Monday, December 10, 2007
Switzerland's private banking has always been famous for two things:
1. Extreme privacy
2. Avoiding taxes
There are no capital gains taxes in Switzerland, unless you're buying real estate. Personal estate taxes are generally 7%. And if you're a foreigner retired in Switzerland, you can even choose a lump-sum tax in which you only pay taxes on an amount equal to five times your annual rent.
In other words, you don't have to disclose your net worth or income at all.
But all of this is changing...
In 2004, Switzerland altered its tax structure to crack down on tax evasion from foreign accounts. For the first time in history, Swiss banking imposed a 15% withholding tax on interest income from deposits.
A lot of very wealthy people were very, very angry. And funds began to be wired out of Switzerland and halfway across the world to the next private banking hub: Singapore.
Singapore now manages $300 billion in private banking assets. Ten years ago, it was only $50 billion.
Singapore now accounts for roughly 5% of the world's private banking assets. This doesn't seem like a lot, but consider that Singapore is the 189th smallest country in the world, right after the Federated States of Micronesia.
The number of private banks in Singapore more than doubled since 2000. Singapore is now the second largest private banking hub behind Switzerland.
Granted, it's a wide margin – Switzerland manages $1.7 trillion – but it's shrinking rapidly. Singapore's private banking sector is expected to grow by 25%-30% a year for the next three years. When you consider the benefits, it's not difficult to see why.
Individuals worth $13 million can gain immediate permanent residence in Singapore, provided they invest $3.1 million in the country ($1.25 million can go toward property). Once you're there, you don't have to pay taxes on income earned abroad.
If you're a business owner with operations outside the country, you get the benefits of Singapore's education and health care systems – the best in Asia – without paying a dime in taxes.
You won't pay taxes on capital gains or dividends either.
As you'd expect, the rich are flocking to the country. One of them is investing legend Jim Rogers, who made a fortune managing the Quantum Fund with George Soros before "retiring" in his late 30s.
Rogers originally wanted to move to China, but decided the pollution was too awful to put up with. So he relocated to the English-speaking, cleaner, more financially sophisticated Singapore with his family.
I have to tell you, I'm starting to be tempted myself.
Medical bull market continues... new highs for health care ETFs and S&P Biotech ETF.
Asset managers advance... BlackRock, Waddell & Reed, and T. Rowe Price hit new highs.