Ian Le Breton © 2019-2021 Legal stuff

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People sniggered when I used to bang on about Gibraltar. They’re not laughing now.


I made my first visit in April 1982 a few months before my 20th birthday. Some describe Gibraltar in terms of Marmite – you either love it, or you don’t. My own affair with the Rock began during that last trip as a teenager – by air from Tangier, just across the narrow strait separating Europe from Africa. I have been passionate about it ever since, culminating in working there and making Gibraltar my home for more than twelve years.


As a proud Jerseyman, in the beginning, people thought me odd promoting Gibraltar especially given its small size and apparent lack of appeal then to the international finance community. Size one can do nothing about – although there has been extensive reclamation from the sea. But a combination of other factors both external and self-administered have seen the stars align in recent years so that the future really is bright – and people around the world are sitting up to take note.


But why? And why now?


Brexit has been a transformative process. Despite its own 96% “remain” vote, Gibraltar had to exit the EU with Britain on 31 January 2020 and followed the same 11 month transition period thereafter. A wide-ranging treaty is planned between the EU and Britain for Gibraltar. Watch this space but early indications are very positive.


The international finance sector is well developed and in robust good health despite the challenges of the last year. The community is well regulated locally and very regularly promoted internationally. Crucially the sector is actively supported by government. The Minister for Digital and Financial Services (the Hon Albert Isola MP) also oversees, as his title suggests, Gibraltar’s innovative, world class DLT sector, often – somewhat inaccurately – referred to as “blockchain”. No matter the moniker, in the rarefied universe occupied by DLT business and especially the legal support provided locally, rest assured that Gibraltar punches well above its weight. And more besides.


In the trust and company field a major deal was announced in March. Sovereign, my former employer and already one of the largest independent firms locally, consolidated its position still further by acquiring STM Fidecs’ trust and company management business. This follows Sovereign’s recent major investment in a new global HQ - an award winning building on Main Street.   


Banking locally would perhaps benefit from having more players but those present compete for the thriving domestic and international markets. The industry has changed so much anyway that in addition to a bank account, “substance” has become ever more important. Decent office space is available – including the World Trade Center at Ocean Village. The support services covering all sectors are second to none.


Away from finance but still important for its image, Gibraltar is the first territory worldwide to vaccinate its entire adult population against Covid-19. True, at some 33,000 residents, this is equivalent to a modestly sized English town but for the Rock it is about much more than the numbers. The positive publicity generated worldwide is invaluable. The sight of giant RAF transporters flying in the crucial material was a great relief to a local populace hit hard, as elsewhere, by the pandemic.

New air routes – some never tried before – have been announced and all the signs point to a decent recovery as Europe re-opens.  


People are talking about the Rock. Apart from the finance industry, these include the UK Prime Minister in a recent UK press briefing and indeed the UK Foreign Secretary who made a flying visit to the Rock last month.


I have been passionate about Gibraltar for close to forty years. I invite those of you yet to take a look at this historic place to do so. For it has its eye most definitely on a rosy future.st definitely on a rosy future        


12 April 2021to s


IRELAND / UK : THE COMMON TRAVEL AREA OFFERS AN UNCOMMON ADVANTAGE


Post-Brexit, a month in. The world has not ended although life is dominated for the time being by the pandemic. Early challenges relating to perishable goods have arisen that must be addressed quickly but broadly speaking, cross border trading businesses will welcome the trade agreement even one signed at the last minute.


England & Wales has long been considered an ideal jurisdiction from which to run an international business. In the brave new world, establishment in an EU jurisdiction might also be considered, either as a subsidiary or as part of a full relocation.


Across the 27 EU member states, substance requirements are leading more often than not to the need for a company to consider physical presence. Thus alongside other concerns a particular location’s attractiveness – including for staff – should be considered from the outset.  


For English speakers, Ireland remains an excellent option. In addition to the appealing corporate tax regime, other benefits include well developed infrastructure, convenient time zone, skilled workforce and an open, welcoming government particularly toward services and tech industries.

