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Liechtenstein

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Editorial

Doing Business in … Liechtenstein 2017

Contributed by Gasser Partner

A. Country report

Liechtenstein, being a tiny country located in the heart of Europe, is ready to provide an excellent business environment for foreign investors. Enclosed between Switzerland and Austria, Liechtenstein benefits from both neighbouring countries. It is a highly developed location both for specialised industries and for sophisticated banking and financial services for international clients.

Although well-known for its banking and financial sector, Liechtenstein is an innovative and export-oriented industrial location. Approximately 38% of the workforce is employed in industry, with 60% in the service sector. The share of national gross value-added is 40% from the industrial sector, 28% from other services and 24% from the financial sector, with a 2015 GNP of approximately CHF5.5bn. In times of global financial crises and ongoing debates regarding taxation, Liechtenstein is committed to making changes where required.

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Legal market overview

Over the past decade, Liechtenstein has made concerted efforts to meet international tax and finance standards. After signing the OECD’s Common Reporting Standard agreement, the European-wide Automatic Exchange of Information (AEOI) came into effect on 1st January 2016, with exchanges beginning in 2017, when financial institutions must report all their clients’ accounts to the respective tax authorities. Liechtenstein is also working towards the application of the fourth EU directive against money-laundering and financing of terrorism.

In light of the above, the number of trust foundations in Liechtenstein has decreased by half during the past six years (from 80,000 to 40,000), and it has become harder for trust firms to acquire new foreign clients, especially from within Europe. Under the AEOI, Liechtenstein’s 15 banks are required to report the financial accounts of foreign clients and require proof of taxation from them before setting up wealth schemes. While many trust companies are seeking more reputable business opportunities, others are still hindering Liechtenstein’s ‘clean money’ strategy: the Panama Papers affair (as well as the more recent Bahama leaks) revealed how tax evaders had been advised to move their capital from Liechtenstein to secret offshore foundations in order to escape European regulations.

Outside the trusts industry, the country’s manufacturing and energy sectors remain strong: multinational engineering conglomerate ThyssenKrupp currently employs 2,000 people in Liechtenstein, while the country’s photovoltaic capacity per person is still the highest in world. With more advanced cross-border strategies in place, Liechtenstein aims to shed its tax haven image for good, focusing on a stable financial sector as well as its other economic pillars such as agriculture and tourism.

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