Why Is the United Kingdom's Jersey Considered a Tax Haven?

Jersey, a 45-square-mile island off the coast of France, falls subject to the British monarchy but retains complete financial and political autonomy. The island has used its autonomy and singular constitutional relationship with Great Britain to maintain a certain degree of financial independence for centuries, and the profit-minded have been exploiting Jersey’s tax laws for almost as long. 

As early as the late seventeenth century, Jersey gained attention from British officials as a hub for international smuggling, but Britain failed to bring the island’s government to heel.

Key Takeaways

  • Jersey has been used for international smuggling as early as the 17th century.
  • Wealthy Brits moved or transferred wealth because of the lack of taxes.
  • Residents of Jersey pay income tax rates of 20%.

Jersey first gained a reputation as a tax haven in the 1920s, when wealthy Brits began moving to the island, or, in many cases, simply transferring their wealth to the island, in order to benefit from its lack of wealth and inheritance taxes. 

In 1928, the Jersey government introduced an income tax of 2.5%. Under the German Occupation of the Channel Islands, the income tax was raised to 20%, where it remains, but the island still does not have an inheritance, wealth, corporate, or capital gains tax. As deposits from wealthy individuals filled the nation’s coffers, the revelation that most any tax could be avoided in Jersey brought the banking business to roost on the island, giving birth to one of the most popular offshore destinations for U.S. dollars, rubles, yen, and other global currencies.

Jersey Individual Taxes

With respect to offshore accounts, no registration of trust accounts is required among the companies that administer individual financial accounts on the island. While the Jersey Financial Services Commission (JFSC) maintains that the trusts face strict regulation in fund sources, ownership, beneficiaries, and anti-money laundering provisions, high measures of privacy surround the accounts.

JFSC officials who entered into cooperative agreements fostering disclosure with the United States and the United Kingdom contend that the confidentiality associated with the trusts equate with standards afforded to any other financial accounts. To combat tax fraud or money laundering, banks require significant documentation regarding the source and nature of deposits, such as sales contracts from real estate or business transactions and proof of income from employers.

Income tax rates of 20% apply to high-net-worth individuals establishing residency in Jersey. Those prospective residents, to whom a limited number of opportunities are available, must contribute at least £145,000, or about $159,900 in 2021, annually and meet minimum income requirements of £725,000, or about $799,480. Income that exceeds the minimum is subject to an additional 1% tax. 

Jersey Corporate Tax Structure

In 2008, Jersey eliminated all taxes for corporations doing business on the island, with the exception of financial services firms, which are taxed at 10%, and utilities, rentals, and development projects, which are all taxed at 20%. 

As of 2021, there were 24 banks, with deposits of nearly $138 billion, licensed to operate in Jersey. Among the banks that conduct business in Jersey are Citibank, the U.S. consumer division of Citigroup Inc., and UBS AG.

Many of the Channel Island's residents work in the financial services field. No taxes are levied against capital gains or capital transfers, but a 5% tax on goods and services was implemented in June 2011. Additionally, a stamp duty of up to 10.5% applies to the transfer of immovable property within the nation’s borders, and its individual parishes collect property taxes.

Article Sources
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  1. Government of Jersey. "Facts about Jersey."

  2. Government of Jersey. "Life in the United Kingdom: Jersey Supplement," Page 12.

  3. Government of Jersey. "Life in the United Kingdom: Jersey Supplement," Page 9.

  4. Government of Jersey. "Capital gains, corporate and inheritance taxes (FOI)."

  5. Government of Jersey. "Taxes Office: Commissioners of Appeal: Two Re-Appointments."

  6. Government of Jersey. "Moving to Jersey: Money and Tax."

  7. Jersey Financial Services Commission. "Trust Company Business Code of Practice -- 1 June 2019."

  8. Government of Jersey. "Moving to Jersey: Open a Jersey bank account."

  9. Government of Jersey. "Moving to Jersey: Money and tax."

  10. Government of Jersey. "High Value Residency."

  11. Government of Jersey. "Historic tax concessions and practices."

  12. Jersey Finance. "Sectors: Banking."

  13. Jersey Finance. "Banking."

  14. Government of Jersey. "Government of Jersey tax receipts."

  15. Government of Jersey. "Calculating Your Land Transaction Tax."

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