 

The Common Travel Area (“CTA”) is often overlooked but offers a distinct further advantage.


The CTA covers Ireland, the UK, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man (residency restrictions apply in the islands). It pre-dates the EU by several decades and crucially it was recognised during EU-UK Brexit talks. The Withdrawal Agreement specifically allows Ireland and the UK to conclude separate arrangements and the CTA’s continuation was re-affirmed in a joint UK / Irish government statement in May 2019.


The agreement permits freedom of movement for Irish and British citizens between the countries whilst not applicable to foreign nationals. They can live, work (including on a self employed basis) or retire in either country. For Britons post-Brexit (and unlike other places such as Spain) there is no requirement to prove sufficient resources or pension rights.


Establishing companies in Ireland is straightforward and banking is not difficult. As always, local guidance including independent tax advice should be sought from the outset. Contact me for further information and relevant introductions if you or your clients are considering Ireland in your planning. we enter (UK) Week 5 – the number varies depending where you are in the world – I’d love to hear from

29 January 2021to


END OF WEEK 4 OF THE UK LOCKDOWN: DEFINITELY NOT “BUSINESS AS USUAL”


Here in the UK, we are ending lockdown week 4 so I thought I’d reach out to those across my social media platforms – with apologies if some of you are on more than one, so are seeing this twice.


Most importantly, almost everyone I know is following the rules, safely social distancing and all are well. Some are better off than others but wherever we are, we’re all in it together – and must make the best of it.


I’ve had enough invitations to guess things, find out what certain celebs are up to etc. to last a lifetime. Neither do I need any more laughably crude attempts to extract money from me – I mean would the real Tesco use an .edu email address? I think not.


But the message that irks me most? Those from companies, some of whom I do not know and most who seem to think GDPR is just another acronym they can safely ignore, telling me that I needn’t worry. For them, it’s business as usual they crow. What utter codswallop (this is a family show so I’ll be no stronger).


Of course it’s not business as usual so stop telling me it is. Even if you are one of the fortunate ones (or brave ones) for whom the lockdown is a case of “Keep Calm and Carry on” remember that for most if not all of your audience they are definitely not in the same position.   


I am self-employed, answerable to no-one else, so although isolating, truthfully I am working more or less as usual. Many people at the other end of my line or email chain are to a greater or lesser extent at sixes and sevens, if not the end of their tether. At the same time however, as for everyone else, I am stuck at home not able to go anywhere, getting under my fiancé’s feet - so no, it’s not normal life, and let’s not pretend to anyone that it is.


At the end of UK Week 4, talk is turning inevitably to the relaxation, at least in part, of some of the restrictions. In my world of trusts and international companies (read “offshore companies” if you prefer), I have noticed during this last fortnight in particular a more serious effort by many I know to review individual personal or company structures. What was put in place some years ago may not be valid today. The carefully planned schematic may now be out of date - key players may have changed, fallen out, or whatever.


My bit of the trust and corporate space is to provide two separate things: knowledge and solutions. The former includes sourcing and providing information about compliant structures, jurisdictions, compliance and banking to name a few key areas. The latter is my chance to introduce a potential client or their advisers to carefully selected trust companies and corporate service providers around the globe.


But an increasing part of the consultancy business now concerns either reviewing or amending an existing structure and in some cases the closure of all or part of the arrangement. It’s not necessarily what providers want to discuss as they seek to grow not reduce their business but I am happy to do so. After all, new rules were already in place before the lockdown affecting areas such as substance, common reporting standard and yet another EU Anti-Money Laundering Directive (the 5th no less!) making life challenging enough. Doubtless, more will follow post-lockdown.


Who can say when business life will return to normal? And to what extent will normal mean, well, normal? It’s perhaps wise to get ahead – or at least not get left behind – whilst we all have just a little more time to review and consider rationally anything that needs to be done. I suspect that once we are all let back into the world, we are going to be over stretched simply catching up – a bit like returning from the long school summer holidays of our youth.


