Why do business owners set up offshore companies?
The point of an offshore company is simply this: in high tax countries such as South Africa, establishing a company in an offshore jurisdiction, like Mauritius, for example, is beneficial because these locations offer low or no tax. Furthermore, as long as the company does not do any business in the country in which it is located, most forms of local tax can also be avoided.
Formation of an offshore company is popular for entrepreneurs who want to set up an import-export company, an international trading company, or an asset holding company. They also use this vehicle to hold property investments or intellectual property.
Foreign governments, in turn, allow offshore companies to be registered inside their borders because company registration and other forms of offshore investment provide a substantial income for these countries. The capital that is invested by these companies in local banks and investment houses creates significant inflow of foreign investment into these economies.
What is an offshore company?
An offshore company seldom conducts business in its country of incorporation. It is usually incorporated in a country where taxation is lower and reporting restrictions are more flexible than the country in which its owners reside. An offshore company can usually be set up within two working days by offshore specialists like OCRA Worldwide, an international and offshore corporate and trust services provider. Advisors like OCRA maintain a list of shelf companies, which are ready-made, never-used corporations established to meet a client’s immediate needs and available to trade instantly.
What are the benefits of going offshore?
Establishing an offshore company has several advantages:
1. Reduced tax
Tax reduction is the number one reason for establishing a company offshore. An offshore company can be used and structured to reduce taxation, especially if you do not derive a profit from the country in which the company is incorporated. You may even be able to avoid paying tax altogether.
The amount of tax an offshore business will pay depends on the way the offshore company is structured and how well you can legally benefit from your tax situation. It’s advisable to consult an offshore incorporation service provider who will look at your circumstances and advise you on how and where to structure an offshore company for maximum gain.
2. Simplified, cost-effective operations
If your business is not subject to international regulations (such as financial institutions are) there are certain jurisdictions that make it easy and attractive for all types of companies to operate. Although it depends on the jurisdiction you choose for incorporation, the burdens of accounting, auditing and record keeping are likely to be significantly reduced. This in turn results in reduced overheads and it also decreases the amount of time and energy that has to be invested in these often onerous tasks.
3. Reduced reporting requirements
In addition to simplifying your overall operations structure through the use of an offshore company, there are also generally far fewer requirements to file information in most offshore jurisdictions.
4. Low incorporation fees
Some jurisdictions charge low fees to incorporate, and they also charge far lower maintenance fees. However, this varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and you are advised to investigate the options.
5. Fast incorporation
Incorporating offshore can mean faster incorporation time. Some countries are not perceived as being business ‘friendly’, while others are. This means that legislation either facilitates or complicates business set-up procedures. In some countries it can take months to set up a company, whereas in Singapore this could be done in days. For entrepreneurs in a competitive market, this can be a very important and decisive factor. If you have a product you want to take to market as soon as possible, and before the competition gets there, incorporating overseas can enable you to introduce your product quickly, efficiently and effectively.
6. Asset protection
It’s possible to manage assets and business transactions in such a way that assets are shielded from any form of liability. You can use an offshore company with an offshore trust, for example, to protect your assets while retaining control over the way your affairs are managed. By placing certain assets within an offshore company structure and then placing the shares of the company within a trust, you can be actively involved in the offshore company and direct the management of its assets whilst remaining independent from it and ensuring that your assets enjoy maximum protection.
7. Greater confidentiality & anonymity
Because offshore companies can use nominee directors, they can carry out all transactions in the name of the private company and keep the names and details of the underlying principal of the company out of public documentation.
A word on tax
“It is important to consult reputable advisers because the tax rules that apply are complex and subject to change,” says Betsie Strydom, director and tax specialist at Bowman Gilfillan. “Proper tax planning requires you to consult advisers in every jurisdiction, and ensure that the structures and management arrangements are real and that they have commercial substance. Do not rely on ‘window dressing’ particularly when it comes to the management of the offshore entities.”
Entrepreneurs who want to set up a business offshore need to take a variety of tax rules into account. “Those that apply to setting up business offshore are complex,” says Strydom. “Not only do you need to take South African tax rules regarding controlled foreign companies and effective management into account, but you also need to consider the tax rules of the country in which you intend to operate, as well as the provisions of any double taxation agreement (DTA) between South Africa and the country in which you want to do business.”
