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Selecting a Jurisdiction

The selection of the most suitable jurisdiction for either international trade or investment can often be difficult and requires very careful consideration.

Most offshore jurisdictions are free from foreign exchange controls and have introduced company legislation to cater for a diverse range of international business requirements. It is important to select a jurisdiction that is well-suited to specific corporate and personal needs.

The following selection criteria have been outlined to guide the selection process:

Political and Economic Stability

Jurisdictions should always provide political and economic stability. This ensures that business can be conducted with certainty, confidence and corporate security.


Legislation should be modern, flexible, private and well-proven.

Desirable Corporate Features

Many offshore and tax planning jurisdictions have made efforts to ensure that their company law is attractive to offshore users. You should consider the following factors when selecting a jurisdiction :

  • Filing obligations and bureaucracy.
  • Compliance requirements.
  • Broad range of permitted company names and suffixes to denote limited liability.
  • Low capital requirements.
  • The ability to hold directors and/or shareholders' meetings anywhere in the world.
  • The absence, or optional requirement for, the audit of accounting records.

Double Taxation Avoidance Treaties

Jurisdictions can be categorized as either treaty jurisdictions or non-treaty jurisdictions.

Clients seeking to take advantage of double tax treaty relief need to establish a company situated in a
treaty jurisdiction. This is essential for the minimization of withholding taxes on the payment of dividends and royalties from contracting states.

Non-treaty jurisdictions are mainly used because of the absence of corporate taxes on the profits of the company. These jurisdictions usually only require companies to pay a fixed annual licence fee.


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Company Law

Company law generally follows four different models:

  • English Common Law
  • European Law
  • US Law
  • Hybrid

Company law based on English Common Law is the most frequent model for the classic offshore jurisdictions such as the BVI, the Bahamas, Hong Kong and Belize. Company law in this type of jurisdiction is typically modeled on the UK Companies Act 1948.

European Corporate Law usually differentiates between the "share" company and the public company. The former is characterized by a lower initial capital and a smaller number of subscribers, whilst the latter is allowed to issue securities that are publicly negotiable. Incorporation procedures in Civil Law jurisdictions are different from those in Common Law countries, e.g. :

  • An amount of paid-up capital must be subscribed before incorporation.
  • A company's statutes are essentially a contract between the subscribers.
  • Procedures are more onerous than in Common Law countries.
  • Incorporation is facilitated by a notary.
  • Corporate law in Civil Law countries often splits the responsibility of boards of directors between an executive and a supervisory board.
  • Powers of directors may be curtailed.
  • Liquidation procedures are time-consuming and complex.
  • A legal reserve may be required.

US Corporate Law has been influenced by both English Common Law and Civil Law. Apart from differences in language, terminology and interpretation, US Company Law differs from English Law in significant ways, including:

  • US Corporations have officers in addition to directors.
  • By-laws are often adopted after incorporation.
  • Directors are often empowered to change by-laws.
  • Company Law in Panama and Nevis has been influenced by US Law.
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