Sugar and bananas represent a difficulty for the centrist Government.
In Belize’s bi-cameral Westminster-style government, the lower house was most recently elected in 2003 and the government is tackling economic problems caused by low commodity prices and reduced access to privileged markets for sugar and bananas by encouraging foreign investment in manufacturing and the development of mass tourism. The country’s structural deficit can only be financed by overseas borrowing, but the Government hopes for debt relief for existing loans. The government’s expansionary monetary and fiscal policies, initiated in September 1998, led to GDP growth of 6.5% in 1999, 10.8% in 2000, 4.6% in 2001, 4.3% in 2002 and 4.2% in 2003.
. . . and foreign pressure may hold back offshore development.
Internal Belizean taxes are moderate, with a small turnover-based tax in addition to 25% corporation tax. Employees pay up to 45% tax on income plus social contributions. There is a variety of offshore schemes, including IBC legislation, a modern trusts law, and an array of free zones and investment incentive schemes. Belize offered ‘economic citizenship’ until the program was cancelled in 2002, and there is a retired persons regime. International pressure on Belize to moderate its offshore regime in exchange for debt relief seemed to have slackened in 2003.
The business environment is quite good, but e-commerce lags.
Telecommunications are state-of-the-art, but too expensive because of the telecommunications monopoly which is holding back development. Recent moves to open up an e-commerce free zone may have come too late for Belize to catch up with more advanced jurisdictions. Air and sea communications are both good, and it may be that Belize’s immediate offshore future lies more in expanding its effective and popular free zones than in other directions.
1. Advantages One of the newest Caribbean jurisdictions that, as a result, has benefited from mistakes that others have made by implementing highly flexible legislation which allows operation of the company’s affairs in the way most desired by the beneficial owner
Very cost effective
Speedy incorporation time
2. Disadvantages Because of lack of public registers, ownership can be difficult to prove
Not recommended for high profile trading operations
3. Company Status International Business Company (IBC)
4. Corporate legislation Common Law – International Business Companies Act 1990
5. Company Name Certain words are prohibited, eg Royal, Imperial, Bank, Insurance, etc
6. Time taken to incorporate 1-2 days
7. Are shelf companies available? Yes
8. Usual minimum capital No minimum, but shelf companies generally have a capital of US$50,000
9. Capital Duty US$100
10. Minimum number of shareholders One
11. Are bearer shares/shares of no par value possible? Yes but must be held by a recognised professional such as ourselves / Yes
12. Directors: minimum number / corporate directors allowed / location One / Yes / No restriction
13. Secretary: mandatory / corporate secretary allowed / location No / Yes / No restriction
14. Is there a requirement for a Registered Office / Registered Agent? Yes / Yes
15. Is any information required by the authorities prior to incorporation or prior to tax status being granted? None
16. What information is available on the public file? Memorandum & Articles of Association / Registered Office & Registered Agent
17. What documents must be kept at the Registered Office? Copies of the Register of Members and Register of Directors (if maintained) together with an impression of the seal.
18. Corporate books & seal Company must have a seal, and the above registers
19. Are accounts required / filed? No / No
20. Is an annual return required? No
21. Where are meetings to be held? No restriction
22. Annual fees payable to the government: Tax / Annual Return Filing Fee US$100 if authorised capital is US$50,000 or less
US$1,000 if authorised capital is more than US$50,000
US$350 if authorised capital is shares with no par value
23. Are there any exchange controls? Yes, but not applicable to International Business Companies
24. Double tax treaties None