The purpose of DTAs is to prevent double taxation. The DTA between two countries generally means that you will be taxed in both countries, but one country will usually give you a tax credit for the tax paid in the other country. “The type of income, the locations of the offshore businesses and the terms of the DTA or treaty that are applicable will determine whether the offshore structure offers any benefits and in which country you will be taxed,” Strydom explains.
Exchange control considerations are extremely important when setting up a business offshore, according to Strydom. “Sole proprietors and close corporations (CCs) are not permitted to make foreign direct investments outside the common monetary area (CMA), which links South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland into a monetary union.
They can only invest outside the CMA by using their offshore investment allowance, which is R4 million,” she says. South African corporates may make new outward foreign direct investments into companies, branches and offices outside the CMA provided the total cost of this investment does not exceed R500 million per company per calendar year without prior South African Reserve Bank (SARB) approval. The SARB has issued Exchange Control Rulings which, among other things, summarise current exchange control policy on foreign direct investments by South African companies.
In terms of this section of the rulings, “Authorised dealers are allowed to formally approve foreign direct investments, but they will require detailed information before the approval can be given,” Strydom says. Conditions will be attached to these investments. For example, SARB does not allow foreign direct investments to be made where the foreign entities domiciled outside the CMA make any investment/loans into the CMA for any purpose whatsoever, via a loop structure. Also, SARB requires that the ‘place of effective management’ of the FDI Company remains in South Africa and typically also imposes a condition that the FDI Company cannot re-domicile without the specific prior approval of the Exchange Control Department of SARB. Where the intended investment exceeds R500 million, specific approval will be required too.
Choosing a jurisdiction
“It is possible to incorporate offshore companies in many jurisdictions,” says Hylton Cameron, senior tax manager at Grant Thornton Johannesburg. “Some of the most popular locations include Botswana, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Cyprus, Dubai, Gibraltar, Guernsey, the Isle of Man, Jersey, Mauritius, the Netherlands, Antilles and the Seychelles.”
To determine which location is best for you, you need to take a number of factors into account, including the type of business and the reasons why you want to register an offshore company. Language may also play a role, as does time zone. Jurisdictions such as Dubai, Singapore, and Hong Kong appeal to many entrepreneurs setting up an offshore company because of their competitive tax systems, infrastructure and reputation as business hubs. It’s worth noting that in sub-Saharan Africa, 29 out of 46 economies reformed, implementing 67 reforms, according to the World Bank Doing Business Report 2010. Nearly half the reforms focused on making it easier to start a business or trade across borders.
For South African entrepreneurs looking to set up a business in sub-Saharan Africa, an advisor like Grant Thornton has offices in a number of countries and offers accounting and business advisory services, as well as the skills and expertise that you will require to ensure that your fingers don’t get burnt. “Our local offices ensure that business people have access to hands-on assistance, and to best practice methodologies and knowledge resources. It’s vital to consult providers who have first-hand knowledge of the countries in which you want to set up operations and how the various systems work. That will help you cut through the red tape.”
Cameron advises entrepreneurs to ensure that the jurisdiction they are interested in is politically stable and has flexible tax and company laws. When people invest offshore, he adds, it may be for a variety of business reasons, including expansion into that country, use of that country’s resources, tax benefits and exchange control benefits. He notes that small to medium sized businesses may be attracted to countries like Botswana and Angola because of cheaper labour.
“For a manufacturing business, the labour costs may be more attractive and could be a major driving factor in the decision to set up there. If someone invests in Kenya or Zambia they usually do so because their operations would be commercially viable there. When we help a client to decide on whether a location like Kenya, for example, is suitable, we advise the client to look at tax issues in Kenya, as well as the tax implications for a South African citizen investing in Kenya.
We strongly advise against identifying an opportunity and only then asking questions about tax. Worse still is the situation in which a client goes ahead and invests offshore and only asks tax questions later.” Referring to tax rates in sub-Saharan Africa, Cameron notes that the rates reflected are open to interpretation based on the circumstances of each business. “Issues such as the fact that some countries offer lower tax rates for individuals than others are of little real concern. Sometimes companies apply what is called tax equalisation. Simply put, if you receive the equivalent of R100, less tax of 30% in country A and you then move to country B where the individual tax rate is 40%, the company will pay the individual more, so that the net result is still 70% as per the original country.”
