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Open a Bank Account in Panama

Updated on Tuesday 03rd May 2022

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Investors who are interested in Panama company formation in 2022 will also need to open a bank account in Panama for the new business. The process is not a complicated one and it can be accomplished with the assistance or the full representation of our agents when investors are not able to be present in the country during the entire process.
 
Panama offshore company formation is an option for many who are interested in starting an offshore business because of the favorable business climate as well as the simple incorporation process and the low requirements for starting a business.
 
Panama bank account creation is just one of the steps required when opening a company and investors can request specialized information and assistance form us when they wish to start a company. With our help, company formation will run smoothly and as fast as possible.
 
 Quick Facts  
  Mandatory local bank account for companies (Yes/No)

No

Mandatory residence requirement

No 

Bank account opening time

5 working days
Online bank account opening  

In some cases

Bank accounts for foreign nationals in Panama Yes
Required documents - companies

In most cases:

Filled in application form

The company's registration documents

Proof of registered address

Financial references (in some situations)

Identification documents for all the persons authorized to operate the account

Required documents - individuals  In most cases: 
Application form
Proof of income and of address
Financial documents for due diligence
(tax returns, financial statements)
Other documents, such as a letter from the employer
(if applicable)

 

Special requirements for foreign nationals  The bank may require additional documents
for due diligence
Bank fees Can include:
$15 for bank transfers from other banks
0.10% of the amount transferred to other banks
$10 for monthly account statements issued by
the bank upon request
Initial deposit  

Minimum of $1,000-$2,000 for current account for companies (conducting business in the country in some cases)

Minium of $10,000 for companies without business
in the country

Minimum of $1,000 for residents

Minimum of $3,000 for foreign nationals not residing in the country
*subject to changes according to individual banks

Types of accounts

Current and savings accounts for companies
Current and savings accounts for individuals

Online banking Bank-dependent 
Local agent requirements Power of attorney
Main banks in Panama  Atlas Bank
BAC International Bank
Mercantil Banco
Towerbank International and others
Criteria for choosing the bank Account maintenance fees
Online banking options
Number of branches and/or ATMs and others
 

Steps for bank account creation in Panama

 
The process to open a Panama bank account is simple, however, the investor’s presence is required in these cases. Alternatively, entrepreneurs can choose to work with a local representative, via a power of attorney, as some banks will agree to open the account when a representative of the founder is present. 
 
The steps are highlighted below by our Panama incorporation agents:
 
  1. Decide on the account type: the business needs should match the characteristics of the bank account, and investors should choose banks that have a high degree of flexibility. 
  2. Prepare the documentation: eligibility for bank account opening is required and the applicant will need to bring forward sufficient proof such as commercial references, passport, and others.
  3. Apply: the last step when you open a Panama bank account is to submit all of the needed documents with the bank; once they are processed, the corporate bank account is operational.
  4. Additional options: some company owners in Panama may require a merchant account; this can be opened with the same bank with which the corporate one has been opened. 
 
Some of the commonly requested documents in case of those who open a bank account in Panama include a copy of the passport, with the Panama entry stamp, one or two bank reference letters, reference letter from a professional and additional ID, such as the country ID from the applicant’s country of residence. Please remember that this list of documents is not an exhaustive one and it will vary according to the chosen bank. We recommend verifying the needed documents before commencing the process.
 
One of our agents who specialize in Panama offshore company formation can help investors gather all of the needed documents before they attempt to open the bank account with the chosen bank. Our agents are well aware of the bank particularities and can even recommend which bank to choose, based on company particularities or preferences. We understand that opening a company and a bank account in Panama in 2022 can be subject to certain pandemic travel limitations, depending on the foreign investor's country of origin. Our team can help those interested start the initial company creation phases and, in some cases, those needed to open a Panama bank account in your name, through a power of attorney. For this purpose, we will ask you to send us a number of documents as well as provide us with additional information. You can find out more about it by reaching out to us.
 
If you start the process to immigrate to Panama at the same time as commencing the banking operations, our team can give you details about these separate requirements for relocation.
 

