"The difference between a taxidermist and a tax collector is that the taxidermist only takes your skin.
-- Mark Twain (paraphrased)
A neutral definition of "offshore" in a financial context would be "the practice of investing in a country other than the country of which one is a citizen." But the term has come to imply tax-evasion scams as practiced by the unscrupulous wealthy, and by criminals seeking to launder money.
It is not my intention to write an essay on means to evade taxes. It is less a matter of "morality" than a matter of survival that causes me concern. In a world of changing laws & governments and of improving communications & increasing lifespans the chances of a tax evader getting caught are very great. Moreover, cryonics already has too much of a popular association as being a practice of the selfish wealthy.
Nonetheless, we would be foolish not to be concerned about taxes or not to look at opportunities offshore. Even Revenue Canada includes "tax tips" in its information booklets to assist Canadians to avoid having to pay more tax than is necessary. Business people often make decisions on the basis of expenses that can be written-off and similar tax considerations. The Canadian government encourages its citizens to engage in international commerce & investment, because exports account for a large proportion of national revenues. Multinational corporations manufacture abroad not only for reasons of cost of labour & raw materials, but on the basis of tax climate. It would be foolish not to consider all economic variables.
The Canadian & US governments try to encourage foreign investment except when the investments are made for the sole purpose of avoiding taxes. Such investments are classified as tax evasion. But what of investments that are 80% commercial and 20% tax-based? 50%/50%? 20%/80%? Canadian banks are well-represented in tax haven countries. And what of foreign financial dealings that are completely legal (or not illegal), yet result in considerable tax savings? Is it not simply prudence to take advantage of opportunities in every form & location?
As caveats I would like to say that I have little experience in offshore finance. My knowledge of legalities is limited, and I may often be too ignorant to know what is legal and what is not. I have an intellectual interest in offshore financial practices aside from my desire to use whatever offshore resources that might further my causes. My description of practices should not necessarily be taken as advocacy, particularly when the result may be illegal. I say this with sincerity, and not as a ruse. Crime is a popular theme in the media, and most of those who find it fascinating have no personal interest in actually committing crime. Finally, I wish to note that the waters offshore are full of sharks. Along with freedom from domestic constraints comes absence of domestic legal protection. Venture forth at your own risk.
Cryonicists have often complained about the money life insurance companies have made off of the cryonics community. It has been suggested that cryonics organizations offer insurance as part of their services. But capital requirements and domestic regulatory requirements are stiff.
Many multi-national companies practice a variant of self-insurance by establishing a "captive" insurance company in a tax haven. The premiums are a tax-deductable expense and the profits are untaxed in the tax haven. The Isle of Man has gained world-wide respect for ease of forming a life insurance company, for a stable political/economic environment and for protection against policy default. Nonresident investors do not have to pay tax on income or capital gains from the company. Assistance with company formation on the Isle of Man can be found at:
Singapore, Cayman Islands, Guernsey (in the Channel Islands), the British Virgin Islands and Bermuda are among favorable offshore sites for insurance companies. See:
A Canadian or American might imagine that taxes could be avoided by setting-up a corporation offshore which could invest in stocks & bonds. Because the corporation is an independent legal entity of which the Canadian/American is just a shareholder, and because the corporation is in a tax haven where taxes are minimal or non-existent, it would seem that capital gain & income could accrue without tax liability. But both Canadian and US governments tax their citizens on all world-wide income. And the profits from foreign corporations owned by Canadians & Americans are regarded as part of the personal income/capital-gain of the owners when it is earned from "passive investment" (stocks&bonds) rather than from manufacture, import/export, contracting of professional skills, etc.
Panama has become notable for the ease with which its government allows for the foundation of foreign-owned corporations -- and for the ease with which a foreigner can conceal ownership. A Panamanian corporation can be organized by 3 residents who act as directors as well as president, secretary and treasurer. The controlling shareholders can maintain their anonymity by owning "bearer shares" (as freely transferable as currency) rather than registered shares, yet can control the corporation through an anonymous power of attorney. The corporation can then become a controlling director of another corporation in another tax haven. And the cost of obtaining & maintaining a Panamanian corporation is very low. Although such ease & cheapness of forming a Panamanian corporation could easily be a tool for dishonest conduct, it can also lead to the creation of productive enterprises. Some websites offering information on Panamanian incorporation are:
Neither the American invasion nor leftist regimes have affected the policies of solicitation of international offshore business by the Panamanian government. (Panama has long been noted for offering a "flag of convenience" for international shippers.) But many of the companies that fled Panama in fear have relocated in the Caribbean island of Nevis, which has actively solicited the business. Similar to Panama, costs of incorporation are nominal, shareholders & management can be of any nationality, annual filings of financial returns are not required, etc. Disclosure of financial information by a Nevis citizen to foreign investigators and regulators results in imprisonment. Ireland is also now actively seeking foreign incorporations -- with lower costs and much lower capital requirements than Nevis.
