A Swiss Bank Account is easy to open but why would you want to?
Switzerland trades on its historic reputation as a place of safety and privacy for money. Switzerland has long been a neutral country and its bankers were happy to deal with both sides during wars.
Swiss banking began in the 14th century and has since become legendary for its stability and security as well as its privacy.
What are Swiss Accounts?
Swiss bank accounts are simply bank accounts held with banks in Switzerland. Swiss accounts offer good asset management services for high net worth individuals but t they’re useless for privacy nowadays.
Numbered Swiss Accounts
Up until the 1980s strictly private accounts were available. The legendary Swiss numbered account. In fact, this account was so secretive that it didn’t even require a name to operate, only a number. Sadly the Swiss caved to international pressure and abolished numbered accounts in the late 1980s.
The Swiss banking system has changed a lot over the last few decades. In the good old days, you could open a Swiss bank account without any documentation, from anywhere in the world. There were no questions asked and no identity requirements at all.
Privacy with Swiss Accounts no Longer Exists
Swiss accounts used to be completely private
Swiss banks have long been known for their strict privacy policies. They would never divulge any information about clients or their accounts, no matter what.
It was quite common for wealthy people to have numbered Swiss bank accounts. You would have a number instead of your name on your account. All the information about your account was kept confidential, even from other employees of the bank.
That’s all changed now. Privacy is dead in Switzerland and there is no longer any reason to bank there if privacy is important to you
How to Open a Swiss Account as a non resident
When you go to open a Swiss bank account online or in person, be prepared to bring documentation with you. The Swiss government requires that banks know their customers, and Swiss bank account opening can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. Expect to bring documents such as your passport, driver’s license, visa (if needed), and proof of address. Proof of address is usually in the form of a utility bill or bank statement.
“Know your customer”, or KYC laws require that banks have certain information about their customers on file in order to prevent fraud or money laundering. There are also laws requiring that citizens report their income and assets to the government. Switzerland is also signatory to the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), which requires that foreign financial institutions report on U.S. taxpayers.
The documentation required is the same for opening a Swiss bank account online or in person. It includes:
a completed and signed application form
your passport/national identity card/ driver’s license
proof of residence (e.g. utility bill)
a bank reference letter from your current bank
a professional reference letter from your accountant, lawyer or other business advisor
a recent document that proves you are a legal representative of your company (e.g. certificate of incorporation)
Your Swiss bank account details should be with you in around 3 weeks after they’ve verified your details.
Is Switzerland a Tax Haven?
If you’ve heard the term “tax haven,” you may think of a place where money is stashed away from the watchful eyes of the IRS. That’s not the case with Switzerland, which has very high tax rates and requires residents to pay taxes on worldwide income.
The country does offer some special deals to high net worth individuals, but it’s not a tax haven in the classic sense. And it doesn’t make Swiss bank accounts attractive to everyone. Individual accounts are limited and limited to those with high incomes.
It’s also important to note that Switzerland has entered into tax treaties with other countries. These treaties mean that when individuals move their money between countries, they may not owe additional taxes on those funds. That can be confusing for people who don’t know the difference between a tax haven and a tax treaty country.
Can Swiss accounts be traced?
In a word, yes. This is true for a variety of reasons. They include:
Bank employees are required to report anything suspicious, including any large deposits or withdrawals, to the Swiss Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU). If you’re involved in a lawsuit or investigated by law enforcement, your bank has to report all of your transactions and account information to the appropriate authorities.
Swiss law requires that every Swiss bank account holder’s identity be verified. You will have to prove your identity and provide some personal information when you open an account — including data like your name, date of birth and address — which will be recorded with the Swiss government. This information is easily accessible by other governments with legal requests, if requested under the appropriate authority and jurisdiction.
The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) and Common Reporting Standard (CRS) implemented by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) require all financial institutions to report tax-related information on their customers to the government in their home country. The United States has agreements with many countries where U.S. citizens are required to pay taxes even if they do not live in the United States.
Alternatives to Swiss Accounts
Swiss bank accounts were once the best way to keep and grow your money in secret. That’s not the case anymore. There are many better alternatives to Swiss accounts nowadays. Serbia is an up and coming haven. They are not signed up to CRS. Panama is more respectful of privacy than Switzerland. Even Belgium has great bank secrecy laws, and it’s part of the EU. And if you have a lot of money, Singapore and Hong Kong have competitive interest rates, great infrastructure and excellent banking secrecy laws.
Here are some of the best alternatives to Swiss bank accounts:
Singapore — Singapore is part of the FATCA agreement, but for Singapore residents is it not part of CRS. The tax rate on interest income from deposits held in Singapore banks is currently at 0%, so this is a good option for those looking to keep their wealth outside of the US tax system
Serbia — Serbia isn’t on any OECD blacklists, so it’s not likely to be added to CRS or FATCA anytime soon. It’s also not signed up to CRS and doesn’t have any plans to do so. Serbian dinar accounts offer a good hedge against USD/EURO devaluation and high inflation rates
Panama — Panama isn’t part of CRS or FATCA, and while they aren’t considered one of the top 5 jurisdictions for offshore banking secrecy, they are more respectful of privacy than Switzerland.
Find out how to protect your assets and where to open truly secret bank accounts in Bullet Proof Asset Protection. You will discover:
Is it illegal to have a Swiss bank account?
No, it’s completely legal to have a Swiss account. You may have to disclose your Swiss account to the authorities in your country, depending on where you’re resident or citizen.
How much money do you need to open a Swiss account?
It depends on the bank and your status. If you’re a resident of Switzerland you can open an account with as little as $100. You can even open an account online with only $1,000.
Are Swiss bank accounts still secret?
No, Swiss accounts are not secret. Swiss accounts have more holes than Swiss cheese. Switzerland has signed every Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty there is. Your Swiss account details will be disclosed under CRS and FATCA. They will be disclosed to any government agency who asks and frozen on demand.
A bank account in Switzerland may seem like the best and most prestigious option but in reality they’re living on past glory. There are very good asset managers in Zurich and Geneva. There’s no doubt about that. Also the Swiss franc has arguably been the world’s strongest currency in recent decades so you may still want to open a Swiss account despite the dangers. We work with several excellent Swiss banks and can help you open a Swiss account with minimal risk and maximum asset protection in place.
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Get in touch with us for personalised help to make you and your assets completely Bulletproof. We can help you to open Swiss accounts too using a structure that will make them more secure.