Comparing Banks in Panama with Other Jurisdictions

Panama is one the few remaining true offshore jurisdictions that has no tax treaties with any country, yet offers the infrastructure to justify online business, import/export re-invoicing, and international headquarter hosting supported by a world-class banking center.  For the time being, Panama banks are very cautious about which clients they accept.  Many banks require a visit to open the account, but there are no hard-and-fast rules regarding their requirements.  Generally, the account is opened by an official that meets with the client or their representative, but the final approval is made by their compliance officer, who does not come in contact with the client.  The general requirements for opening a bank account in Panama are the following:

  • A copy of your Passport.
  • A copy of a second ID showing your address (like a Driver's License or a Health card).
  • A copy of a utility bill showing your address.
  • A Bank Reference Letter.
  • A Reference Letter from a Doctor, Dentist, Lawyer, Accountant, Engineer, Registered Real Estate Broker or Insurance Agent.
  • A Visit to Panama for an interview with the bank.
  • Tax Returns or other Proof of Income.

Sometimes, some of the above requirements cannot be met, or need to be replaced by other documentation that assures the bank regarding the client's identity, place of residence, and source of funds. 

There are 150 countries with viable economies and many of them have offshore banks.  The vague term "offshore banks" means that there is bank secrecy, generally regarded as a criminal offense for the bank officers to give information regarding their clients.  The possible combinations of the bank accounts are numerous, but the general consensus is that the best offshore formation is based on a Panama corporation or foundation.  Depending on the client's country of residence, some jurisdictions will be superior because of tax treaties or simpler factors such as time zone and language. 

Some jurisdictions have more requirements than others, just as some banks are more lenient in accepting clients that don't meet all their requirements.  Some clients have specific needs for larger banks, banks with more assets or banks with a wider network of correspondents.  We study our client's specific needs and their ability and willingness to produce the documentation necessary to open bank accounts in jurisdictions that meet their requirements.