The Mauritian appeal
Among the many jurisdictions that may be attractive to business owners who want to go offshore, Mauritius ranks tops. Cameron notes that Mauritius has undergone major economic reforms and is today one of the world’s most competitive fiscal regimes. It was ranked 12th best out of 183 countries in the ‘Paying Taxes’ category of the World Bank Doing Business Report 2010. South Africa ranked 23rd. In the ‘Ease of Doing Business’ category, Mauritius ranked 17th, while South Africa was in 34th place.
In addition, the Mauritian economy has had an average growth rate of 5,6% during the last five years. Mauritius is regarded as Africa’s first tiger economy, supported by a robust education and social infrastructure. It is a highly active Freeport and so functions as a substantial duty-free distribution hub for the south-east African region. In addition, it is strategically located, politically stable, offers excellent infrastructure, a well developed information and communications technology network and excellent sea and air transport.
Mauritius is a member of the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC), which promotes regional economic co-operation, of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa). Regardless of which region you are considering, it’s imperative to understand that not everyone will benefit from going offshore. You must seek professional advice before incorporation to ensure your actions are legal and the jurisdiction you have chosen is regulated and respected.
The Internet has many useful resources and sources of information for anyone who is interested in investigating offshore options. Here are some of the most valuable ones:
- Alliance Trust, Alliance Trust Co. (Mauritius) offers expertise in the formation and administration of offshore companies in Mauritius.
- Doing Business, The Doing Business project provides objective measures of business regulations and their enforcement across 183 economies and selected cities at the sub-national and regional level.
- Formations House, Offers readymade offshore companies with bank and merchant accounts.
- OCRA Worldwide, A service provider that has established and administered more than 185 000 companies and trusts worldwide from 20 global offices.
- PKF International, A worldwide network of legally independent member firms providing local expertise in accounting and business advisory services.
3 Actionable Insights To Make Your Investment Pitch Perfect
The best pitches aren’t just short and to the point, they deliver on investor expectations and needs.
The best pitches aren’t just short and to the point, they deliver on investor expectations and needs.
1. Confront your product and market flaws from the start
Investors come from business and investment backgrounds. They will recognise the potential dangers in your business model. If you ignore these elements, you’re not addressing key concerns they may have, and how you will protect the business against them.
DO THIS: Look at your business from every angle. Where are your potential weaknesses, and what is your plan to overcome them?
2. Pitch to the right investors
The sectors and mandates that different investors and funds follow dictates the businesses that will interest them. Pitching your business to the wrong investors wastes their time, your time, and potentially damages your brand in the market place — waste the time of too many investors, and the word will spread.
DO THIS: Research the investors and funds you are pitching to thoroughly. This will narrow your focus, and help you develop your pitch deck. It will also help you unpack the areas of the business that you’ve discovered are important to the particular investors you’re pitching to.
3. Don’t follow fads
Investors aren’t interested in ‘flash in the pan’ business ideas. They care about products that stand a chance of long-term success. You might start off selling to a niche audience, but the goal must be to reach a wider audience as the product develops and matures.
DO THIS: Critically evaluate the staying power of your business idea. Is it a product that’s trendy but could lose traction as market fads change, or does it solve a real and enduring need?
5 Tips To Get You Ready To Launch That Business Now
Are you dreaming about becoming an entrepreneur, but not sure whether you’re ready to take the plunge? Some of the world’s top entrepreneurs weigh in on what it takes to be a success.
1. Think out the box
A general rule of thumb is that you should do what you know. Spend time in an industry before launching your business, build up a network and understand your target market and their needs. This is all sound advice, and has been the foundation of many successful start-ups.
However, there is an inherent danger that entrepreneurs should avoid at all costs: Many industries are bound by legacy ideas and systems that are the enemy of disruption and innovation. Entrepreneurs who didn’t know something couldn’t be done are often the ones who find a way to make it happen.
Approach an industry or idea with fresh eyes. Take lessons from other industries. Don’t be limited by your lack of knowledge — go out and learn, even if you’re learning on the fly.