Working from home means we are all up to date with our emails, right? For now, perhaps. There will be a lot of competing distractions when we are allowed to come out to commit business once again. Some things will take time to grasp whether it be the eye-watering debt levels already built up, or dealing with businesses large and small that have not survived the crisis – including those, already appearing, where the owner simply closes up shop.


As we enter (UK) Week 5 – the number varies depending where you are in the world – I’d love to hear from you. Not (thank you) to tell you how many triangles I see, or reveal my ten top LPs from yesteryear nor even to see the cutest animal pictures (and please I’ve seen enough home cooking results too) -    


But if it’s to consider your private or corporate structure – either to look at existing arrangements or set up something brand new, do get in touch. Any initial consultation is free of charge and without obligation; fees thereafter are deliberately modest, agreed in advance and moreover, fair. It’ll beat some of the alternatives competing for your precious time. This lockdown will be over, in parts possibly sooner than we may imagine. And we won’t be getting this time back. What did you do during the lockdown? is a question that will inevitably be asked.


Stay safe, keep your distance and in the meantime, do contact me at will. Just please don’t send me snaps of you on an ocean-going yacht for the time being...

As we enter (UK) Week 5 – the number varies depending where you are in the world – I’d love to hear from

25 April 2020v

en to see the cutest animal pictures (and please I’

THE NEW YEAR: MORE CHALLENGING THAN THE LAST?


Another New Year is upon us.


Christmas? Check.

UK General election? Check.

Brexit? Check (well almost).

Etc.


And so we start the new decade:  forget the oft repeated falsehood that we started counting at Year 0 and let’s move on.  It is goodbye and probably good riddance to the century’s troubled teens, and welcome to the ‘twenties.…


The UK election resulted in a more than comfortable majority for the Tories leading to, it is safe to assume, the UK finally exiting the EU at the end of this month. Leave aside “remain” and “leave” from now on. The people have spoken and off we go. I doubt that the required trade deal will be as easy as A-B-C. True the stable government now in place promises much more clarity – but the negotiations need to be completed at the same time as the rest of the promised domestic legislative programme is rolled out. I will be watching with interest.


I confess to having been somewhat distracted this past autumn in the run up to the festive season. The elections here at home, in Spain and Gibraltar have coincided with relocating from central London to a picturesque village in South Somerset. The main street dates back several centuries and comes complete with cottages, thatched roofs, and a lifestyle that seems decades away from the 21st century. Do not be deceived – fibre broadband means we are far more connected than when we called Pimlico in London home.


I am wary of falling into the “what will 2020 bring?” trap for one cannot foresee events. Even as the strains of Auld Lang Syne hang in the air, tension is building in the Middle East as we enter a new uncertain phase in global geopolitik.  


As an independent consultant, I spend my time informing corporate and private clients on a wide range of areas. My focus continues to be trusts, international companies and pensions – generally avoiding the word “offshore” for fear it may be misunderstood. In these areas, I see trends continuing in 2020 much as before with further emphasis on the necessity for independent advice every time and tax, banking and compliance requirements becoming ever more central to the decision making process. There are still important benefits to be derived from international structuring but it must be done in a fully compliant, and where required, reportable manner.


There are those (but note, I am not one of them) who would have you believe that the use of international trusts and companies whether for private individuals or corporate entities is dead, or at least on life support. In my opinion, nothing could be further from the truth – despite appearances.


In recent years, the industry has had to implement the OECD’s Common Reporting Standard and other initiatives such as FATCA in the US. Among other changes to be considered are the new rules concerning reporting the ultimate beneficial ownership of such structures, a lot of which is on-going even now.


The cost of providing such structures so that they remain fully compliant continues to increase. It is hardly surprising then that many smaller firms involved in the trustee and corporate services business are contemplating their future. In recent years, across many jurisdictions, we have seen mergers, winding ups or straightforward refusal to take on certain kinds of work by a number of these firms. I am busier than ever ensuring that suitable introductions are made to the right people at the most appropriate firms for a client be they private or corporate and depending on their particular needs, choice of jurisdiction, attitude to cost etc. Gone are the days when a BVI offshore company could be had for a few hundred dollars all in. And not before time in my view.