Banks in Panama

 
According to the Superintendencia de Bancos de Panama, there are 40 general license banks operating in the country and 17 international license banks. Two banks are state-owned, Banco Nacional de Panamá and Caja de Ahorros. At the time this article was written, the Superintendencia indicated that two banks were under voluntary liquidation and four banks were under compulsory liquidation.  No banks were under reorganization.
 
Investors who open a bank account in Panama should know that the country is a signatory state of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, or FATCA , an U.S. federal law through which all non-U.S. banks are to report the non-US assets of US nationals to the  Department of Treasury. Moreover, Panama has also signed the Common Reporting Standard (CRS), in an effort to align with the international tax cooperation efforts. This means that an automatic exchange of financial information is in place in Panama at it follows the international standards, the same ones that are in place in more than 100 countries that have adopted the same standards.
 
According to the current laws, when investors wish to open a Panama bank account, banks are required to provide financial information about the companies and their owners when there are tax concerns or when the company is subject to criminal investigation. As far as the tax information is concerned, an automatic share occurs as per the aforementioned acts that govern reporting, and the information is shared to the authorities in the beneficial owner’s country of residence. When criminal matters are concerned, information is disclosed in those instances where there is a criminal investigation under way.
 
The FATCA regulations expressly concern American investors and expats that live in Panama. For example, individuals that fall under its scope are expected to meet the necessary filing requirements and the income reporting threshold is determined based on two different types of tests, the physical presence test or the bona fide residence test. In order to understand the scope of FATCA, and how it impacts financial institutions and other companies in Panama, we suggest reaching out to our team of local company formation agents, specially, but not limited to foreign investors from the United States.

Merchant account in Panama

 
The merchant account is a separate type of bank account from the business one that allows companies to accept payments using debit or credit cards. It is particularly useful for e-commerce businesses, and it is commonly requested by these types of firms when they start the initial process to open a bank account in Panama. The account is set up with the help of a payment processor, that can be an independent one or a member service provider. Those investors in Panama who wish to engage in this type of activity will, most likely, decide to open this account as well, if not during the initial stages then as the business progresses.
 
An important feature for the merchant account that needs to be taken into consideration when selecting this type of service is the quality of the transfer security. The secure online payment system for the business is provided by a third party and it is advisable to select a trustful service. Another option to select is the frequency of the deposits into the company’s bank account. This means that the third party processing the payment can offer this with a daily or weekly frequency, with the first option being most common. When selecting the daily deposits, investors will need to take into consideration the time difference (as they may do business with clients worldwide) and the fact that payment processing may take a number of hours.
 
Merchant accounts also allow for easy refund processing and comprehensive reporting and account management. Moreover, they allow for multi-currency processing (apart from the frequently used US dollar), an important feature for foreign investors who open a company in Panama.
 
The merchant account will be subject to a number of fees that can be implemented on a regular basis or on a per-transaction basis. These can be set by the merchant account provider and/or the bank that issues the credit card (according to credit card type and other transaction details). Some providers will also charge a customer service fee and other fees, such as the one that may be imposed for early termination (before the end of the contract term).
 
Panama merchant accounts do not hinder the confidentiality of the asset holder. Thus, this can be a trusted payment option for company owners who are interested in offshore company formation and also the confidentiality that can be maintained in this jurisdiction. 
 
One of our agents can provide investors with more information on the advantages of the merchant account, the services offered by payment processors as whether or not this is an option that should be implemented together with the first banking steps.  
 
 
Open a Bank Account in Panama.png
 

Company formation in Panama in 2022

 
Investors who open a company in Panama will be required to set up the corresponding Panama bank account during the early stages of company creation as it will be needed for company creation. While there are no initial capital requirements, companies are typically incorporated with a minimum amount and this is deposited in the company’s bank account. The shares may be with par value or without par value. The subscribed capital is not mandatory; however, the usual standard authorized share capital is 10,000 USD, divided into shares of 100 USD each.
 
Below, our team presents the main steps that are relevant for company formation in Panama. Please keep in mind that this is only a brief description and that you can reach out to our agents for more details.
 
  • Choose a company name: the name of the company is a unique one and cannot be the same as that of an already registered legal entity.
  • Choose the business form: most investors will open a business structure that has legal personality; this can be a limited liability company or a joint-stock company.
  • Prepare the company documents: a company is incorporated based on a set of Bylaws, the founding documents that state important details about the business.
  • Register: once the documents are drafted and signed by the founders, the key step is to register the new business with the Registry; one of our agents can help you during this step.
 
