offshore Alternatives

The current state of the property market and the opening of trade borders is facilitating many forms of investment in the UK by foreign nationals.

Commercial property offers respectable returns with a reasonable level of security for foreign investors. And efficient tax planning will ensure that the proceeds of sale or rental income can be extracted from the UK or reinvested without incurring a heavy tax burden.

The Government's decision not to pursue the Law Commission's proposal for reform of the domicile has left great scope for tax planning for foreign domiciliaries.

The 'domicile of origin' as a basis for taxation is a historical concept almost unique to the UK and it was not designed to cope with today's mobile entrepreneur.

It is also possible for a person of foreign origin to live in the UK without incurring a liability to UK taxation on income, gains and inheritance provided the ownership of the assets is outside the UK.

Simple tax planning can include the purchase of a property in the UK by a non-domiciliary, not in the client's name, but through an offshore company.

The non-domiciled individual is subject to UK taxation on a remittance basis.

It is essential to ensure that the offshore company which owns the property is outside the charge to UK corporation tax. This would be applied if the company were considered to be trading through a branch or agency in the UK.

The non-resident investor can take tax planning a step further by settling the shares of his offshore company on an 'excluded property trust', to hold the assets outside the UK for inheritance tax purposes even in the event of the individual subsequently becoming resident in the UK. Such a trust will also alleviate the need to obtain probate and will ensure a smooth devolution of the estate in accordance with the settlor's wishes.

Pippa Wagstaff is a director of Leopold Joseph Trust Company (Guernsey).