I work regularly in five jurisdictions: the UK, Guernsey, Jersey, the Isle of Man and Gibraltar. Now let’s get technical. The Bailiwick of Guernsey (actually five islands) and the Bailiwick of Jersey are jointly the Channel Islands. The Channel Islands and the Isle of Man are the three Crown Dependencies of the UK – which means that they are self-governing dependencies of the Crown, with their own directly elected legislative assemblies, their own administrative, fiscal and legal systems and their own courts of law. Gibraltar, on the other hand, is one of the fourteen British Overseas Territories – which have their own elected governments but retain the Queen as their head of state, and rely on the UK for foreign affairs and defence-related matters. I hope that’s all clear – there may be a quiz later. As for me, when asked, I call them “UK-related jurisdictions”. (In case you’re wondering why I don’t just talk about “the islands”, it’s because Gibraltar is actually an isthmus – and that’s a really hard word to say.) The term I definitely don’t use is “offshore”.
To be honest, I quite like the word “offshore” – it makes me think of sunshine and beach loungers, which is no bad thing. But sadly the word has become, if not actually pejorative, then certainly tainted. When you say that someone has their money offshore, you are hinting at the word “hidden” – when actually all it means is “not in their home jurisdiction”. All of this is on my mind because a blog reader commented to me that although journalists are quick to point the finger at “offshore tax havens”, they don’t talk about onshore ones, when we all know that London is no slouch when it comes to sneaky tax arrangements.
So although I tend to pussy-foot around the word when I am offshore myself, I might start to reclaim it – after all, it’s only a geographical observation, not a moral judgement.