Airbnb, Uber and Netflix are three of the most disruptive businesses in the world today, and they’ve achieved phenomenal success because they didn’t buy into the simple and engrained idea that an accommodation business should own property, a taxi service should own vehicles, or a movie rentals business needed to own DVDs.
If you really want to differentiate, you need to lead, not follow.
“Don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know. That can be your greatest strength and ensure that you do things differently from everyone else.” — Sara Blakely, Spanx founder and self-made billionaire
2. Be an open-source person
Have you been delaying launching your own business because you’re not sure if you’re ready? Some of the most successful entrepreneurs have taken the plunge and learnt along the way. Gil Oved and Ran Neu-Ner, founders of The Creative Counsel — South Africa’s biggest advertising agency with an annual turnover of R750 million — followed this simple rule in their start-up days: They always bit off more than they could chew, and then chewed like hell.
Their philosophy was that ‘no’ was never the end of a negotiation, but the beginning of one. This tenacity kept them going, even though they spent their first year barely making ends meet.
Gil and Ran are not alone in their thinking. Robin Olivier, founder of Digicape, a R240 million Apple products and services business, prepared himself for entrepreneurship by putting his hand up for anything and everything that came his way. “I’ve always been like that. I jump in with two feet and figure things out along the way.” For Robin, that’s the only way you learn.
Joshin Raghubar, founder of iKineo and the chairman of Bandwidth Barn and the Cape Innovation and Technology Initiative, began his career working for Ravi Naidoo at African Interactive. At 23, he found himself project managing the African Connection Rally, a massive partnership with the Department of Transport. Why? Because he was always ready to step in, learn something new, offer his opinion and take on any challenge.
Joshin believes that successful entrepreneurs are open-source people who are willing and able to consistently and continuously learn new things. If you’re moving forward every day, you’re already on the path to success.
3. Be significant
Start-ups are tough. They are lonely, and they take a lot from you physically, mentally and emotionally. Passion and significance are two key components that will keep you going through your darkest hours. If you can answer why you are doing something, you’ll be able to forge on, even when the challenges ahead seem almost insurmountable.
“If something is important enough, even if the odds are against you, you should still do it,” says Elon Musk, who isn’t letting go of his dream to colonise Mars during his lifetime, despite many challenging tasks ahead of him. The lesson is simple: Whatever you endeavour to accomplish, out of this world or not, do not allow yourself to be deterred by the odds. Bravely forge ahead.
Steve Jobs shared a similar outlook. Before entering into business with Steve Wozniak, he dropped out of college and took time off figuring out what he wanted to do with his life.
“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work,” he said. “And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”
If you know you want to be an entrepreneur, but you aren’t sure what you should be doing or haven’t found the right business idea, think about the things that truly matter to you. What problem would you ultimately like to solve? Sometimes you need to build up to it, and start with one thing that will lead you to the next (consider how Musk built the Tesla to fund other parts of his business), but once you’re on the path to significance, nothing will hold you back.
“The key to realising a dream is to focus not on success but on significance — and then even the small steps and little victories along your path will take on greater meaning.” — Oprah Winfrey, self-made billionaire media mogul
4. Look for opportunities in every challenge
Some people see challenges, others see opportunities. The latter are known as entrepreneurs. Some of the most successful businesses have been launched in the midst of recessions. How? Because entrepreneurs aren’t daunted by a challenge. In fact, challenges are great, because they keep the competitive pool smaller.
Vinny Lingham, Shark Tank South Africa investor and serial entrepreneur, says that he would rather have been homeless than not start a company because he didn’t have any finances. He sold his house, rented back a room in his (now former) home, and launched Clicks2Customers, a business that hit the R100 million turnover mark three years later. He didn’t see the challenge; he focused on the opportunity.
You’ll have to keep a close eye on cash flow and find some really smart solutions to real-life problems, but that’s the foundation of a great start-up. It’s all about the lens you see the world through. Are you open to opportunities, or limited by challenges?
