Registered: Mar 2011
09-07-12 08:05 PM
There are several issues that you should consider when choosing a place in the United States to do business.
1) Access to competent, responsive, and inexpensive regulators
2) Taxes - both the cost of compliance and the tax-expense itself
3) Inexpensive and easy County+city business licensing
Investment advisor registration (or reporting) fees are uniform across states and at the federal level. However, the cost of the periodic examinations, and the frequency of those examinations, vary widely. I do not know if anyone has a chart anywhere comparing examiner fees across the different regulators.
Rightly or wrongly, there is a perception that federal regulators are easier to work with. The typical logic is that their regulatory procedures and temperament is uniform no matter where your principal office is located, and you have at your disposal a nation-full of compliance consultants who are familiar with the way the commission works. I don't buy it 100%, because in my experience examiners and enforcement-agents located in different SEC regional offices have a totally different temperament.
Nevertheless, as a small advisor, your only access to the SEC as a regulator is if your principal place of business is outside the United States or is in Wyoming. Wyoming is the only state in the United States that has chosen not to regulate Investment Advisors. Wyoming's state agencies are net savvy. For instance, you can get a tax ruling by email and register your business entity through the web.
One service you will require is corporate presence. Typically, a law firm will sublease space to you, hang your business license on the wall, provide a secretary to host meetings and take notes, open local bank accounts for you, and maintain your entities statutory books & records. (do not confuse the latter with your investment advisory business books & records, which I presume you will store and maintain in the cloud) While these services are widely available worldwide, there are shockingly few providers here in the United States. Thanks to the family office goldrush in Wyoming, Nevada, and South Dakota, these services are available there.
The states without individual-level taxation are Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Washington, and Wyoming. Presumably, you will establish an entity that is transparent for tax purposes, and you will file a United States individual tax return to report your income allocable to that permanent establishment.
City and counties charge for business licenses. This is not the same as being regulated as an investment advisor. This would be the same kind of license fee (but not the same $amount) that a hair salon and an art gallery would pay. In some places, these fees can be quite high, so do your due diligence. State entity fees vary, off the top of my head Nevada is the most expensive. Do not forget that states that do not levy an income tax will make it up with other charges, fees, and non-income-based taxes (such as property taxes). A business with modest income would find it cheaper to do business in a low-fee high-tax jurisdiction. For instance, the average start-up is better off doing business in San Francisco than Las Vegas. Even if your business won't hire employees or own real property, what you pay for corporate services takes into account the taxes, unemployment insurance, and "workman's comp" insurance (to cover employee injuries).
Finally, the question has to be asked, how establishing a business in the United States helps the OP, her majesties subject. If the OP is either located in the UK, or has clients in the UK, OP's conduct is still regulated by the UK FSA. It doesn't matter if he does it through another entity that is not located in the UK. For the OP to engage in the business without FSA authorization, he will need to physically move out of the UK, and not do business with UK customers.
Where would he go and how can he get there? The United States does not have an open-door immigration policy. Where in the world can UK citizens just pack their bags and go live and work? He should explore investment advisor regulation in THOSE jurisdictions.