I hope that 2020 will be peaceful, prosperous and when it comes to trusts, international companies or pensions – however combined – well structured. Throughout the year I will be posting articles on diverse topics in this field.  Please sign up in order to receive them as they are released and indeed let me know if you’d like something special covered or researched.  If I can assist you or your clients, feel free to get in touch at any time for a no obligation chat.

I wish you a healthy, prosperous – and compliant – New Year 2020


6 January 2020


GIBRALTAR CONTINUES TO PUNCH ABOVE ITS WEIGHT.....


The first week of November 2019 was a busy one for Gibraltar here in the UK. As part of the now much expanded “Gibraltar Day in London”, no less than five financial services events were hosted by HM Government of Gibraltar over the course of the week across the capital.


These were put on as part of the government’s Think Business #ThinkGibraltar campaign that has also seen extensive and attractive advertising involving no less than 100 London buses, 300 black cabs and 40 key commuter stations all over the city. A number of other “fringe” events were held during the week by different firms within the private sector.


The Gibraltar Day in London events have been held for almost twenty years; I have been privileged enough to attend at least one event most years since 2000. The Financial Services lunch has always been a key feature but over the years, the scope has grown so that in 2019 separate events were held apart from the lunch to include funds and asset managers, private clients and family offices, insurance and distributed ledger technology (or DLT for short).


The DLT event was of particular interest to me. It took the form of a seminar and networking reception in the stunning surroundings of Level39 which is the world’s most connected tech community, located at Canary Wharf. In just six years, Level39 has grown into an 80,000 sq ft accelerator space occupying three floors of the iconic One Canada Square building including (naturally enough) the 39th floor from where stunning views across London may also be enjoyed.


Gibraltar was the first jurisdiction to regulate DLT. Since the legislation came into force in January 2018, a growing number of firms have submitted themselves to the rigorous process leading to the issuing of a coveted DLT licence. Several were announced in the weeks running up to Gibraltar Day in London and the seminar included an impressive panel discussion where several of the recently regulated firms were represented. The most exciting take away for me was that several of the principals on the stage were from all over the world, demonstrating the truly global appeal of Gibraltar’s innovative principles-based approach. It was good to see the event attended by a full house of some 150 industry professionals.


Running the seminar was Gibraltar Finance’s Senior Executive, Paul Astengo who introduced the recently re-elected Hon Albert Isola MP who is the aptly named Minister for Digital and Financial Services (note how Digital comes first!). He was followed by seasoned industry professional Kerry Blight who took up his new role as CEO of the Financial Services Commission (the regulator) in October.


The event was all very positive and comes at a pivotal moment for Gibraltar. As Britain faces a General Election designed to break the logjam of Brexit, the jurisdiction’s relationship with the UK is now more important than ever.


And there is plenty of news to report.

The long awaited Gibraltar-UK Double Taxation Agreement (“DTA”) was signed in mid-October and announced on the 21st in good time for the London events a fortnight later. Amongst other positive comments at the time, the UK Exchequer Secretary stated that Gibraltar is an important part of the UK family and that the proposed DTA provides an opportunity to strengthen yet further the relationship as Britain makes plans ahead of leaving the EU.


It is also more than helpful to Gibraltar that the newly elected Speaker in the House of Commons, The Rt Hon Sir Lindsay Hoyle MP, has been a true friend and regular visitor to the Rock for a number of years.


In a further diplomatic move, Dominique Searle MBE, Gibraltar’s Representative to the UK, laid a wreath as the Chief Minister’s Special Representative during the Remembrance Day ceremony at London’s Cenotaph along with others from Britain’s Overseas Territories and Crown dependencies.


It might be an overused expression to say that Gibraltar punches well above its weight but in the area of financial services and especially in the innovative brave new world that is distributed ledger technology and blockchain, it really is true. I am delighted to be involved from my UK base and I look forward to the Rock’s continued successful development and growing prosperity in this area.