“Dear optimist, pessimist, and realist — while you guys were busy arguing about the glass of wine, I drank it! Sincerely, the opportunist!”— Lori Greiner, Shark Tank US investor
5. Failure is a critical element of success
Don’t let failure hold you back, or worse yet, keep you from trying. You already know that failure is a part of the business of entrepreneurship, but it’s easier said than done when you’re picking yourself back up after a bad break. Remember that with a shift in your perspective you can transform the stumbles and falls into opportunities to improve yourself and your business offerings. What didn’t work? What did? Keep at it — you only have to get it right once.
Oprah agrees. “At some point, you are bound to stumble, because if you’re constantly doing what we do, raising the bar; if you’re constantly pushing yourself higher, higher, the law of averages — not to mention the Myth of Icarus — predicts that you will at some point fall. And when you do I want you to know this, remember this: There is no such thing as failure. Failure is just life trying to move us in another direction.”
And what about Richard Branson? The billionaire mogul has launched more than 200 successful ventures, but he’s also had some dismal failures, including Virgin Cola and Virgin Brides. If he didn’t ‘screw it, just do it’ in the face of failure, where might he be today?
Instead, he believes in getting back up and pushing on. “The main thing is, if you have an idea for business, as I say, screw it, just do it. Give it a go. You may fall flat on your face, but you pick yourself up and keep trying until you succeed,” he says.
There’s no such thing as a successful entrepreneur who didn’t fail while they found their success. But, there are many, many entrepreneurs who haven’t found success because they’ve been too afraid to fail. Which will you be?
“Don’t worry about failure. You only have to be right once.” — Drew Houston, CEO of Dropbox
The 3 Blueprints For Starting A Business
There are three templates to starting a business. Get this first step right, and success will fall into place.
“One reason that America continues to do so well as a market,” an economist explained to the audience at a recent conference, “is that they are still leading the charge to do new things. In addition to pioneering new products, they are still pushing the boundaries of frontiers like space-travel and technology. They don’t merely copy the products made in other countries. They make and do entirely new things, and that matters.
“By contrast,” he explained, “many of the older economies, like Europe, are just ‘kicking the can down the road’. They don’t really have a vision for the future. They’re just trying to maintain what is, to survive a little longer.”
Grow or shrink
Companies, countries and entire economies are all broadly following one of these two approaches. One is the bold, growth option, while the other is only about maintaining what already exists. The trouble with maintaining, however, is that, in a dynamic system, you tend to be either growing or shrinking. A dynamic system rarely tolerates anything simply standing still. To stand still is, often, to shrink.
Once in a lifetime chance
Your company, team or organisation’s founding moment is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get this one right. Are you simply going to kick the can down the road? Or do you want to build spaceships? Are you going to be a soulless ‘also played’? Or would you prefer to do something new and meaningful? Mission matters greatly.
In Exponential Organizations: Why New Organizations are Ten Times Better, Faster, and Cheaper than Yours (and what to do about it), Salim Ismail calls it a ‘Massive Transformative Purpose’. The stronger your purpose, the more you attract tribes of people, both as aspiring employees and as a supporting community of customers.
This is not to say that you are obliged to invent something brand new and original. A good deal of research is showing that pioneers in a new industry do not tend to do as well, or last as long, as the ‘settlers’ who come after them. One reason is that the pioneers have to make all the initial mistakes. The settlers get to enjoy greater leverage, by observing what has already worked or failed, then capitalising on that learning.
The idea of founding a company that thrives on meaning has more to do with how meaningful the work is, and how much of a drive to achieve goals is built into your corporation.
Elon Musk’s SpaceX is certainly not the pioneering organisation in space-travel. We have left earth’s atmosphere before, decades ago. In that sense, SpaceX is a settler, and not a pioneer. That said, it is nevertheless a strongly goal-oriented, purpose-driven organisation. You don’t have to invent something entirely new to create a mission-driven company.
The Israeli Defense Forces is highly mission-driven, because it has to be. Pixar is mission driven, because it chooses to be, and because it believes in magic.
Being mission-driven, from the top to the bottom of an organisation, changes the energy. It converts ‘mere work’ into ‘shared purpose’.
Sociologist James Baron and his group of experts led a study in the mid-90s looking at how people founded their companies, across a wide spectrum of industries, including hardware, software, medical devices, research and manufacturing.
