correctly, and to ensure taxation due is paid to the correct tax authorities. However, opponents of the Directive are quick to point out its many flaws…
The countries that have signed up to be bound by the terms of the Directive include: -
Andorra, Anguilla, Aruba, Austria, Belgium, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Channel Islands, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Isle of Man, Italy, Latvia, Lichtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Montserrat, Netherlands, Netherlands Antilles, Poland, Portugal, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turks and Caicos and the UK.
Currently there are there are two systems operating under the Directive, ‘information exchange’ and ‘withholding tax’, and the above EU Member states and so-called ‘associated territories’ can decide which system to adopt…however, as stated above, the ultimate objective of the Directive is for clear and transparent information exchange. This is what the EU is constantly driving for.
Assets affected include offshore bank and savings account – i.e., any financial solutions which incur an interest payment. Individuals affected include any expatriate who is resident within any of the above named nations, and who holds interest bearing accounts or assets in one of the other named nations.
Whether the Directive has been successful or not is a continuous point for discussion. There are those who claim that anyone seeking to avoid taxation will already have found a way around the Directive. For example, they could simply move funds to jurisdictions that fall outside of the above list.
However, what the Directive has done is make it very clear to those who are offshore legitimately, that the layers of privacy and security they were perhaps seeking have to be secured in other ways.
I.e., it is not possible to maintain privacy with a straight offshore bank account nowadays if you reside within the EU or associated territories and have an account in another related nation. If you do, your information may be openly disclosed to your home tax authority. Theoretically it will therefore be discoverable by any third party.
There are ways to add a layer of privacy back to your offshore structures…for example you could consider establishing a portfolio bond and holding all your assets such as savings and bank accounts within that structure.
If you’re concerned about your offshore assets in relation to the EU Savings Tax Directive, or you want to understand how its terms may affect you now that you’re an expat within the EU, speak to your financial adviser and ask for specific Directive advice.