Banking lies in the gray area between passive investment and active investment. By engaging in some bona-fide banking activity, a privately-owned bank can be domiciled in a tax-haven and earn profits that Canadian or American shareholders need not be taxed-upon unless dividends are issued. Trust services might be of particular interest to cryonicists.
Two of the most attractive offshore countries for starting a private bank are Vanuatu (formerly known as New Hebrides) in the Pacific and the Cayman Islands in the Caribbean. Vanuatu has no taxes and it publicizes the fact that it has no tax treaties with any other country. Licence free for an insurance company is about a thousand dollars and the licence fee for an exempt bank (which can only do business outside of Vanuatu) is less than $3,000 (prices not current). Websites with information about Vanuatu are:
There are no income or capital gains taxes in the Cayman Islands, and incorporation is cheaper & easier than it is in Bermuda or the Bahamas. The Cayman Island government more actively solicits offshore business than the governments of the other two countries, despite their reputation as offshore refuges. The Caymans have a reputation for having perhaps the strongest bank secrecy laws in the world, although Vanuatu has a similar reputation. Total cost for formation of an average trust company is about a thousand dollars. I don't know whether there is a law against perpetuities, but offshore havens frequently place no limits on the duration of a trust. A website with information on the Cayman Islands for insurance companies, offshore trusts, etc. is:
The form of offshore financial activity which has held the most interest for cryonicists has been the trust -- particularly trusts in Liechtenstein, which has a reputation for not having a "law against perpetuities". Ironically, CryoCare Foundation was recently rebuffed by a Liechtenstein trust company that did not want to deal with cryonicists because they are "probably desperate people".
A couple of decades ago a Canadian or American could form an irrevocable trust offshore and not be taxed on the income of the trust. Currently, only domestic irrevocable trusts are regarded as independent legal entities for tax purposes, whereas for foreign trusts there is no distinction between a revocable or irrevocable trust -- both are fully taxed. However a Canadian is not taxed on an offshore irrevocable trust if the beneficiary is not a Canadian resident. One could imagine a Canadian establishing a trust in a tax haven that names an organization like the International Red Cross as beneficiary. Offshore trusts often have a "Protector" (named by the Settlor) who has the power to change trustees or beneficiaries of the trust. Upon moving out of Canada the ex-Canadian could ask the protector to name the new expatriate as the new beneficiary of the trust (which had accrued income tax-free).
Less devious, and more relevant to cryonics, the Canadian could name an American cryonics organization as beneficiary, and include the money in his/her cryopreservation funding. Canada has no estate taxes, but on the year of death of a Canadian taxpayer, all the capital of that taxpayer is deemed liquidated and taxed on all accumulated capital gain for the final tax year of the taxpayer's life. If the beneficiary of an offshore trust is a Canadian resident, then the Canadian government has some leverage to collect, but if the beneficiary is not a Canadian resident, the Canadian government might find it difficult to collect. I think Canadian tax law is acquiescing to expediency by "allowing" this apparent "loophole".
Offshore trusts are also a popular means for professionals to protect their assets from malpractice lawsuits or lawsuits from failed marriages. If such a lawsuit attacks cryopreservation money, it could be fatal.
One government that is very aggressive in soliciting offshore trust business is that of Belize (in Central America). Belizean courts will not recognize the claims of foreign creditors, of marital partners or of divorcees -- or any US court order. Belize trusts have the unusual feature that one person can be Settlor, Trustee, Protector and Beneficiary of a trust. Belize also offers "Economic Citizenship" (ie, a second passport for $75,000 or more). Information on Belize offshore trusts can be found at:
Every country offering desirable trusts has a tradition of English Common law, with one exception: Liechtenstein. Liechtenstein has created legal entities known as the foundation and the establishment. A foundation has features of a trust. The foundation receives an endowment from a settlor, is administered by a board, and distributes income to beneficiaries. The endowment is irreversible -- as with an irrevocable trust. An establishment is like a foundation except that it can have a perpetual existence and it can engage in business practices.
Liechtenstein has 2 forms of trusts: a trust and an enterprise trust. The trust is not a separate legal entity, however. The settlor must pay tax on the income, and the trustees are liable for debts incurred by the trust property. By contrast, a trust enterprise is a separate legal entity which pays a standard 1,000 Swiss franc tax. A trust enterprise can exist in perpetuity, and can have as its purpose: business, family support or philanthropy.
There is a wealth of website links on offshore trusts which provide access to far more information & services than I have described. The following link offers various offshore financial opportunities.
Adam Starchild is a Libertarian and Extropian who writes very knowledgable books about offshore investing. His website is at:
In an effort to regulate Offshore Financial Centers (OFCs), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has written assessments of each of the identified OFCs: