Cross-border business owners need to be cognizant of the legal, tax and foreign exchange implications of every financial transaction (understanding that each country and region treats assets differently). At the same time, however, you also need to address significantly more complex financial planning challenges – considering how to separate but integrate business wealth and family wealth in such a way as to facilitate money movement, maximize tax-efficiency and align with your estate planning goals.
Without a trusted multi-jurisdictional international wealth team working on your behalf, it can be a monumental undertaking.
Consider the relatively typical example of a business owner whose primary operations are based in Ecuador with operations throughout Latin America, but who also owns an American business subsidiary as well as personal real estate holding in the U.S. Not only must this individual deal with the day-to-day challenges associated with running a growing, successful enterprise, he or she will also need to navigate a host of cross-border issues such as:
- In some countries, foreign bank accounts could take up to 1-3 months to establish as a result of extensive regulation;
- Currency controls can make in and out of country money movement difficult and inefficient;
- Access to financing to support the overseas business (e.g., lines of credit) from banks not in your home country may be challenging;
- Tax treaties between your home country and the U.S. may require the use of a tax advisor with specific expertise;
- Foreign exchange rate fluctuations that could adversely impact income and expense streams need to be planned for and mitigated; and
- Personal assets held abroad will need to be effectively managed for both income and estate tax planning purposes.
This is why it’s so important to work with seasoned wealth management experts who understand the complexities and nuances of cross-border wealth management – professionals capable of serving both your family wealth and business banking needs. Even simple solutions such as setting-up mirror accounts here in the U.S. of your home country operating accounts can have a tremendous impact. It can help facilitate wire transfers and money movement with vendors who don’t necessarily wish to deal with intermediary banks, as well as minimize or eliminate the transfer delays associated with slower banking systems in certain countries. More sophisticated cross-border banking capabilities can also help you:
- Facilitate the flow of capital to new investment opportunities wherever they might arise in the world;
- Efficiently and cost-effectively fund international operations and access credit for your businesses;
- Ensure that all flows of assets and money between your home country and other regions of the globe are in compliance with all international banking regulations;
- Increase the financial resilience, privacy and safety of your family and business by helping to absorb regional or localized economic downturns and/or shocks
Additionally, in an effort to better control the flow of money into and out of their nation, certain countries impose capital and/or exchange restrictions. Not only can this create additional complexity, but failure to adhere to protocols or complete all required paperwork could result in unnecessary taxation when and if you eventually repatriate the appreciated assets to your home country.
Aligning Business and Family Wealth
The value you’ve built in your business is likely your single largest personal assets, and as such, a critically important component of your total wealth picture. Often, however, the financial needs of the business (e.g., cash flow and working capital, expense management, risk mitigation, etc.) can conflict with the financial needs of your family.
Planning questions abound such as:
- What happens to my family & business if I become incapacitated or die?
- Should I start to separate my personal wealth from my business, and if so, how can I do it without negatively impacting the business?
- Is there a way I can begin to monetize the equity I’ve built up and protect those assets for my retirement and for my family’s future?
- How do I go about equalizing inheritances when my children and my assets reside in different countries with different gift and estate tax laws?
What typically might be straightforward solutions, quickly become more complicated when cross-border issues and asset repatriation considerations need to be factored into the planning process.