Volkswagen - an offshore company

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Publicat de: Ioana I.
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1. Introduction

The term "offshore company" or "offshore corporation" is used in at least two distinct and different ways. An offshore company may be a reference to:

- a company, group or sometimes a division thereof, which engages in offshoring business processes.

- international business companies (IBC) or other types of legal entities, which are incorporated under the laws of a jurisdiction, that prohibits local economic activities.

In relation to companies and similar entities which are incorporated in offshore jurisdictions, the use of both the words "offshore" and "company" can be varied in application.

The extent to which a jurisdiction is regarded as offshore is often a question of perception and degree. Classic tax haven countries such as Bermuda, British Virgin Islands and the Cayman Islands are quintessentially offshore jurisdictions, and companies incorporated in those jurisdictions are invariably labelled as offshore companies. Thereafter there are certain small intermediate countries or areas such as Hong Kong and Singapore (sometimes referred to as "mid-shore" jurisdictions) which, whilst having oversized financial centres, are not zero tax regimes. Finally, there are classes of industrialised economies which can be used as part of tax mitigation structures, including countries like Ireland, the Netherlands and even the United Kingdom, particularly in commentary relating to corporate inversion. Furthermore, in Federal systems, states which operate like a classic offshore centre can result in corporations formed there being labelled as offshore, even if they form part of the largest economy in the world (for example, Delaware in the United States).

Similarly, the term "company" is used loosely, and at its widest can be taken to refer to any type of artificial entity, including not just corporations and companies, but potentially also LLCs, LPs, LLPs, and sometimes partnerships or even offshore trusts.

2. Offshore companies

Historically, offshore companies were broadly divided into two categories. On the one hand were companies which were statutorily exempt from taxation in their jurisdiction of registration provided that they did not undertake business with persons resident in that jurisdiction. Such companies were usually called International Business Companies, or IBCs. Such companies were largely popularized by the British Virgin Islands, but the model was copied widely. However, in the early 2000s the OECD launched a global initiative to prevent "ring fencing" of taxation in this manner, and many leading jurisdictions (including the British Virgin Islands and Gibraltar) repealed their International Business Companies legislation. But IBCs are still incorporated in a number of jurisdictions today including Anguilla and Panama.

Separately from IBCs, there are countries which operate tax regimes which broadly achieve the same effect: so long as the company's activities are carried on overseas, and none of the profits are repatriated, the company is not subject to taxation in its home jurisdiction. Where the home jurisdiction is regarded as an offshore jurisdiction, such companies are commonly regarded as offshore companies. Examples of this include Hong Kong and Uruguay. However, these tax regimes are not limited to conventional offshore jurisdictions: the United Kingdom operates on broadly similar principles in relation to taxation of companies.

Separately there are offshore jurisdictions which simply do not impose any form of taxation on companies, and so their companies are de facto tax exempt. Historically the best example of these countries were the Cayman Islands and Bermuda, although other countries such as the British Virgin Islands have now moved to this model. These could arguably fit into either of the previous two categories, depending on the fiscal point of view involved.

To the Offshore Company definition, applies five (non-cumulative) limiting conditions:

- the government in the country of incorporation does not levy an indirect tax on the OAC (however, the OSC must pay an annual fee to the government).

- separate laws and regulations apply.

- the OSC doesn’t have its own physical office (address), personnel, means of communication etc. This means that the OAC must have a representative (registered agent) and office address (registered office) in the county of the incorporation.

- the OSC must be managed and governed by (an employee of) a local trust or law office.

- there is an instance of elements that benefit anonymity such as bearer shares and no or limited filing obligations.

Although all offshore companies differ to a degree depending upon the corporate law in the relevant jurisdiction, all offshore companies tend to enjoy certain core characteristics:

- they are broadly not subject to taxation in their home jurisdiction.

- the corporate regime will be designed to promote business flexibility.

- regulation of corporate activities will normally be lighter than in a developed country.


1. Company: an institution created to conduct business.

2. Business: the activity of providing goods and services involving financial and commercial and industrial aspects.

3. Jurisdiction: The legal power, right, or authority of a particular court to hear and determine causes, to try criminals, or to execute justice; judicial authority over a cause or class of causes; as, certain suits or actions, or the cognizance of certain crimes, are within the jurisdiction of a particular court, that is, within the limits of its authority or commission.

4. Investment: The action or process of investing money for profit.

5. Capital: Wealth in the form of money or other assets owned by a person or organization or available for a purpose such as starting a company or investing.

6. Competitor: An organization or country engaged in commercial or economic competition with others.

7. Economy: The state of a country or region in terms of the production and consumption of goods and services and the supply of money.

8. Offshore: Made, situated, or registered abroad, especially in order to take advantage of lower taxes or costs or less stringent regulation.

9. Finance: The management of large amounts of money, especially by governments or large companies. Finances: The monetary resources and affairs of a state, organization, or person.

10. CEO: A chief executive officer, the highest-ranking person in a company or other institution, ultimately responsible for taking managerial decisions.

11. OECD: Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

12. Government: The group of people with the authority to govern a country or state; a particular ministry in office; The system by which a state or community is governed.

13. Exempt: Free from an obligation or liability imposed on others.

14. Mitigation: The action of reducing the severity, seriousness, or painfulness of something.

15. Capitalization: The provision of capital for a company, or the conversion of income or assets into capital.

16. Manufacturer: A person or company that makes goods for sale.

17. Stakeholder: (in gambling) an independent party with whom each of those who make a wager deposits the money or counters wagered. as modifier Denoting a type of organization or system in which all the members or participants are seen as having an interest in its success.

18. Management: the process of dealing with or controlling things or people.

19. Leadership: The action of leading a group of people or an organization.

20. Brand: A type of product manufactured by a particular company under a particular name.

21. Market: An area or arena in which commercial dealings are conducted; a demand for a particular commodity or service.

22. Enforcement: The act of compelling observance of or compliance with a law, rule, or obligation.

23. Expenditure: The action of spending funds.

24. Streamline: (usually as adjective streamlined) Design or provide with a form that presents very little resistance to a flow of air or water, increasing speed and ease of movement. Make (an organization or system) more efficient and effective by employing faster or simpler working methods.

25. Reimbursement: The action of repaying a person who has spent or lost money.

26. Acquisition: An asset or object bought or obtained, typically by a library or museum; a purchase of one company by another.

27. Dealership: An establishment authorized to buy and sell specific goods, especially motor vehicles.

28. Levy: mpose (a tax, fee, or fine)

29. Portfolio: A range of investments, products or services held by a person or organization.

30. Incorporation: he process of constituting a company, city, or other organization as a legal corporation.

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