The study asked about their original blueprints. What organisational models did they have in mind when they started?
Baron determined that there were three templates for starting a business. You might start your company based on:
- A Professional blueprint, in which you hire people with a preference for specific skills (prior to its fall from grace, Kodak hired people based on specific educational qualifications)
- A Star blueprint, in which you hire ‘superstars’ based on future potential, placing a premium on choosing or poaching the brightest hires. You look for raw potential, not current knowledge
- A Commitment blueprint, in which you believe that skills are nice, but cultural fit and buy-in to shared values is more important. You build strong bonds to the company. Employees tend to be passionate about the mission.
Baron and his experts tracked the firms through the 1990s and into the next decade. Those that used the Commitment blueprint, which prioritises a shared sense of mission and values, greatly outperformed the others. The failure rate for firms with a Commitment blueprint was zero.
Failure rates were substantial for the Star blueprint, and more than three times worse for the Professional blueprint. It seems these approaches don’t keep people going in the same way that buy-in to a mission does.
Nevertheless, the Professional blueprint, which prioritises the specific skills on people’s CVs, tended to be the most common.
There were two other rare blueprints: Autocracies and bureaucracies, focusing on detailed rules and procedures. These blueprints were the most likely to fail, and autocratic was most likely to fail out of the two. This is an important point: Rules-based organisations and dictatorships, according to this finding, are so likely to fail that investing in them is not worthwhile. But where a culture of people is part of a mission, they are most likely to succeed. Translation: Autocracy rarely ever works, and systems of intense rules and guidelines work slightly less badly.
Rules and dictatorships = likely to fail.
Mission-driven culture = 100% success rate.
Most real-world autocrats would probably agree with this finding, if they heard it. Then they would continue to run their business as autocrats, because, they’d say, “My situation is different, I happen to be right, and people should do what I say.”
When you’re an autocrat, it’s hard to know that you’re an autocrat. When you create your business to follow a mission from the word go, and you allow a degree of genuine democracy in which others can outvote you for the good of the mission, you instil the possibility of overcoming this blind spot, sometimes in spite of yourself.
Now, here’s the kicker: The Commitment culture is extremely effective in starting an organisation and ensuring its initial survival. But over time, the same study found, it is not the best performer.
The challenge is that when organisations mature, encouraging layer upon layer of like-minded people tends to discourage innovation and original thinking. Too much shared value = groupthink.
So, what’s our total moral? In a best-case scenario, we need to start with a common mission and committed people, and focus on growing. Once we’ve matured, we need to make a point of bringing in diverse thought, in order to avoid too much homogeneous thinking and yes-mannery.
In Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, Adam Grant shows how these findings map perfectly onto the rise and fall of Polaroid. Like-mindedness worked well to get the brand going initially, but then, ultimately, the same like-mindedness prevented them from learning, growing, changing and adapting in a volatile market.
Like the IDF, they had a strong sense of shared purpose. But unlike the IDF, they were incapable of a belief system that said ‘the only tradition is that we have no traditions’. They were not a learning and growing organisation.
The more a company develops a culture, the more it will tend to hire for that culture, and the more resistant its own people will be to new ideas or contrary views.
So what if…?
What if you decided to be an organisation on an important mission, rather than merely a group of people kicking the can down the road?
- 5 Thoughts To Give You The Courage To Make Change
- Develop Digital Marketing Competency In 3 Simple Steps
- How To Build Organisational Wealth Through Increased Efficiency
- The Workspace And MiWay Announce Entrepreneur Competition
- Successful People Always Chase the Impossible – Here’s Why
- A Top Lesson From Vinewave: Success Doesn’t Happen Overnight
- Budget 2018/9: 3 Key Tax Areas To Look Out For In The Speech
Start-up Industry Specific3 months ago
How Do I Start A Transport Or Logistics Business?
Entrepreneur Profiles3 months ago
10 SA Entrepreneurs Who Built Their Businesses From Nothing
Business Plan Advice3 months ago
Writing a Business Plan May Not Be Your Idea Of Fun, But It Forces You To Build These 4 Crucial Habits
Company Posts1 month ago
Enhance Your Entrepreneurial Flair With An Online Postgraduate Diploma From The University Of Pretoria