It is not mandatory to be present in Panama during all of these stages. Our team can help prepare the documents and represent your best interests in front of a Panama notary public and the Panama Registro Publico through a power of attorney.
 
An important issue to take into consideration regarding company formation is the requirement to comply with the licensing for certain types of businesses. For example, trust companies and others that provide financial services will need to comply with the laws and regulations set forth by the Superintendencia de Bancos de Panama
 
Below, we highlight some statistics for investments in Panama:
 
  • - the value of foreign direct investment stock in 2018 was 54,675 million USD.
  • - the foreign direct investment inward flow was 5,549 in 2018.
  • - the foreign direct investment inward flow was 4,569 in 2017.
The easy incorporation process is not the only ready why Panama is a preferred location for offshore company formation. The tax benefits are a string advantage for many investors, given the fact that when the income of the company is derived from outside the jurisdiction, it is not subject to tax. Asset protection and confidentiality, as previously mentioned, are protected here and entrepreneurs who do not wish to make their investments public can benefit from this. Moreover, there are no nationality restrictions, meaning that investors from around the world can incorporate and own their company 100%. For those interested in setting up a bank account or merchant account and making regular payments outside of the jurisdiction, there are no exchange controls, meaning that there are no restrictions on the remittance of money abroad. 
 
Flexibility is another advantage for foreign investors in Panama in 2022. Not only that they do not need to be in the country during the entire incorporation phase, but also they are free to hold the Board meetings at any other preferred location, not necessarily in Panama. 
 
You can watch the following video on bank account creation in Panama: 
 
 

Panama company management and control

 
Foreign investors who open an offshore company in Panama may wish to appoint a nominee director, who will essentially act on their behalf and be the one who is officially listed as the company administrator.  This is an option for those who wish to maintain the highest degree of confidentiality, for a number of reasons that may have to do with their public image or, in some cases, tax minimization (as opposed to tax evasion).
 
Using a nominee director does involve an extra step in the company formation process, and in this case the fact that a third party is appointed to fulfill this role will also mean that he will be the one listed for banking purposes (his name will appear on the documents sent to the bank when it is time to open a bank account in Panama).
 
The appointment of the nominee director can also take place once the Panamanian company is incorporated, if the beneficial owner decides that he no longer wishes to be associated with the offshore company (the same principles applies of preventing the general public of knowing that an actual relationship exists between the nominee and the beneficial owner).
 
The role of the nominee director is outlined in an agreement, and he will have a fiduciary duty towards the beneficial owner. It is common for the nominee to perform various, if not all, administrative duties, and the manner in which he handles the affairs is indicated by the beneficial owner. This also means that he will handle bank transfers and other essential transactions and that, for the purpose of company management, he will control the corporate bank account. When the transfer of power takes place after the step to open a bank account in Panama is complete, the identification details of the newly appointed nominee director will be communicated to the bank branch.
 
The nominee has control over the bank account, he will not, however, act on his own, without the express approval of the beneficial owner. However, the company’s beneficial owner can choose to allow the nominee to exercise a certain level of autonomy, as it will be clearly set in the agreement concluded between the parties.
 
Investors who wish to know how they will be able to continue to control and operate a bank account in Panama if they use nominee director services can reach out to our company formation agents for more information.
 
Our team of company formation experts offers packages that also include the Panama bank account creation and investors can rely on our assistance for this step. Each bank in the country will offer different options and some may be more suited for particular businesses. Some of the services we remind clients to look for include online banking, ATM availability, debit and credit card issuance and conditions as well as the account management fees.
 
Contact our Panama company formation agents for more information about bank account creation as well as any other questions concerning the incorporation of various types of businesses in 2022.

Meet us in Panama

Call us now at  +230 5252 6703  to set up an appointment with our business consultants in Panama City, Panama. Alternatively you can incorporate your company without traveling to Panama.

As a our client, you will benefit from the joint expertise of local lawyers and international consultants. Together we will be able to offer you the specialized help you require for your business start-up in Panama.

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