Exploring Offshore Banking: Prospects and Pitfalls

Posted On - 3 April, 2024 • By - King Stubb & Kasiva


Offshore banking, often associated with tax evasion and illicit activities, actually encompasses a range of legal and beneficial financial strategies, particularly for businesses operating on an international scale. Upon close analysis, the potential advantages of increased access to overseas funds, employment generation, foreign exchange earnings, and the opportunity to develop international banking expertise do not appear to outweigh the drawbacks associated with establishing an offshore banking centre in India. While proponents may argue for the economic benefits, the adverse effects on exchange rates, interest rates, and domestic money management would likely be significant and far-reaching.

Moreover, the establishment of an offshore centre is deemed unnecessary for raising funds to finance units in Free Trade Zones or other export-oriented enterprises, as existing banking channels can adequately meet their foreign exchange requirements. Allowing Indian companies to borrow abroad independently could lead to indiscriminate borrowing, escalating the country’s external debt servicing burden to unsustainable levels, potentially compromising economic independence. Therefore, caution is warranted in considering the establishment of an offshore banking centre in India, weighing its potential benefits against the considerable risks it poses to the country’s economic stability and autonomy.

What is offshore banking?

An offshore bank account, often referred to as an overseas bank account, is a financial account held in a country where the account holder does not reside. These accounts offer individuals the convenience of managing their financial affairs across different countries and regions. They are particularly beneficial for those who need to make regular international payments or transfers, as they can streamline these transactions. Expatriates, in particular, commonly maintain bank accounts in both their home country and the country they currently reside in. However, many also opt to open offshore accounts to facilitate saving, investing, and managing money while living abroad. Offshore accounts provide a versatile solution for individuals navigating the complexities of international financial management, offering flexibility and accessibility across borders.

Section 17 of The Special Economic Zones Act, 2005[1]: The establishment and operation of an Offshore Banking Unit (OBU) in a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) are governed by regulations outlined by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). Interested parties must submit an application to the RBI in the prescribed format. Upon receiving the application, the RBI evaluates whether the applicant meets all the specified conditions. If the RBI is satisfied with the applicant’s compliance, permission is granted for the setting up and operation of the OBU. The terms and conditions under which an OBU may operate within the SEZ are specified by the RBI through notifications. These terms and conditions serve to ensure the smooth functioning of OBUs while adhering to regulatory requirements and promoting the objectives of the SEZ.

An offshore bank account, situated outside one’s home country, facilitates smoother transactions in foreign currencies and enables individuals and businesses to leverage financial security and tax advantages offered by other jurisdictions. While primarily utilized by multinational corporations, individuals residing abroad can also benefit from establishing offshore accounts in their country of residence. It is imperative to recognize, however, the critical distinction between legal and illegal offshore banking practices, with full disclosure being paramount. The notion of establishing an offshore banking centre in India has been actively advocated by prominent banks and industrial stakeholders within the country for some time now. Additionally, there have been suggestions for India to undertake measures aimed at developing an international financial centre.

For legitimate businesses engaged in international commerce, offshore accounts facilitate seamless participation in foreign economies, enabling transactions, money transfers, and investment activities akin to domestic banking operations. Furthermore, offshore banking offers enhanced security by diversifying assets across stable international accounts, particularly advantageous during periods of economic volatility or political unrest in one’s home country. Thus, while the association of offshore banking with unlawful behaviour persists, it remains a legitimate and strategic financial tool for those navigating the complexities of global business and finance.

Reasons for offshore banking:

Offshore accounts, also known as offshore bank accounts or offshore savings accounts, offer individuals a convenient and effective means of managing their finances across multiple countries and regions. They serve as valuable tools, particularly for expatriates and individuals with international financial commitments. Expats commonly maintain bank accounts in both their home country and the country they currently reside in. However, many also opt to open offshore accounts due to various reasons. These include being already established or working abroad, planning to relocate internationally, or frequently moving countries for work. Additionally, individuals who receive payments in foreign currencies, own assets abroad, or financially support family members living abroad find offshore accounts beneficial.


Offshore accounts offer a range of features and benefits tailored to meet the diverse financial needs of account holders. One of the primary advantages is the potential for tax-efficient savings and investments in various currencies, although the extent of tax benefits depends on individual circumstances. These accounts enable users to hold funds, make and receive payments in multiple currencies, and effectively manage foreign exchange transactions. Additionally, they provide access to international expertise and investment advice, allowing account holders to make informed financial decisions across borders.

Another notable benefit is the ability to centralize funds in a secure location, while still being connected to local accounts, offering convenience and peace of mind. Furthermore, offshore accounts offer continuity as individuals relocate, allowing them to maintain the same bank account regardless of their geographic location. Alongside these specialized features, offshore accounts typically include standard banking services such as debit cards and online/mobile banking, enhancing accessibility and usability for account holders.


Offshore banking, despite its potential advantages, also comes with several drawbacks that individuals and businesses should carefully consider. One significant drawback is the increased regulatory complexity associated with dealing with multiple jurisdictions, each with its own set of regulations and compliance requirements. Navigating these complexities can be time-consuming, expensive, and may require specialized professional assistance to ensure compliance and avoid legal consequences. Additionally, offshore banking is often perceived negatively due to its association with tax evasion and money laundering, which can pose reputational risks to businesses or individuals engaged in legitimate offshore banking activities.

Navigating the world of offshore banking and investing presents a complex landscape of shifting regulations and potential costs. Costs associated with account setup, maintenance, transactions, and currency conversions can accrue over time. Yet, viewing these expenses as investments in your financial future can yield significant returns. By strategically managing compliance and costs, offshore banking can serve as a powerful tool for optimizing financial efficiency and securing long-term wealth.


Offshore bank accounts facilitate seamless international payments and transfers, enable efficient management of investments and savings, and provide flexibility in handling finances across borders. Hence, offshore accounts play a crucial role in facilitating financial management for individuals navigating the complexities of international living and financial obligations. However, while offshore banking offers opportunities, it is essential to carefully weigh these drawbacks and conduct thorough due diligence before engaging in offshore financial activities.

[1] The Special Economic Zones Act, 2005, § 17.

King Stubb & Kasiva,
Advocates & Attorneys

Click Here to Get in Touch

New Delhi | Mumbai | Bangalore | Chennai | Hyderabad | Mangalore | Pune | Kochi | Kolkata
Tel: +91 11 41032969 | Email: info@ksandk.com