11 November 2019


SETTING UP A COMPANY IN THE EU IN A POST-BREXIT WORLD


Haven’t we heard enough about Britain leaving the EU? There is clearly a huge amount of “Brexit fatigue” gripping the country – even if new UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has pledged to get it done by the end of October “do or die”. It remains to be seen if the proroguing of parliament helps or hinders his achieving his objective.


The point of course is that after three years since the “in-out” referendum, we are only approaching the end of the beginning. All the talk so far has been about getting us to a point where we can then start negotiating future terms with our European friends. Or “rump EU27” as the British press unkindly refers to the remaining 450 million population bloc.


For British businesses with European aspirations it will not be enough to ignore the new reality. For many, the opportunities afforded by setting up a subsidiary – or in extreme cases relocating altogether – to an alternative EU member state may be worth considering. But where to go?


I have been assisting clients in this area for the last fifteen years. Previously a senior director at one of the world’s largest independent trust and corporate service providers, nowadays I act as an independent consultant. It is my job to inform and guide individuals and corporates through these very questions. I have noted several themes as the pro- or anti- EU propaganda machines continue to spurt out their opinions – often completely at odds with each other.


Naturally most EU countries are attracted to the potential new business that might emanate from a dynamic UK soon to be frozen out of EU protocols and membership advantages. Indeed the Dutch government, to mention just one example, are very proactive in trying to secure their share of the cake. Other states are equally proactive.


There are distinct advantages to be had by setting up in the Netherlands – and the same could be said for almost any one of the EU27. So where am I seeing most demand presently? For the purposes of this ianlebreton.comment I am restricting my scope to purely “onshore” solutions by which I mean a properly constructed corporate vehicle in an EU member state. This will be subject of course to the respective rules, regulations, tax implications and so on. Let’s leave the international centres (those we used to call “offshore” before the term became toxic) for another day.  


There are two fairly obvious destinations for UK business owners given their previous British links, membership of the Commonwealth, English language and so on: Malta and Cyprus. Both have well developed infrastructure and an impressive range of company law (much of it based on its English forebear) and finance centres where advice may be readily found. Both have enacted favourable corporate taxation regimes and beneficial residency rules for those business owners seeking to create real substance (an ever increasing requirement these days).   


Ireland is also one of my favourites. The closest jurisdiction to the UK in many ways - geographically, historically and with a company registration system very similar to that found in the UK. During all the talk about Brexit, one aspect seldom commented upon is the Common Travel Area or CTA that dates back almost a century predating the EU by 50 years. Current plans are that benefits afforded by the CTA to citizens of both the UK and Ireland will continue to apply after 31 October.


Of course a case could be made for establishing a subsidiary (or full relocation) in any one of the EU countries and in my time I have assisted and made introductions to professional associates in almost all of them. Some are most definitely easier than others. Whilst the member states mentioned so far are obvious choices, maybe it is worth considering somewhere slightly further afield.


My personal favourite is Lithuania. I am a regular visitor and can attest to the general “can do” attitude of its government, professional sector and indeed the most welcoming people. All the professionals worth dealing with are totally fluent in English and government backed initiatives such as Invest Lithuania can help. When strolling through the historic centres of its capital Vilnius or second city Kaunas, it is sometimes difficult to believe that the country broke free from the Soviet yoke just thirty years ago. The country has become independent, joined the EU and NATO and adopted the euro. A well educated workforce and lower costs of doing business than one might expect has developed Lithuania into an enviable “go to” location in recent years. The country has accelerated its innovation in new areas such as blockchain and I can attest personally to its real commitment to that exciting new sector.  There are excellent reasons to consider this jurisdiction, and I’d be delighted to assist.


We are living in interesting and fast-moving times, to be sure. It is tempting to do nothing in the meantime and simply watch developments from the stands. But as my inbox demonstrates on a daily basis, this is not the approach favoured by all. Contact me at any time to initiate a discussion on incorporation in the EU in a post-Brexit world. You may be in for a pleasant surprise.


29 August 2019


Contact ian@ianlebreton.com +44 (0) 7966 155584