Recent changes in European Law as well as the enforcement of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FACTA) mean that there is no more hiding money from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). But US citizens can still open bank accounts in Switzerland that are tax compliant and follow the rules of the U.S Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and can help them protect money invested in the country from law cases in the U.S.
HOW TO OPEN A BANK ACCOUNT
Swiss banks have very strict guidelines to open an account and if you live outside the main cities (Basel, Bern, Geneva, and Zurich) you may encounter further difficulties. Some of the smaller banks may still make you an offer, but if they aren’t tax compliant just walk away. The repercussions will be far greater than the rewards.
In order to open a bank account, you will need to bring your passport, work contract and work permit. Banks nowadays must verify your identity so it is no longer possible to open an account solely online. A certified copy can be provided by a branch, a representative office, a financial intermediary, or a notary if you are not able to meet face-to-face. But banks prefer to deal with you personally.
What you do for a living could deeply influence your eligibility for a savings and current account so be sure that all paperwork is up to date. The bank will want to know the origin of your income and funds, your financial situation, your financial transactions… You may be even required to provide previous bank statements so be ready to show documentation that proves your current professional and financial status.
If you are a non-resident many banks will refuse to open a bank account, but you may be able to do business with them through wealth management programmes. You can read more about this banking solution below in ‘How to protect your wealth’.
Due to tax-evasion in the past, the US now requires Swiss banks to inform them of bank accounts belonging to US citizens. For this reason, once you open your account, you will need to fill a series of forms including W-9 (which is used by the bank to prepare a form called 1099 to summarise your earnings and provide all banking details to the IRS). Most banks offer Tax Department services to help you comply with the law.
HOW TO PROTECT YOUR WEALTHIf you are a US citizen, company, or investor wishing to protect your assets legally, there are 40 Swiss wealth managers registered with the SEC and offering tax compliant programmes with interesting benefits so you can still enjoy geographic and currency diversification in a safe and stable country, reduce exposure to US dollar, and protect your money from lawsuits. These are the top 3:
1. UBS SWISS FINANCIAL ADVISERS
Based in Zurich, UBS Swiss Financial Advisers is a branch of the largest and best capitalized banks in Switzerland, and with 150 years of experience under their belt they offer top-tier global investment banking and asset management services.
The profits for clients are unquestionable. From trading non-US securities in local markets, to complementing an existing US strategy, enjoying 24/7 unrestricted access to their portfolios, and benefiting from Swiss know-how by the experienced in-house investment management unit.
Even when it comes to tax reporting, clients need not to worry as their Tax Department provides all necessary reporting for the IRS; including 1099 tax reporting and tax statement.
UBS Swiss Financial Advisers is registered with the SEC and Swiss regulator.
Minimum investment: CHF 1,000,000
2. VONTOBEL SWISS WEALTH ADVISORS
A family owned bank, Vontobel provides internationally diversified and tailored wealth management solutions through its prestigious Swiss Wealth Advisors division. Zurich-based and with a strong sense of Swiss tradition and values, their local expertise and vast experience in Swiss and European markets have seen them grow constantly since 2010; allowing their multi-currency platform to handle 500 US clients and the staggering amount of 1.5. billion assets in less than 4 years.
One of the biggest benefits clients enjoy is a superb personal service which includes regular visits to better understand their investment needs and a Vontobel US office in Dallas, Texas.
Vontobel Swiss Wealth Advisors is registered with the SEC.
Minimum investment: CHF 750,000 for the Investment Management Program and CHF 1,000,000 for the Client Directed Advisor Program.
3. PICTET NORTH AMERICA ADVISORS
Private clients, families, and institutions looking for a bespoke investment strategy to help them achieve short and long term goals should look no further than PICTET North America Advisors. Their program is carefully structured on a client-by-client basis and investments oriented to generating after tax income; a promise that truly sets them apart.
This means that clients benefit from meticulous planning before a wealth management strategy is implemented and portfolio and goals are regularly revised to ensure the strategy adds value and objectives are realized. Unlike other programs, at PICTET strategies are adapted whenever required and their employees are registered with SEC so they can meet prospects and clients for financial advice on US soil at any time. Other massive asset is the bank’s large number of sub-custodians, which are spread in over 84 countries and monitored on a daily basis.
Last but not least, they also provide reliable US tax reporting.
PICTET North America Advisors is registered as an investment advisor with the SEC since 2007.
Minimum investment: CHF 3,000,0000