[Businestimes.co.sg] Wealthy Chinese are rushing to shelter assets and income in overseas trusts before new tax rules go into effect next month, including provisions that target offshore holdings.
The Bank of Singapore has seen a 35 per cent surge in Chinese clients interested in offshore trusts since the second half of 2018, according to Woon Shiu Lee, head of wealth planning at the bank. The rate of inquiries leading to the establishment of a trust, which offers "tax-planning opportunities" by giving ownership to third-party trustees, has doubled since August, he said.
The reforms, which take effect Jan 1, are meant to reduce the tax burden on lower-and middle-income people by making the rich pay more. They are also feeding into business for consultants, private bankers and lawyers who specialise in setting up trusts that put ownership of overseas assets at arms-length from a tax perspective.
As China's rich have gotten richer - the nation's personal wealth swelled to an estimated US$21 trillion last year - the practice of holding wealth abroad or changing their tax residence status has become commonplace. Even as the government strengthened controls on taking money out of the country last year to reduce risky outbound M&A deals and prevent capital flight, overseas holdings will reach US$1 trillion this year, Boston Consulting Group estimates.